Thursday, December 3, 2009

It could be worse...your point being?

The other day I was chatting to an acquaintance of mine--being my usual dreary self--and the guy tried to cheer me up with the old “it could be worse” routine. Naturally, I responded in a manner befitting an Old World aristocrat like myself:

“Yes, you‘re right. It COULD be worse. But you know what else it could be…

I don’t know how so many people came to believe that recognizing you aren’t in the worst state possible is supposed to outclass morphine in the painkiller department. Next time I‘m performing a clitoral circumcision on the Ivory Coast, I‘ll be sure to tell the lucky lady, “It could be worse. At least I‘m using a clean boxcutter.” No doubt that will make up for having to go through life with avant-garde genitals.

Of course, even if things did get worse for me, all these imbeciles would do is reiterate that despite my newfound troubles, life could still somehow be worse. I could be in a gulag and they’d tell me, “Hey, it could be worse. You could be in Auschwitz. Now smile and show us where those gold teeth used to be.”

Up until the point of death, all these “it could be worse” stooges can offer as conciliation are meaningless captions about the sufferings of others. Not even death offers escape from their babbling, because at the funeral they always say, “At least he’s not alive and in pain.“

Yeah I see this coffin as half full.

Knowing someone has ebola doesn’t make your cancer less painful. Meeting someone who lives under a bridge doesn’t make your trailer more luxurious. Seeing a guy whose wife is fatter than yours doesn’t cure the hernia you got from carrying her over the threshold.

The next time I encounter a fool who is giddy over trivial things, I‘m going to say to him, “Hey, it could be better. You could be anyone other than you.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Lesson

Women are constantly offering naively confident theories about men’s sexual impulses. And lucky me, I am constantly overhearing them. One offhand comment I heard recently showcased such cluelessness I felt compelled to offer the ladies some words of wisdom.

As a teaching aid, I’m going to summarize a story by E. Hoffmann Price called "Satan's Daughter" that I truly believe should be taught to young women everywhere, right alongside Aesop's fables.

The story goes like this: An archaeologist unearths an ancient Babylonian statue called "The Daughter of Satan" (warning sign number one). The scantily clad statue comes to life and pays him a visit:

Her flesh was a warm, rosy amber…

Her delicately aquiline Semitic features were sweetened by the shadow of a smile that lurked at the corners of her sensuous mouth…

Her shapely body was a succession of fluent, rippling curves (If you need to stop reading now to go…be alone, I understand)…

The archaeologist also notes the: firm, full blossoming breasts and inward sweep of her waist.

The archaeologist can't actually close the deal because the temptress’s hips are guarded by a silver girdle; a girdle locked onto her by a jealous, ancient king (warning sign number two). The Daughter of Satan warns him that:

If you want me, we will meet in Kurdistan. But think well before you summon me in Kurdistan, first look at what remains of my long forgotten lovers.

Pretty straightforward.

But of course, the undeterred archaeologist still travels to Kurdistan. Along the way, he encounters a string of "desiccated bodies" resembling "the shell of a sun-dried insect." And shock-a-doodle-doo, all of them have "the red imprint of a woman's lips" on their foreheads (warning sign number three).

After a series of wacky twists, the Daughter of Satan reappears, girdle and all. She tells the archaeologist:

Deny and disown me, and go in peace. Your life will be long, but you will never forget the silver girdle that you could not remove.

She then hands him the key to her girdle and says: This is the key of doom. If you still have the courage and the will.

She literally tells him it is the key OF DOOM. When a person hands me the anything of doom, I run the other way. Someone says, "Hey Mike, this is the cotton candy of doom," I'm out the door.

Yet the archaeologist (presumably a man of letters) decides: It would be worse to wander with only the memories of a girdle without a key.

The moral of the story is that not even ancient, supernatural terrors and repeated warnings of certain, ghastly death can stop a man with sex on his brain.

And as I sit here writing this, I envy the archaeologist.

Friday, November 13, 2009

2012: A Pyramid Scheme

In the new movie 2012, John Cusack plays a science fiction writer. Appropriate, because to Mayan doomsday believers, science fiction is interchangeable with science fact.

You'll remember that back when the millennium was approaching, Nostradamus-linked doomsday forecasting was all the rage. Then the millennium came and nothing happened. Now chumps who know even less about the Mayans than they did about Nostradamus are convinced that this time, it's for real!

Well unlike other popular doomsday scenarios like global warming, if the 2012 apocalypse is true, nothing can be done about it. It is basically preordained. So why sweat it? Why not just party accordingly? Hell, buy a new car. Chances are, your first payment won't be do until 2013.

Many 2012 believers even seem to be rooting for the world to end. If you're one of them, why wait for 2012? Why not just off yourself now? Like that old saying goes: Think globally, act locally.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Taxes Instruments

Well netizens (most annoying word ever?), the government is about to claim eminent domain over your domain name. Say hello to the Cyber Czar:

President Barack Obama on Friday declared the country’s computer and digital networks a “strategic national asset” and said he will select a cyber security coordinator to spearhead the effort to protect them.

Until now, the Internet has been about as close to free as one could hope for. Kiss that goodbye. Once the government declares it needs to take an active role in the Internet, it will just cite that alleged need as justification for taxing the Internet. After all, if we're to have a "safe" Internet, someone has to pay for it. We’re already seeing state level Internet tax efforts in spots like Hawaii and Rhode Island, so the Cyber Czar and his eventual tax burden comes at an opportune time.

We know the bill for the Cyber Czar and his Popup Cops won’t be cheap, because when the government has assumed control over other realms, particularly anything requiring vague “security” programs, what we’ve gotten was hemophilia as public policy, with taxpayers being needled and slowly bled of their income and dignity. But don’t trouble yourself with such doubts. The entity that can’t be trusted to maintain the interstate highway will surely find a way to maintain the information superhighway.

Mr. Obama assures us the Cyber Czar won’t be: “monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic.” Of course he will. If he casts a narrow net, he won’t find enough “cyber threats” to validate these measures being taken in the first place. So the net will widen, along with the definition of cyber threat. Before long, they’ll be using these newly assumed duties to crack down on ”hate speech” or “dangerously unregulated” entrepreneurs (which really means non-lobbying schmucks unloading toasters on Craigslist without sales tax).

And like always, we’ll get used to it, and the knowledge that the Internet ever existed without a Cyber Czar and the related taxes will evaporate from public memory. Public schools will spook pupils with campfire tales about how the net was overrun with hungry Cyber-Kraken before the government bravely stepped in with its digital harpoons.

Soon we Americans will be obediently taking our shoes off before we get online. Sounds good to me. How else can we be expected to win the War on Islamospamism?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Straw That Broke Joe Camel's Back

This article tells the sad tale: “North Carolina last week took a historic step for a state built on tobacco: It made smoking indoors illegal just about everywhere.”

Not nearly enough attention was paid to this ominous piece of legislation. What makes it so ominous is that it isn’t your typical smoking ban. Not only is this baby statewide, it's statewide in America's top tobacco state. From Cherokee to Currituck, North Carolina's government is determined to cut its residents' noses off to spite their faces.

The people of the Tar Heel State (soon to be renamed the Heel, Tar! State) actually dodged a much bigger bullet, as the original bill sought to ban smoking in nearly all North Carolina workplaces. And make no mistake: Full blown tobacco prohibition is the goal here. But don’t take my word for it. State legislator Hugh Holliman called the bill’s passage: “A giant step forward.” Notice he didn’t even bother with the standard lip service about how “regrettable” the action was. There was no mealy-mouthed, “Gee folks, I hate when the government has to do stuff like this, but we really had no choice.” Rather, he declared the bill “a step forward,” meaning it’s a step along a path he intends to continue down.

Governor Bev Perdue was even more explicit: “I have vigorously supported efforts to reduce and eliminate smoking.” I don’t even think the U.S. Supreme Court could mangle the crystal clear meaning of the word eliminate.

Americans have long ceded to nearly every excess of the anti-tobacco mob, so it was only a matter of time before restrictions expanded beyond mere towns and cities and took root across entire states. When you unthinkingly let strangers choose your villains for you, you’re bound to let them pick your heroes too. So now Perdue and Holliman have heroically joined the ranks of fellow elected busybodies like Mike Bloomberg and "concerned citizen" blowhards like Rob Reiner in the anti-smoking burlesque show.

What makes this acquiescence to ever increasing tobacco restriction so puzzling is that alcohol Prohibition is widely acknowledged as being a first rate government blunder. That line of thought is even the norm in public schools, where those 13 dry years are recounted as a mistake to be learned from, not a reminder of the good old days. Yet the barely concealed itch for a total tobacco ban oozing from these measures and their supporters seems to escape even those who would scoff at another booze ban.

To understand this, it helps to consider just how completely Americans have inhaled the tenets of the anti-smoking crusade. WE AMERICANS CARE ABOUT FREE EXPRESSION, except when it comes to smoking ads (the most gratuitous porn has more champions than cigarette ads in magazines). WE AMERICANS DEFEND FREE ENTREPRISE AND CONSUMER CHOICE, except where tobacco is one of the choices. After all, what if people make the wrong choice and start smoking??????? Or worse yet, what if the Marlboro Man starts targeting teens??????

Ever notice that it’s acceptable for every other type of company to make its products more attractive to consumers, but the moment a tobacco company does it, it’s automatically portrayed as an act of conspiracy and deception? Every company wants to make its products as widely accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Ford wants as many people driving Fords as possible. Apple wants as many people using Apple as possible. And yes, Philip Morris wants as many people coming to flavor country as possible.

Let’s look at some real manipulation. Let’s look at the way anti-tobacco groups manipulate the public with spooky terms like "Big Tobacco.” What does that term even mean? Is Tyson Chicken an example of Big Poultry? Do we call Levi’s Big Denim? The reason the anti-tobacco zealots say “Big Tobacco” instead of Philip Morris is because they know the term conjures up images of evildoers secretly meeting in back rooms. And worst of all, those back rooms probably allow smoking.

The claim that this ban helps businesses by saving them the cleaning costs associated with things like ashtrays is foolish, since businesses are not legally required to provide smoking sections. In fact, smokers are about the last group you can still discriminate against. So if John Q. Entrepreneur decides the related costs outweigh the gains derived from allowing smoking, he is free to make the adjustment. Besides, when has government ever shown concern about lowering business operators' expenses?

Since New York passed its notorious 2003 tobacco ban, more than twenty states have banished smoking in bars and restaurants. Funny that these statewide banning trends are occurring right as we hear one state after another celebrating their overturn of bans of another stripe. I guess the only way smokers will get any respect is if they start demanding marriage licenses.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Brother's Little Helper

You may have heard that the U.S. is searching for a new Surgeon General. Good. We certainly need one. How else is one to know that a diet rich in red meat and bleach is a problem?

Medical mega-stud Sanjay Gupta has already turned down the job. So has Howard “Open Up and Say Ahhhhhhhhh!” Dean.

But get this, as we're holding auditions for a new Surgeon General, the Supreme Court has just ruled that the FDA's seal of approval on prescription drugs is no longer the final word on drug safety. Justice John Paul Stevens proclaimed there was "powerful evidence that Congress did not intend FDA oversight to be the exclusive means of ensuring drug safety and effectiveness."

In other words, if the FDA greenlights a new drug--we’ll call it Indemnify®--and it turns out that rather than protect against parasites, Indemnify® instead causes seizures and dandruff, the FDA can throw up its hands up and say, “Nobody’s perfect!”

If the FDA's word isn't the final word, why have an FDA in the first place? Do we really need a team of tax-chugging, figurehead drug-screeners? If the ultimate responsibility for ensuring drug safety rests with the drug companies, then the FDA is effectively reduced to being ceremonial; an American version of royalty. Perhaps we should call them the Lab of Lords.

And though not exactly related, the FDA’s lack of accountability helps highlight the uselessness of the Surgeon General. The government is not prepared to stand firmly behind its medical proclamations. Fine. Why then do we need a tax-funded spokesquack for non-binding health advice? Our private physicians--who like the drug the companies, have accountability for their actions--can handle our preventative health needs. And unlike the Surgeon General, private physicians don't cost the taxpayer a six-figure a year co-pay.

The excuse that the FDA screens sooooooo many drugs and is therefore bound to make mistakes could just as easily be applied to the drug companies. Any decent sized pharmaceutical outfit is bound to have a wide range of drugs in development at all times. Unforeseen problems will arise. But when a drug company makes a boo-boo, they normally have to pay a price in civil court. When the FDA whiffs, it is still the drug company that gets stuck with the bill. The Mafia couldn’t have sketched a more one-sided arrangement. Drug companies are forced to deal with the FDA, but the FDA isn't forced to stand behind its rulings. I say if Pharma Inc. is to be compeled to tangle with Federal middlemen (at great personal cost), the least they can expect is protection against lawsuits stemming from FDA-approved products.

If I wanted to be crabby about it, I might also point out that the FDA is unconstitutional. But then these days, you could throw a dart at a newspaper and any story you'd land on would have that same problem.