Sunday, April 27, 2014

Stroke ME

I'll be frank and say up front I'm posting this only for future finger pointing purposes later. The die is cast and the future set for all practical purposes. To many, politics is a religion, based on willful ignorance. We dismiss the facts we dislike and embrace those we believe put us in the best light. But as Gandhi said, "There is no God higher than Truth." It's the only way out.

I've written on the Big Con before. Do you know the best way to find a dishonest person? Put an ad in the paper advertising for an honest person. The more earnest the better! 90% of the time what you will get are the biggest crooks and liars around. They think, "If I can make them believe I am honest, I can swindle them out of everything!" That's how all the great cons begin, by someone wanting to pose as moral.

The scramble to appear moral in politics is as bad any church abuses. The rationale goes something like this: "Yes, I am lying but it's for the greater good. Once I get in power I can then do the necessary good. And the fact I can lie to them and get away with it proves they're just as corrupt as I am anyway. The ends most certainly do justify the means!" Talk about an unholy alliance!

Many of the arguments over ACA are not about the facts but are either politically based or what's it's ostensibly about as opposed to what's truly happening. The latter is where the most confusion is on the left where those who've failed to do any sort of analysis argue with talking points supplied by the partisans. Never a shortage of useful idiots parroting words they don't understand and blindly attacking anything that doesn't make them feel good - especially when the truth hurts.

But I ask, do we want to survive or not? Lies won't get us to the finish line.

So here's the best analysis of Obamacare yet, detailing the entire big con. Feel free to disagree with your own factual analysis. I'll highlight what I think are the funniest parts of it. Not that the resulting cruelty is funny but funny because it's true. Again, not looking to change minds here but when it all goes wrong I'll be able to link back to this and be insufferable - the same way ACA supporters are insufferable now in their closed-minded religious fervor. ("But, but - it would've have gone right if only for [fill in the blank with plausible delusion].")

For readability I'll only link the headline and intersperse gratuitous hot babes to keep me interested.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called "Obamacare," may be the biggest insurance scam in history. The industries that profit from our current health care system wrote the legislation, heavily influenced the regulations and have received waivers exempting them from provisions in the law. This has all been done to protect and enhance their profits.

In the meantime, the health care crisis continues. Fewer people, even those with health insurance, can afford the health care they need because of out-of-pocket costs. The ACA continues that trend by pushing skimpy health plans with low coverage and restricted networks.

This is what happens in a market-based system of health care. People get only the amount of health care they can afford, rather than what they need. The ACA takes our failed market-based system to a whole new level by forcing the uninsured to purchase private health plans and using the government to sell and subsidize them.

Sadly, most Americans are being manipulated into supporting the ACA and do not even know they are being bamboozled. That is how scams work. Even after the con is completed, victims do not know they have been manipulated and ripped off. They may even feel good about being scammed, thinking they made a deal when they really had their bank accounts picked. [This is true. Some even come back for a second and third swindling so convinced they are by the "bad luck" that screwed them out of their money.] But it is the insurance companies that are the realizing windfall profits from the Obamacare con even as it falters.

The mass media is focused on the technical problems with getting the insurance exchanges up and running. These problems result from the complexity of the law and outsourcing of services to corporations that are often more costly and less effective than government. In comparison, in 1965 when Medicare started, everyone 65 and over was enrolled within six months - using index cards.

If all US residents were in one plan, Medicare for all, rather than the ACA's tiered system that institutionalizes the class divides in the United States, not only would the health system be fairer and improve health outcomes, but it would be less bureaucratic, less costly and easier to implement. The Medicare-for-all approach considers health care to be a public good, something that all people need, like schools, roads and fire departments.

Rather than being distracted by the problems of the exchanges, the more pressing issue is whether we want to continue using a market-based approach to health care or whether we want to join the other industrialized nations in treating health care as a public good. This conversation is difficult to have in the current environment of falsehoods, exaggerations and misleading statements coming from both partisan directions, echoed by their media supporters and nonprofit organizations.

Of course, the Republicans attack Obamacare for partisan reasons. And they are often blatantly dishonest in their criticism. Their foundational claim, calling Obamacare socialized medicine, is the opposite of reality. And, the Obama administration and its allies in the nonprofit world also have their fair share of falsehoods about the ACA. We will describe these farther below.

[To anyone who has seen "The Sting" can note the similarity in the breakdown to the con.]

A Primed Public

In reality, the US health care system is the worst of the wealthy nations. We spend the most per person, have the lowest percentage of our population covered and have poor health outcomes. Forty-five thousand adults die each year merely because they do not have insurance, and 84,000 Americans die each year of preventable illnesses that would not die in the French, Japanese or Australian health systems.

Even those with insurance find it to be inadequate when they get seriously ill. Medical costs and illness are the greatest reasons for bankruptcy, and insurance does not prevent financial ruin. Every family is touched by the failures of US health care.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report in 2013, US Health in International Perspective, that documents the failure of the US health care system. In summary: "Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people: even highly advantaged Americans are in worse health than their counterparts in other, 'peer' countries."

The health care crisis had grown to such proportions that by the 2008 election it could not be ignored. It was a major topic of the presidential campaigns. The health industries knew this and invested heavily in the candidates. Candidate Barack Obama overwhelmingly received more in donations from health care-related industries than any of the other candidates.

The public was ready for health care reform. Knowing that the majority of the public supports a Medicare-for-all system, it was going to take serious planning to silence that majority and enact a law that protected the interests of the health industries.

Obamacare: The Insurance Scam

A scam is a fraudulent operation designed to make money. A scam unfolds over time with a team of swindlers seeking to rob the victim without the victim ever knowing they have been scammed.

In Confessions of a Confidence Man, Edward H. Smith lists the "six definite steps or stages of growth in every finely balanced and well-conceived confidence game." Let's go through these six steps and see how the process of selling the ACA to the public fits.
1. Develop the Foundation
The foundation of a scam is the preparation done ahead of time to set up the scheme. In the case of the ACA, the foundation began with the health law passed by Massachusetts in 2006. The template was created by Stephen Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The law was passed under a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.

The next task was to sell this idea to Democrats. The Robert Wood Johnson foundation gave a major assist when it made large grants to state health reform groups in 2008 to promote Massachusetts-style reform in their states, called the "public-private partnership" model.

To further sell the ACA, Roger Hickey, a longtime Medicare-for-all advocate of the Campaign for America's Future (closely allied with the Democratic Party), took an idea from Jacob Hacker to create a new public insurance modeled after Medicare to 'compete' with private insurance. Hickey sold the model to progressive groups, and Hacker's proposal was used by the Obama campaign.

In July, 2008, Hickey and others rallied progressive groups to create a new coalition, Health Care for America Now, which received tens of millions of dollars to build grass-roots support for the ACA. The name was similar enough to the longtime Medicare-for-all organization, Healthcare-Now, to cause confusion.
2. The Approach
The approach is the way that the con artist gets in touch with the victim. The vehicle for the ACA con was the tech-savvy political campaign of Barack Obama. The candidate promised hope and change. Obama, who had supported single payer before running for president, was able to point to all of the problems in the US health care system and excite people with the potential of a new leader who understood the crisis and would fix it.

After his election, the campaign organized Health Care House Parties in December 2008. People were encouraged to invite friends and neighbors to their homes, and the Obama transition team provided the materials. The booklet that was used was tightly scripted to build support for the ACA rather than actually elicit citizen input on what kind of health system was desired. [Suspension of critical thought it vital to all religions. Just blindly say yes!]
3. The Buildup
In this stage, the victim is excited about the prospect and is filled with anticipation so their judgment is warped and caution is thrown away, setting them up to fall for the scam.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2009, the Obama administration gave the appearance of bringing all of the "stakeholders" together to work for health reform. The president held a White House Health Summit in March 2009, which included representatives from health insurance corporations, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. The only groups that were not included, until there was a threat of protest, were those who advocate for Medicare for all. The single-payer advocates did not speak, but the insurance spokesperson opened and closed the White House summit.

Throughout the spring, the president and allies reassured the public that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it; that insurance would be made more affordable (not that health care would be more affordable); and that reform would aim for universal coverage.

4. The Convincer
The convincer for many who supported real health reform was "the Public Option." The idea was that the law would force the uninsured to purchase insurance but would include the choice of a public health insurance plan. The public was told that this option would be more cost-effective than private insurance and, thus, less expensive, which would make it more attractive.

Many were convinced that a public option would become a Medicare-for-all system, that it was a "back door" to single payer. They were told that going straight to a single-payer health care system would be too difficult and that the public option was a first step. Health Care for America Now organized grass-roots groups to put their energy into fighting for a public option, and many responded.

There was real animosity directed toward those who pointed out that from a policy standpoint a public option made no sense. It was simply adding another insurance plan to an already-complex and expensive system of hundreds of insurances and that, as had occurred time and again at the state level, it would attract those with the greatest health needs and as a result would ultimately fail because of high costs.

What most people did not understand at that point was that the public option was not only a non-solution to the health care crisis but that it was not even destined to be in the final legislation. Senator Max Baucus reported in March 2009 that it was a "bargaining chip" to get health insurers to accept regulations. Glenn Greenwald exposed this more fully when the Democratic leadership in the Senate actively worked to keep the public option from being included in the Senate health bill. The public option was just part of the con.
5. The Hurrah
The Hurrah phase of a con involves some sort of crisis that must be overcome. This phase started in August 2009, when the Tea Party, backed by Americans for Prosperity (a Koch brothers front group), came out very aggressively against the ACA at local town halls. They called it "government-run" and opposed its fictional "Death Panels." This served to energize the progressive groups to rally around the president and come out strongly in favor of the law. Rallies in favor of health reform were organized across the country. [Democrats only unite when passing conservative laws!]

Health reform advocates were activated further to support the law as the House and Senate struggled to come to consensus. As more aspects of the law that were important to health reform supporters were jettisoned, such as coverage for immigrants and inclusion of reproductive services, and the public option was whittled down to nothing, support for the law became a partisan statement of support for President Obama.

Members of Congress who supported the Medicare-for-all approach told us that they were going to "hold their nose and vote for it." Progressive groups and media feared that if the health bill did not become law, it would ruin the Democrats' chance to hold a majority in Congress in the midterm elections and would destroy the president's chance to be re-elected.
6. The In-And-In
The purpose of the final phase of the con is to make sure the victims do not realize they've been conned.

Obama signed the ACA on March 23, 2010. Immediately the marketing began. The three words we heard the most to describe it were universal, affordable and guaranteed. Of course, the ACA is none of those. But members told us personally that if they told the truth, they wouldn't be re-elected.

Progressive groups started the work of explaining the advantages of the new health law to the public. The few positive aspects of the law were promoted without explaining the big picture. Overall, the ACA is similar to other neoliberal economic policies; it defunds and destroys our public health insurances and further privatizes health care.

The end goal of the ACA con, to make sure people do not realize they have been conned, is ongoing. As we will see below, salespeople, often the same nonprofits who pushed the ACA, are getting big money to sell insurance with Madison Avenue marketing manipulation tactics.

At the same time, leading single-payer advocacy groups fear further marginalization in their communities and so are afraid to tell the truth about Obamacare. The public has been so hoodwinked by the partisan debate between Republicans and Democrats, based on misinformation from both sides, that single-payer advocates are afraid if they tell the truth, their allies, many whom are Democrats, will push them away. So the truth has few emissaries, while the well-funded deceivers continue the ACA con.

The Con Continues: The Product

A fundamental problem with the ACA is that it is based on continuing our complicated private health insurance or market-based system. Despite their advertising slogans, private insurers primarily exist to create profit for their investors or, in the case of "nonprofit insurers," to pay exorbitant salaries to their executives. They care about health as much as Big Oil cares about the environment.

Health insurers make their profits from charging the highest premiums they can and by restricting and denying payment for care. They want to take in as much money as they can, while paying out as little on health care as possible. They have many tools with which to do this, and they've successfully skirted regulations for decades. When they can't make a profit, they simply pull that product from the shelf and create new products.

The public has been led to believe that the ACA has changed the behavior of health insurers. In this section we briefly explain some major areas of concern and why many of the promises of the ACA are false.

More-expensive insurance premiums: A major promise was that people could keep their insurance if they liked it, but many are finding that this isn't working out. Kaiser Health News reported last week: "Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies." The Society of Actuaries released a report in March 2013 that showed insurance pools are set to see an average increase of 32 percent in underlying claims costs by 2017.

The Charlotte Observer reported: "Across North Carolina, thousands of people have been shocked in recent weeks to find out their health insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year - and premiums for comparable coverage could increase sharply."

The increase in premiums will force more people to use the state health insurance exchanges, where prices are supposed to be more affordable, but even that is not a solution. Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action describes the dilemma he faces in West Virginia. Mokhiber received a notice that his current insurance expires January 1, 2014. If he wants to keep his plan, it will cost twice as much. In his state only one insurance company, Highmark, will be listed on the exchange. He called Highmark to find out what his choices were and got bad news: "The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I'm paying now and have a higher deductible and out-of-pocket costs."

There are reports of increased premiums from across the country. One reason for the increase in cost is, as USA Today reports: "About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states … will see a 'material decline' in competitors."

Decreased coverage: The ACA will increase the number of people who have inadequate insurance that requires high out-of-pocket costs and does not cover all necessary services. The ACA significantly lowers what is considered to be adequate insurance coverage through its system of tiers. The insurance exchanges offer four levels of coverage, with the least-expensive plans paying for 70 percent and 60 percent of covered services.

These plans include high co-pays and deductibles that are barriers to care - especially when 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And insurers are restricting coverage further by limiting their networks so they do not include major medical centers or adequate numbers of health professionals.

It is important to highlight that insurers pay only for covered services because people don't usually understand that they will have to pay for uncovered and out-of-network services themselves. The use of out-of-network services is often involuntary and occurs without being known at the time of care, especially in emergency situations.

The New York Times reports: "Most of the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia do not have provider directories or search tools on their Web sites - at least not yet - so customers cannot easily check which doctors and hospitals are included in a particular plan's network."

People are likely to choose the least-expensive plans without fully understanding that a serious accident or illness could bankrupt them even though they have insurance. And the race to the bottom in coverage will affect everyone. It is already estimated that 44 percent of large employer-based plans will be high-deductible plans by 2014.

Tricks to mistreat those with pre-existing illness: One of the great selling points of the ACA con is that those with pre-existing illnesses will not be denied coverage. This is true, but insurers have many ways to avoid the ill. The ACA was written by an insurance company executive from Wellpoint, Liz Fowler, who went on to be hired by Obama's HHS to implement the law and now works for a pharmaceutical giant. So, all along the way, the insurance companies had someone protecting their interests.

One way to avoid the sick was mentioned above: excluding hospitals where people with serious health problems go, like major medical centers. Another way is by providing poor service to people who have a lot of claims so they change insurers. And a third has to do with the fact that insurance companies are allowed to charge more in geographical areas where health costs are higher. If a plan in a particular area is not making enough profit, the insurance company can simply stop selling in that area.

Insurance companies also can charge three times as much based on age. Because most pre-existing illness comes with age, this greatly undermines the protection of those with pre-existing illness. Insurance companies are excellent at gaming laws and regulations, so we can expect more creative avoidance of people who actually need health care.

Almost no reduction in youths without insurance: One of the highly touted claims of the ACA con was that youths would be covered on their parents' insurance until they are 26 years old. While this is true, the percentage of 19- to 26-year-olds without insurance has merely fallen from 48 to 41. Why? Most parents cannot afford the increased premiums that are required when more family members are covered. As a result this promise has been one of little value, except to the wealthy - and to those selling the Obamacare con.

No cap on out-of-pocket spending: One of the selling points of the ACA con was that it would limit how much people pay out of pocket for health care. Of the thousands of waivers granted by HHS, one was the limit on out-of-pocket spending. The insurance companies claimed that their computers were not set up to handle this change. HHS took this absurd rationale seriously and gave them a waiver on this important provision.

The Con Continues: The Dealers

The most egregious aspect of the ACA is the individual mandate that those without health insurance who do not qualify for public insurance such as Medicaid must purchase private insurance or pay a penalty for being uninsured. The public is being led to believe that the solution to the health care crisis is to increase the number of people who have insurance. This ignores the fact that having insurance does not mean that patients will have access to or will be able to afford the health care they need.

The ACA required states to create new marketplaces for insurance called exchanges or else the federal government would create the exchange. In essence, the federal government is using billions of public dollars to finance the exchanges, hire people to sell insurance and subsidize the purchases. Imagine what a benefit it would be if those billions of dollars were used instead to hire health providers and pay for actual care.

The federal government plays a big role in running 26 of the state health exchanges but is funding all of them. The annual cost of operating the exchanges will be $15 million to several hundred million per state. In the end, consumers will pay the cost through monthly surcharges tacked on to their premiums.

Part of the federal spending will be on "navigators" and "assisters," people whose job it is to help people buy insurance. The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would be directing $200 million to states, private groups and local health centers so that they can hire workers, called navigators, to sell insurance to Americans.

How are navigators paid? A House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a report on September 13, 2013, that examined how navigators will be paid. One problem is that many are paid based on the number of people they enroll. Obviously this could lead navigators and assisters to not merely "facilitate" enrollment but to persuade people to enroll. And navigators are not required to disclose this incentive.

This payment structure is just one problem, the House report summarizes, warning of scammers:
"… the training to be Navigators and Assisters will last only five to 20 hours and there is no requirement for a background check of Navigators and Assisters who will have access to highly sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and income for everyone in an applicant's household. Given the stories about how scammers are gearing up to take advantage of the tremendous confusion caused by ObamaCare, Americans are at an increased risk of being the victim of fraud and identify theft because of the Administration's poor development of its outreach programs."
The official navigators and assisters are only one part of the continued conning of America. The groups that advocated for Obamacare have evolved into Enroll America. The group (whose logo is incredibly similar to insurance giant Wellpoint) not only includes advocacy organizations but also interests that profit from the market-based US health care system, e.g. insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. The president of Enroll America, Anne Filipic, served in the Obama White House, the HHS, the Democratic National Committee and in Obama's 2008 campaign.

Information on the budget of Enroll America has been vague. In June Reuters reported: "In a conference call with reporters, Filipic declined to answer repeated requests for details on the group's budget. In January Congressional Quarterly reported they were eyeing a $100 million budget and quoted founder Ron Pollack, who led an NGO that lobbied for Obamacare, saying: "We keep on saying it's got to be in the significant tens of millions of dollars, and hopefully we reach another digit." Reuters reported that the cost of the public outreach campaign would range into the tens of millions of dollars, with "at least seven figures" going to paid advertising. In a press release they described the advertising campaign:
"Enroll America plans to organize a massive public education/advertising campaign about coverage eligibility and the ways people can enroll in coverage. We expect to involve well-known athletes and celebrities in the campaign. The advertising campaign will be segmented so that it effectively reaches different demographic groups, such as young adults, people in communities of color, low- and moderate-income families, etc. Depending on the availability of resources, we may be able to tailor ads to specific states."
The campaign is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars on polling, focus groups, paid advertising and running its operations with a staff of a few hundred people. Americans will be subjected to all of the tools of Madison Avenue marketing through Enroll America along with sales by navigators, assisters and the insurance industry.

How is Enroll America raising money? Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been one of the fundraisers for the organization. According to the New York Times, her fundraising has caused a political uproar, with some Republicans claiming it was illegal and two House committees investigating the activity. They report: "Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, both Republicans, said Ms. Sebelius appeared to be 'shaking down' businesses and other potential donors." The Hill echoed this, reporting that insurance companies felt like they were being pressured by the administration to donate to Enroll America. One concern is that HHS has a lot of power over insurers as the agency can delay or deny approval of their health-insurance plans for federally approved exchanges.

Sebelius is seeking funds from groups like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block. And the Hill noted "Obama himself made a vague but personal appeal for a close partnership with insurers, which some in the industry saw as a precursor to direct fundraising pitches." In April 2013, "Obama reportedly sat in for an hour-long meeting he was initially not scheduled to attend and told insurance executives that the White House and the industry were now "joined at the hip" trying to make the healthcare law work."

Americans want health care, so why do they have to spend so much money to convince people to buy ACA insurance? The American people will be subjected to a sophisticated, echo chamber of marketing to sell them flawed insurance that provides insufficient coverage, huge out-of-pocket costs and limited networks of health professionals and hospitals.

Understand the Con, End It and Replace It

The ACA con is part of a broader con Americans and people around the world are having inflicted on them, the false idea that privatization is a better way to provide services than government. Even though there is virtually no evidence to support this claim and there has been a long history with many examples of privatization costing more and providing less, this is a centerpiece of neoliberal economics. Politicians like President Obama and the leadership of the corporate duopoly who believe in market solutions are pushing privatization at home and through big-business-rigged trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The fundamental flaw of the ACA is that it entrenches a market-based system that treats health care as a commodity and profit center for Wall Street. The big drivers of the rising cost of health care - insurance, pharmaceuticals and for-profit hospitals - continue. The wealth divide that is a major byproduct of neoliberal economics is institutionalized by law under the ACA. Some, like Senator Ted Cruz, will receive the best health care from their employer, in Cruz's case his wife's employer, Goldman Sachs. Others, forced into the individual insurance marketplace, will be divided in four classes based on wealth, and millions will be in Medicaid, the inadequate health plan for the poor. Thus, after a high-stakes partisan battle, we've made no progress in confronting the fundamental problems in US health care. Indeed we have made some of them worse.

There was an easier route and a more politically popular route. All that President Obama had to do was to push for what he used to believe in, Medicare for all. By just dropping two words, "over 65," the United States would not have needed the 2,200-page ACA. Then the country could have worked to gradually improve Medicare so that the United States moved toward the best health care in the world, rather than being mired at the bottom.

To replace Obamacare with the single-payer system, we need to be clear about the shortcomings of the law, especially its fundamental flaw of making a human right, one of many human rights Americans do not realize they have, into a commodity like a cellphone. We need to recognize that ending the corporate domination of health care is part of breaking the domination of big business over the US government and the economy. Health care is at the center of the conflict of our times, the battle between the people and corporate interests, the battle to put people and planet before profits.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Harry, The Pimp

I'd never thought much of Samuel. He was average in all respects; physically, mentally and emotionally. True, there was a certain X factor about him I could not read, sort of like seeing a football player on the bench having never seen him play. You don't really know what to think of his abilities but odds are he's a mediocre schmuck like the overwhelming majority of us are.

Still, with no known negatives against him I went to Sam in a pinch when I knew he was flush and borrowed a C note. The details aren't important but sometimes despite everything, you get in a jam when one fucking thing after another forces an expense on you until you're backed into a corner. I try to avoid this with every fiber of my being. But it happens.

I would venture that for an honest person that being in debt isn't the ordeal it is for me. An honest person knows we're all in this together and that in reality doing for you is the same as doing for me. In fact, as one who's lent cash before, I felt it a privilege and an honor to do so. But being on the receiving end causes me all sorts of consternation. Guess it's the same thing as my not being able to take a compliment: there's something inside me I don't want to face.

Then Samuel blows me away with this: "Hey, Harry, you know that hundred bucks you owe me? Just forget about it. We're good."

All sorts of things go through my mind. First, he says this right out in the open where everyone can hear. Is he taking pity on me, publicly embarrassing me? He's such a fuck up I know I'll never get my money so fuck trying to get it back. The horror that someone had such utter faithlessness in me sunk me into a very dark place. Another part of me counselled against taking shortcuts and not paying my debts. The last part of me went, "Yipppeee!"

I chose the shortcuts voice though I'm sure my lack of enthusiasm for that course of action had to be apparent. Plus part of me was still terrified of being branded wholly worthless.

"No, man, I can pay it back. I've got part of it saved up already." I stopped short of actually offering the thirty five I had put back. Jesus, I'm a weak and greedy bitch. It's tough being in saving mode, you can't do anything. No eating out, no movies, no extra frills at all. Problem is, the minute he made that offer my mind immediately thought of heading over to Rudy's BBQ for a moist brisket sandwich and a baked potato. High living there, buddy!

"It's something I want to do. I don't have any doubts on you paying me back. Never crossed my mind. If you want to pay me back then take the money you already saved up and do something fun with it."

Well, that's exactly what I wanted to do - but something inside me resisted this fanatically. Another voice was trying to tell me something but I managed to stuff my ears and stiffen my neck in well rationalized stupidity. However my words made sense my voice did not.

"I gotta pay my debts. I mean, everyone has to. I can't be a burden on other people. I just need more time..." I was losing steam, not buying my own logic.

"It's my pleasure," he smiled in explanation. "I gotta go now. I'll see ya at the shop."

"OK, sure." I was defeated but seething. At that point I realized I hadn't thanked him - and frankly that was the last thing I wanted do - but what bad form not to! "Thanks, Sam!" I feigned. He lifted a departing hand in acknowledgement.

I moved off to myself, away from everyone and everything, wondering why Sam's act of generosity put me in such a miserable state. God, what's wrong with me? My struggle for survival is very bitter but must be kept to myself. Who in the all the world can pay my rent? Only someone who can answer yes to that can truly help - and, of course, nobody can. I often sulk in the dark.

A thought struck me. Maybe Sam came to know this about me. True, he can't pay my rent but he could do this, reliving all sorts of strain I'd have for the four to five weeks it'd take to pay him back. Surely if I could lift so much misery from someone else's life with a simple gesture like this the appeal of that would be very great. How often does one know he's truly making a difference in another's life? How many times had I ached to know I was truly making a difference?

Or maybe Sam had read a book on karma or joined some religion and felt obligated to forgive a debt so he could morally position himself to a better place. That thought vaguely annoyed me. That was far less personal. Shit, this came out of nowhere! It's why I try to keep a read on people so I don't get blindsided like this. I'm completely off-balance and unprepared. I'm only prepared for things that make me angry like some conservative dick.

Calm down. Breathe. What's really bugging you? "Well, part of it is it's hard to believe I'd ever do something like that. I need my goddam money too much! I feel like a jerk." Judging yourself is just as wrong as judging someone else. Sam wanted to do something that felt good to him. Wouldn't you be glad to help someone like that too? "Well, yeah, but I'd still rather be the helper than the helpee. I don't trust myself." Go get your brisket.

I could hardly look the girl at the counter in the eye as I made my order. I felt a gnawing feeling of needing to explain to her how I got the money. Maybe if I eat this without enjoying it that would make up for my ingratitude and selfish outlook! People think you're smart, Harry. If they knew you had thoughts like these they'd laugh.

The meal was pretty fucking tasty and for better or worse I did allow myself to enjoy it for the most part. I was anxious to report back to Sam, feeling a bit better about myself. It was while cleaning up my mess and walking out the door it hit me: Sam had obligated me. One good turn deserves another. As he'd forgiven me I must now forgive others. Jesus, shit like this could make the world work out after all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Income Inequality Hurts The Economy" No Shit!

Looks good on the surface, i.e. good enough for re-election!

From the failure to do simple math department (which also brought us Obamacare):

How income inequality can hurt the economy

Given that the adjectives most used in describing the economy's recovery from the great recession include "sluggish" and "disappointing" it may come as a surprise to some that average household income in the U.S. is higher, in nominal terms, than it was in 2008.

Not only that, it passed the 2008 average as long ago as 2012. So, if income has recovered, the stock market is at record highs, and corporate earnings are way up, how come it doesn't feel like there's been much of a recovery?

An analysis released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a useful illustration of at least one thing that is unquestionably holding our economy back: income inequality. But maybe not for the reason most people think.

The key here, though, is to remember that the study measured "average" household income when it found a return to pre-recession levels. The headline number on the day the story was released was that 82 percent of the income gains went to the top 20 percent of households measured by income. That top quintile saw its nominal income increase on average by $8,358 per year, while the bottom quintile saw income decline by $275 in the same time period.

So literally, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Welcome to Fantasy Island! This is on top of news that only high end apartments are being built now for the most part. (They are zooming up all over Dallas. I keep asking myself, "Who are all these fuckers with 2K a month to blow on rent??") Thus, the middle class in many cities can no longer afford to pay rent as the renter class grows but affordable housing remains stagnant. Feeling the squeeze yet?

Left or right, the overriding belief - enforced with merciless zeal - 
is that the banks and corporations must be served first for us to survive.

By this time, though, the fact that income gains are concentrated in the top of the distribution should surprise nobody. The really telling part of Corbet's study is what he found when he looked at the change in spending across households in different quintiles.

...What many people don't grasp is that when high income households see their income increase, they generally don't spend it. Cobet found that the top quintile increased spending by only $2,365 per year, meaning they spent about 29 percent of the extra income they received.

The next quintile down, which saw an annual increase in income of $1,862, spent an extra $1,348, or about 72 percent of the additional income.

Households in the middle quintile earned only $69 more per year, but spent an additional $345, meaning that they increased their spending by 500 percent of their income gain. The next lowest quintile saw income increase by $143, but increased spending by $881—616 percent of their income gain.

Well, that sounds sustainable. What we have created is a giant vacuum at the top sucking up all the money leaving those at the bottom to use up all their resources - and then some. Logically speaking, we'll have a huge swelling in the homeless population because having a job won't be enough to keep you housed! I realize most people have no self-esteem but just to roll and over and die accepting a fate like that certainly indicates just how corrupt of a society we've become.

Cobet, the study's author and a senior economist at BLS said that there is no way of explaining the spending patterns except to assume that families "are using either savings and some version of credit card and other debt."

For the first quintile, for whom income fell by $275, spending actually decreased. But the decrease— $150—was not enough to offset the decline in income, meaning that they, too spent savings or borrowed.

What this means is that in total, household income in 2012 was, on average, $10,157 higher than in 2008. But average spending only increased by $4,789—and even getting spending to that level required households in the bottom three quintiles to go into debt.

To economists, this shows the damage that income inequality can do to the economy as a whole. If the three lowest quartiles in income distribution had shared more equally in the increase in average income, they most certainly would have spent most or all of that increase. But as it is, $5,993 of the average increase of $10,157—more than half—went into the savings of the highest quartile instead of being used for the purchase of goods and services, which boosts economic growth.

So, yes, we know this is poison to our society, but like the good little kool-aid drinkers we are, we stuff it down our throats anyway. Greed certainly plays a part in this but the majority of the 99% are just as greedy as the 1%. The main thing is that we live a state of hopelessness. We hear practical solutions proposed every day on how to eliminate income equality but since we've given greed the final say on what we do, those are just whispers in the wind, never to be heard.

If we truly believed we have a sustainable way of life we'd have hope and enact the already known solutions to our problems. But without that belief there is no hope, which permeates an every-man-for-himself mentality. A pig farmer was asked about his blatant destruction of the environment his farm was causing. He said he didn't care because he wouldn't be around to live with it. (Ah, if only he knew the truth!)

So take all you can, tomorrow is screwed anyway! As I've said before (to much derision), there are no economic problems, only moral solutions.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Jesus Killer (Maybe It's All Of Us)

"Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet, sent to exterminate humans for the greater good of mankind."

The four other men in the cramped, undecorated military room looked at one another in silent disgust. But they were a unit and "The Scythe", as he was called, was one of them and the unit was god, never to be questioned. Bitches to the end, they proudly never refuse an order.

In a sense, The Scythe was quite refreshing. He never gives a rationale. Peters fought for his Christian principles, a holy warrior killing for God. Hendershot claimed his obedience as honorable and dutiful, the applauded homecoming patriot. Robinson saw a world where "the bad guys need taking out", just like in the movies. And Phillips, while viewing himself as a hypocrite, called these missions "moral" hypocrisies - a future suicide candidate.

But The Scythe felt alien for a reason. Killers, butchers, psychopaths and the like had certainly existed throughout history, smiling as they gave birth to sanctioned or unsanctioned murder. This new breed, though existing for only the shortest of times like the final blinding flash of a light bulb before burning out forever, walked successfully in two worlds. Eventually he must choose one: life or death. But before that time - before the bill comes due - the flames of hell cannot touch him.

He was neither warm nor cold, nor somber or delightful, nor robotic or animated. What he was, was detached. Money meant nothing to him. Approval was his true currency. But like a child who's become self-aware The Scythe knew he could manipulate it, even control it, living on the weakness of strangers. How funny, he snorted, that the so-called strongest of leaders were in fact the weakest of men. "Where would you be without your killers, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Great Leader? Who would love you then?"

Yes, he knew the haunts of the minds of men in power; men who praise Jesus while driving the nails into his screaming body.

To The Scythe, this made him de facto ruler of the world, like samurai of yore. Above, in fact, mere simple humans with their petty woes and worries. He'd chosen not to be blind, to read the writing on the wall. Fools who close their eyes deserve their misery - and misery to come. "Some men ask why. I ask why not." This was his response when asked why he killed.

In the last operation, a husband and his pregnant wife had been shot to death. The bullets must be retrieved or their missions from God could be compromised*. Protecting the lie was protecting the truth, they said. Peters refused on moral grounds (though would have had he been alone). Hendershot tried but started puking. Robinson froze at this real life order. Phillips suggested they take the bodies with them to bury in secret. The Scythe whipped out his razor sharp knife.

With neither pleasure not disgust he removed the bullets, looking up afterwards like an innocent child having cleaned up spilt milk. Just do it. Why hadn't anyone else wanted to? It wasn't easy but it wasn't hard. Sometimes, only he could measure up.

He loved the accouterments, his tools of death. The Scythe was fascinated with the latest methodologies of killing. It felt as if the entire world was scrambling to his support, obsessed with finding newer and more efficient ways of ending life. He stood infatuated, marveling at the precision. The trouble they must have gone to! Yes, he'd come to this planet to own it, to bend it to his will.

This is what politics gives us

Like eating and sleeping, sex must be done. The killer was never sure what sex gave him - but he certainly knew what a lack of it meant. Until the moment of release he'd not realize how much the oppression of his dual life compressed his body, diverting his mind from the single focus of subsidizing the detachment he needed to live in the floating world. It's good to be god.

Before a mission, he played soulful symphonic hymns. Someone once told him that fed a tender heart. The Scythe only knew it helped in the mission, the blood of a lamb upon the altar of death. He'd seen red-faced protesters in heated condemnation of his acts. But this too fueled him, absorbing their energy. Only one thing drew the killer's ire.

"I hate these families who live in their homes oblivious to the world! They are nothing but parasites. They should be praising us, thanking us, worshiping us. Those miserable little worms!"

"Actually, most do," rejoined Peters, who never left the world of onward Christian soldiers.

"But not all! Not all of them!"

No one directly confronted The Scythe - though everyone wanted to inside. From world leaders to hotel doormen, the killer inspired a corner of hatred in the hearts exposed to him. Yet never a word was spoken. Partly in fear, but mostly in knowing to reject the killer was to reject an understanding of the world greater than their own. "Who am I to question the order on whom so many depend?" Prisoners with a key.

Only one exchange was ever heard, initiated by raw recruit infuriated by The Sythe's blatant detachment.

"You're a barbarian!"

"Mankind has always been barbarians. Read your Bible."

"But we're supposed to be civilized now, what we do means something more than just taking life. We're preserving it."

"We're preserving nothing. The future is now. Live in the now."

"That's a lie! We're bringing stability to the region. We're saving the world." The last words were spoken almost as a question.

"It's those who most believe they are saving the world who most destroy it. Better to save yourself."

"Nothing works if everyone is just out for himself."

"You really think the world is there for you?"

Later, the soldier committed suicide, his mind torn between truth and illusion.

The Scythe claimed to be an old soul. He lamented the passing of the Dark Ages, when it seemed he had all the time in the world for endless wholesale slaughter. Back then, murder in the name of God thrilled him, a certain perverse ecstasy filled his soul. He still needed such excuses back then. But even then his eyes were starting to open, losing the need for facades and fairy tales.

Finally, the crystallization was complete, knowing who he was: a man without a future. In a dream more real than any waking moment, he recalled driving nails through an innocent man's body. He was fighting himself to do this act of insanity, judging himself on the wrong side of justice. "How this man must hate me," he cried inside his horrified Roman armor.

And then, he heard the last words he ever expected. "Please forgive me," spoke the man with eyes reaching deep into his soul.

Hearing this, he instantly wanted to pull out the nails and surrender his life in everlasting freedom. Every fiber of his being cried out for this in pure undeniable desire. If this man could forgive him, if this man still thought him worthy of saving even during this act of cruel savagery, then life did have meaning; the world meant nothing. He must save himself to save the world.

But he had not the courage to do as he wished. His heart hardened in bitter despair, making him a drunkard the rest of his days, reliving the moment of his lost chance for salvation, torturing himself daily in a misguided hope for atonement, grasping onto wild rationalizations that he could somehow reverse the curse. He'd been offered heaven but chose his place in the world, bringing centuries of tears.

How to be a good citizen

And what does it say of a world that has a place for a man like this? The blind man says men like The Scythe do not exist. Lovers of lies call him a "necessary evil". The self-deceived laud him as a savior of the world. He knows his time is short but he knows his time is now. One day, only the living will survive.

"You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, 
"how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up 
with you? Bring the boy here to me."

*Actual event

The song before battle

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sobering Talk On Obamacare

If people ask me if I have an agenda I say I do: we should not be fucking people. And if someone asks me why I am appalled by Obamacare that is the reason why. In its totality it is the greatest economic betrayal in American history. The right wingers "hate" Obamacare politically but absolutely love its economics of the largest shifting of cash into private corporations ever. Left wingers also love it for political reasons while remaining willfully ignorant on a religious scale of the consequences of these new outrageously destructive corporate chains.

The window dressing of this large scale burglary is that of giving a nickel to the victim after seizing all possessions. So we hear "Hey, I got a nickel" stories while ignoring the bigger picture. The cognitive dissonance is breathtaking and so massive as to be generally considered impossible by your average person. No one wants to admit when lying to themselves but that's exactly how you end up in a no-win situation.

Joel Zinberg is associate clinical professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and is a trustee and past president of the New York County Medical Society. Reprinted with permission of the Manhattan

Proponents of the Affordable Care Act insist the law will extend health insurance to millions, expand access to healthcare, and improve Americans' overall health. But, as The New York Times recently reported, at least 20 percent of the new enrollees have not paid their premiums. They therefore do not really have insurance.

But even for those enrollees paying premiums, having health insurance is not the same thing as getting good healthcare, or any healthcare. In fact, it doesn't matter how many Americans obtain insurance under the ACA. Most will have difficulty finding a physician.

Many Americans could lose their employer-provided insurance if firms decide that paying the ACA penalty — and maybe giving small raises to their employees — is cheaper than offering health insurance as a benefit of employment or reduce workers' hours (the ACA does not mandate coverage for part-time employees). These newly uninsured workers will either have to enroll in Medicaid, if their income is low enough, or purchase a plan on one of the state and federal insurance exchanges. Those eligible for exchange subsidies may end up better off economically as their premiums will be so low, but both the exchange and Medicaid options are fraught with problems.

States already are struggling under huge budget deficits from their existing Medicaid programs. Since states lose federal funding if they adjust their Medicaid eligibility guidelines, their only option for reducing deficits is to cut already-low Medicaid reimbursement rates.

It's considered "pragmatic" by some to let corporations write our laws because that way the laws will get passed. In other words, if we can't stop theft pass a law making it legal. A win-win! But the outcome of that is perfectly foreseeable. As long as you say you're doing something for the greater good, people will allow almost anything. Everyone wants to be seen as an angel - and that's what we are: angels. The world is in the shape it's in because it's full of angels.

Physicians already are reluctant to treat Medicaid patients under current rates that are a fraction of private and Medicare rates. Cutting reimbursements will exacerbate the physician-access problem and could lead to closures of so-called "safety-net" hospitals that care for many of the poor and uninsured. These hospitals have long depended on federal Disproportionate Share (DSH) payments to offset the cost of caring for the uninsured. But the ACA severely cuts DSH payments on the assumption that the uninsured will gain either Medicaid or private insurance. If large numbers of patients remain uninsured, the financial difficulties of safety-net hospitals will be compounded by their obligation to provide uncompensated care.

Those who do get coverage through the exchanges and pay their premiums will also struggle to get medical care. The ACA requires insurers to accept every patient regardless of risk, provide expansive benefits packages, and eliminate caps on lifetime benefits. Looking to control costs, most insurers are offering exchange plans that severely limit the number of doctors and hospitals patients can visit. Some state exchanges — including New York's — don't offer a single plan that covers visits to out-of-network doctors or hospitals.

Many people will not be able to see the physicians who have treated them for years, use facilities providing the most appropriate treatment, or access care within a reasonable time and distance from their homes. Some specialty hospitals have been excluded from all exchange plans.

Everything about this law caters to the short term. The-powers-that-be know that once you get the chains on - by hook or crook - there's no way of taking them off again. They know the outrage that is coming when this finally collapses. But since we are a provable oligarchy the bidding of the people is of no consequence - especially when the morons self-enslave themselves to be powerless.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it's because we've seen it before, during the failed managed-care experiment of the 1990s. Patients and physicians quickly became disenchanted with the restrictions and bureaucratic complexity of Health Maintenance Organizations. At least patients had options then. They could avoid HMO restrictions by buying broader, more expensive insurance plans. Many plans available now on the state exchanges are highly restrictive, HMO-like networks.

Patient choice has been further compromised by the haphazard implementation of the exchanges. Patients have reported trouble determining which physicians will participate in which plans. Doctors, too, are often unaware whether they're listed in particular insurance networks and what the reimbursement rates are. Many find themselves arbitrarily excluded from plans in which they had previously participated; others are getting listed on plans without their knowledge.

Worst of all, insurance coverage under the ACA is unlikely to improve health outcomes. The much-noted Oregon Medicaid-expansion study found that new Medicaid enrollees showed no improvement in health outcomes compared with the uninsured. Other studies have shown that Medicaid patients have worse outcomes compared with privately insured patients (though why this happens is not well understood). The health outcomes of many exchange patients will suffer as a result of not being able to see their regular physicians or access the most appropriate specialists and hospitals.

The drafters of the ACA presumably had noble intentions, but the law is failing in all of its intended goals. Unless the ACA is redrafted to provide insurance coverage that most physicians and hospitals will accept, many patients will find that when they need medical care, the doctor is not in.

"You can see if what I'm saying is true." 
One day, millions will claim otherwise!

The most obvious hole in Obamacare is that it is health insurance not health care. The amount of wishful thinking around this mandate is higher than Mount Everest. The inherent greed built into the structure of this catastrophe will will create a tsunami of economic woes. Between government funneling guaranteed tax dollars to insurance companies for any losses sustained to the fact we already have too much of our economy spent on health care now, much less as time goes by with the continuing flood of cash into the system can only leave us one result.

Some people want to be conned. I get that. They feel as long as they can claim later, "I meant well" they have a license to do just about anything. That's how we sell ourselves on the bad things we do. We meant well murdering Iraqis. We mean well with our drone strikes. And some day we'll be scrambling to proclaim of our "noble intentions" on one of the greatest fuckings of our lifetime. "If only I had known!"

But we do know. We exactly know. For our health system to work, greed must be removed from the equation. There is no way around that, you cannot compromise on that, removal is the only pragmatic way to proceed. All greed based answers are doomed to fail. We have these continuing mock discussions on how many holes we should put in this boat of ours that carries us. The only answer to that is zero. But that answer is considered "radical, shrill, traitorous, immature" and whatever else sin someone wants to self-identify. Lennon was right. When America falls, she'll fall from within.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Don't Believe You

He came through the front door of the house with packages under each arm nudging open the door with his knee. "Honey, I'm home. I got you the things you wanted just like you said, even if it did take my whole paycheck."

"You motherfucker! What have you done now?"

"What do you mean? I'm just trying you make you happy..."

"I don't believe you. You must have done something wrong for you to be doing all this."

"I can't just care?"

"Hell fucking no."

"I don't know what to say to that."

"Of course not. You're a fucking liar like all men are. Goddam dog."

"You bitch at me when I don't do what you want and you bitch at me when I do. I can't win!"

"Damn straight, you can't."

"I don't believe this! I don't know what else to do! Nothing gets through to you."

"None of your shit gets through, asshole. I already know everything."

"Oh, you do, do you? You know everything I feel?"

"I know even without knowing. So quit your whining."

"There's nothing I can do to prove I care?"


"What if I -"

"Don't want to hear it. Mind's made up. Fucking loser."

"But why won't you believe me?"

"You have to ask?"


"You're just a man. Men are dogs. They don't care about anyone or anything but what's between your legs. You're not fooling me. I ain't falling for your shit."

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"Eat shit and die. I'm finding me a real man. One who doesn't care like you do, you lying sack of shit."

"My feelings just don't mean anything to you, is that it?"

"You can take your phony feelings and hit the road. Take those damn packages with you too. Frickin' jerk. I don't frickin' believe your damn ass."


"Live on set, it's the Opal Humphries Show! Today's topic: Men suck!"

"I'm telling you, Opal. Men are dogs. You do everything to please them, spend your last cent on them and they still aren't happy."

"You go, girl!"

"It's a no-win situation. Do what they want and they aren't happy and don't do what they want and they be pitching a fit like you've never seen!"

"You said it! They're just impossible."

"Life is what you make it so I'm making mine good. Get that dog out of your life, girls. Don't take none of his shit!"

Wild applause for not taking shit.

"I think we've learned a valuable lesson here about not falling for the lies men tell. We've got to wise up, girls! The next time a man tells you he cares about you, don't believe him! I'm Opal Humphries and that's the word!"


"This is Dick Peters reporting from the United Nations. Negotiations have broken down in the peace talks once again. Everyone knows why but it's important we pretend not to. Hardliners insist accepting peace will result in the destruction of mankind. Who's to say who's right or wrong? The following clip is from today's talks."

"Believe me, I truly want peace. I'll give you all that you're asking. I just want to end this conflict."

"Bullshit! I don't believe you! You can't fool me with peace, love and understanding."

"Who's trying to fool anyone? Don't you know when something's real?"

"Of course I do! But I'm taking no chances on believing anything good. Drone everyone and ask questions later. History will speak well of me."

"History will remove the gauze from your eyes and force you to see that you are ensuring your doom by furthering this conflict."

"I don't care. I'm doing it anyway."

"Here, let me show you this footage of soldiers digging their bullets out of bodies to hide their criminal actions. Just how do you think this can end up well?"

"I'm literally closing my eyes and if you keep talking I'm pulling my ears off."

"They are doing these things in your name and the name of your people. You must know in order to survive!"

"Nanny-nanny-boo-boo, I can't hear you!"

"With his hands clasped over his ears and humming loudly to drown out any further conversation, the President expressed disappointment today in the negotiations afterwards, lamenting the quote 'absurdly intransigent positions and refusal to keep an open mind' unquote by the opposing country."


Back at the house, two girls were talking excitedly in the kitchen.

"I got me a real man now."

"That's great! And you were totally awesome on Opal Humphries."

"She's a bitch in person. It's all a put-on for the camera. Her problem is she needs to get herself a man."

"Oh, I believe it! All she wants to do is dog men because she can't get one of her own."

"Yes, some women are like that. They can't be objective at all. Just crazy."

The front door slammed open. "Hey, bitch, where the fuck are you? Can't you greet me when I get home?" boomed a voice from the other room.

"There's my sweetie! Gotta go!"

"You're such an angel to put up with him."

"Oh, don't you know it! The bastard!"

She ran breathlessly into the living room. "What can I do to please you, sir?"

"Suck my dick and fix me dinner."

"Yes, sir. Right way, sir. I love you soooo much!"

"Stop talking and put your mouth to better use while I watch TV."

The nightly news began blaring courtesy of the remote control idol. The newscaster was lamenting the breakdown of the ever continuing peace talks.

"Dammit, what's wrong with people? Don't they know you gotta have war? Them other people's trying to kill us! We gotta kill them all first. That pussy President of ours will never figure that out."

"I'm through swallowing, sir. May I start dinner now?"

"Hell, yes, you dumb bitch! Do I have to figure out everything for you?"

"Thank you, sir, you're the best. I know you can fix the world! I'm so happy now I'm not living a lie."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I had a viral video once. I was king for a day! Praise poured in from around the world. Both left and right lauded me. "SEE WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM A BIRD," screamed the headlines. I was everyone's wet dream: a moral monster for the world.

The first video of my bird, however, received many angry comments. I was bragging on how I'd trapped it and caged it. It fluttered madly to get out of the cage and resume its previous freedom. "Welcome to the real world, little bird! You're only as free as I say you are. Being able to imprison you means I have that right!" I mocked its futile efforts to escape. "Keep trying, birdy. The more you try the more it hurts!"

I got to play God, rewarding and punishing the bird as I saw fit by denying it food and water if it did not behave as I wished. (And of course however I wished it to behave was the correct way to behave.) I made all the rules and judged myself holy and knowing. Combining those two things was awfully convenient! But others got all pissy.

"You have no business being trusted with a helpless animal. Set it free! It obviously wants out of that cage, you prick!" "Yeah, whatever. Rapists want out of prison. You going to free them too? Get a life and leave mine alone." "Why don't YOU get a life and leave that bird's alone? There's no living with the likes of you!" "Bird looks perfectly alive to me. You're just imagining ills so you can spout your propaganda."

Around and around we went. I hated those "Set it free" people with all their phony moralizing and dictatorial mandates. This was how I got my jollies and if these people want to go to war that's fine with me! I'd love to shut you suckers up once and for all. Bring it on, bitch! This is how all wars get started, one person interfering in another man's jollies. A man's gotta get his rocks off come even the end of the world.

Truth was, though, I really wasn't enjoying much this private war. True, on one hand I relished it but it was also very oppressive as if I felt a large metal plate lowering itself on me, crushing me. Luckily, I had the most useful too of willful ignorance to ignore that. But the suppressed worry invaded my sleep no matter how many stories I read of righteous, lusty warriors. I was beginning to feel there was no way out - just like that damn bird.

Came a point where I lost all hope. I loved enraging all the online liberals and lying about how I was truly feeling, getting their goats. I'd just make up any old thing I wanted to get back at them. (While those idiots were trying to have an "honest" discussion. Morons!) But no matter how brave a face I put on, I had reached the end of my rope. That's when the miracle happened.

The bird no longer tried to escape. Rather, it sang happily, no more ramming itself against the bars. I had won. All my secret insecurities eating at me disappeared. I was reborn a new man, relieved of my burdens. Tentative to this new condition, I watched the bird to see if its behavior would continue. It did! Then, on the third day, I rose to life.

"Look at this bird!" I marveled in my soon to be famous flick. "It sings regardless of circumstance! It needs no 'freedom'. The cage is all it needs. Are you feeling trapped in your life? Then sing! Sing like the caged bird does. Forget about what you can't do. Look at what you can do! That's the secret to life. That's the secret to success. I am humbled by this creature of God."

And thusly I invoked godliness upon myself. The leftists loved it because it proved "the power of spirit" and "the ultimate goodness of life". "Life can only get you down if you let it," they crowed. I got an invite to appear on Oprah and to blog on Huffington Post. The right wing loved it because it proved you can capture, cage and control someone and have it turn out alright. "Life can only get you down if you let it," they crowed. Radio shows and churches came begging me to speak. My peace passeth all understanding.

The next day the bird died.

Seems ever since that morning it started singing it had refused to eat. Knowing it was to die, its voice returned at the thought of the coming freedom, the end of the nightmare at last. I'd assumed the vigor in its voice to be my vindication. I so dearly loved that bird at that moment. I thought I'd passed muster on judgement day. Now it sings in heaven watching me struggle in my cage of lies, pointless in every thing I do.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Weapons Of Mass Instruction

It began in the Crimea, a place of ancient wars. One of Putin's Pussies (Hint: If you want to be a real man don't let someone else do your thinking for you) raised his rifle in smirking superiority. However, when he tried to fire, the bullet went backwards, killing the soldier instantly. Soon it spread to every Russian weapon. If a tank tried to fire it blew itself up. Bombs detonated on airplanes. Artillery backtracked to the spot from where it was fired.

Back in Moscow, panicking Putin pissed his pretty pants. "We are completely vulnerable! Everyone will make fun of me! How can I be a strong man without weapons? I am nothing without guns!" Around the globe every man, woman and child laughed at the helpless loser exposed as the coward of the country. His many billions in assets were seized by a now undeceived populace. "Why did we think he ever deserved it?"

The condition spread with soon every middle east weapon backfiring. Stubborn American troops sustained heavy losses. "Our guns won't misfire. Things like that don't happen to us. We are America, we are the exception!" Eighty percent of American fighters died a self-destructed death, refusing to believe "God would ever betray us." The fanatical Taliban lost one hundred percent. Militaries around the world found themselves as useless as yesterday's newspaper. Cry as they might, they had no say in the new world order.

All the latest in insecurity

North Korea saw the chance of a lifetime, launching her nuclear missiles in full confidence of world domination. But she only succeeded in wiping the ruling family off the face of the earth. Still, back in America, despite the growing evidence the White House was taking no chances. "We must maintain security! What if we stopped our drone strikes and an attack happened? History would mock us until the end of time!" But of course the drone strikes only took out the White House - leaving the dead to be mocked by history until the end of time.

The Great Weapons Debate ensued. "This cannot be permanent! One day our weapons will fire as they did before. We must keep our armies and defense, never letting go! Do not dare to believe!" In some countries, they did dare, liberal voices ascending to power. With the military drain removed from their economies, they surged as world trade leaders. Those countries mired in the past warned, "You'll be sorry. Just wait an see!"

Soldiers wailed in agony. "How can my life have meaning if I can't kill anyone? Someone please call me a maggot." Many hardcore conservatives continued to self-destruct in attempts to prove their point of view still valid. "I've made five hundred million dollars and have tens of millions of followers. Who dare say I am wrong? I will fire any weapon anywhere anytime. My life has not been useless energy spent." In this way they continued to be picked off until nary a conservative voice was left alive.

"Who will be the last man to die of a self-inflicted wound?" This became the question of the day. Every hour came reports of those literally dying to be the hero to prove weapons were still the way. Very slowly, the worldwide rate started to drop. Children were the first to catch on, throwing away toy guns and army men. Many horrified parents created military academies to ensure the continued "responsible" torture of their offspring. But this generation too died off.

The "Obedient Ones" refused to accept the new ways of the world, mocking who they called the "Naive Ones." They continued in their failed goosestepping for glory. "Better to die preparing for war than irresponsibly living life." But as time passed, those who prepared for life won the day while the stubbornly proud and defiant ones languished worshiping altars made of munitions, praying to eye-less ear-less empty metal. And then there were none.

It was a new kind of freedom - a kind of freedom many thought impossible to be. A new kind of energy was unleashed sweeping the world to fresh realizations of what life could be. The meek who'd refused to war became the exalted "Trusted Ones" of the earth. With eyes opened, no man sought to "further his inner war" but rather to heal it. How futile those old weapons of mass destruction! Despite being proclaimed "the only way to be safe" the exact opposite proved true. Ultimate life comes without firing a shot.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

My Job Eating Dog Food

Ever see a moneylender crucified? Enough said.

People are monsters. They think they aren't, but they are. They all think they're Jesus on a stick ready to lick. Even the people who say they hate Jesus believe that. I knew Jesus. Jesus was a close personal friend of mine. You're no Jesus.

Eating dog food for a "living" is like living in a house made of shit. You have to live inside it but you never get used to the smell. People tell me I can get jobs eating different dog food - as if that's some sort of solution! Really? I hope you die.

Everyone's against me. Everyone's against themselves. I know what God will do if I stop hurting myself. Death. Death in the worst, most horrific way possible. Jesus refused to hurt himself so he had to pay the price. It wasn't the Jews who killed Jesus. It was you dog food fuckers, you "people of faith". Faith in what, asshole?

You can't say you don't like eating dog food or the hysterics come fast and furious, wailing to the heavens I'm destroying your precious lies. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is instantaneous and uncontrollable: the true face of the dog food lovers. Who can live with you? Nobody. I can't even say I hate eating dog food. You know why? Because you know it's true. This is you.

You pretend to like it so you can force
others to do it. Die soon, please.

Want a "challenging" career? Then eat two bowls instead of one! That's mighty white of you. Double down on the lies. Keep pretending you're making things "work". Assassins. That's how assassins think: "I can't be wrong. Do more killing!" Your unexamined life is not worth living with.

I get it. It's all about the rape. Rapists only want to hear their victims in private. In public, you say there must be something wrong with me. In private, you gut people like a pig. People are the worst kept secret ever. Everybody is already known. The time not admitting that is running out and will soon be gone forever. What you gonna do then, Alpo breath?

People vote themselves to be Jesus but Jesus would never vote: too much faith in the natural order of things. Why should I need tend to an honest man's business? But the dishonest man must answer to himself too. I cannot answer for anyone but me. Everyone needs to get down off their hind legs and reflect. Good things will happen - just not for the way of forced dog food eating.

Yes, I am a heretic. "Love is all you bleed" is the assassins' creed. Death is holy and wanting to live a sin. "Give me an essay on how we can make death work. Good boy, Billy! We're going to give you a new TV! Not bad for your useless old soul, huh?" Everyone's a winner, baby. Whoever cashes in the most for their soul wins. Arf, arf!