Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Governor Christie Under Investigation?

 

If not now, when?

That’s what many people are wondering in the face of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s continued refusals to announce himself a 2012 Presidential candidate.

Granted, his approval ratings in-state are inching steadily downward, no doubt a result of NJ residents’ intimacy with his various lies and hypocrisies. But nationally, he could find himself at the top of a heap of thin, deeply flawed GOP candidates. And even in the scathing glare of the national spotlight, Christie could take a page from Palin’s playbook and simply lie, lie, and lie again until he got the necessary number of fools and sheep to believe him.

So why has he not declared?

Well, perhaps there’s something going on, behind the scenes, that would not survive such invasive scrutiny.

It seems there are rumors afloat all about Trenton, as well as various other satellite dens of power, that there is an investigation afoot. These rumors speak of federal involvement, targeting Christie, and others.

Now, the charges rumored to be investigated number as many as the rumors themselves. Likewise, other parties rumored to be in play are varied and plentiful.

Granted, these are just rumors at this point, but would Christie likely decide to run for president if they were true? The answer to that would be a resounding no. He could survive his deceptions and misdeeds if he said and did just the right things. But a federal investigation- for anything, really- would torpedo his candidacy instantly and render him damaged goods for the future as well.

Oh, and did I mention these are just rumors?

But there’s something for all of us to think about. Yes, there are rumors now, and that’s all they are at this point. Either there is an investigation ramping up, or there isn’t. But none of us know one way or the other, not yet anyway.

So there are just rumors. And so often, rumors end up being so much hot air.

But then there are the rumors that accurately presage the future.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Be Sure to Insure

 

Auto insurance is a fact of life in our country. Currently, only one state does not require some form or another of insurance for automobiles, New Hampshire, and they require insurance in cases of some past infractions. As well, a resident will have driving privileges revoked in the event of an accident that involves uncompensated costs. Wisconsin requires either insurance, a $60,000 deposit with the DOT, or a bond filed with the same department. California follows a similar procedure, with the deposit or bond amount at $30,000.

And why is insurance mandated? It’s pretty simple, really. It’s to eliminate unpaid costs that would eventually be passed on to the taxpayers, via state and federal funds supplied by taxes, as well as state and federal fees and surcharges.

Strangely, or not, the Teabaggers and other self-appointed conservative enforcers have little to say about this form of mandated insurance. Perhaps the fact that the insurance saves billions of dollars in uncompensated costs has something to do with the silence.

And yet, they can’t seem to follow the same sort of logic when it comes to mandated healthcare.

Uninsured medical costs topped $200 billion last year, and have been over $100 billion since 2000. Of those costs, fully a third are ultimately uncompensated. The primary source of funding for those uncompensated costs are the federal, state, and local governments, or more accurately, the taxpayers. This pays 85% of the payment shortfall, to the tune of over $56 billion dollars last year.

And of course what cannot be calculated monetarily is the insufficient or nonexistent care for those who carry no insurance and either get subpar treatment, or forego it altogether.

So maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe it’s about who proposes the healthcare plan. After all, Mitt Romney got it through in Massachusetts, and contrary to what many talking heads insist, the plan actually has worked quite well. But then, Romney looks like the average ultra-con, and our President does not.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The End is Nigh!

 

Are you ready for some rapture?

Yes, it is being predicted, and not just by the usual evangelical lunatic fringe, that the rapture will occur this Saturday, May 21. Of course, the rapture is that special time when “the dead in Christ” will rise up out of the earth and ascend to heaven to be with god and his son. Then, shortly after the corpses have gone, those who are alive and saved will follow upward. This will leave those of us who are heathens, pagans, heretics, or generally just non-Christian , here upon the earth to suffer five months of the end times. It will be a period of hellfire and brimstone and consummate suffering, culminating with the actual end of our existence on October 21, also of this year.

This cataclysmic event is not to be confused with the Mayan doomsday scheduled for December 21, 2012. But the number 21 does seem to be significant, doesn’t it? Wonder why…

Anyway, the speciousness of the prediction aside, something like this will  break us up into three basic groups.

First, we have the True Believers, the evangelicals and devout, as well as the paranoid and panicky who are getting serious now with this impending End. They’ve bought into the scenario, and are going to spend Saturday waiting to be swept up into the sky. Though, only after the billions who are already dead make their ethereal trip, of course. I don’t know how they’ll spend their days. Maybe there will be church gatherings and Bible readings and euphoric celebrations. But they will be chaste and orderly.

Second, we have those who believe but just don’t care. As well, there will be a few non-believers who use this as an excuse to act out. The bottom line is, this group will become disorderly, riotous, larcenous, violent, and generally felonious. They will see themselves as unsaved, unworthy, and as usual, untouched by earthly guidelines of good sense and good taste. And they figure if they’re going to hell, why not get their money’s worth before the journey? Thank fully, we can expect this segment to be a distinct minority.

Third, we have those who simply do not believe but are every bit as good and decent as the most devout believer, along with those who are Christians but don’t cotton to this apocalyptic nonsense. These people will go about their business on Saturday as they would during any other weekend, happy to be free of work, seeing to chores and kids and recreation. Maybe some of those who are teetering, or strongly curious, will identify a true believer and keep an eye on them, to see if they end up going POOF and leave a vapor trail heading into the sky. But overall, they will live their lives, obey the law, be honest and forthright, be loving and caring, and shake their heads at all the silliness they see around them.

Into which group do you fit?

Me?

Put it like this: I’ll see you all on Sunday

Monday, May 16, 2011

Games People Play

 

Over two decades ago, Osama bin Laden decided he was going to take down the Great Satan, aka, The United States. Despite what is in retrospect some pretty inept security, it took him and Al Qaeda until September 11, 2001 to make the big splash they’d been working toward. His goals were based on some central tenets: he needed to morally confuse and befuddle America, he had to bankrupt the American economy, and he wanted to diminish America in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Now that bin Laden as taken  a bullet to the eye courtesy of Navy Seal Team Six, it’s become popular to sit back and gloat about how America has won it’s personal battle with ObL. You just know he died scared, wishing for a few more moments before his brain was turned into a gray and red slurry, don’t you?  But things aren’t really as rosy as all that. And while bin Laden certainly cannot take credit for all our continuing ills, they’re no less real for that fact.

Consider the moral aspect.

While I am not judging, America greeted the demise of bin Laden as though Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck just exploded a world-killing meteor. We displayed a bloodlust, perhaps justifiably, but one that parallels that shown by many of the fanatics who oppose us so vehemently. Fat talking-heads gripe that Obama won’t show pictures of bin Laden postmortem, then complain that talking about his porn stash compromises national security. Senators decry a president’s adulterous inclinations just hours after getting oral sex in the back of their cars from mistresses. And even the most religiously zealous among us go blind to the WWJD billboards and cheer torture, revenge killings, and covert assassinations.

Now look at the economy.

We were already on a careening  crash-track before bin Laden ever signed off on the 9/11 attacks. Unfettered, and unregulated, greed on Wall Street led to exotic mortgage instruments and a runaway real estate bubble that doomed the economy the day the first NINJA loan was funded. We deemed many companies “too big to fail” and handed them billions of dollars to stay afloat. We sank over $3 trillion into a “war” in Iraq that was misguided, based as much on a son’s attempt to validate his daddy’s past aggressions as it was on a desire to strike back at an Axis of Evil. We continue to bankroll a similar debacle in Afghanistan, the mountainous Killer Of Empires. And we’ve forked over more than $11 billion to Pakistan alone in the name of fighting terrorism. Pakistan, of course, has done little toward that end, in fact harboring bin Laden for several years, and has instead used the billions to build hundreds of nuclear warheads to likely one day strike at India, bringing on a very real slice of Armageddon. Oh, and to keep things interesting, we continue to subsidize oil companies with billions as they record record revenue and profits perfectly well on their own.

And how do we look to the rest of the world?

This is certainly subjective. We will always have our fans, and our detractors. For every England, there’s a France (ungrateful bastards), and so on. More importantly, though, how do we compare with the rest of the world? Well, we hold our own in racism, but that could be considered subjective as well. So let’s consider metrics such as life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, and math comprehension. We crack the top ten in one of those, life expectancy, and fall woefully short in the others. Infant mortality comes as little real surprise, as we’ve never given much more than lip service to those not yet of voting age. But it still speaks pretty poorly of us. And the other two, based on our obscene failures in education, result from two fundamental miscalculations. First, we can’t seem to understand that it is possible to correlate one fewer $4o0 ball peen hammers bought by the Pentagon to ten additional textbooks given to our schools. Second, in the wake of leaving our economy in the hands of those who had the highest incentive to abuse it, we’ve decided to make public services, including education, the illogical scapegoats, gutting funding and guaranteeing that we won’t be reading or adding numbers any more effectively in the near future.

American companies hire almost 80% of their technical professionals from other countries because, in the words of one staffing chief, “they’re smarter.” Since 2001, we’ve increased the anti-terrorism bureaucracy to the tune of three whole Pentagons worth of new office space.  And we kill, abuse, marginalize, and hate people different than us, all while holding some holy book that, at least in some parts, tells us that’s exactly what we shouldn’t do. And as one final stake in the heart, Conan is divorcing his Kennedy squeeze.

So no question, there’s no way you could say bin Laden was a winner in the end. But pending further review, it’s not clear what we’re winning, either.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Liar, Bully, Hypocrite…What Else?

 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (henceforth known as ChristiePig) is many things, most of which, it seems, aren’t especially admirable.

He said he was in touch while in Florida during last December’s snowstorm. He said public-sector unions regularly pressure the state legislature for things they fail to win through contract negotiations. He professed to be a Trenton “outsider.” He attempted to explain why the state lost out on $400 million in federal education funds. He claimed to balance the state budget without raising taxes.  And in every case, he was less than truthful. So ChristiePig is a liar.

When presented with his blatant falsehoods, he and his likeminded staff bombastically cry foul, claiming hidden agendas, hair-splitting, and misrepresentation. He attempts to demonize police officers, firefighters, and teachers to all who will listen. So ChristiePig is a bully.

During his campaign to become governor, and early in his term, he decried past officeholders for shortsightedly mortgaging the state’s future through borrowing so far down the line. Since then, he’s floated over $10 billion in longterm bonds, all set to come due after his term will be completed, and some due even after a possible second term (shudder!) is past. So ChristiePig is a hypocrite.

So what’s next? Well, recently ChristiePig was asked about his views relative to evolution and creationism. His response boiled down to “It’s none of your business.” Well, I beg to differ.

The governor has the ability to present a bill to the state legislature. It generally carries considerable weight, and with a sympathetic legislature, can be pushed through rather quickly. And therein lies a very real and frightening problem.

Just look what the neo-neanderthal Bobby Jindal has done in Louisiana with a bill that allows teachers to teach creationism in science class. Elsewhere, in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky, along with other states, loosely-veiled policies allegedly allowing free discourse on the subject instead permit creationism to be presented as science.

Let’s understand this first. Evolution is science. It is a theory, just like gravity, and only the misunderstanding or deliberate ignorance of the definition of a scientific theory can attempt to render it as less than fact. And in some ways, we understand evolution more clearly than gravity, Yet, who his questioning the veracity of gravity?

We’ve conjured up countless equations that will accurately predict the effects of gravity, but we still can’t say exactly what it is. Is it some sort of magnetism, or curvatures in space time, or invisible rubber bands, all acting in step with our mathematical proofs? On the other hand, we’ve identified many of the drivers behind and influences on evolution. From top to bottom, there are fewer gaps in our knowledge of evolution. So why aren’t more “believers” trying to cram a god into the gaps in gravity theory?

Now it’s time to circle back around. Evolution is science. Creationism is mythology. Evolution is to be taught in science class. Creationism is not, no more than civics or English Lit or any other subject should, or should not, be. Heck, you can start a class on world religions or mythology or theological philosophy, and talk about creationism till the cows come home, but at no time should it be elevated to the status of science. And science class is no place to point to the gaps in the total understanding of evolution and shout “Goddidit!”

So, ChristiePig, when someone asks you your views on evolution and creationism, it is our business. You have the power to earnestly attempt to thrust New Jersey back into an anti-intellectual Dark Age. Teabaggers and other ultra-con neo-fascists would certainly love such an attack on reason, logic, and rational thought, but this is New Jersey, not Louisiana or Texas. So come clean and either relieve those of us who actually think, or give face to one of our basest fears.

You’re already a Liar, Bully, and Hypocrite. Now enquiring minds want to know: Are you a Moron as well?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

‘Tis the Summer of Our Discontent…

 

So gas prices are playing leap-frog with the $4.00 per gallon mark, one week over, one week under, though at least in New Jersey it seems to spend more time under than over. Still, we’re hearing doomsday predictions of $5.00 prices coming our way, perhaps right in time for the grand summer gas-guzzling extravaganza kicking off Memorial Day weekend.

And of course this means a corresponding increase in costs for anything touched along its given way by petroleum, which happens to be just about everything. Food, power, service industries, manufacturing; they’re all accordingly corrupted and priced in part by oil.

And yet, strangely, while we’re paying an absolute premium for our premium, oil companies are raking in record profits. No, we’re not talking about gross, but net numbers here. But why is this, since you would think that the rising prices must be coming from rising costs closer to the source? Surely there’s a shortage, or concern about stability in some oil-rich part of the world, or some sort of disaster that would seriously impact production, right?

Wrong. OPEC says there is no shortage, and in fact, there is even a surplus at this time. Other oil-producing countries and consortiums are expressing the same sentiment. And sure, the geopolitical stability in most regions is, as usual, tenuous, but actually no more so than at most other randomly selected times in the past when gas prices were a whole lot lower. And unquestionably, the Gulf debacle of last year is wreaking havoc still on fishing in the effected areas, despite our pitifully short attention spans shuffling this disaster to some fog-sheathed back-burner. But the economic aftershock on oil prices should now be a pebble’s ripple in the sea.

So this means the oil companies are gouging. And while all the Randian idealists are trumpeting Free Market Or Die, we’ve never operated under any sort of true, pure capitalism. There has always been governmental involvement in the country’s economy. Ask the banks borrowing short term at insanely low interest rates. Ask Microsoft, Bell, or major league sports. The government has always had a hand in what goes on with our dollars and cents. What’s varied over the years is the degree of hands-on treatment.

This country has been struggling to recover from one of its worst economic disruptions. There’s been no definitive cure to the illness, but some of the symptoms finally appear to be improving. There is hope for the first time in some time.

Cry all you want, you ultra-con naïfs, but if there has ever been a perfectly valid reason for the government to investigate an industry, the targets would be oil companies, and the time would be now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chillax…

 

They say stress can kill you, and with what stress seems to have heaped upon me recently, I don’t find that hard to believe.

One day you figure that stress is supposed to feel like a set of eagle talons clamped onto your neck and shoulders, and the next you’re passing out at work, ending up in the hospital, and within 24 hours being told that you have an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. No, sir, you’re not going to die, not yet anyway, but there are some physical peculiarities that need sorting out.

You get an echocardiogram, and it shows that your heart muscle is up to the work it has outlined for it, but the elderly cardiologist tells you you’re fat, too young to be putting so much stress on your systems, and get some blood work done, thank you. Oh, and see you in a few weeks for a stress test, after we’ve dealt with that hypertension, of course.

You’re out of work until things make a little more sense, and meanwhile you’re taking pills for the blood pressure and anxiety, just to keep all the metrics where they belong.

You need to stay active, not just give in to the nearly debilitating right hook of mortality socking you smack in the jaw, but at first it’s an uphill battle. Then, after a few days, you come to grips with the fact that you’re a stone’s skip from fifty, and getting a wake-up call this cheaply is actually a pretty decent bargain.

Your wife loves you, despite your various failings, and you have a chance to make sure she continues to do so. You can lay out a path to better health, for yourself and your relationship. You see your children as treasures, the kind you need to stay around for a long time to admire and cherish.

This is when you realize you need to relax, make the changes that keep you on the right tracks, and enjoy the ride more often. Find reasons to say yes, not no. Don’t begrudge, be giving. Take the chance you’re given, and turn it into smiles, not scowls.

Because even when things don’t work out exactly according to plan, it’s still sunny on the inside.