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SSI and the mentally unbalanced people who run it

There is nothing more addictive than spending other people’s money.  And nothing makes us feel more grand than distributing other people’s money to other “other people” whom we think could use it.

Social Security used to be a basic pension.  Pay in for the rest of your working life, and we’ll take care of you after you can no longer work.  That paying in created a large pile of cash at the Treasury, which is rather like supplying a kindergarten classroom with buckets of brightly colored paint and removing all adult supervision. The results are easily predictable.

So your representatives started fingering the Social Security loot like Scrooge McDuck and one of the brilliant ideas they came up with was adding no more payers, but more payees– this time, it was people under retirement age who were unable to work through no fault of their own.  Roy fell through a scaffold at work, broke his back and will never walk again.  Social Security is gonna help Roy by replacing some of that income he can no longer earn.  Well, there can’t be that many Roy’s out there, and it’s a good cause, and there is just SO MUCH MONEY here, that we should do it. So, we did, and it did make a certain sense.

Fast forward to 2012, when the fastest growing segment of SSI recipients are children who never earned a dime in their lives, but who are diagnosed with a disorder like depression or ADHD or ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) or Conduct Disorder or SYGACF (“Something You Get A Check For”).  The bar is incredibly low.  Momma takes you to a special doctor recommended by a nice lawyer, and she tells you, “Just act crazy and we’ll get money and then we’ll get you those new Transformers!”  This is not an exaggeration, as a Child Protective Services worker, I have heard this from the children’s mouths.

My biggest problem is not the fraud, although it is galling. It is the gross stupidity that preceded the decision to take money intended to replace missing income for folks who need it and to give to kids who never earned any and don’t need it.

That’s the addictive power of OPM; it makes you lose your mind.  Other People’s Money is the crack cocaine of Congress.  Never do you hear a crackhead step back from the pipe and say, “Well, no more for me, thanks.  That should be enough for anyone!”  And never do you hear a congressman say that, either.

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Bigot’s Rights

Melvin Bedford Blunt is a bigot. He hates just about everybody who differs from him in any significant way. And it’s high time he got some respect.

I want to thank the politically-correct editorial writers of America for giving me the courage to speak out and demand that Americans everywhere respect Melvin’s bigotry. After all, at least ten percent of Americans are bigots. (We know this to be a fact because it has been repeated innumerable times in print.) Many of these bigots never come out of the closet, fearing public ridicule. Some closet bigots even maintain relationships with people of different religions and ethnicities, hoping to mask their true orientation. But bigotry is a lifestyle as old as mankind, and those of us who value diversity are obligated to stand up for the bigot community and insist that they be accepted in the American mainstream just as they are.

Melvin Blunt never asked to be a bigot. He just is one. As far back as his childhood, he remembers not liking black people, brown people, blond people, Bolivians and Baptists. As he moved through adolescence, some adult bigots helped him get in touch with his true identity by taking him to Klan rallies and marches (otherwise known as “Bigot Pride Parades”). His horizons expanded as his latent bigot consciousness grew to include a distaste for Lithuanians, Libertarians, and lovers of Louis Lamour.

Melvin’s personal orientation has always elicited scorn and rejection from his community. Preachers rail at bigots from their pulpits, self-righteously judging their lifestyle choice. The whole bigot community is shunned by civic groups and discriminated against in the workplace.  Hispanic employers don’t want to hire Melvin just because he calls them “burrito benders” in the privacy of his own bedroom. What about Melvin’s constitutional right to privacy? What happens in an American’s own chat room between consenting adults is nobody else’s business. You cannot punish a man just because he rails against Republicans, Romanians, rent collectors and the Rotary Club. Where are you, ACLU?

Even when Melvin served his country with valor in the Fort Dix motor pool, he was subjected to the humiliating “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. He longed to stand proud before his fellow soldiers and explain why America was all about protecting his right to hate anybody he chose. But that door was slammed in his face. No, Melvin didn’t want to recruit new bigots. He just wanted the Army to respect his desire to dislike doctors, Democrats, doormen, and Dodge dealers. But Melvin’s commanding officer told him point-blank that the Army would not tolerate intolerance, and that the only way Melvin could keep his stripes was to keep his bigot lifestyle a secret.

Over the years, various people have suggested that Melvin could stop being a bigot, if only he wanted to. Self-proclaimed “former bigots” offer counseling to “help” people like Melvin. Such arrogance! Why can’t they just accept him for who he is? By discriminating against Melvin, such people are just exposing their own hidden bigoted urges, no matter how much they deny it. Every diversity proponent doesn’t like somebody. The popularity of David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and White Men Can’t Jump speaks for itself. I say it’s high time to expose the hypocrisy.

America needs to stop the hate and antagonism of bigoted people as part of the mainstream of public discourse. It would help if we retired the term “bigot” altogether, in favor of a more culturally-sensitive designation: Selective-American. But our government is the key. Americans should expect, no, demand that the next administration appoint at least one Selective-American to a cabinet post. We could get Selective-Americans to lecture in our elementary schools during Cultural Diversity Week. Let our children decide for themselves whether the Selective lifestyle is for them, free from the parochial pressures of parental prejudice. It’s time, America, to strike a blow for legally-mandated tolerance of intolerance. Intolerance of intolerance must no longer be tolerated in our bright and shiny land of the free.

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Good mix

In the midst of my reading Thoreau’s Walden, I get my income tax refund.  That’ll keep me from splurging…

Now, where are those bills?  Fuel, kids’ teeth, and kids’ trips to the doctor.  Hoping to wedge in a new pair of glasses for me onto the expense list, profligate wastrel that I am.  I fear this is the year when I can’t fake enough of the letters on the driver’s license test and have to start wearing my specs to drive.

Which raises the question: with all the people texting while driving, shouldn’t some of ’em be wearing bifocals for that?

My son did his first tax return this year, took him all of thirty seconds to understand that the government was giving him back the money they borrowed from him, not sending him a gift.  Why does it take other people so long to figure that out?

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Sporadic, Thy Name is Blog

I only work on this excuse for a blog when I happen to have the convergence of a WiFi hotspot and my handy laptop and a power outlet, as my handy laptop’s battery lost its will to live some time ago.  In a bow to Moore’s Law, the battery which my Compaq needs costs more than the whole computer is worth.  SO… since any fool would know this means I need a new computer, I do NOT get one.  No, contrarian that I am, I hold stubbornly to this increasingly obsolete folding magic box, hoping to wring every last bit of use out of it before we both wind up in the landfill. Ken and Brent and Alison, I’m getting all I can out of your investment!

Such a curmudgeonly attitude has at least once made me the master of my technological superiors.  About a year ago, a virus ran rampant which would allow me to open any application,but then would freeze the application and not allow it to function or close!  Including my version of Firefox.  I borrowed a computer, and found out that there was a fix available online.  However, since the bug had seized control of Firefox, I could not download the patch.  Enter our hero, unrecognized obsolescence.  I don’t use IE, and so the version of IE I had was elderly… so elderly, in fact, that the bug did not even recognize it.  I s-l-o-w-l-y downloaded the patch, rebooted, and voila!

Age and treachery win out once again over youth and skill.

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The pepperbox revolver is…

The pepperbox revolver was a little pistol with six barrels which was intended by its creator to fire one barrel at a time and then rotate to the next.  Interestingly, it would as often as not fire all six barrels en banc, astonishing the shooter and inconveniencing passersby.  Very effective, as “if it didn’t get what it was after, it would fetch something else”.  This little adventure in firearms was, in Mark Twain’s words, “confounded comprehensive”, which suits the purposes of this blog to a “T”. Here you will find religion, politics, rants on the sublime and the mundane and what may be most honestly described as a transcription of things said to my car windshield as I drive.  I refuse to repent if you are offended, and will promise no specific performance except to apologize if you get bored…


Charles Rolland

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Walden, Visited

I’m reading Thoreau’s Walden, and in so doing I am being reminded of the value of reading things which are not altogether as I think, and yet of value.  It is the sorting out, the reaching through the bramble to collect the blackberries, which is of almost as much value as the fruit itself.  To incur the minor scratches of impiety, even the more painful cuts of blasphemy, on the part of another, is not a fatal disease to be avoided like typhoid.  Rather, taken in the context of what we do know, it builds the intellectual immune system, for it allows us to consider folly, to reject it, or more worthwhile, to understand its fault better.  And best, to understand the basis for it, to recognize its wrong turning, that we may avoid a similar turning in my own track some distance down the road.

We should not be so quick to distance ourselves from writing not “Christian” in nature, from philosophy which may at points find itself disrespectful of — if not in precise opposition to– our faith.  To do so is to hothouse ourselves, to remain in an intellectual cloister. A tree which grows up thus staked against the breeze will be bent double in the eventual high wind.

At times I fear we see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil at the expense of becoming blind, deaf and dumb in the process.

Thoreau reminds me of the value of impertinence, of challenging the status quo, of fearlessly questioning the unquestioned.  Not for the mere purpose of challenge, mind you, but to make room for truly unfettered contemplation.

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Boxed in by the big box box

I have just made my first and last venture into IKEA.  Not again, not in this lifetime.  It scared me.  Now, I am a home improvement and cabinet geek, so this ought to be my kind of place, right?  And it was, for twenty minutes. I looked at their cabinet designs, even got a couple of ideas.  Then, I tried to leave.

God help me, I tried to leave.  And I tried, and I tried.  I followed the signs which said “SHORTCUT TO EXIT”, at least five of them, which all were simply direct paths to the next department.  I could not have gotten my bearings in that place if Magellan had been shopping with me.  A Navy SEAL team could not have extracted me.  I saw the kitchen cabinet department voluntarily and every other department involuntarily.  I had been dropped down the rabbit hole of ParticleBoardLand, trapped in a live-action game of Chutes and Ladders which was all chutes and no ladders.  IKEA is the Hotel California of retail.  (“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”)

I saw it all: a labyrinth of plasticrockery and Eurocrap melamine quadrilaterals, all quite cheap and worth every penny.  Dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, kids’ rooms, bathrooms, all reduced to flat-stacking cardboard packets.  (When the in-store advertising of a furniture store trumpets their technical triumphs in designing furniture to most efficiently fit the corrugated shipping container, I know I have fallen into some weird alternative universe.)  The cabinets look like the armoires which look like the bureaus which look like the tables which look like the chairs.  If the Oompa-Loompas were furniture, this is what they would be. Only without the charm.  It was as though every trace of organic life had been intentionally eradicated from the entire establishment.  Compared to IKEA, the Death Star in Star Wars was a fern bar.

IKEA even has its own version of IKEA FutureWorld, called the AS IS department, where you can, for fifty percent off, buy your stuff pre-deteriorated.  No need to wait for this kitschy chipboard junk to start coming apart after it has been in your home a few weeks, you can get the end result now, for less.  Debris-to-be, dirt cheap.  Supplies are limited, folks, this stuff is flying off the shelves.

IKEA turned out to be sort of a nihilistic post-apocalyptic vision of shopping for your home.  Sort of Home Depot meets Dante, circa 1984.  Come in, and leave your sense of direction at the door.  Just follow the path.  We will guide you.  No need to see out, or even around the corner.  You need know nothing about your surroundings.  Like the old “Outer Limits” intro, “We have taken control…”   Pick out your future home surroundings from our selection of a thousand similar rectangular boxes in nine different colors.  Do not deviate from the meandering path; if you attempt to do so, we will redirect you so that you will still pass through every single department from which we wish you to select.  Resistance is futile. You may not leave to have a snack or for lunch; here is our cafeteria, please refresh yourself and get back to the task we have given you.  Soon, you will have accumulated enough bits of plastic jimcrackery and pull-tags and we will swipe your card.  Stop at our Bistro for a fifty-cent hot dog and a dollar soda. Then, your blood sugar should have recovered enough to enable you to stagger with your heavy paper-wrapped slabs across the parking lot.

Please wait for your higher cognitive functions to re-engage before entering traffic in the outside world again.

No more IKEA for me.  I have become too accustomed to independent thought and freedom of action to enter that soulless maze of proletarian furnishings ever again.


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Why Health Care CANNOT Be Fixed

Pessimist, me?  No more than I am pessimistic about the chances of the Mississippi starting to run north from the delta to Minnesota.  Just aware of the realities.

Fact is, that there are three things which combine to head our current American health care system over the cliff, soon to be replaced by some other system.

First, everyone agrees that health care is horribly expensive and getting more so.  It now consumes one-sixth of the American economy.  The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that this trend cannot continue.  But costs cannot be lowered to any great extent because the consumers of health care do not know what health care costs and they don’t care.    When is the last time you shopped for a doctor based on price?  Who is the last person who told you he changed from Dr Bob to Dr Tom because Dr Tom charges $15 less for an office visit?  And why not?  Because someone else pays the actual bill.  We care about our deductible and our co-pay, neither of which has anything to do with actual costs of care.  When there is no consumer pressure on prices, prices go up.  That’s Economics 101.  There is no theoretical ceiling to this phenomenon.   We do complain about our insurance premiums going up, but that is a symptom, not the cause.

Twenty-plus years ago, my young daughter fell while playing and cracked a bone in her elbow. Her doctor gave us the following scenario: “Well, current wisdom is to hospitalize her, do surgery to install a screw in the bone to secure it, cast it, and bring her in for x-rays every couple of weeks for a couple of months.  Then, we put her in physical therapy to recover the function lost in treatment.  But a few years ago, we would just splint it, wait two weeks to see how it’s healing, do one x-ray, let her get a little physical therapy, then let her finish the process by using that elbow for a little longer every day outside the splint.”

Since we had no insurance and actually paid the bill ourselves, this was a helpful revelation.  We took the “old way” and that little girl healed just fine. At about one-tenth the cost.  When’s the last time you had this kind of discussion with your pediatrician?

Second, we have recently developed a very entitled view about our health.  Grandad’s generation accepted aches and pains as part of life, and more so as a part of old age.  Not us, boy.  If it hurts, or even annoys us, we beat it to the physician for treatment and whip out our insurance card.  Acne gets prescription meds and dermatologists are among the best paid of all physicians.  Male pattern baldness is now considered a treatable disease, not just a fact of life, and billions-with-a-B have been spent on prescription Rogaine.   If Granny’s 80 year old knee gets stiff and painful, she gets not pain meds but a new titanium/nylon knee replacement for a mere $25,000 from taxpayers.  When wanting a longer-lasting erection entitles any man to medical intervention, we have passed the point of no return and reason has left the building.

Third, we have decided that end-of-life is also a treatable disorder.  The majority of medical care expenditures are incurred by the elderly, and much of this is life-sustaining care.

I don’t mean to sound hard-hearted.  Nobody wants his loved one to suffer, but when the choice used to be bankrupting the next generation or suffering personal pain, most of our recent ancestors would have found the choice easy.

Note that none of these problems have to do with government policy.  It’s not the problem, so it can’t be the solution.


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Text-drunk driving

I really really wonder about people texting and driving.  Not that they are doing it, but that they are still doing it.  America finally learned that drinking and driving was nothing to be taken lightly, and now we have a phenomenon which is far more dangerous, simply because the number of participants has increased by an order of magnitude.  In the 1970’s, it took enough kids getting killed on our highways for Mothers Against Drunk Driving to become a force to be reckoned with and to raise the public consciousness.  Who’s going to step up this time?

It won’t be another “Mothers” group… they’re the second largest perpetrators of the current traffic menace, trailing only their teenagers.  But teens are not expected to see the long view, thus, the clever invention of older humans inserted into their lives to help provide that view and protect them from the more dangerous forms of adolescent myopia.  It is Mom, who is playing Words-With-Friends on her I-phone at the stoplight, whose assigned task it is to warn Junior and Juniorette,  “Hey, that’s dangerous!”  But she can’t put the phone down long enough to do so, as she has to answer, now– and I do mean RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND—  Cousin Janet’s text about how old Aunt Doris really is.  I am now hearing from teens and tweens who are reaching out to take the phone out of Mom’s hand on the way to school, in an act of self-preservation. When the so-called responsible members of society start acting irresponsibly, who protects us from them?

There is a current ad campaign on TV which demonstrates quite dramatically the risks of texting and driving.  Well produced, matter-of-fact, accurate.  Much better than the old “this is your brain on drugs” bromides.  Kids are starting to get the message.  Now if we can get moms on board.  I can keep dodging them in traffic, but I don’t know for how long.

At the risk of sounding sexist, this is so far primarily a female adult phenomenon.  Women do things together, they share, they communicate. (Guys grunt, which cannot be texted.) Now women get to become virtually inseparable via text, tweet and Facebook, all while at the wheel.  Moms who would not feed little Billy store-brand milk strap his little Oshkoshed behind into a car-seat and go charging through traffic while updating their status and “liking” things.  But guys, don’t feel left out, real time access to NFL highlights and scrolling headlines and ballscores are there to put us right smack in the same drunkenly weaving boat.  Anything foolish they can do, we can do better.

Now, as a man who can remember the advent of the Code-A-Phone, I admit I do not fathom our recent evolution from AT&T’s old “reach out and touch someone” to the more current “reach out and touch everybody you know, right this very second, and never ever ever ever let them go, even for a moment” style of communication.  But there is a point at which this current obsession with texting at the wheel moves beyond fodder for a curmudgeonly rant and escalates to a place where someone in the American Household is going to have to start raising his voice and saying, “Dammit, that’s dangerous!”

Gentlemen, time to step up.  Or we can just wait for the bodies to pile up like we did the last time we had a problem like this. Just remember whose bodies they are going to be.  Last time somebody saw the bodies and did something, it was the Moms.  Maybe this time it’s Dad’s turn.

Maybe we could get an earlier start this time.

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Try a puppy

Yes, I work adoptions, finding homes for children who have been brought into the foster care system and whose parents are no longer on the scene.  I take great joy in some folks who are trying to adopt.  Some of these parents impress me with the power of their love and commitment and their willingness to put these kiddos’ often immense needs before their own.   Other parents, not so much.

To those of you who are looking for someone to fit your family fantasies and to make your imagined life complete, please, I beg of you, just get a dog.  There are all breeds, so you can handpick the size and shape and color and temperament that will fit your lifestyle.  It’s the perfect custom companion.  A child is just not like that.

I receive home studies from folks honestly seeking to adopt; who want a white girl between 4 and 8 (old enough to be housebroken but still young enough to be cute), a child without inconvenient connections to birth family, who will be bright enough to be academically successful so as to fit in with her highly-educated parents.  Aarghh!  These are not custom cabinets, folks, these are little people.  Little people who have been through the pain and trauma of losing an entire family, because of mom and dad’s abuse and neglect.  These kids have been saddled with problems by parents who put themselves first, and they need someone to love them, to commit to them, not pick through them like the last extra-large shirts on the clearance rack.  The last thing these children need is you turning up your nose because they’re not the right color or size or because they get in trouble at school or because they don’t immediately jump up and lick your face when you introduce yourselves.

So, if you want a child to meet your wants instead of one for whose needs you can sacrifice your wants, please try a dog.  Get what you want.  Puppies will love you, they won’t have ADHD, they’ll be fine at the kennel once in a while and they’ll enhance your lifestyle instead of turning it upside down.  Because any parent can tell you, that’s exactly what children do.

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