Monthly Archives: January 2012

You Can’t Go Home Again

Sometimes you get an idea which seems perfectly reasonable at the time but which, in hindsight, was pretty damn stupid. (Just ask George Custer.)

For example, reminiscing about something from your past, something that you now recall fondly, perhaps an old girlfriend or boyfriend, wondering where they are and if they ever think of you, too.

Stop. Right. There. Because the very next thing that will occur to you is that maybe you should look them up.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

It is imperative to keep in mind that nothing ever happened as you remember it. More than likely it didn’t happen at all. But if it did, it definitely was not how you remember it.

For example, you and your old flame never really spent a romantic week in Venice, touring the city in a gondola. You never spent a week together anywhere: you once shared a ride in an overcrowded, leaky rowboat, got caught in a downburst and barely made it to shore alive. Your “flame” never spoke to you again.

So it is with all fond memories.

Including Saturday Night Live. You know, the hysterically funny, ground-breaking series which made history. The Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Land sharks. The Coneheads. Samurai Delicatessen.

Waxing nostalgic, I decided I should revisit those classic early years. I checked out the SNL First Season on DVD from the local library.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Convinced the library had mistakenly given me an illegal copy which omitted the funny parts, I tried again with The Muppet Show. You know, the hysterically funny, ground-breaking series which made history with an inter-species relationship between a frog and a pig.

I checked out several seasons on DVD from the local library.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

I put in the first DVD. Pushed play. Leaned back to enjoy the show, prepared to get things started with the Muppet Show tonight and dear lord where did that cheesy opening number come from? I don’t remember that! Kermit, when are you going to get some assertiveness training and that Miss Piggy! She either ditches that whiny voice or I swear I’ll rip that wig right off her head and will somebody please give the Swedish Chef some speech therapy?  And Fozzie Bear, I’m sorry but you need some serious career counseling.

And for god’s sake – call Shady Rest and tell them to come pick up those two grumpy old coots.

I should have known better: those who forget the past are doomed to revisit it.

So, the next time you feel inclined to take a trip down memory lane: don’t. Make a u-turn and get the hell out of there instead.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Dear Packaging God or Gods,

First off, please don’t smite me for writing you. I’ve been smitten before and it didn’t work out well and I really don’t want to go through that again.  But I had to write.

I addressed this to “God or Gods” because I don’t know your hierarchy. Maybe there’s only one of you and you handle everything in this category. Or maybe you are a multitude with each one assigned specific packaging responsibilities, like design or layout. I couldn’t know so please don’t hold that against me. I just thought that addressing this to both seemed wiser based on established mythology.

I’m writing with all due respect because you are a god or gods and therefore possess powers which mere mortals cannot even begin to comprehend. In light of that I hope you’ll have a little sympathy for those of us condemned to live a few miserable years on earth before facing an endless eternity of agony with no wi-fi, facebook, or premium channels.

With all your godly powers, you probably don’t understand human limitations. Not that I’m implying this is a deficiency, I would never say that to anyone capable of throwing lightning bolts – it’s just that as lesser beings we lack your superior abilities such as strength.

Which is why I’m writing to you.

It’s about your packaging.

Two recent purchases come to mind, one involving a liquid. The liquid was in a bottle inside a sealed box. The bottle was sealed inside a plastic covering with no visible means of removal. At least none apparent to my mortal eyes.

At first I thought you meant to challenge me, some kind of a test to make sure I was worthy. So I tried, I really did. I searched my weapon stockpile. Fingernails. Scissors. A nail clipper. A nail file. All in vain. Then I tried knives. Even then, I only achieved success after offering you a blood sacrifice.

But that wasn’t enough, because after the plastic came off, I removed the push and turn safety cap (not a simple task with a tourniquet on one hand) only to find the bottle opening tightly sealed with a “lift and pull” instruction. I lifted. I pulled. And finally got out the knife again because clearly, one blood sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I’m relieved to tell you that I wasn’t trying to open a bottle of anti-venom.

But all of this pales in comparison to the challenge presented by the plastic bubble.

As everyone admits, dear deity, this is your ultimate packaging creation. Harder than diamonds, more powerful than a locomotive or a speeding bullet (yes, it’s true, I checked), this material remains impervious to even the most persistent attempts to pierce it. I know.  I tested it. Thoroughly. Before returning my unopened purchase to the store, my human frailty having doomed me to failure.

Now, some humans might call this a tad excessive, maybe overkill. Might say that safety probably doesn’t require packaging that would survive a trip to the space station and back.

Not me. I understand that you might be a sensitive deity who is just being paternal toward his or her human worshippers, seeking to protect them from tampering and whose feelings could be easily hurt, leading to rampages (I would never call them “tantrums”) involving storms and Kraken running amok.

So I would never say any of that.

Instead, dear packaging god or gods, I plead with you to show mercy upon those of us who have only so many fingers left to give. Because even child-proof caps require opposable thumbs.

Thanking you in advance for your ever gracious consideration,

Your humble subject.

“Truth: conformity with fact or reality”

Dear Republican Party of Wisconsin,

I’m worried about you. You’ve been sending me expensive three-color 8.5” by 11” fliers telling me how wonderful Scott Walker is. I found three in my mailbox yesterday, and another one today. I’m assuming you sent them to persuade me to believe you and support Walker during the pending recall.

It’s nice of you to think of me – and I know the Post Office can use the business – but I’m starting to wonder if you’ve been consuming something which might impair your judgment.

Why do I wonder? Two of the ones from yesterday went on and on and on about the “do-nothing” Congress in Washington D.C. (yes, that’s right, the Congress in which the Republicans vowed they would block any attempts to do anything until the next election).

I must caution you that when it’s your party doing the nothing, you might not want to remind me of that when you’re asking me to support a Republican – even if you do call him a “do-something” governor. Because I might not be crazy about the something he’s been doing.

And then there’s that whole “wiped out a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes” spiel. Please – I mean, I think we both know that: 1. the forecast deficit was only on paper and 2. the budget has always been balanced in Wisconsin because our state constitution requires it and 3. Walker’s budget raised taxes on the poor and 4. Walker admitted that he didn’t really balance the budget, just paid it forward with accounting tricks. (“Wisconsin has or projects to have a budget deficit during state fiscal year 2012″ and “projects a budget deficit for the  state fiscal year 2013.”)

Now let’s address your pronouncement that Walker is “creating Wisconsin Jobs.”

I understand denial. I have a whole wardrobe waiting for when I finally lose those extra 5 pounds. But it’s not healthy. I know the truth can be difficult to confront. I know you want to pretend otherwise, but in the long run you’ll feel much better if you just accept it.

Take a deep breath. Then another, and repeat after me: “Wisconsin has lost jobs every month since Walker’s budget became law.” There now, don’t you feel better? (And by the way, saying that public workers “now contribute to their health care and pension benefits” conveniently overlooks the reality that they already did through deferred compensation. And what is it with you treating them like a separate species? You know – the “they’re not like ’us’ ” bit).

And it strikes me that you think Walker is some kind of magical job fairy, with jobs popping into existence wherever he goes: “Walker visits Whitewater Generac plant, company announces 400 new jobs.”

I’m not a psychologist but even I can sense a certain disconnect from reality going on here. If it were true, shouldn’t he be traveling from town to town like Johnny Appleseed, magically creating jobs instead of wasting his time at NYC fundraisers hosted by AIG bigwigs? (Yes, that AIG, the one which cratered the economy.)

Maybe the disconnect from reality is why you are able to say things like “Walker is saving Wisconsin taxpayers $848 million” while citing Walker’s own website as the factual source. Or announce (with no factual basis) that “Wisconsin’s job creators agree: With Scott Walker as Governor, Wisconsin is moving forward.”

First, let me say that that I really don’t want the state moving anywhere, but if you do move it, could you put it between California and Oregon? (They get some great weather out there.)

Second, what is it with “job creators”? You showed me nice pictures of smiling professional models and actors who look happy to be professional models and actors. They also look like they live someplace that’s not in Wisconsin (like the guy who’s standing on the prairie somewhere in Colorado).

I’m really interested in learning who these job creators really are. Because you don’t say. What you do say is that 94% of them “feel Wisconsin is now heading in the right direction.” Even though that’s not what the survey question asked. This is supposed to persuade me?

The actual question was “Do you think things in Wisconsin are going in the right direction?” (Please note – NO “now” included.) That survey was answered by 281 members of the conservative Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which gives Walker a lot of money in exchange for favors.

I understand you skipped your reasoning classes but try to follow me. Isn’t this about the most useless question ever? What does it mean? What are “things”? What is the “right” direction? What if they were talking about Blu-ray vs. DVD’s?

And who could presume that either the question or the answer had anything to do with a magical job fairy? Or could ever be stretched beyond recognition to justify saying that “Wisconsin’s job creators agree: With Scott Walker as Governor, Wisconsin is moving forward”?

And I understand you also skipped math class, because 94% of 281 is 264. So what the survey really says is that 264 random (probably wealthy) people, none of whom I might call a job creator (which my economic text books define as “consumer demand”) feel “things” are heading in the “right direction.”

We don’t know what things. And we don’t know what direction (east, west, north or south), only that it’s the “right” one.

Which is why I’m writing to you. Because, quite frankly, this level of inaccuracy passes beyond mere embarrassment to become outright mortification. While I hesitate to call you a dirty, deceitful, no good, lying sack of excrement, I will say that your veracity seems less than reliable.

Maybe it’s denial. Maybe you cut class whenever logic and the economy were being discussed. Maybe it’s hallucinogens. Maybe you’re fact-challenged. Maybe you’re plumb crazy. Maybe you’re just plain dumb. Whatever the reason, I know you can be helped.

It’s easy. All you have to do is repeat after me: “the truth shall set you free.”

You’ll feel better. Really. Although you might suddenly find yourself supporting the recall.

Your total is $44.8 million. Will that be cash, check, or charge?

Medical care is the only purchase you ever make without knowing how much it will cost. And, if you ask, they won’t tell you. But they will say that if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Wait a minute, this is the United States. We’re talking about medical care – we already know we can’t afford it.

The only real question is whether, based on the size of the bill, we will have to:
1) get a second job to make monthly payments for the next 25 years;
2) re-mortgage the house (not an option in today’s market);
3) become an egg donor (lucrative for the right age group but possibly not an option depending on the nature of the heath condition requiring treatment);
4) sell all our worldly goods, including our children, pets, and MLB Bobblehead collection;
5) get the treatment and then declare bankruptcy;
6) forego treatment and die.

So, unless opting for #6, you go ahead and sign the paperwork they make you sign before they start which says in really tiny print that’s several pages long what I can summarize for you in one short paragraph

By signing below you agree to pay whatever outrageous amount we say you owe (which will always be more than you actually owe because our bills are always wrong and we charge you for things you didn’t get but what difference does it make because you were unconscious for at least part of it or had your eyes closed or otherwise have absolutely no way to verify what we did or what medicines we gave you – it’s all in Latin for a reason and you can’t read our writing anyway so face it you really are screwed) no matter what the outcome of the treatment or your level of satisfaction for example if we cut off the wrong body part or you don’t get better or you die, you – or your estate – will have to pay up and if you don’t we will sue you and ruin your credit and make your life a living hell even if you died because of that staph infection you picked up while staying at our hospital yes we know it happens all the time but we don’t really care and if you don’t like it just try to sue us because thanks to “tort reform” you’ll never recover a penny.

Which is why, when a man in New York City recently opened his mail to find a $44.8 million bill from a local hospital, he was alarmed but not really surprised “because he had spent three weeks in the hospital with pneumonia.” He knew the bill would be big, he just didn’t know how big.

But then he realized that the date of service coincided with an outpatient visit for ear wax removal so wondered if the dollar amount might be a little steep. He called the billing people who told him he could go on their payment plan.

Enough other people had the same problem that eventually the billing service stopped answering the phone. Instead, callers heard a recorded message: “If you are calling with respect to a billing statement charging you over $44 million for services, please disregard the statement. You will be receiving a new statement shortly.”

The new statements were adjusted down to $44 million. The billing service argued that an $800,000 adjustment was an unprecedented reduction so people should be grateful enough to pay the remaining balance.

But don’t worry, your payment will NOT be going to pay for excessive executive compensation. As the CEO of Mercy Health Systems (defending his $3.6 million compensation package) said with a straight face: his salary has no effect on health care costs because his hospitals will probably overcharge you no matter what he makes.

Dr. Livingston, I Presume.

Last summer, the Republican party, with the help of $300+ an hour private attorneys at taxpayer expense (costing us hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars), used a secretive process to redraw legislative maps in Wisconsin, making changes that put voters in the wrong location.

Sometimes just across town.

Other times across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the Sheboygan County clerk, “We had many, many voters who showed up (on the computer map) on the coast of Africa and we had to drag them back to the state of Wisconsin and put them where they belonged.”

She was not alone. Clerks around the state have found that the Republicans strategically relocated politically incorrect voters to another continent. The Rock County Clerk found one on the equator just off the west coast of Africa.

So, would somebody please explain how they could ever, ever, ever, ever vote Republican?

In Wisconsin

We fish.
We fish through ice.
We drive.
We drive on ice.
We drink.
We drink while fishing though ice.
We shouldn’t drink while driving on ice.
We shouldn’t drink while driving off ice.
It’s not nice.

Last Sunday, a driver drove on ice.
The ice broke; the broken ice broke her tire.
She drove off the ice and onto land.
She drove for  miles.
Without one tire.
Leaving a trail of:
vehicle parts,
and scrape marks.
She came to a roundabout but didn’t,
going straight instead of around.
Causing the car to roll.
She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
She was thrown from the car.
She died.

We shouldn’t drink and drive.
It’s not nice.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Or How I Went To A Rally For Progressives And Ended Up Surrounded By The Tea Party

I’m standing in a store. A gentleman wants to shake my hand. I’m a little surprised until I realize it’s because I’m still wearing my “I signed the recall Walker petition” sticker. He claims to be a Democrat and mentions a rally that evening. A rally for progressives. I decide to stop by on the way to my exercise class.

I get to the correct location at the correct time but find no one. After looking around for a bit I find a room with a few dozen people inside. When I ask an older gentleman if this is the progressives meeting he say no, it’s the non-partisan Rock County Voter Education Forum. I think to myself: “Non-partisan voter education? They must be connected with the League of Women Voters!” So I ask him that. He says, “No, this group is non-partisan. The League of Women Voters are partisan, they’re Democrats.”

This is the part where I start to suspect I might have been set up.

So I ask the gentleman if he has a brochure or some type of written information about the group. He hands me a folded piece of paper. I thank him, skimming the contents just long enough to know I need to retreat before they realize I’m there. Fortunately I was not wearing my “I signed the recall Walker petition” sticker. I casually back out of the room doing my best imitation of a far right fundamentalist and breathe a sigh of relief when I am safely back in my car. With the doors locked.

When I get home later that evening, I discovered from the written information that the “non-partisan” group ardently supported all things far-right Republican, especially the “core values” of “Limited Government and Free Markets.” Similarly, they believe that government regulations protecting the public and the environment “results in the export of good-paying American jobs” causing “Hardworking American families to suffer extreme job loss.” Better to let the businesses poison our air and water so that the jobs can stay here.

I would laugh if they weren’t so scary.

Issues they worry about include: “Anchor babies,” “Planned Parenthood Exploitation of Children,” “Anchor babies” (this seems to be a real big issue for them), and the “Emasculation of the Importance of Men.” No – I don’t know what that means.

High on their list of concerns (in no particular order of importance) are also: Rejection of English; Anti-Marriage Trends; Teen anti-Marriage Mindset; Sex Education in Public Schools (which most certainly is the cause of their other concerns: Teen Promiscuity, Teen STD’s, and Teen Pregnancy).

They believe in the Fourth Amendment right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure, but only if they have enough money. Poor people should be drug tested to get assistance. (Correcting the Founding Fathers’ omission of an important footnote from the Constitution: “poor people excluded from the foregoing rights.”)

They worry about public school “social indoctrination [which] does not bode well for the advancement of our society.” And that “bureaucrats” are going to “socially engineer our way of life to accomplish a Socialist agenda.”

Sustainable development (i.e. “let’s not poison the planet because it would be really nice if humans could survive longer than the next 100 years”) and taxes are bad things. Very bad things. Possible the worst of all bad things. Except for illegal aliens and the Affordable Care Act, which may be worse because it limits our freedom to die when we can’t afford health care. Anything else is an unconstitutional restraint on the free market.

“It is important to know that your unalienable rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “come from God.”

Who carved them into two stone tablets which he gave to Abraham Lincoln atop Mount Vernon. Just before he climbed into his spaceship and left the building with his blue suede shoes. All of which makes more sense than anything I read on that piece of paper.

How to Make Something Out Of Nothing or, It’s So Much Easier To Just Make Stuff Up, or Let’s Lie to Protect the Rich.

One political party is very good at just making stuff up. I’m not saying other parties don’t do it, I’m just saying the Republicans seem to do it the most.

One really good example started here in Wisconsin with a statistic from the state Dept of Revenue (DOR): for the year 2008, 93% of people with income above $1,000,000, received some of their income from a sole proprietorship, partnership, s-corp, or farm.

That’s right, in 2008, some very rich people received an unknown portion of their income from a sole proprietorship, partnership, s-corp, or farm. They also received an unknown portion of their income from investments, dividends, capital gains, wages, a c-corp, an LLC, a paper route, or recycling aluminum cans.

In the fall of 2011, Rep. Mason and Sen. Larson, both Democrats, wanted to compensate for some of the devastating cuts to education in the 20011-2013 state budget. To help technical colleges offset the record cuts to their funding and provide extra money for worker training, they proposed raising the state income tax for people who earn a million dollars a year or more by one (1) percentage point. That’s right: just one (1) percentage point on fewer than 3,000 very rich people.

This predictably inspired outrage in the Republicans who had cut the funding in the first place.

They had to keep it from happening. But how? It’s easy. If. You. Just. Make. Stuff. Up.

Republican Rep. Suder circulated among Assembly Republicans “talking points” about the proposed bill. Suder reminded his brethren that the “main thing” to remember is that “93 percent of [Wisconsin millionaires] have ‘an interest in small business.’ In other words, [the Mason/Larson] bill is a job-killer, end of story.”

Yes, you are correct:

1. The DOR did NOT say that “93 percent of [Wisconsin millionaires] have ‘an interest in small business.’”
2. Suder had NO factual basis for his claim that the bill is a “job-killer”

Yes, he was just making stuff up.

Republican Rep. Evan Wynn (R-43rd District) knew he could do even better, so he claimed that the “Wisconsin Dept of Revenue just announced that 93% of those hit by the massive tax hikes proposed by the Assembly Dem’s ‘jobs’ proposal are small business owners or co-owners.”

Don’t panic. You’re not crazy. Yes, you are correct:

1. The DOR did NOT make any such announcement.
2. The “Assembly Dem’s” did NOT propose ANY “massive tax hikes”.
3. 93% of filers with income above $1,000,000 are NOT “small business owners or co-owners.”
4. The DOR did not even mention “small business owners or co-owners”.

Yes, he was just making stuff up.

Receiving an unknown amount of income from “a sole proprietorship, partnership, s-corp, or farm” is NOT “an interest in small business” and is NOT ownership of a small business.

Raising the state income tax on fewer than 3,000 very rich people by one (1) percentage point is NOT a massive tax hike.

Unless you’re a Republican trying to protect millionaires. Who wants to mislead people into thinking that Democrats want to impose “massive tax hikes” on small business owners. And who wants to incite opposition to a bill that would impose a small additional tax on the very rich.

Then it’s okay to make something out of nothing, to just make stuff up. Because millionaires are rare. And special. So it’s important to protect them. Even if you have to lie to do it.

Crimes of Fashion

Despite what millions of people might say to the contrary, I believe government sometimes serves a useful purpose. For example, when it protects us from making unfortunate fashion statements which we might otherwise live to regret.  I include in this category white patent leather platform shoes.  My husband once owned a pair. Fortunately for him, I did not know this until after we were married.

Government interest in fashion began in West Virginia several years ago when, according to news reports, the then Governor Bob Wise unilaterally ordered Abercrombie & Fitch to stop selling – and to destroy – its supply of a T-shirt that mocked his state

Wise claimed that the T-shirt (which read, “It’s All Relative in West Virginia”) depicted “an unfounded, negative stereotype” of his state. He threatened to send his cousins (all three hundred fifty two thousand, one hundred eighty nine of them) to enforce his demand.

The Virginia state government also reacted swiftly to a fashion crisis, this one involving the known health risk of visible panty lines. The House of Delegates, in an effort to protect constituents from the over-sized, low-riding pants (most commonly worn by male teens), passed a bill making visible undergarments illegal.  Brand names were not specified. Other communities and states across the nation have joined the struggle against saggy pants, including Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Sadly, these are the only laws against wearing clothes that make you look like a fool.

I think the restrictions are a good idea, but don’t go far enough. For one thing, prohibitions against exposed underwear will not protect us from a far more serious fashion hazard: Speedos.

The general rule is that only Olympic athletes (present or future) should be allowed in public while wearing one. This is a good rule that needs to be enforced, but no state or federal agency is currently responsible for it. Only the government has the resources necessary to prevent fashion disasters like this before they happen (such as Elton John, Bjork, and Cher).

In the meantime, West Virginia’s cease and destroy demand ignited a firestorm of controversy. In Georgia, the governor asked the state’s attorney general to investigate whether it was too late to make similar demands of the producers of the movie “Deliverance,” which made that state look like it was plumb full of banjo playing, pig loving crazies and that was just the cops.

The Washington State Apple Growers Association reacted by filing suit for an injunction against the City of New York, claiming the City’s use of the name “The Big Apple” caused their fruit extreme emotional distress, low self-esteem and bruising.  The Association also seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

Not to be outdone, prostitutes in Nevada today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against New Orleans, claiming “the Big Easy” is a false and deceptive trade name.  The painted ladies claim that, because prostitution is legal only in Nevada, only locations within that state could truly be called “easy” if not cheap.  New Orleans thus would be unable to establish that, as a general rule, women there are legally “easy” as the term is commonly understood.

Meanwhile, in a recently released study by the Compassionate Conservative Institute in Washington D.C., 8 out 10 high school students identified West Virginia as part of the Virgin Islands.

Which brings us back to what government does best, helping those who cannot help themselves, at least when making fashion decisions: teenagers. So let’s begin protecting our kids from the same humiliation my husband endures every time I mention the white patent leather platforms.

Imagine where Elton might be today if he’d had the same help when he was young.