Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yeah, We Know

I have a question. When celebrities or people who are famous or well-known come out and say that they're gay, who is that for? Seriously. Who is that for? It can't be for regular people. It can't even be for irregular people. So who is it for and what's the point?

I ask the above questions because Ricky Martin has come out and said he's gay. (And in a related story, the sun is really, really hot. Back to you.) OK, he didn't use that terminology, exactly. No, what he said (on his blog of all things!) was that “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.” All right then. It kind of had that feel of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy's admission that he was "proud to be a gay American". (I mean that in the sense that the words kind of had the same sort of sound to them. Not that Ricky Martin was governing an eastern state and had been married to a woman when he had an affair with an Israeli national or anything.)

But here's the thing: Ricky Martin says "I'm gay" and everyone else says "We know". Have you seen Ricky Martin? Ever? Yeah, um, he's gay. So who is that for? Why is it done like that? That's my question. It's not like it's just Ricky Martin who is the only one telling everyone something that they already knew (and really didn't give a fat rat's ass about). It's happened repeatedly. Let's take a look at some of the most un-shocking coming outs, shall we?

We'll start with Lance Bass. Gay. Uh-huh. We knew.

Then there was Clay Aiken. "Yes, I'm gay." Yes, we know.

Sean Hayes. Please. Could he be any gayer? Nuh-uh. Is it any wonder he was so good on Will & Grace?

David Hyde Pierce. Yep. Gay.

Figure skater Rudy Galindo. So gay.

Adam Lambert. Shocking. Or not. He's gay.

Martina Navratilova. A good, manly tennis player. Very gay.

Billie Jean King. Another good tennis player. Equally as gay.

Ellen DeGeneres. Still gay.

Rosie O'Donnell. Gay. (And seemingly angry.)

Tell me which one of those you were shocked by. Oh, wait. Let me guess. NONE of them? That's right. Now tell me which one of those really made some sort of difference in your life after they came out? Oh, wait. Let me guess again. NONE of them? That's right, too.

Can't we make some sort of a deal with...well, whatever department would handle the sort of deal I'm about to propose? Can't we make a deal that unless it's going to be a huge bombshell that someone is gay, that we just don't worry about it? (I'd really like to see it not matter all together, but I'll admit that I do enjoy a good bombshell from time to time. I don't want to lose that form of entertainment for myself.)
What would be an example of a bombshell gay announcement. Um, I'd say if either President Barry or his lovely wife, Michelle, came out as gay, that would warrant a little ink in the news. Actually, any former US President who wanted to leap out of the closet would qualify for bombshell. Arnold Schwarzenegger would qualify. Stephen Hawking would qualify (but probably only due to sheer logistics). Vladimir Putin would qualify. (That guy is a man's man if there ever was one. He might be trying to hide something, but I don't think so. I think he's about as straight as one can get. And I'm not just saying that because he'd probably strangle to death anyone who implied otherwise.) People like that would qualify. Ricky Martin? Yeah, not so much.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Middle Eastern Pop-Culture Poetry

If you ever really want to know just how different American pop-culture is from, say, pop-culture in the Arab world, just take a gander at some of the top rated TV shows in each land and you'll notice some startling differences. Actually, forget "shows" plural. How about "show" singular? Top rated show in America these days? American Idol. Top rated show in the Arab world? The Million's Poet. That's right. Poet.

Here's the gist of the show: While on American Idol, contestants get on stage and sing a song of their choice (which falls under the guides of whatever the ridiculous theme is that week), on The Million's Poet, contestants get on stage and read a poem. My. That sounds...well...simply awful.

First of all, I had no idea that the Arab world was so into poetry. Is that new? I can't think of many things that I would rather do less than go somewhere and listen to someone read their poetry in front of a microphone. Oh, no, wait, wait! I thought of something. Going somewhere to listen to someone read their haiku in front of a microphone. I'd rather hang myself than do that. It's not that I'm specifically against poetry or anything. It's just that I don't think I get it. Maybe it sounds nice, I don't know. But it certainly isn't going to make me all weepy or anything. Now, when some of those American Idol folks try to hit those high notes and they're screaming like someone just nailed both of their feet to the floor, that can get me a little weepy (but that's only because it feels like both of my eardrums are bleeding). But poetry? I think not.

Bottom line here is that I'm not a fan of poetry. But that's not what this is about. No, this is about how the Arab world has found their very own Susan Boyle, so to speak, through their hit show The Million's Poet. They have found this poet whose poetry really resonates with a lot of the folks who are doing the voting, both in the audience and by text message, just like American Idol. (Yes. There is voting. By text message. For a poetry show. This story is so modern and yet, so backwards all at the same time. And this gets weirder, believe me.) There are even three judges, but if you're thinking that you're going to be seeing the Arabian equivalent of Paula Abdul, you're completely mistaken. Here's one of the judges now. Behold!

(I said it got weirder, what did you expect?!) According to an article over there at The Huffington Post, a one Hissa Hilal "...recites poetry that brazenly calls out for women's rights and the end of Islamic extremism." Wow! That's pretty gutsy Yes. Yes, it is. Even more gutsy considering that Hissa is a woman. And even more weirder when you see the show in action. Behold!

Oh, what the hell is that? THAT is a one Hissa Hilal, "...a housewife and mother of four from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia." She's dressed like that because "As is required of Saudi women appearing in public, she is covered from head to toe in a traditional abaya." Now, I realize that "traditional abaya" is a hard phrase to remember. I have a different name for it which will be much easier to remember. I call it "the beekeeper's uniform". Can you believe that's just a regular part of a hit reality show over there in Dubai and wherever else? Totally expected. Totally "normal". Not a problem for them. Not a problem. Wow.

I'm kind of thinking that she has to be a little bit relieved to be in the beekeeper's uniform, as "Hilal's poetry has, not surprisingly, led to death threats by Islamic extremists." Ah, yes. The ever predictable death threats by Islamic extremists so that they can, once again, show just how completely reasonable they really are. Hilal says of the death threats "Killing a human being is so easy for them, it is always an option." Granted, there have been days when I could only wish that killing a human being was an option. But for it to actually always be an option? It's barbaric to say the least (but I can see the handiness in it all if you don't let it go to your head).

Last week in the voting, "...she received the highest overall score in last week's semifinals, pushing her through to this Wednesday's final (and its $1.3 Million prize for the winner). " Holy crap. 1.3 million bucks?! What do you get if you win American Idol? A record deal? Is that record deal worth 1.3 million bucks?! I guess in some cases (Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson) it could be, but am I really to leave this conversation thinking that Taylor Hicks and Fantasia ended up with anything in the freaking neighborhood of $1.3 million? I don't think anyone could be expected to believe that, really.

Hissa Hilal claims not to be afraid for herself, but says that she is kind of worried about her children. Seems reasonable, considering the beekeeper uniform wearing society that she lives in. I'd be worried as hell about my kids. But she does what she does because "I am hoping my daughters won't have to cover their faces and they'll live a better life." You know what lady? Me too.

Seriously, how insecure must some folks be (Translation: How small must their penis actually be?) that they have to make up some sort of crazy rule for their crazy lifestyle that says that women must wear the beekeeper's uniform? And it is a crazy rule that was made up. The beekeeper's uniform came into existence right about the same time that Star Wars came out. I think some of those Arab folks saw Darth Vader in his little outfit and thought that seemed like a good thing to implement for the women folk. Since that mask and all of that hissing would have been tricky to pull off, they just went with the beekeeper look instead. Darth Vader, the beekeeper uniform, both extremely similar to each other.

I'm hoping that this chick wins the $1.3 million and uses it to get herself and her family the heck out of Dodge. I'm afraid that if she wins and sticks around for very long that she's going to find herself sans head one day. I can understand her wanting to hang around and further her cause, but it's really hard to further much when you're dead. I'm just sayin'.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Childhood Obesity Is Fueled By Toys

We're doomed. Doomed. Once again, leave it to a county in California to be introduced a bill that "If it is passed, this would be the first such legislation in the nation." California: Leading the way to making sure that no one is responsible for themselves anymore. And we're going to be pushed further down that path by making sure that there is not, of all things, a toy in a child's fast food meal. Of course. No, wait. What now?

Correct. According to the fine folks over there at KGO-TV, "A Santa Clara County lawmaker will introduce legislation to stop restaurants from handing out toys with fast food menu items geared toward children." OK, then. Almost all I have to say is that this guy had better not be a SCC lawmaker for very much longer. Are you freaking kidding me?!

Let's hear the lame ass justification for this waste of time and money effort, shall we? According to a one Ken Yeager, the apparent dip ass behind this measure, "One in three kids are overweight or are obese, and we're finding out more and more that if you're obese as a child, you're going to have health problems your entire life." Hmm. I don't disagree with that statement, but I kind of doubt that we're "just finding out" that a fat kid is going to make for an unhealthy adult. That seems to be a stretch. I also highly doubt that the one in three kids that is overweight is in that condition because they received a little plastic R2D2 with their burger. I highly doubt that.

Yeager claims that "Ten out of 12 meals that are associated with the promotional toys are the high-caloric, high-fat, high-sodium meals." First of all, which 12 meals are we talking about here? There aren't 12 meals with toys that are available at just one chain, so what is he talking about? Sadly, due to extremely poor reporting, this question isn't answered.

Also, how many meals that are not associated with a promotional toy (ie, the ones that aren't "for children") are "high-caloric, high-fat, high-sodium" meals? At a fast food place? I'm guessing most of them or at the very least, half of them. It's fast food, for cryin' out loud. But again, sadly, due to poor reporting, this aspect is not further explored.

Supervisor Yeager wants his proposed ordinance to regulate " food restaurants' ability to offer toys or other incentives with kids' meals." Um..."other incentives"? What are "other incentives" when you're buying a sack of toy-laden fast food? What other incentives would their be? NOT being hungry when you're done? That's an incentive, all right, but regulating "an end to hunger" seems odd. What other incentives could he be referring to? Hookers? Can they give out hookers? That'd be an incentive, but probably not for children. Hmm. This is a head scratcher, all right.

Wait! I just came up with one! When I buy Coca-Cola products, there is a little code inside of the 12-pack that will give me My Coke Rewards Points when I enter the codes online. If I save up enough points, I can buy a Coke logo emblazoned yacht or something similar from the Coca-Cola store. I guess those points would be considered an "incentive" to buy Coca-Cola products (that and a really strong desire for the unattainable goal of purchasing a Coke yacht). And since regular sodas are filled with at least one five pound bag of sugar per 12 ounce can (so I've heard from the anti-soda groups), those points are making kids who drink those products obese. Is Mr. Yeager proposing not allowing the sale of any products from various carbonated beverage manufacturers who use promotional gimmicks to sell us their "liquid death"? Of course he isn't. Has he suggested such a measure? Of course he hasn't. You know why? Because it would be idiotic, that is correct. (My words, not his. Given that he wants the "no toy" ban to be in effect, he'll probably consider this scenario next.)

Of course, this must make sense to Mr. Yeager because, as we all know, if a child wants something, it is the duty of the parent to immediately purchase that which the child wants immediately. Thus, if the child wants the high calorie, high fat, high sodium, very tasty meal with a toy in it, well, the parent will have to buy that child the meal, no questions asked! And we also all know that you must take your children to have fast food all of the time when they are little. That must be the case because, if kids are as fat as Mr. Yeager says that they are and that the meals with toys are to blame, then those kids must be eating that stuff morning, noon and night. It's a shame, really. (God, what a moron.)

Let me just briefly summarize what this Yeager fellow thinks is a good idea, OK? He thinks that it's a good idea for the government to tell companies that they cannot put a toy in with a kid's meal. That's right. A toy. He believes this to be the solution to childhood obesity, for some reason. So rather than let parents regulate the food intake of their own children, Mr. Yeager believes it is best if the government takes AWAY choices from people in order to get them to make what the government believes to be the right choice. Sure, that sounds like the America I know.

Mr. Yeager, I'm going to present you with an alternative. How about, instead of taking out the toy, you let the fast food companies leave the toy in. But instead of just handing the food to the child (or the parent, wherever they are in this scenario. From what I can tell, these fast food places are in some sort of Lord of the Flies scenario, as good parenting versus bad parenting doesn't seem to be a factor), how about you have the kid run around the restaurant three times before he can get his food? The parent places the order at the drive-thru speaker, pulls up to the first window and then lets the kids out of the car. The kids then sprint around some sort of Olympic sized track and when they finally make it to the finish line (assuming that they do), they get their meal AND their toy handed to them for them to enjoy. It seems reasonable. They'll have gotten some exercise (which we all know they don't get enough of) and they'll still get fed. It'll balance out. The yin and the yang. I can support installing Olympic sized running tracks around all of the McDonald's in the county. THAT I could support. Banning companies from putting a toy in the meals for kids? You've gotta be dry shavin' me.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Now We Know What's In The Bill. Or Do We?

Here are four words I never thought I'd think, much less type: Nancy Pelosi was right.

On March 9, 2010, Speaker Pelosi (who I'm pretty sure is missing a human soul and warms her body by sunning herself on a rock) gave a little speech to the Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties and during said speech, she actually said what I thought might have been the most ridiculous thing to ever come out of her mouth. She said, in reference to the then-pending health care bill, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it". Um, what now?

That's what she said. I swear. The text of the entire speech is over at her website. That particular little gem is about six paragraphs up from the bottom. But it turns out, she was right. How did I determine that? I came to that conclusion after reading an article by the extremely talented reporter William La Jeunesse of Fox News. The article outlined a provision of the bill, which is now law, called the Class Act, "...otherwise known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act" which " the federal government's first long-term care insurance program."

Now, why we didn't hear about this beforehand is beyond me. No, wait. No, it's not. We didn't hear about it because people out there in the media are simply not doing their jobs. It's not like this bill wasn't available for review beforehand. (Right? It was available, right?) Granted, the thing clocked in at over 2,000 pages long. Am I supposed to read all of those 2,000 pages? Technically, I think that I should want to. And don't get me wrong, I DO want to want to. I DON'T want to, though. But again, technically, I don't think that I should have to. (Don't get me started on how I don't think that ANYTHING should be 2,000 pages long, unless it's a document telling me how great I am, and even then that would be pushing it. My greatness can easily be summed up in a thousand pages or so.) It's not my JOB to read the damn thing. That's the job of the media. Their job is to report. They can't report unless they know what they're reporting on. The only way to know that is to do their damn job and read all 2,000 freaking pages. But no one did, otherwise we would have heard about this before now.

Ready for this? I hope you're either sitting down or sharpening your pitchfork tines. "...The program will allow workers to have an average of roughly $150 or $240 a month, based on age and salary, automatically deducted from their paycheck to save for long-term care." Wait. What now? How much? A month?!

Now, call me silly, but can't you get long term care from the insurance that you're already supposed to be mandated to be purchasing thanks to the passage of the health care bill? I'm thinking that something along those lines would make the most sense. Ohh. That's why they didn't do it that way. It would have made sense. Carry on.

Now, this is a policy where you are automatically opted into unless you opt out. That is the complete opposite of what I thought that things were supposed to be being done. I thought it was supposed to be that you were automatically opted out of something unless you wanted to opt in. Oh, right. That's for things that the federal government isn't trying to siphon money from you for. Got it.
According to William's article, here are some of the more pressing details that you need to know about:

The deduction will work on a sliding scale based on age. Younger workers will be charged less, older workers more. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the average monthly deduction at $146. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put it higher, at $240. Wait. The CBO and the Medicare/Medicaid folks have figures that differ in cost of around a hundred bucks? Shocking, I know. Who am I going to believe? I'm going to go with the Medicare/Medicaid folks, as they are already ridiculously underpaid, thus the CBO's low estimate would seem to be wrong, all things considered. I'm also going to with with how that seems like an awful lot of money to be deducted monthly from folks. (And just remember, those figures are an "average". That means that some people will pay more than that and some people will pay less than that. My guess is that some people will pay much, much less.)

After a five-year vesting period, enrollees who need help bathing, eating or dressing will be eligible to take out benefits, estimated to be around $75 a day for in-home care. Only a five year vesting period? And then you're good? How do they figure that? By my calculations (and I'll go with the higher figure just to give them the benefit of the doubt), if you're paying in $240 a month, after five years, you'll have contributed $14,400. At benefits of $75 a day that you can tap if you need to after those five years, you'll have yourself a whopping 192 days of care. That's not a full year. That's barely over six months. Now, I don't know what your definition of "long term care" is, but mine is definitely more than six months. Six months isn't what I'd call "long term". Six months is "just gettin' started".

Here's the other frightening part of this: The money that is put into this fund (generously and likely erroneously estimated to be $109 billion in collected premiums by 2019 after being implemented as early as 2012) will not be in a "lockbox" sort of situation. No, it's going to be more of a general fund sort of situation. You know how Social Security money is supposed to be just for Social Security? You know how the Social Security funds have been tapped by everything else AND how it will give out more than it takes in next year? You know how that works? Sure you do. Now, do you expect that this thing will work any differently? Of course you don't. Thus, it's going to end up being what? A mitigated disaster, that is correct.

Of course "The statute says the program is designed to be self-sustaining, with an advisory board to assure the fund remains solvent. But opponents say the fine print already tells another story. Unless modifications are made, according to a CBO analysis of the bill, "the program will add to future federal budget deficits in a large and growing fashion." Sounds great. Good thing that this was passed into law so that we could find out that this was in it!

Since I enjoy math and numbers, let's look at a few more, shall we? If this thing starts in 2012, $109 billion in premiums by 2019 equals out to be $15.57 billion a year. If folks are paying $240 a month, that's 5,228,125 people needed to sustain that figure. If folks are paying $146 a year, that's 8,594,178 people needed to sustain that figure. That's a difference of 3,366,053 people. Um, that's kind of a lot. How do they figure this is going to work? AT ALL! And let's not forget, those are the figures to make it all work out without money being drawn out of the fund. Those are just the numbers for money being theoretically deposited into the fund.

But let's say you participate in this charade starting from the time you're 20. And let's say that you're paying the low, low rate of $146 a month. Fast forward forty five years. You're now sixty five and you're going to retire. You'll have amassed for yourself, after forty five years of paying premiums and at the flex-rate of $75 per day allotted to you for long term care, a whopping three years of long term care. Three. Forty five years, $146 a month for a total of $78,840. That gets you three years of in-home long term care. That doesn't seem like a lot to me. Wouldn't you be better off taking that $146 and investing it somewhere or even setting up a 401k type of dealio so that you can take care of your own expenses? Wouldn't that $146 amount to a hell of a lot more than the $78,840 after 45 years? I'm kind of thinking that it would.

This is ridiculous. And it's now law. Congratulations, Nancy Pelosi. Thanks for saddling the country with another obligation that it cannot afford. What in the hell happened to people taking care of themselves when they retire anyway? (Has she not noticed the high unemployment rate which is still besieging the country? Perhaps she has overlooked the still sagging economy? The perpetually high foreclosure rate? And she's thinking that folks in "times like these" are going to be OK with forking over another $200 a month? Not to be unjustifiably disrespectful to the soulless snake, but she's high.)

I don't say things like this very often, but please read William's article and pass it along to your friends. I guarantee that the majority of them, if not all of them, have never heard a single word about this. I guarantee that the majority of them have no idea that they've already been opted into a plan that is going to cost them a minimum of $146 a month unless they opt out. And again, the reason that people don't know this is because people in the media are not doing their job. Well, except for William. William rocks at his job. But everyone else just sucks. I can't wait to find out what else is in the bill now that it's passed into law. How exciting!

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