Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sometimes the universe reminds us ...

Sometimes the universe reminds us that not everyone is an asshole.

It seems to be getting easier and easier to only see the shit that gets flung at us. Conversely, it also seems to be getting harder and harder to see the gentle kindness that might tap us on the shoulder.

Is it really easier to only believe that a couple of young people harassed an elderly man walking his dog in a park than it is to believe that another pair of youngsters walked up behind a pregnant mother with a toddler in tow and helped her carry her groceries in? I know that often it is for me.

Oh, I know that there are bad people out there, that there scam artists and men who beat their wives and wives who beat their children. I know that there is hate and pain and misery in great abundance and sometimes, on a really bad day, I think that that's all there is.

Well, I am here to tell you that it's NOT all there is. There ARE good people out there, most of which we never hear of or see for ourselves except for the rare "puff piece" used as space or time fillers in the media. Most of us are running as fast as we can just to stay a step ahead of the real darkness. Most of the time it's a "good" day if we manage to maintain our position in the grey twilight that's the usual rule of the day. We can't or don't take even a split second to notice much of anything else.

This isn't some warm, fuzzy "believe in the essential goodness of people" piece. I will be the first one to say that it's NOT paranoid to believe that the whole world is out to shit on us like pigeons on a Civil War general. However, I have decided that I will also be the first one to notice that it's truly been a good day because someone let me slip into traffic ahead of them.

I'm a "totally and permanently" disabled veteran due to my years in the United States Navy. That means that I not only can't work but, since I can't afford health insurance, all of my medical and psych treatment comes to me courtesy of the Veterans Administration.

My experience with the VA goes back to the "bad old days" of incompetency and what we called the "rent-a-doc" system. Physicians barely able to avoid jabbing themselves with a hypo would contract with the VA for six months or maybe a year. It was a grim time for our vets; at the time I declared that I wouldn't let anyone from the VA lance a boil on my butt.

Now, I am pleased and proud to declare that the quality of care provided by the VA has risen dramatically and is almost always top notch. And, believe me, if it were not, I would be the first to say so. Hell, I'd be the first to walk around with a sign that said so and bellowing it at the top of my lungs. I am wonderfully stubborn, with a positive gift for invective and unpleasantness. I'm also crazy as a pet coon so I don't really give a fuck about "what people think".

However, for all its improvements, the VA is still (brace yourselves) a bureaucracy. The dinosaur is big, it's klutzy, it's slow and often it strangles itself with it's own red tape and "policies". Tonight I faced that tape without so much as a fingernail clipper.

Around 11:00 PM, I was revisited by the joys of a urinary tract infection. Ever the overachiever, I got all the options with this model; extreme pain, urinary incontinence, fever, dehydration; nothing I did or what meds I took worked to make it even a little better. Now, I realize that THAT is much, too much information but I really do have a reason for showing you around my bathroom.

All I wanted to do was get thru the night so I could hit the VA in the morning, see my doc and get the drugs to kill first the pain and ultimately the infection. That ship had sailed when it started but I refused to accept it. Along about 1:00 AM, after bellowing like a gut shot steer from the latest bout of agony, I gave up my illusions, checked with the VA night watch and headed off to the local emergency room.

The folks at the ER were kind and competent but there really wasn't much they could do even after the lab work came back. When, after two hours, it finally did, it told the doc's and nurses and I exactly what we all already knew; namely that I had a UTI. "Gee! Ya think?" The doc did his doc thing; wrote me a couple of 'scripts and sent me back out into the night that had disgorged me.

So, it's 3:30 in the bloody AM, I've got almost no cash and I'm willing to kill my resurrected mother with the winning lottery numbers if it would stop the gut-ripping pain. When I got home, I called the VA in the forlorn hope that there was any joy to be had there. There wasn't.

The receptionist and the night nurse would have liked to help me but there is no pharmacist on duty in the wee hours and, besides, the nurse can't write 'scripts or call them into my neighborhood Walgreens store. The {ahem} "Physicians Assistant" on duty would A. not talk to me on the phone; B. pony up the drugs; C. check for samples; or D. call the 'scripts into Walgreens to let them know that the VA would cover the charges. I happen to know this is doable because it was done for me during my gall bladder-sponsored vacation of not so happy memory.

After wishing that PA hemorrhoids and a proctologist who uses a wire brush to treat them; I tried the only other thing I could think of, I called Walgreens. I asked the pharmacist how much the antibiotics which would cure me and thus stop that annoying screeching I kept hearing. By his accent I could tell that he hailed, most likely, from the Middle East. He told me the cost was $11.43; disappointed, I thanked him and hung up.

After a few more moans, I began to to toss the place for any spare cash; I flew thru the house like a drunken bat in a cell phone store. EUREKA! I scrounged up an old crumpled five dollar bill and $6.97 in change. I grabbed my keys and set out for salvation. I gave the little, elderly pharmacist my prescription with the air of Sir Percival at his utmost extremity.

I wandered around for a few minutes, trying not to bite pieces out of my own shoulder blades, while he composed my personal Holy Grail. When he called my name over the intercom, I rushed back to find the magic elixir bottled and ready for me. Ok, OKAY! So it wasn't an "elixir", it wasn't even a liquid; it was a small bottle of pills but they were damn sure "magic" to me.

I was already apologizing for all the change as I began to pile it on the counter.

Shaking his head, he said, "No, no. You don't have to."

I looked up confused (not an unknown occurrence) and asked him, "What? What do you mean? I don't have to what?"

He shook his head again and said, "You don't need to pay. No charge."

Still not getting it, I tried to push the change to him; he smiled and said, "No, no charge." He pushed the change back at me and put a little bag into my hand. The attached receipt read, "TOTAL $0.00"

I must've thanked him a dozen times before he managed to make his escape back into the bowels of the pharmacy safe from thick-headed, desperate headcases. For some reason, my eyes were kind of moist and I was almost home before I remembered to shut my mouth.

Like I said,

"Sometimes the universe reminds us that not everyone is an asshole."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is North Dakota The New Saudi Arabia?

I'm lucky, North Dakota is home for me; it’s beautiful and, even if I no longer live there, I love it. The cost of living has always been unnaturally low but that also meant that incomes were fairly low as well. In part that has been because it’s so rural and primarily agriculturally-based but things got worse when the bottom dropped out of the ag markets. However, the low population and the natural self-sufficiency of that population kept things pretty much the same for most folks.

In the early to mid 1970's there was an "oil boom" in western ND that significantly increased the average income statewide. Along with a increase in wealth there was a huge influx of people to work in the oil fields and all the rest of the attendant increases that are the secondary and tertiary effects of a sudden, large increase in wealth. The somewhat "dark side" of this was that North Dakotans in general, both personally and institutionally, became much more aware of, and more dependent upon, the benefits of more discretionary income and the "extras" that were more commonplace in the rest of America.

However, as has long been known, with a "boom" there comes the inevitable "bust" and the ND oil business was no exception. As Mr. Hamm mentioned, in the late 70's and early 80's Jimmy Carter did his thing with "windfall taxes" and suddenly oil, even huge quantities of it, was all but worthless.

In my opinion, the impact of the "bust" was so devastating not just because of the gain and then loss of a lot of money but because it happened in such a short time. It all happened so quickly that ND industry, economy, government and residents simply hadn't the time necessary to become accustomed to all the changes, both positive and negative, as well as the wild fluctuations of the industry as the pendulum swung back and forth and to see the more gradual ups and downs of the industry. The boom just didn't last long enough for both the economic and social environments to become stabilized and normalized. In contrast, other "oil" states such as Texas and Oklahoma have had close to a century of highs and lows and are much more able to absorb them and surf the oil tides.

During the first ND boom one of the most crucial and far-reaching aspects was the sudden, critical housing shortage. Heretofore, the residential real estate market had not been all that important, particularly "in town". However, all those new workers needed somewhere to live and, in the beginning, available land was plentiful and cheap leading to a corresponding building boom as well. As part of the sharp but general downturn from the bust, oil associated workers disappeared but, nevertheless, mortgages for both owner-occupied and rental properties needed to be paid.

In the 90's there was another, shorter and much less extreme oil boom in ND and the state institutions and people were more experienced and better able to avoid getting caught up in the excitement and sudden wealth. But the scars of the first one remain and, I suspect, that people of North Dakota face the prospect of a third oil boom with a paternalistic anti-fossil fuels democrat president with all the joy of a bridegroom facing emergency root canal on his wedding night; it’s gonna happen but it still sucks and it’s gonna hurt a lot.

Much of the country, including the president, has been seduced by pixie dust and the pretty, utopian pictures painted by the environmental, green energy and global warming crowds in much the same way rainmakers and snake oil salesmen seduced the residents of the Dust Bowl and rural American in general.

However, as in Eden, there is a snake in the grass; it's called the environmental industry. And it is indeed an "INDUSTRY" in which billions of dollars and, more importantly, reputations (and campaigns) are at stake.

The smug superiority and blatant hatred of the "Greenies" toward anyone or any business who does not worship in the same church is no different than any other cult. Its saints are John Muir and Patrick Moore; its prophets are Al Gore and Ed Begley Jr.; its apostles are Michael Moore, public educators and a host of celebrities. Make no mistake, this is a church militant with its own army of enviro-sheep shock troops and its General is Paul Watson. Such people are usually (self-) deluded or, like their rather shady predecessors, con-men. If one must put up with such creatures (and, given the climate of spinelessness and political correctness, one MUST) of the two, I prefer the latter; con-artists are in the game for money and one can do business with them. True believers can't even be reasoned with.

If Mr. Hamm is correct, and at this point there is no reason to doubt his knowledge and expertise in his field, there is a strong possibility that the US does not have to wait for scraps at the table of foreign oil. That President Obama, his administration including Secretary Chu or the energy industry refuses to accept or utilize these resources in the face of no specific short- or long-term solutions from so called "green energy" means, to me at least, that their motives are suspect. Although what is even worse is that they may be true believers and have already sampled the kool-aid, in which case their motives might be pure but they are based upon ignorance, delusion and tunnel-vision and that is not only irresponsible, it's stupid.

According to the article, Hamm's company and other oil companies have been targeted recently by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and President Obama has stated that it is his goal to raise $40 billion through additional taxes on the oil and natural gas industries.* There can be no clearer warning that, regardless of the ineffectiveness and lack of cost effectiveness of the "green" industries, the Obama administration has decided that the American people shall have no voice and no choice but to accept and join the Green Religion.

I am, by training, experience and nature, a skeptic and a darkly suspicious one at that. I don't automatically believe everything that I read, hear or that anyone says or does, and I never believe ANYthing entirely. However, in this case, I have personal experience and direct information about this situation. As the author of the article, Stephen Moore, says at the end;
"Mr. Hamm calculates that if Washington would allow more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, "I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties." That's more than the U.S. national debt, I say. He smiles.

This estimate sounds implausibly high, but Mr. Hamm has a lifelong habit of proving skeptics wrong. And even if he's wrong by half, it's a stunning number to think about.* So this America-first energy story isn't just about jobs and economic revival. It's also about repairing America's battered balance sheet. Someone should get this man in front of the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee."
It is indeed stunning and it behooves us to explore the options associated with it. While I agree with Moore's evaluation of Mr. Hamm's experience and stature in the energy industry, the significance of what Hamm said, and the sentiment behind Moore's proposal, I don't particularly agree with his suggestion to have Mr. Hamm testify before a congressional committee.

If we want to get anything substantive done with the Bakken oil fields, the absolute, very last thing we should do is involve Congress or other politicians. In my opinion, in virtually every situation the very best thing that our government can do is nothing. If it is at all possible we must keep their greedy, stickly little fingers out of it or, regardless of what the issue may be in the beginning, any usefulness that it may retain will be strictly by accident. Anything that comes out of our nation's capital usually bears little resemblance to its original form and intent.

*emphasis added

Thursday, July 14, 2011

modern miss manners: MY WAY

i wrote this in response to comments regarding an article about a restaurant/bar owner who has chosen to refuse admission to children under six years of age.

At one time I might have disagreed with this guy's action but I have to say that now I would be grateful if more public places would decide to do this.

Lots of people would like to ban service dogs for any and all sorts of reasons and, as we all know, someone who's SD is ill-behaved can be, and in my opinion should be, asked to leave. However, public opinion and public behavior (and also the waning concept of good manners) has changed in many ways, including the public breastfeeding of infants which I support if the mom is ok with it - after all it does shut the kid up. It has become more common for people to believe in the "live and let live" style of child-rearing for fear of damaging their developing little psyches, that or the adults do not "wear the pants" in their families.

C'mon though, when I was being raised, if a baby did what babies do best - make sounds approaching hypersonic and creating smells that constitute weapons of mass destruction - one or both parents had the consideration, genteel manners and inherent noblesse oblige to remove themselves and the offending nascent human being so as not to cause disruption for others. When I was a little older if I even tried to behave the way little animals do now I would have gotten my ass warmed, been removed from whatever location we were at (store, church, etc), gotten an extra swat or two when we reached the car and, almost certainly, gotten my ass beat again when we got home.

I don't go away from home much now but when I do I really hate it when one or more of the little beasts starts to shriek, throw food or other items or in any way make life a living hell for anyone not directly related or associated with them including the wait staff. I don't much care what they do to their keepers, that's their problem not mine.

Then there are the unruly little monsters who roam around stores or restaurants free-range, putting their inevitably dirty, sticky little meat-hooks on other people, their coats, clothing and/or purses. I am not blaming the kids, like any other animal they are only doing what they have been taught to do (and what they can get away with), but their adult companions should be publicly flogged.

I am not such a fan of unfinished humans that I can take that kind of thing with the equanimity that I once did. I am old, fat and crazy - I don't much care if someone I don't know and don't expect to see ever again likes it when I make my displeasure known to them. Truthfully, when it comes right down to it, I don't much care if I do know them or will see them again.

When I am not related to them or even acquainted with them, I am bound by neither a gender nor a racial (human race) imperative to put up with them. When I am related or acquainted with them I have no compunction about swatting their little asses whether in public or private or whether mom or dad approves or not. At the very least, I will succeed in partially achieving my goal of tranquility since those adoring breeders who are upset or offended by my smacking their little darlings will usually view me as a dangerous, child-hating harpy and will not wish to subject themselves or their cute little genetic mistakes to my presence henceforth.

So, when I am sufficiently annoyed, I will let them know in no uncertain terms that no one, small or large, who whines, cries, screams or throws public tantrums is neither accepted nor welcome in my little piece of the [public] world. And don't get me started on adults, elected officials and/or those running for office who throw public tantrums. When it comes to the larger little ones, toddlers and up, I have no problem bending down, making eye contact with them and growling menacingly at them prompting them to run (sometimes screaming) back to their assigned larger human. While I don't really care for the screaming; it does get me at least part of what I want, namely that they get the fuck away from me. I have also been known to take "little numbskull" by the hand, return him/her to the person who appears responsible for him/her and ask them to leave the premises or, at the very least, leash and gag the offending creature.

Thus, I am in favor of this gentleman's decision to ban small bipeds to avoid irritating [PAYING] members of his clientele and those who chose his establishment to enjoy a peaceful interlude without a floor show which reiterates and reinforces the myriad joys of birth control. Moreover, they may have chosen his location in desperate need to self-medicate against ('bar seating' indicates this) and/or to momentarily escape from the slings and arrows and outrageous misfortunes associated with their own, perhaps ill-advised, spawn.

Bravo, Mr. Vuick. Bravo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What to do in August

If you want to go to London this summer, the 13th and 14th of August would be a great time, as you could attend ClaudiaCon UK, and report back to me, since I can't go.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Safety and Other Fairytales

I'm reposting this at the top, so it doesn't get lost

As ol' Ben Franklin said: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

There is no safety this side of the grave and those people who believe otherwise are self-deluders at best and liars at worst. Like the sanctity of life, "safety" does not exist but as a human construct and as an attempt to sleep soundly. There are a myriad of reasons why I am not an Obama supporter and think that he will do more do restrict personal liberty than a chastity belt . However, there is not diddly squat that he or anyone in the oval office can do to make or keep us safe. Even if he were rational and competent the best he could do is provide our military and the civilian public with the necessary tools/weapons to increase our own personal safety. We can each make ourselves saf-ER but no one and nothing can make us "SAFE".

To believe that the government, be it in the form of elected and/or appointed officials or police or military personnel, can make us safe is to invite someone to prove the believers wrong and usually catastrophically. We MUST all do what we can and what we can get away with to increase our own personal safety and that of our families.

The average American wishes to delegate responsibility for their own safety to someone, ANYONE rather than take on that RESPONSIBILTY for themselves. To do it themselves means that there is no one to blame when, as is virtually inevitable, their lack of safety is shoved up their noses. Even some (and possibly most) conservatives would rather not have to do it themselves. Bitching and whining about big government and all the while calling for the government to do this, that or the other thing to keep them "safe".

The "peepul" bless their flabby, black hearts want to believe that each individually, and collectively "we", are or can be "safe". They are bitterly disappointed and full of angry recriminations whenever something happens to show them to be anything but safe.

However, these same people who believe and demand that the state or it's functionaries keep them safe are not willing to pay the freight that goes along with even the illusion of safety provided by the state. On the evening of 9/11 I was tending bar and listening to all the booze-fuelded outrage and opinions on the subject. The bar I ran was about 100 yards from the main gate of Ellsworth Air Force Base and a good number of Flaps who were, along with the local civilians, my clientele. I say this to indicate that there were very few deliberate morons involved in the discussions.

As we discussed what happened, what would happen and what SHOULD happen the subject of airline security was hotly debated. I said then that after the initial shock wore off most people would begin to bitch about delays and searches etc at air ports. I told the assemblage that within 6 months John and Jane Q. Public would be loudly protesting the inconvenience of what needed to be done to insure even a modicum of safety in the world that now existed for most Americans.

Sadly, I was much too optimistic; it was less than 3 months before the protests I first heard and saw reported in what passes for news in this country. Again, the dear people want safety but not at the cost of personal inconvenience.

The same can be said about who to "blame" for a couple of dozen religious psychotics attacking our country and our people. Even before 9/11 it was not news that planes could be used as weapons and bombs; Pearl Harbor taught us that or it should have. The true outrage most people felt about the attacks was not about the method or even the attacks per se but rather it was about the violation of the illusions of our safety, our supremacy and our immunity. Long before 9/11 I, and many others, knew that we have no safety, we have no supremacy and we have no immunity and we never have had any of the three. Anyone over the age of 10 and with a pulse should know it too.

When certain actions were taken (not including the war) the people were all for them. They didn't ask for particulars, they just wanted to feel safe again. Then the methods used started to be reported in the news and all politically correct hell broke loose. This method was invasive, that action was unconstitutional, those measures were "torture", blah blah blaaaaah. I'm not a huge fan of the Patriot Act but much of it was necessary. "Why?" you may ask. Because in the 70's and early 80's we hamstrung our intelligence communities and forced them to fight an undeclared and covert "war" while blindfolded with one foot in a bucket. Reality was much too unpalatable for the American public to accept so they put on their collective blinders, shoved their collective heads into the sand thus exposing their vulnerable collective asses to the tender mercies of those who don't like us.

Since 9/11 reality is once again too unpalatable for the American people. Abu Ghraib, water boarding, Guantanamo Bay, humiliation of prisoners ad nauseam have shown the public what is necessary to even begin to increase our state of readiness and create circumstances where we, as individuals, can take the necessary steps to keep ourselves safe. But the public doesn't really want to know; they want to be kept in blissful ignorance and maintain their little fantasy world of safety. When they are forced to know the truth they both bitterly resent it and feel the same compulsion that Pontius Pilate felt and wash their hands by attacking and indicting those who do their (the publics') dirty work.

I had a discussion with a young man several years ago about the new practice by law enforcement in South Dakota (where we lived at the time) that stated that everyone must have their identification on them at all times. I do not recall if it had been passed into law at that time or not but what it meant was that if one was stopped by the fuzzards and did not have his/her ID on them the fuzzards were then permitted to cuff and stuff the miscreants and take them to jail.

Not surprisingly, I was against this little gestapo tactic and said so. "Papuhs! Papuhs! You haf papuhs? Ve haf vays of making you talk!" The young man then said that he believed it to be okay since they did it to "keep us safe". When I asked him how in the world my carrying a piece of laminated paper would keep him safe he had no answer other than "It just does!" and that the police would then "know who to watch and/or arrest". When I queried as to WHY such desperados would or should be arrested he had no answer at all other than to sing the same old self-deluding song of "it will keep us safe".

And HE and his ilk are part of our electorate. THAT makes me feel very UNsafe.

Like I said at the beginning of this little missive:

As ol' Ben Franklin said: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Posted by auntypsychotic