Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Unaudited financial statistics cost Americans tens of billions every year

I woke up this morning listening to the BBC news trumpeting an important news story, viz. worldwide Alzheimers associated costs amount to $600 billion per year! This is incredible!

That's a hell of a lot of money, and it affords much weight and veritas to the issue-- that many people at the end of their lives become demented and incapable of caring for themselves, and become thereby burdens on their families and on society which needs to care for them.

But wait, I thought-- where did that number come from? I thought of the amazing costs cited in the anti-smoking campaigns of the last few years, and the even more alarming numbers thrown around when the health care bill was being debated. In all of these cases, huge numbers were plunked onto the table, moved around from here to there, piled in one place and then slid over to be unstacked and piled up differently over there.

Numbers like these are used to justify large tax increases, big jumps in the costs of goods and services, intrusive laws and regulations, seamy new forced partnerships, larceny, mayhem, and murder. In many cases the issues being addressed rightfully merit debate, and perhaps merit some redeployment of resources. But why is there always that big old unaudited, unsubstantiated dollar figure that's supposed to somehow quantify the issue? In every case the number is pulled off the desk of some spreadsheet jockey, working for a company that has an interest in the outcome of the debate the number is supposed to spark. How much does work absenteeism cost? How much does drug abuse cost? Smoking? Alzheimer's?

Resolve with me, please dear reader, to never trust a number on which an issue is hung, nor an issue which requires a big-old number to make it gain our attention! The numbers are invariably pulled out of a very dark place by someone who stands to gain from the debate. "OA" statistics, I'm going to call them. They hide the details of moralizing and opportunism. And they cost Americans billions! Every year!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finally...!

Scientists today announced they've finally come up with a diagnosis that works, and have classified "Tea Party-ism" as an "Autism Spectrum Disorder." The world has heaved a huge sigh of relief, knowing that now there's an explanation and even a possible treatment available for this scourge that's recently attacked Republicans and the lower middle-classes. If your facial expressions ever start to look anything like Christine O'Donnells', or if your thought patterns begin to resemble anything Sarah Palin has ever said, or you find yourself struggling like Rand Paul to remember at the end of a sentence where you started from and where you were originally heading, please know there is help. The condition is treatable. Ironically, the new Obama Healthcare plan will offer the most treatment options. Do not delay. Talk to your doctor today. There is hope for most sufferers of this debilitating malaise, and early treatment is the quickest and most effective.

More information on this disorder will be made available here as soon as the scientific evidence is de-classified. You heard it here first, and don't forget that.

Also note, most Tea Party websites are now secretly support groups for people with the disorder, but they're not letting on in order to comply with strict privacy laws. That's why the discourse seems so odd... they're speaking in code-- the code of affliction and hope. Be sensitive and ignore them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tea Party grapples with GOP incumbents, and English language

It's happening all around the country-- GOP candidates are being attacked in primaries by the Tea Party, which is pulling out all stops, including rhetorical ones, to get their message heard. I submit as evidence this quote from some teabagging lady named Christine O'Donnell who's running against an attractive Republican candidate to represent the GOP in their bid for Joe Biden's seat in the US Senate from Delaware: (quoted from an ABC news story)
"The Republican Party has lost its way," O'Donnell said. "They get behind candidates like my opponent who don't even support the Republican platform, who continue to support the Democrats' agenda, lock-step-and-barrel."
I predict it will take 50 years for the damage to the conservative movement to be repaired. The English language may never recover.

Folks, please pay attention. This kind of wacko syntax is an indicator of not just a cavalier way with some arcane rules of our language, but of a basically twisted and ignorant approach to reality. Don't like climate science? It's a conspiracy, managed by Al Gore! Don't like the economy? It's obviously a takeover bid by the mighty B. Hussein Obama and his socialist hordes, and started with his handouts of taxpayer cash to the banks. Don't think the government treats you fairly? It's surely because of that reverse racism exhibited by the likes of Shirley Sherrod at the Department of Agriculture, and ACORN. If your marriage sucks, it's probably because gay marriage is threatening it on every side. According to Newt Gingrich the only way to understand our president Obama is as a Kenyan anti-colonial revolutionary. So there! That's the man (Gingrich) they called in the 80's the GOP intellectual brain trust. Possibly neural plaque has set in since then.

This gruesome wilful ignorance is dim-witted, it's vicious, and it's extremely contagious. What could be more attractive than denying the existence of any problem we may find, or blaming any problem on the "other side." The Tea Party is brain dead-- flat-lined-- and should be removed from the respirator. And yet they're poised to destroy, or "refudiate," what's left of the GOP.

Hahahaha... oh, did you hear that?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Is this true?

I came upon an interesting quote this morning, in the Boston Globe, in an article about new rules in some Massachusetts schools aimed at confronting bullying. The reporter, Joanna Weiss states, "creating a culture that’s safe and humane is a part of every school’s job." (emphasis mine)

OK, I'm aware I'm joining the conversation in the middle. The central fact of this article is the suicide last year of a 15 year old girl, originally from Ireland, who hung herself after experiencing relentless and blatant bullying at her school in South Hadley, MA. This is certainly a tragedy, and even more so because it could have been prevented. The school systems are rightly exploring ways to avoid a repeat. Lawsuits were and are flying. Some of the worst bullies were convicted, though I think that was overturned, and the ordeal continues.

Despite the poignancy of the the immediate situation that brought on all this self-scrutiny, dealing with bullies in the schools is not "the job" of the schools! Educating students, at least those that are educable, is "the job." Our educational system is deteriorating. More and more kids don't finish school, or they're leaving public schools for private schools where they're more likely to learn the skills they'll need to move on to college. The kids who do graduate are often deficient in basic reading, math, language skills and science, such that their first year or two of college is remedial, filling in what they missed in high school. Public school staffs are being stretched ever thinner, with ever more requirements for multi-cultural classes, language specialists to help with our growing immigrant population, and special education for kids with handicaps and learning disabilities.

Add to that list the problems caused by inadequate funding, taxpayers voting down budget increases, creeping privatization of the public sector with charter schools, and demands from the lunatic right-wing that our schools teach creationism, reject climate science, and not teach the inconvenient parts of our history and literature, and you've got the definition of a system in turmoil. Let's not make it worse by mandating we introduce a new and improved culture.