when the status quo frustrates.

In Defense of ReGifting

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I like to give gifts. And I mean real gifts- gifts that I’ve thought about, gifts that I’ve dedicated myself, gifts that give a part of myself to my friends and loved ones. Gifts they think they’ll use. I make my gifts to my friends, generally. Some friends get Christmas cookies in tins that I pick up from the thrift store. And, sometimes, I regift, or give hand-me-downs: books that I think my sisters will like that I’ve already read, a bed-set that I’ve used for my friend that is currently using a couch pillow and a comforter, sewn mittens for a friend using fabric scraps I caught on clearance, or something I found in the thrift store in the first place. And, if I am to listen to the mainstream media, by doing so I am committing a social faux pau on scale with farting at a wedding.

Now, one could make the argument that criticizing the mainstream media is picking the low-hating fruit. That’s probably true- after all, all of those ads on the side of the page for “Brand New Shiny Toy” and “Get Rich Now” aren’t there by accident. These sorts of messages are designed to make one think that worth is something you can put a price tag on and getting the bauble that “everyone” (or Every Woman, or Every Man) wants can be a substitute for the time and energy that pursing an actual relationship takes. The point of these messages can basically be boiled down to “More expensive gifts mean you care more” and it’s quieter message of “If you don’t spend a lot you don’t care that much”.

But, it isn’t just the mainstream media. My mom is paranoid about being caught regifting, I was once told by an ex-boyfriend (who came from a wealthy family) that no gift is better than a cheap gift. And seriously, what a fucked-up idea is that? If you aren’t rich, if you don’t have a ton of disposable money to go buy the shiny, you shouldn’t give a gift? You shouldn’t enjoy the feeling of making someone feel special by giving them something all done up in wrapping paper and bright ribbon? The warm feeling when their face lights up? Or, equally as terribly, if your social circle is broke, you shouldn’t enjoy getting gifts from them? Is it really so much more terrible to get a book that’s already been read as opposed to getting nothing at all?

Getting upset about regifting is a mark of class privilege that is disgusting. Now, of course, I still of the dear belief that you give gifts because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. I am not an owed a gift, nor is anyone beholden to give me one. But, if the gift is used, but it is still clear that it’s giving was after thought about what YOU would want and need, is that really worse than giving you a shiny that you have no use for? I say “no”. It is the thought that counts, and it is clear if thought has been given.

I know that gifts are not always given out of love. There’s social obligation, there’s expectation, there’s giving to brag. And it’s really sad, because at the end, that’s what makes the holiday season stressful and annoying, as opposed to a time of warmth and joy.

Sarah Palin Smokes Some Weed, Hallucinates Plot By Dems To Euthanize Trig

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Here she goes!

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

I agree, Thomas Sowell has sort of said that, along with a lot of other crap that clearly lodged itself in Sarah’s one brain cell and is responsible for the above stoned-sounding babble. To quote his crap more precisely:

The government does not have some magic wand that can “bring down the cost of health care.” It can buy a smaller quantity or lower quality of medical care, as other countries with government-run medical care do.

It can decide not to spend as much money on the elderly as is being spent now. That can save a lot of money — if you think having a parent die earlier is a bargain.

The idea of a “duty to die” has been making some headway in recent years around the fringes of the left. It is perfectly consistent with the fundamental notion of the left, that decisions should be transferred from ordinary citizens to government elites.

To briefly address his rather astonishing claim that all other countries with government-run medical care offer either less medical care or lower quality medical care–and what metrics are we using to make this sweeping statement, one can’t help but wonder? According to the WHO, in 2000, although the U.S. spent a higher portion of its gross domestic product on its health care system than any other member country, it ranked 37 out of the 191 countries in terms of actual performance. The WHO used not just one but five performance metrics to determine its rankings:

1. overall level of population health;
2. health inequalities (or disparities) within the population;
3. overall level of health system responsiveness (a combination of patient satisfaction and how well the system acts);
4. distribution of responsiveness within the population (how well people of varying economic status find that they are served by the health system);
5. and the distribution of the health system’s financial burden within the population (who pays the costs).

One could hardly accuse the WHO of underanalyzing the situation–frankly, I suspect Sowell and Palin and the other loud objectors would consider this list far too comprehensive–after all, what do they care about no. 4? And the selfish hysteria they display in regards to no. 5 is pretty pathetic–

But aside from that, it’s the euthanasia contention that really interests me here. Specifically, what really interests me is the lovely portrait both the Palinator and Thomas Sowell appear to be painting of our current private health insurance system, where apparently everyone who has private health insurance finds that all their health care decisions, including end-of-life care, are made by the individual in concert with his loving doctor, with no other outside cost-based interference at all.

For a quick anecdotal reminder that, erm, this isn’t QUITE EXACTLY the case–I can’t be the only woman who gave birth in the early to mid-1990′s, right? And I know I’m not the only woman who got kicked out of the hospital less than 24 hours after giving birth, because the majority (if not all) of health insurance plans instituted a policy of flatly refusing to pay for longer than that, regardless of the fact that the standard postpartum stay recommended by physicians was 48-72 hours. In 1996, the federal government ended up passing legislation requiring health insurance companies to pay for a minimum of 48 hours, after the postpartum complication rate for both women and newborns abruptly began to soar. Oops!

For a less anecdotal statement of fact as to why that contention is total bullshit, save me some time. For those of you who have health insurance from a non-government source, please go look at your policy. I mean really look at it, not just skim over the co-pay and how much you have to fork out a month for you, you + 1 or you + 2 or more–read the whole damn policy. And tell me what care your health insurance company–not you or your doctor–what medical decisions about your care that your health insurance company does not now control already that the government suddenly would.

I think you’ll find that there aren’t any. All you’re doing by switching from private to public, folks, is changing masters–and it’s worth a think or two that you’re changing to a master that you do at least have some elective control over, eh?

(Note to Sarah: To the best of my knowledge, dear, nobody in either the private or the public sector is recommending the euthanization of babies with Down Syndrome. So really, you can relax!)


UPDATED: More from Salon: “The ‘death panels’ are already here”

UPDATED: Even her fellow Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from this one.

The Passion of Ayn Rand

Monday, April 27th, 2009

That is the title of her biography, written by one of her ex-adherents who also happened to be the wife of a man Ayn had a long-term affair with–given all that, one would expect the tone of the book to be rather more unsympathetic than otherwise. However, that’s not really the case. I read it over a decade ago for a college class–the one and only women studies course I ever took required us to choose and write an in-depth paper about an influential woman of the first half of the twentieth century. I chose Ayn Rand, for three reasons: first, because she fit the criteria as presented; second, because I have a rebellious streak and knew full well that we were expected to choose a feminist, regardless of what the criteria explicitly stated; and third, because I was genuinely interested in the woman behind Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.



Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Just beautiful. ::sniff!::

Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009


A billion dollars isn’t what it used to be…

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Red Queen has been thinking about parity:

If you or I were to rob a bank (no guns, no violence, just a scary note and the threat of violence) we’d be facing some serious jail time. But if you are a banker and you rob the treasury department with threats of violently collapsing the entire world economy, you don’t get jail time. You get TARP money. And you still get to hand out annual bonuses and bitch about salary caps.

Now if you or I had to apply for government assistance, there would be some serious investigation into our finances. If you own a car worth more than a couple thousand bucks ($5000 I think), you have to sell it and use up that money first. If you have stocks or bonds or a 401k even a prepaid funeral plan, you have to use that up first. Then maybe you can get some kind of government help. Maybe.

But if you’re a banker, and you’ve run your company into the ground, your own assets are safe. The government will not require you to sell off your vacation house and pump the proceeds back into the bank before writing a check. They won’t even require salary cuts or end bonuses (who the fuck gives out annual bonuses at failing companies anyways?)

What is absolutely fascinating to me are the cases in between– like Kazutsugi Nami, a Japanese businessman/swindler who invented a “quasi-currency” called “Enten” (円天=”money from heaven”), and after eight years of this, recently got arrested on accusations of defrauding thousands of investors of at least $1 billion (and possibly as much as $2 billion).

You can only stand slackjawed at the awesome chutzpah of sharks like this:

Moments before his arrest in front of the TV cameras, Nami was unrepentant as he held court over breakfast in a restaurant near his Tokyo office.

“Please shoot the face of the biggest conman in history,” he said, sipping from a glass of beer at 5.30am. “Time will tell if I’m a conman or a swindler. I’m leading 50,000 people. Can they charge a company this big with fraud?”

Shortly before being led away by police, he was asked if he felt sorry for his cheated investors. “No. I have put my life at stake,” he said. “Why do I have to apologise? I’m the poorest victim. Nobody lost more than I did. You should be aware that high returns come with a high risk.”

So Red Queen is right, people get locked up for stealing chewing gum but get a private island nation if they get some buddies together to steal seven or eight hundred billion dollars at a time. What’s interesting to me is that, in this new age of economic crapitude, evidently even stealing a mere billion dollars isn’t enough to save you from the slammer.

(In truth, I think that Nami’s problem wasn’t that he wasn’t scamming enough money. Even as paltry a sum as a billion dollars is surely enough to protect you, if you do it right. It’s just that that he tried to go it on his own. Gotta go through the family. If he’d funneled just 5% of that money into lobbyists, he’d still be a free man.)

Contemplating Obama and Economic Recovery

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

While I don’t agree with everything he has to say in the column he wrote today for the Washington Post, I can’t help but admire his obvious literacy. It’s funny how one falls into habits of thought without realizing it–I’d really come to view the President of the United States as merely a symbol for a specific ideology, not as an individual who acted upon national matters after giving them in-depth and intelligent thought specific to their particular circumstances and concerns.

I’ve had the same mental whiplash lately with feminist issues–I had subconsciously come to accept that women were going to be irrevocably second-class citizens where the national government (and most state governments) were concerned; the fight was to move the populace as much as possible to limit the powers of governance that naturally adhered to this ideal. The notion of “top-down” changes in women’s status had completely left me as something that actually came to mind as a possible solution. All directives coming from the “top” were going to be anti-woman; the only workable strategies were going to have to come from we-the-masses.

But, back to the economic stimulus package–I’ve been really hesitant to weigh in because economics is not my area of expertise, especially on the macroscopic scale. I never feel qualified to make pronouncements about what will and will not work to help repair our national economy; however, I will go ahead and venture my tentative opinions here; I’d love to hear from others with better knowledge than me of how macroeconomics work (and who are not simply quoting a party line, from either side of the aisle).

The Prez writes, in his WaPo article:

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

From which I distill the following*:

(*If I’m partially or completely off-base with any of these, definitely let me know! Like I said, this whole area of understanding is not really my forte.)


Spiritual journeys are marked by suffering. Other people’s, primarily.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

This morning, they had Michael Lewis on, talking about the long-term effects of Wall Street, as it continues to gently slide into the sewer (or into, uh, some deeper sewer). He mentioned, amongst other things, that the utterly-ridiculous salaries and bonuses that once characterized Wall Street are probably at an end. He also thinks that the ridiculousness of Wall Street bled into ridiculousness in upper management everywhere, leading to CEOs regularly drawing paychecks and bonuses in the range of tens of million dollars—so that’s probably going to crash pretty hard, too. This is, I think, a little naïve, but he’s the economist. If he’s right, I will regard it as “nice.” It’s impossible to muster too much excitement, though—I expect we will still be living in a world where CEOs draw seven-figure compensation at a minimum, whilst their line workers draw minimum wage, and their slaves draw, perhaps, barely enough to minimally survive (unless the harsh realities of the market force their wages down, of course).

And then there’s this,

A few months ago, Lewis visited Princeton University, his alma mater, “to find out what the kids who were going to be investment bankers were now going to do with their lives.” He says he was “so frustrated with how unimaginative young people had become in choosing their path in life that I thought that someone should establish a kind of ‘Scared Straight’ program for Ivy League students.” He’d require them to spend a week with a hedge fund manager in Greenwich, Conn., “just to see how miserable” they’d be after 20 years.

The plunging market has changed many of their plans, Lewis says. “The kids … who thought they were going to be financiers are having to rethink the premise, and that’s a very good thing.” ‘Liar’s Poker’ Author Sees Upside To Market Crash, NPR

So, one of the keen benefits of a global market crash—you know, the thing that’s leaving some people struggling, and lots of people dead—is that extremely privileged white people will really have the opportunity to find themselves.

Did anybody else follow this?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

This is Slate’s series of articles, structured as back-and-forth letters between a group of conservative “thinkers,” that began the day after Election Day and ran through the following Friday. I found it rather fascinating, in the dust mite sense.

Just in case you haven’t read it, and don’t have time to wade through all fourteen full-length pages of it, I have summarized the meat of each entry below:

Jim Manzi, chairman of an applied artificial-intelligence software company and contributing editor of National Review: It’s finally happened. The middle class has figured out that voting Republican is voting against their own economic interests. The Reagan mantra appears to be losing its hypnotic effect. We must find a new chant to bamboozle them with. Hey, I know–let’s resegregate public schools, start shooting illegal immigrants on sight and concentrate on recruiting the whitest foreign nationals we can find to fill our immigration quotas instead!

Douglas Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University: Barack Obama is Ronald Reagan reborn. Also, could we stop obsessing on abortion?

Ross Douthat, author of Grand New Party and a blogger for the Atlantic: No.

Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and author of It’s My Party, Too: I refuse to believe that the middle class figured that out. Issues, schmissues– to all those people the election was just a popularity contest! and Barack Obama, unfortunately, is much hotter than Bush. All we have to do is make sure they don’t associate Bush with us from now on.

Tucker Carlson, author and commentator for MSNBC and The Daily Beast: I agree that it’s all a popularity contest, Christine–it’s not enough to dissociate ourselves from him, though, we need to find somebody even cooler than Obama to be our frontman. Also, we need to give the middle class a new strawman to hate–that was so effective during the Cold War. Our efforts to replace “Communists” with “Islamofascists” appears to have lost a lot of its oomph.

Ross Douthat: ABORTION, hello?? Abortion!

Douglas Kmiec: Reagan was a god. I really think that Obama is his second coming.

Jim Manzi: You’re probably right, Christine; and Douglas, if you think a single damn one of us is going to do anything other than flatly oppose every last line of Obama’s liberal pinko agenda with our dying breaths, you’re quite mistaken.

Kathleen Parker, author and syndicated columnist who also blogs for the Washington Post: I agree with Christine too and I’ll go even further and say that the deciding popularity factor wasn’t even Bush’s lack of cool or Obama’s abundance of it, but McCain’s horrid, stupid, winking, redneck of a MILF vice-presidential candidate. And no, it’s not fucking elitist of me to say so!

Douglas Kmiec: Ross, Obama is my hero. And I’m pro-choice. Here, let me kiss your ass vigorously to make it up to you in the most passive-aggressive way possible.

Tucker Carlson: Doug, you sound like a woman, and there is no worse insult I could possibly lob at you than that.

Ross Douthat: Well, I loved Sarah Palin because she at least was willing to call out abortion for the baby-murdering slut-enabling conspiracy that it is. But I agree with Tucker that we need to find a man who can compete with Obama for sheer coolness, though I must say that I personally thought Bill Clinton was cooler. McCain? L-O-S-E-R!

Christine Todd Whitman: Maybe if I address this post to everybody, Ross won’t realize I’m speaking directly to him?–look, the abortion bullshit is no longer a winning strategy. The only people who can’t get over it are the Jesus freaks, and clearly, they’re not a majority voting bloc, so screw them. Back to the important topic here–how do we repackage Reaganomics so that the middle class will buy it all over again? Honestly, I’m just praying that the Democrats screw up so badly that every last one of the middle class ends up completely bankrupt. They’ll come running back to us then!

Douglas Kmiec: God, I miss Reagan. Have I said that already?

Wall Street’s Shadow Market

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Watch CBS Videos Online

(Hat tip: Synikal)

I Like Laughing

Monday, September 29th, 2008

It’s either that or crying, c’mon!

(Though in Real Life, of course, Congress did not actually go for it.)

I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for 700 billion dollars today

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I’m not really at a moment in my life where I’m able to post properly, alas. Just thought I’d pop in to register a quick nod acknowledging that this Hellbound handbasket we’re all riding in has just picked up some steam, now that the Democrats appear to be joining hands with the Republicans to raid the US Treasury and hand it all to the rich bastards who got us into this mess in the first place. Rather than, say, bringing them up on charges for it.

For the in depth analysis, I recommend any of Arthur Silber’s last 10 posts or so. Please don’t mind the naughty words he uses. Sometimes “stupider than shit” really is the apropos turn of phrase.

And if you don’t mind a healthy dose of smug in your pith (and I for one don’t!), IOZ really satisfies:

How can I make this into a metaphor that everyone can understand? Remember in mob movies, how they’d set up a front business to launder money, run as much through as they could, run the business into the ground, torch the place, and then collect the insurance? Well. There it is.

In the mean time, I’m going to make a small prediction.

Although much of Charlie Chaplin’s humor is timeless, some of it doesn’t fare as well today. One reason is because so much of his humor was “food humor”. The Little Tramp was perpetually hungry, and scrounging or stealing food in ingenious ways (sometimes even from children!). This is a famous scene from The Gold Rush (1925– do your best to ignore the unnecessary narration that Chaplin added later):

Humor like this is only moderately amusing today; but it used to be HILARIOUS. That’s because starvation was a common cultural theme 100 years ago. Americans could relate in a way that, nowadays, most of us (thankfully) don’t.

I think that, the way things are going, “food humor” is poised for a comeback before too very long.