Friday, July 31, 2009

Socialism: Adendum

If you even casually keep up with current events, you can probably guess what inspired the satire in the post below this one.

Like a lot of people, I'm in favor of a single-payer, government-run health care system. Yes, socialized medicine. There is, of course, huge controversy over this, mostly because people fear the word "socialism" without understanding what it means. They just know it's supposed to be bad, a close cousin to that arch-nemesis to our freedoms: communism.

What I tried to point out in my last post is that we already revere and enjoy several aspects of socialism; we just don't refer to them that way because they're so deeply ingrained in our way of life. Police and fire departments, public education, and even the U.S. Armed Forces are, by any definition, socialist institutions. They are funded and run completely by the government and provided at no cost to citizens (other than, of course, taxes).

We have set up these systems because as a society we have agreed that certain things should be made available to all citizens, regardless of income level. Everyone is entitled to police protection, fire services, education, and protection from threats both foreign and domestic. I doubt that even conservatives would find fault with that.

Thus, the obvious question: Why aren't we entitled to health know, life itself?

The right does their usual "The government can't do anything right!" rap (which is a self-fulfiling prophecy), conveniently ignoring that they're the biggest supporters of increased spending for the U.S. Military, by far the largest chunk of federal government spending. Why do they have so much faith in the government when it comes to guns and bombs but not surgery and bandages? It also doesn't acknowledge whom we entrust with our most lauded citizens: veterans. Where do they get their health care? I don't need to tell you the answer, do I?

What really drives me crazy is that for the first time in a long time, the Democrats, supposedly the party of the common man, has complete, fillibuster-proof control. They have another year-and-a-half to get things done. Say what you may about Bush, but even when he didn't have this majority, he bent the country to his will. He and Cheney circled their own party's wagons and bullied enough Democrats into voting for wars, tax cuts, etc.

Every day, I see Obama's promise of "affordable health care for all" get watered down just a little bit more. And mostly it's because the Dems continue to let the Republicans (especially the pundits with their legions of unthinking dittoheads) continue to frame the debate. They just scream "socialism!" over and over again until the more conservative Dems get cold feet and start eliminating any provision that would substantially overhaul the system, which was sort of the whole point in the first place.

Think about that for a second. How amazing is it that the Democrats are allowing policy to be dictated to them by a party whose approval rating is at historic lows? Will they ever grow a spine and get it together?

Here's my first suggestion: Obama puts those brilliant oratory skills to work in order to speak rationally and sensibly about socialism. He points out all the socialist stuff we already have and makes the case that health care shouldn't be a for-profit industry, the same way the police, fire, education, and military systems shouldn't be (the fact that the military is becoming scandalously privatized is the subject for another blog). Wouldn't that appeal to the majority of the American public?

Wanna hear something really depressing? What prompted me to write all this was a recent viewing of the Ted Kennedy documentary on HBO. They showed a speech he gave in 1978 (a curly brown-haired Bill Clinton introduced him) about health care. Teddy spoke passionately about the need for all Americans to have quality health care, not just well-to-dos like his famous family.

It's over 30 years later, and I'm hearing the exact same points being made, with zero progress. In fact, things are much worse. You don't need the stats thrown at you again; it's well known that the U.S. spends by far the most on health costs and yet lags behind dozens of other countries in actual health benefits, life expectancy, etc.

Are Americans really so thick-headed that they would continue under this abysmal system rather than accept that the most important part of being guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness just might be the "life" part?

Sadly, I think the answer is yes. But at least we'll have struck down further socialism. Hooray.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Dirty Word: Socialism

Like most "Real Americans," I hate socialism. As such, I propose we rid ourselves of all of its forms. Until we do, how can we really be a land of freedom?

For instance, my house caught on fire last week. These guys came with a big red truck and sprayed water all over the place. Sure, the fire was out, but what a mess! They also rescued my cat out of a tree while they were there. I hated that cat.

The most infuriating thing is that between wrecking my house with water damage and running up future pet store bills, they told me they were government employees. And get this: they had free health care, and pensions, and job security! I told those socialists to get out and send me the bill later for whatever service they thought they had provided. They said it was free. Something about my taxes paying for it. Well, joke's on them. I've got a great accountant, and I don't really pay taxes (wink, wink).

I went down to the liquor store for some more cigs (I smoked my last one while falling asleep on my couch right before all those guys showed up with their stupid hoses). On the way there, a mugger pulled a gun on me. I was ready to give this fool a total beat-down (I was in my ninja fetal-position trick pose) when a cop car rolled up. These blowhards cornered the scum and arrested him.

Anyway, I figured these guys would want to get paid, but they said their job was to "protect and serve." Apparently, they're also paid by the government. Man, that burns me up. What gives them the right to provide for my protection?

When I got home, there was a message on the machine from my nag of an ex-wife. She says I'm behind on the child support again. I don't know what she's complaining about; what does she need money for? She sure doesn't need it for day care. I mean, the kids go to school during the day for free. Let the teachers babysit 'em! And the oldest is over 18 and in community college, anyway. It costs like $50 a semester. They must not even have buildings or professors or anything.

There's one last thing that really chaps my hide. Did you know there's this giant socialist institution that no one ever talks about, because we're too busy saluting them? Check this out: this massive bunch of freeloaders get free health care for life, free housing, free food, free uniforms, an amazing pension plan, and best yet, basically anyone can join, regardless of his/her qualifications. Plus, you still get paid!

Here's the kicker: The wasteful federal government spends more money on these commies than any other facet of our woeful system. That's right, U.S. Military. I'm lookin' at you. Love it or leave it, baby.

Support the troops? Sorry. I'm no socialist.

Edit 10/25/09: See this chart for further clarification.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Character of Meetings

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'” -Dave Barry

Truer words were never spoken.

I've only had one real job, but sitting through ten years of faculty meetings has taught me a few things. I could go on and on about how amazing it is that former teachers (read: administrators) seemingly have no idea how to present information in an interesting, coherent fashion, but that's a subject for another blog.

What I'd like to share here is my observations of the audience members of these meetings. Not those talking, typically, but those being talked (down) to. There seem to be two distinct personality types which can be broken down into subgenres. To wit:

1. The Willing and Interested

Even if these people don't exactly like going to meetings, they sure haven't learned to loathe them, either. They don't constantly check the clock nor their watches, and they rarely groan audibly. Among this group are the three following characters:

A. The Riddler

The most earnest and insecure guy/gal in the room. Asks question after question in order to clarify what seems obvious to everyone else. Has never heard the expression "It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Not the sharpest crayon in the box; got straight B's all through high school because he/she worked his/her butt off and came in after school to ask what he/she should study for the test. Is terrible in sports, art, and social interaction because he/she has no natural inclination for anything.

Sample quote (true story): In response to a presentation about what to do during a "Columbine drill," where one must exit his/her room and lock the door from the outside, "I lose my keys a lot. What should I do?"

B. The Stickler

Follows all the rules to the letter. Is constantly taking notes during the meeting. Usually sits by him/herself, as almost everyone else finds him/her annoyingly anal and rigid. Most likely to be a virgin and/or member of the religious right. Will give others dirty looks in the copy room for "stealing" a paper clip or not resetting their codes. Would've been found goose-stepping across Berlin in the 30's. Favorite Office characters are Dwight and Angela.

Sample quote: "If I have to leave for a doctor's appointment at 12:32; is it ok if I sign out for 12:35, because it usually takes me three minutes to get to my car?"

C. The Anecdote Teller

Feels compelled to tell stories about his/her experiences or the way he/she does things. Can single-handedly elongate meetings by as many as 5-15 minutes. Is lonely and craves attention and affirmation. Doesn't want to go home because no one's there, or worse yet, they've stopped listening to his/her endlessly mind-numbing tales of workplace minutiae. Identifies with Striker in Airplane.

Sample quote (true story): In response to a lecture on not letting kids out to the bathroom too often, "That is true. I once let a girl out to go to the bathroom, and she came back with a soda...and a sweatshirt. I don't think she even went to the bathroom!"

Note: To my knowledge, no one has ever admitted to belonging to any of the aforementioned groups, yet we all know these people.

2. The Cynical and Resentful

These people regard meetings as sores on the backside of an already unbearable workday. Most of them have to be reminded repeatedly to attend and fill the air with profanities when they find a gathering is scheduled for that day. This population also divides itself into three categories:

D. The Goof-Off

He/she shows up, but is not especially interested in gleaning information from the proceedings. Often doesn't have a pen, so if a sign-in sheet is involved, will have to noisily bother other, more responsible attendees for a writing implement. Once an implement is obtained, The Goof-Off will doodle, pass notes, and create derisive nicknames for the members of the first, more involved group. Will screw around on the internet or read a newspaper if not monitored. Audibly prays for death if meeting drags past an hour.

Sample Quote: "Oh, please God. Do not let (fill in Anecdote Teller's name here) raise his/her hand again. I will beat myself to death with the corner of this table."

E. The Challenger

Bristles at authority and has good job security. Knows that nothing short of a personal attack or an openly racist remark will get him/her reprimanded. Waits for the boss to say something that the boss isn't totally committed to, then tears into whatever plan or edict is being proposed/issued. Often cites years of experience as reason for his/her expertise on the subject. Makes other, more compliant meeting attendees uncomfortable with near-open hostility.

Sample Quote (actual): "Don't worry, everybody. They'll tell us to do this for a little while, and then it'll pass. Heck, you (pointing at the principal) probably won't be around much longer anyway."

F. The Openly Disdainful

A close cousin to The Challenger (and nearly always a male), his job is also assured in the long term. His watch is permanently set on half-past give-a-crap. He walks in 10 minutes late and leaves whenever he believes the thrust of the meeting has come to an end, but always before The Riddlers and Sticklers can ask any clarifying questions. While at the meeting, he'll make a show of how little he's paying attention by wearing sunglasses, leaning back in his chair, and sighing loudly. Will often ask annoying questions of his colleagues the next day about the content of the meeting he worked so hard to ignore.

Sample Quote: "What did I miss?"

Do you recognize these from your office? What type are you? For the record, I'm a combination of The Goof-Off and The Challenger.