A Potpourri of Precious Piffle

Ed Raymond

Several times during the year I end up with a lot of subjects I would like to write a column about, but many of them don’t deserve a lengthy diatribe—just a few short jabs and then a haymaker. Here are some from my collection.

Into The Trash
With Nuke Grinch

I keep files on prominent politicians until they are thrown out of office, or have one too many mistresses, or have embezzled public funds, or have ended up in political purgatory because they used their tongue to cut their own throat. I wish to announce I have tossed Newt Gingrich’s file in our trash with a celebratory cry of joy. I will never have to use it again. My favorite nickname for Newt was Nuke Grinch. Nuke is a pompous twit who always had a vest full of grenades, ready to drop or throw at any second. In fact, many times he accidentally dropped bombs and blew himself up. I thought Grinch fit because Nuke always wanted to use poor children as school janitors or to dig for coal in Georgia. If you listened to Nuke for ten minutes, you might think he was a pretty bright guy. If you listened to him for twenty minutes, you suddenly found out he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Nuke reminds me of two despicable characters created by Charles Dickens. One is Mr. Bumble, the manager of the children’s prison in “Oliver Twist.” It was his policies that denied Oliver a small second helping of tasteless gruel when Oliver asked, “May I have some more?” The other is Uriah Heep, the red-haired, freakish secretary in “David Copperfield” who constantly plotted to fill his own pockets. Anyway, it’s a terrific relief that Nuke is now toast—and there isn’t even an image of Pope Benedict XVI on it. Maybe Nuke will be able to make the long move from purgatory to his colony on the moon soon. I hope it is on the backside.

Did You Know
Pregnancy Can Be A
Pre-Existing Condition?

So the Republicans want to go back to “The Finest Health Care in the World!”—which according to the World Health Organization ranks 33rd, just behind the Castro’s Cuba in world rankings, and costs twice as much as any universal-care nation in the world. My relatives in France, by the way, have the best health care in the world according to the WHO, and everyone is covered. Before the Affordable Care Plan (that’s Obamacare, folks) was passed, the four largest for-profit health insurance companies—Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint—had thousands of pre-existing conditions they would not cover. I remember one person was denied a policy because of acne as a teenager. I assume hangnails are on somebody’s list. These four companies alone employ over two million just to deny health care coverage! If the Republican Supreme Court declares Obamacare unconstitutional, the U.S. will have 39 states that can deny coverage for virtually any reason. Naturally, we will go back to the money-making idea that pregnancy is a pre-existing condition. The four largest companies named above all list pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. Let’s try this scenario. A woman moves to one of the 39 states and applies for health insurance. She indicates she is not pregnant at the time, so gets policy. (She would not get coverage at all if she were pregnant. Most of the companies would not even sell her a policy.) At eight months after the dated policy she has a preemie at four pounds. The average hospital bill for a vaginal delivery is now somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000. If the mother needs a C-section, add another $2,000. Also add in the costs of months of prenatal care. If baby is early or has health problems, neonatal nursery care costs range from thousands to many thousands. So the insurance guy says to Momma, “You lied to us! You were pregnant at the time we issued you a policy! Go suck wind!” It happened before Obamacare all of the time, folks. Do we really want to go through that again? It’s clear that UnitedHealth Group saves a lot of money through pre-existing conditions. The corporation paid its CEO Stephen Helmsley $48,075,614 to make these cost-saving decisions in 2011.

Have I Got A Future
Lined Up For These Guys!

Late in December of 2011, a Brazilian woman gave birth to twin sons Emanoel and Jesus. The C-section birth was an unusual one in that there have been only 14 others like it in over 200 years of history. The doctors found out two minutes before the expected birth that she was going to have twins and that they were conjoined. They share a heart, lungs, liver, and pelvis but have two spines and two heads with equally functioning brains. Evidently perfectly healthy, they weighed 9.9 pounds at birth. Her doctors are just going to wait and see how they develop because they are in such excellent condition. Perhaps you have seen the dicephalic (two-headed) Iowans Abigail and Brittany Hensel, now 21, in TV documentaries. The two spines and two heads of the conjoined boys have given me an idea. Why don’t we make a deal with the parents to cover all the costs of their bringing up and education through political science PHDs at the finest universities—with a terrific bonus for them and a move to the U.S.? We have so many politicians with no spine and no head at all, so think of the possibilities with these two! We would have to change the Constitution to allow the foreign-born to become president, but wouldn’t they make a terrific co-presidency if that could be worked out? Maybe we could have SuperPacs bid for the rights, or have a SuperPac from each party share the costs. Perhaps Bill Gates and Warren Buffet would volunteer to provide for their total livelihood. Imagine! A leader with two spines and two functioning brains! They could negotiate with each other constantly to arrive at good policies.

How About A Free
Market For Organs?

Back around the turn of the 17th century, Ireland was owned primarily by the English aristocracy. The starving natives were so mired in poverty that Jonathan Swift came up with his epic satire “A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People In Ireland From Being A Burden To Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Public.”  He proposed that Irish children, a major liability to starving parents, become an asset by being nursed well for one year and then sold as food to rich English and Americans. Swift wrote, “I have been assured by a knowing American...that a young, healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout. I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh twelve pounds [Ouch!], and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, will increase to twenty-eight pounds. I grant that this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.” With our poor and the rapidly disappearing middle class almost in the same recession extremes as the Irish in Swift’s time, there is a possibility of following the general theme of “A Modest Proposal” with an idea more suitable to our time. The idea came from a poor Chinese 17-year-old named Wang who sold one of his kidneys for 22,000 yuan, or $3,500 American dollars. He immediately bought a new iPhone and an iPad. Five people have been indicted for “intentionally” injuring Wang. It could prove to be a good market. The transplant team shared a total of $31,500 for the job. China at the present time has over 1.5 million waiting for transplants, but the entire country performs only 10,000 per year. Chinese newspapers ordinarily report stories of many poor individuals who are considering selling their organs to pay off debts, buy new technology, or even pay for abortions for girlfriends. The official Communist party states the reasons for selling: “In today’s society where desires are infinite and demands boundless...Blindly competing with others in pursuit of high-end technology will gradually ruin lives.” This is where our current Ayn Rand/Paul Ryan/Republican free-market attitudes will certainly take hold if the middle class continues to struggle into oblivion. Some organs would have to be sold regardless of the age or condition of the recipient. There is money to be made and survival to be attained. It will be interesting to get the complete story on how 71-year-old Dick Cheney got his replacement heart. In the first place, I was rather surprised that he actually had one to replace. He exhibited the total absence of one during his House years by never voting for Head Start or other children’s programs. Cheney always voted for corporations that owned or operated pumps. He should have been provided an artificial heart-pump in a trial procedure instead of a human heart.

High Fashion For
The Man Who

One of my favorite pessimists is Albert Camus, an Algerian born in poverty in 1913 and mired in it until he moved to France in 1940, just in time to join the French Resistance to the Nazis in WWII. He was a fascinating guy: pacifist, Communist, dramatist, playwright, Resistance newspaper editor, Marxist, odd-job worker, a declared threat to Algerian national security, and Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 1957 for writing “Reflections On The Guillotine,” an essay on human rights. Before he died in 1960 in a car crash, he described modern man this way: “A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.” Camus believed that life was basically inexplicable but human life is sacred. A strange cat. I think this perfectly describes the type of man who subscribes to the National Rifle Association theme that every person should conceal and carry a weapon to meet the challenge of the times. How can people avoid the paranoia of looking at every person on the street and deny that the “stranger” is concealing and carrying a firearm? Now the paranoid can be clothed to conceal the conceal-and-carry. Isn’t that ridiculous? If you are so “paranoid-fraidy” of being blasted by the “stranger,” why don’t you wear a gunbelt like Matt Dillon or Wyatt and attempt to show you are all-powerful and kryptonite-resistant? Woolrich Clothing is selling clothing that will keep your conceal-and-carry secret. For $65 you can buy trousers that have a secret pistol pocket behind the regular pocket. The waistband is stretchable for fat guys, and the back pockets will help hide security accessories such as a knife and LED flashlight. Such clothing is called “covert fashion” in the trade. A covert vest available in the fall will hide the fact you are gripping a firearm in what appear to be warming pockets, like a comfortable muff. To paranoid gun owners: buy cotton clothing. Polyester and other man-mades will rust your guns! They don’t “wick”! (I try to be of help to the paranoid as much as I can.) I would suggest, however, that you try to break away from Camus’ description of modern man.

Would We Be In
Afghanistan And Iraq
If We Had Had The
Draft? Hell No!

Just like the Roman senators of old, the Nixonites and Reaganites say that our wars should be fought by mercenaries from the poor and the lower-middle class, all “volunteers,” because most of them are looking for a job, not a rifle. If we had had a “no excuses” draft during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, we would have been out of both countries years ago. The sons and daughters of the rich and powerful have much more to fight for than some 18-year-old from the ghetto anyway. Pentagon generals are politicians instead of warriors and are always seeking promotions. Wars are great for getting an extra star. As long as we have “volunteers” who can’t bitch too much, the generals will keep sending them back until they are broken or killed. Remember the Marine who was on his 12th tour in Iraq-Afghanistan when he was killed? The people who sent him there should eat sand bugs forever. Even cats are lucky to live nine lives. Research shows that a 24/7 war, when you are in harm’s way every minute including sleep time, will get you a case of PTSD within six months. That’s why we have so many troops who will be eligible for disability payments until they die. The Iraq War started in the stupidity of George Bush and Dick Cheney and ended in defeat years ago. Afghanistan was necessary, but we should have declared victory ten years ago and walked away. I still remember a sign on the back of a Hummer in Baghdad: “Volunteer? My Ass!”