Prediction – China and the USA

20 May 2018

China will continue to eat Uncle SAM’s lunch. Through stupidity, avarice or treason, America gutted its industries via off-shoring to China and sat on its ass while our intellectual property was plundered by the People’s Army. Also, considering that for every one (1) American there are four (4) Chinese, the USA will end up sucking the hind tit. As the 20th Century was America’s, the 21st will be China’s.

The American experience failed the day the toadies on the Supreme Court placed Bush in the White House. Today, ignorance, religiosity and scurrility rule the land with an undreamed-of viciousness.

We will sink below the waves and become another has-been country ruled by an idiot.

-Merlin-

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Still the Battle Rages.

13 May 2018

Still the battle rages.  Even with the vast wealth of this vast country, we still are blighted by disease that are disabling, painful and the cause of untimely death, we still quibble over who should be saved and who should be doomed.

Many Republicans and Libertarians chant the mantra, “I don’t want my hard earned money paying for other people’s health care”.  Many Democrats and Liberals say, “Why not?  I’ve paid for other peoples’ health care before and others have paid for mine”.  These two positions are mutually exclusive.  Only one of these philosophies can be right so the other must be wrong.

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Before going on, let me toot my own horn a bit, lest you think I’m simply a layabout looking after myself.   I’m seventy-six.  I still work, though part-time, as I found idleness promotes decay.  Jo, has part-time job too.  For income we’ve got those two jobs plus Medicare and Social Security; the former is an evil entitlement the later is a whole-life insurance policy run by Uncle Sam instead of Met Life.  I also play Santa Claus.  All-in-all, we don’t do too badly.

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According to the Christorepublican’s and Libertarians, if you have lived right, you will be free of disease.  You’ll eventually expire, yes, but of something quick, painless and cheap — heart attack, stroke, burst aorta . . .  things like that.  It’s only those who are slackers, ne`re-do-wells, spendthrifts, idlers, and fornicators — sinners — who are smitten by grody illnesses.  I have cancer, am I a sinner?  You tell me.  In my work, I help developmentally disabled adults get out into the world.  I take them places and help them become a part of the greater world.  If it weren’t for me and other’s like me, these poor devils would be shut away.  For over twenty years I was a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem, (aka, CASA – google it).  I do other nice things too.  Jo volunteers at an animal welfare agency.  Jo and I actually took in a homeless Vied Nam vet who lived with us and with whom we broke bred for over a month (there’s a post about that earlier in this blog).  Are Jo and I sinners ?  Obviously not.  The idea that sin = illness is spurious, specious and hypocritical.  A perfect example is the good Christorepublican Congressman who publicly denounced the sick among us as deserving their illnesses because they are, at heart, sinners.  They are bad.  God doesn’t like them.  Ah, but a few weeks later, the miserable son-of-a-bitch announced he has prostate cancer.  Neener, neener, neener.

See this Image?  It’s a PET scan of my internal workings. It’s called a Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA) scan and it looks for metastases  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439210/)

See those bright red things going up my spine?  Those are metastases.  Now, instead of having just one tumor (the bright hemispherical thing at the bottom) I now have seven.  Metastases are the things that kill you.

It’s Stage 4 cancer.  given the state-of-the-art, Stage 4 is incurable though it’s treatable. Consequently, my oncologist put me on a medication named Zytiga.  I’ve been on it for just a year and as of last October, my PSA level is undetectable.  This is cancer we’re talking about so eventually the cancer adapts and the Zytiga and will stop working.  Unless my doctor has something else in his quiver of arrows, I’ll just get a prescription for painkillers then it’s off to home and bed.

So, knowing this, and knowing I wallow in sin, as indicated by my non-wealthy status, should I get treatment?  Or should treatment be reserved for the likes of Jeff Bezos and that shit-ass Christorepublican Congressman?  And hey, what about you?  Can you, in your current circumstances, take a hit like this?

Here are the retail for the treatments I’m getting at the present time:

  • PSMA scan, $6,000.
  • Zytiga, $84,000 per year.
  • Oncologist’s fees, about $800
  • Medicare “doughnut hole”, $5,000 per year until I croak.
  • Monthly PSA monitoring, $2,400

Since the year ago this month, my cancer treatment has cost about $98,200 and will cost about the same until I croak.

Can you stand a hit like this?  Well sure, if you’ve got some really swell insurance and are not really poor, i.e., you can write the check out of the smalls. But how about the “sinners” like the fellow who pumps your septic tank, the roofer, the fellow who fixes your car’s transmission, the intern at a law office or the grocery clerk . . .?   Their pay is shit and most of their employers don’t provide insurance at all and if they do, the policies often have puny caps and horrid co-pays.  Oh, and lots and lots of restrictions on where you can go and who you can see.  Keeping in mind my $98,000 per year, you can see how you’ll lose your home, your car, probably your source of income, your portfolio then file a Chapter 7.  All this as you agonized over the life or death of a dear loved one or yourself.  That image up there, the one with a belly full of cancer?  It could just as easily be you.  Or your child.  Or your grandchild.

What would you think of me if I shat on you, telling you I don’t want my hard-earned money paying for your health care?  This mind-set that people who are poor or sick or both, deserve their lumps, well it must change.  It’s fucking-up our country.  It is preventing us from showing mercy.  It’s turning us into curmudgeons and making us miserable in the process.

I gotta tell you, if you haven’t got your health, you’ve got nothing.  Should I begrudge you your health because I think you a sinner who’s bad choices have brought disaster on you.  Should I dismiss you saying  “I don’t want my hard-earned money . . . “.   No I shouldn’t and you shouldn’t begrudge me mine.

Goddammit, we’re Americans.  This unkind, ungenerous and condemnatory spirit has become the order of the day and it curdles the soul.  It is a blight on the country and it must be exorcised.  We need to give life and health to all our countrymen, ourselves included.  We need what all decent countries provide and that is healthcare for all.  Sin or no sin.  Money or no.

The battle must stop.

-Merlin-


The Pied Piper of The Flies

6 March 2018

The marriage was a bummer.  All six years and three-quarters yeas of it.  Except for the kids.  Two of them.  Both sweet and dearly loved,  But this story isn’t about them.

We’d moved to an up-scale Chicago suburb. It was a nice apartment.  Corner unit, ground floor, a little yard for the kids with windows on the South and East sides, which meant we got cross-breezes.  It was livable.  We could stay there until my consulting work made enough to buy a house.  Yippee.

But inside the apartment there were many episodes of sturm und drang, such as to vex the most hardy soul.  For example, the Beast was averse to sex — I found this out on our wedding night — and had limited our physical congress to one night a month, after which she would throw herself on the bed and sob with guilt.  She had, as I posted earlier, let herself go, the better to keep me at bay and it worked splendidly.

Grinding my teeth in frustration, I’d come across a little novelty store and spotted a sign to hang on a doorknob.  It was a pie chart with an arrow-shaped spinner in the center.  The headline read, “No Sex Tonight Because:” and the pie slices were labeled with the excuses most men have heard throughout their lives — such things as Headache, Period, Upset Tummy, Diarrhea, Too Tired and a few more.  The sign’s footer read, “Go Ahead, Give it a Spin!”.  I drove a small nail in the bedroom door at eye level and hung it there. That didn’t do much for tranquility in the Sprague household.

One hot and humid afternoon in July I pulled up in front of the building, deciding to put the car in the garage later on.  As I got out of the car, I heard a buzzing sound.  Insects.  Flies, to be specific.  Big blue-assed fellows.  Scores of them and all clamoring to get in the bedroom window, tearing at the screen with their six little legs.  I stopped to contemplate this phenomenon; what could be the attraction?

And then I felt a smell.  A carrion smell.  It was coming out the bedroom window.  This, of course, explained the flies.

Once inside the Laini door, I asked the Beast, “What’s with the goddamned smell?”.  In what had become her customary response to any question I posed, she thrust out her face in an expression of hostility, and huffed.   “That smell,” I said, pointing down to the bedroom.  “I don’t smell anything”, she snorted.

‘Well I sure the hell do,” I all but snarled.  “I’m gonna find out what it is.”

The kids were still fooling around with their stuff and the Beast worked on dinner so down the hall I went.

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Oh, Christ, dinner.  Tonight it was to be another Shepard’s Pie.  Normally, delicious beyond description that it made a man bolt down at least two plate fulls at one sitting.  But not the Beast.  Her recipe was literally heart stopping. 

It started with a pound of hamburger so fatty it was pink — like a pound of lard with a dab of red  food coloring added.  This was pressed into the bottom of a casserole dish and covered with pepper and salt.  Next came a mixture of French cut green bean and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup.  Once assembled, this delight was topped with a layer of Tater-Tots and placed in the oven at 350-375 for 45 min.  In Minnesota, we called this Hot Dish.  Simply Hot Dish.  Ask any Minnesotan. 

Well, the Beast would bring the Hot Dish to the table and, on my presenting my plate, she’d thrust in a large spoon and hoist-out a massive portion.  The loaded spoon was held over the casserole dish for a few seconds so the grease had a chance to pour out of the meat and drain off the spoon back into the casserole dish.  We had many like dinners this.

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As I approach the bed room, the smell grew stronger. Wrinkling my nose, I went in.  The smell was coming out of the bathroom.

“Jesus Christ,” I said to myself as I went into the bathroom and turned on the light.  “This is gonna be bad.”

And it was.

I opened the cabinet beneath the wash basin and looked into the wastebasket.  Yes, that was the source alright; the smell was eye-watering.  Moving aside so the light could get into the wastebasket, I beheld a pile of bloody sanitary napkins.  The ones on the bottom layer had already crusted over while those on top were fresh and juicy.  They’d been in there, festering and rotting the whole hot damned day.

“Goddamned it, woman,” I bellowed down the hall, “Get your fat ass in here!”

She came into the bedroom and saw me standing the bathroom door.  “Come on over and take a squint at this,” I said as I pointed to the wastebasket’s contents.  As she silently beheld the horror, I shook my head and said, “You sow.  You goddamned sow.” The flies were still busy at the screen.  Their buzzing was the only sound to be heard.

After a few moments, I said, “Alright go get me a paper grocery bag and a yardstick”.  She rummaged around in the kitchen for a few minutes than came back with both.  “What are you gonna do?” she asked in her plaintiff, whining voice.

I said nothing.

I took the bag, opened it and set it on the bathroom floor then took the wastebasket and emptied its contents into the bag.  The stink was worse than ever.

Taking up the yardstick, I thrust is through the paper bag’s handles and lifted it off the floor.  Sure that the handles would hold, I called to the kids and told them to open the Laini door, dad was coming through.  I marched with purpose down the hall, through the living room, past the kids and out the door.

The flies had noticed their prize was being moved and began to follow as I walked to the green dumpster about two-hundred feet away.  I lifted the lid, held the bag overt the gaping maw and let the bag slide off the yardstick. It made a splat as it hit the bottom.  Of course, the flies who had followed along followed the bag into the dumpster and prepared to feed.  I dropped the lid and they were trapped. They had followed me to their doom.

I had rid the immediate area of flies.

The next day my neighbors told me of their amazement yesterday as they saw me marching along with a bag on the end of a stick  “What was that  anyway, Sprague?” Well I told them and thereafter I was known as the Pied Piper of the flies.  Ah, fame.

-Merlin-

 


The Worst Car I Ever Owned.

13 December 2017

Good lord, there were so many. Perhaps, though, was my 1962 Winter Beater, a 49 Buick Roadmasher. Like this:

Image result for images 1949 buick roadmaster

Rather than have my nice Plymouth Fury suffer death by rust, I wanted a beater as most of my Minnesota friends with decent cars had winter beaters. So I went looking. Well sure enough, a Lake Street car lot had just the ticket.

It had a straight eight with diarrhea drive, power nothing and an ugly mohair interior that stank of mildew and mold.  But it started in twenty-five below zero weather and plowed the snow like crazy.

Pull the little penis-like shifter into “D” and mash the foot-feed and the Fireball 8 would let out with a low buzzing hiss and it would lumber away at a crawl. Pull it into “L” with the throttle wide open and there would be a jarring bang as it geared down — but the acceleration did not improve.

One evening, I went around a corner and instead of feeding the wheel back through my hands, I just let it go as I yanked it into “L” and floored it. The wheel returned to the straight ahead position but Jesus, Mary and Joseph – it kept on going. Now the piece of shit was heading into the oncoming lane so I backed off and the damned thing started to correct itself. But wanting to see what would happen, I floored it again while it was still correcting and damned if the old thing over-corrected again, but to the right this time.

I found out that if I kept getting on and off the throttle after rounding a corner, the lurching would become worse and worse until it almost went off the road. I had fun entertaining my chums as the old monster went down the street.  Weaving drunkenly from side to side, my chums hooted and hollered and slapped their legs in merry mirth.

But what really made it the worst car I ever owned was it tried to kill me and my young lady friend.

Being a Minnesota car, it too had rusted way out. Part of the rust was an opening through the rear wheel well into the cab, and in that rusted wheel well was the tail pipe which had itself rusted off as it came up over the rear end. An almost-direct exhaust leak into the cab. It was a gas chamber. Did I know this? No, because I always kept a window open to let out the cigarette smoke.

So this one cold and snowy night, my lady friend and I were parked in her driveway and had been there for a while with the Fireball 8 running to keep us warm (after all, we had no clothes on so warmth was appreciated). The radio was tuned to Hobbs House, a program heavy on the torch songs, and I was about to take a post-coitus nap, when my lady friend said, “I feel so dizzy!”

It took no more than a few seconds to understand we were about to die from carbon monoxide poisoning right there in her driveway with our genitals exposed to the coroner. Oh Christ. I had enough presence of mind to kill the engine and, with pants down around my shoes, crawled around in the icy cold driveway, through the snow, to reach her door. I somehow managed to get it open and drag her out. She was as red as a radish.

I got a lot of snow on her bare parts to bring her around and then we re-assembled our clothing and went on inside. It took her awhile to come to.

Later, on the way back home I had all the windows down and the fan full-on because the smell of car exhaust made me violently ill. Drive a few blocks. Spew. Drive a few more. Spew again.

The old Buick sat out front until Spring when I drove it to the nearest car lot and got rid of it.  (ED)

-Merlin-


Facebook has Become a Disease

25 September 2017

Facebook has become a disease.

About two weeks ago, I started “friending” all sorts of old dudes who, like me, play Santa Claus. I thought I’d get greetings and comments that would be kindly, cordial and in keeping with Santa’s reputation for benignity. Wrong. While I suppose most of these old guys were kindly souls, in keeping with their calling as Santa, a depressing number were bitter, bilious and hateful. I was treated to obscene, intemperate, emotional and illogical rants often accompanied by slogans of the basest sort. This stuff was all political and spoke almost exclusively of grievance. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to harbor such cankerous thoughts without them doing profound damage to your soul. These men have become curmudgeons of the worst sort, the kind who will swat children with their canes and kick small dogs. How such men could put on the red suit is beyond me.

In general, I find people who use Facebook to spew are censorious and intolerant, and too often that has included me, sorry to say. Facebookers will post ignorant, illogical and factually wrong propositions, making them available for all to see like a leper displaying his sores. Obviously, they expect their nonsense to go unchallenged so when someone replies with a comment that points out the errors, they get the vapors and blame the respondent for the ructions that follow, promptly “unfriending” the interlocutor.  In so doing, they cut themselves off from contrasting and contradictory views, thus contributing to some increasingly isolated and unrealistic views of the world.

On the other side of the coin, when the comments [to a post] are agreeable, the comments almost always ratchet up the intemperance and silliness of the original posting until the whole concatenation of posting and comments have worked themselves into a silly froth. This is the “echo chamber” which Facebook has become. Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social medium to have become an echo chamber. Please include Twitter and Google+ as well as all single-issue message boards and so-called “news” sites.

Well patient reader, I took action. Saturday afternoon, while beholding the whole deplorable display scrolling down my screen, I clicked the three little dots in the upper right-hand corner of all political bullshit and deep-sixed the whole damned lot.

I strongly urge everyone to do as I have done; purge your feeds of political crap. All political crap, even when the crap dovetails with your own views. The only way to restore a semblance of civility to the US of A is to dial it back. Stop trying to score points with one outrageous statement after another. You aren’t persuading others to your point of view, all you’re doing is pissing them off. Also understand that when you put a posting up on Facebook for all to see, you are, perforce, inviting criticism so you really have no call to bitch when the criticism comes.

Also recognize the political bullshit may be coming from someone who wishes us ill.  (ED)

-Merlin-


Bad Day at Gault’s Gulch

19 August 2017

Hank had awakened at his usual six a.m. time.  Dagney had already gotten up so she could fix bacon, eggs, corned beef hash and fried potatoes along with a generous helping of biscuits and gravy, all washed down with three glasses of buttermilk.  Yum.  It was the way Hank liked to start the day — after taking his morning constitutional, that is.

Hank and Dagney escaped to Gault’s Gulch the previous year when they felt the world and all its parasitic untermenchen were about to come-a-cropper. Hank and Dagney had turned up their noses at these “little people” as Hank liked to call anyone who wasn’t a . . . well, swell.  Self-made people were Dagney and Hank. Hank having invented green steel, made bazillions and took Dagney as his loyal punch.  The people who actually made the green steel in Hank’s filthy sweat shops (they deserved no better, in fact, Hank felt they deserved even less so he and Dagney could have even more) were simply expendable ciphers and meat machines who looked with covetous and envious eyes on Hank, Dagney, Judge Snaggert, the Latin Lothario and, of course, John Gault.

Like Scrooge before him, Hank delighted in making life as miserable as possible for the men and women who toiled on his behalf. “Please, Mr. Reardon,” sniveled of the men from down in the Stygian depths of the metal fabricating shops, “Can I have a raise?  It’s tough to make a go of it on $7.50 and hour.  The wife and I would like to have a pizza once in a while.  After all, fatback and beans doesn’t provide suitable nourishment.”

“The fuck it doesn’t!” roared Hank. “You’re just trying to get at my hard-earned money and suck me dry.  Well I’ll teach you to expect altruism from your betters.  As of this moment, your pay is reduced to $7.25 an hour.  Now get your ass out of my office. I have to count my money”.

It was shortly after that when talk of unionizing was heard on the shop floor.  “Goddamned rotters,” Hank seethed,  “I ought charge the bastards to work here in order to make money for the superior people — people like me, goddammit!”

Well, enough of the backstory.  Let’s pick up where we left off – Hank’s sitting on the commode.  While listening to a rerun of Rush, Hank hit the flusher.  But instead of the toilet’s contents gurgling down the drain, the feculent water began to rise finally wetting Hank’s scrotum.  “What it fuck?” roared Hank.  “Dag, call the goddamned plumber.”  A few minutes later, Dangney called out to Hank, “He won’t come out.  When I told him our name, he told me to go fuck myself, then hung-up”.

Hank ground his teeth.  “Dag, ring-up Judge Snaggert, Tell him I’m coming by and we’re going into town to give that parasitic wretch the what-for”.  With that, Hank dried his yam sack, dressed and closed the bathroom door to keep the smell inside.  With the Judge sitting beside him in the Bentley, Hank put the car in gear only to find it wouldn’t move.  Smoke and smell filled the passenger compartment; the transmission had taken a shit. “Motherfucker!” bellowed Hank as the Judge made sneers and deprecatory comments about how the little people who built the Bentley were out to screw their betters — a common theme here in Gault’s Gulch.

“Let’s go see John Gault.  He’ll know what to do,” so the two of them hoofed it over to the stadium-sized mansion that was Gault’s “country home”.  Ah, but things weren’t going so well there, either.  “Can’t help, guys,” said Gault with a shrug.  “The Roller has two flats and I haven’t a clue how to change either one.  Besides, when I called into town for a tow truck and told him who I was, the leech told me to eat shit”.

Just then the Judge’s phone rang.  It was Dagney to tell Hank their power went out and when she called an electrician, the bloodsucker told her to kiss his dick.  “Hank,” Dagney whined, “The little people, the sponges, the idlers and hangers-on’s, they won’t come out and care for us.  What’er we gonna do?”  Do?  Why nothing, because it was The Gulch’s little atomic power plant that croaked.  The residents of The Gulch put it in when they built the place and today, when the Judge called the company that made it, he was greeted with the snarl “Fix it yourself, motherfucker” and the line went dead.  Of course all the food in the freezers around the Gulch thawed out and had to be taken to the compost pile.

Uh oh.

The last we saw of the swells, the captains of industry and the rest of the ubermenschen, some were mowing lawns to earn their daily bread.  Others toiled in a factory making illuminated beer signs.  One, rather than suffer the ignominy and disgrace of manual labor, blew out his brains.  Dagney?  She flew a cash register at the local Red Owl.  As for Hank, he’d gotten a letter from his lawyer announcing the grievous fact that some young whipper-snapper who’d worked for Hank and just invented a red steel that was stronger, lighter and (above all) cheaper than Hank’s green stuff.  “Sorry to tell you, Hank,” wrote the lawyer, “But the bottom dropped out of the green steel market.  You’re broke!  See you in hell, you stingy piece of shit!”  Hank went to see Dagney’s boss at the grocery store and got a job as a bag-boy — minimum wage, natch.

Well, there you have it.  Looks like the Law of Unintended Consequences just bit the Reardon and Snaggart and the rest of Gault’s Gulch, right in the ass.

Karma’s a bitch.  (ED)

-Merlin-

 


Vladimere’s Visit.

24 July 2017

This how The Great Pumpkin looked before Vlad came to visit.  Ready, willing and able.

 

And this is how he looked after Vlad went home. Owiee, owiee, owiee.

.

 

-Merlin-