Boot Camp Insults My Intelligence

I recently had the opportunity to visit an old friend at the military base where he’s stationed.  Since I’m somewhat above the maximum weight limit to join the forces, no recruitment attempts were made in spite of my unemployed status.

Realistically, I would have declined if I had been asked.  The odds of me making it through boot camp are exactly zero.  Come to think of it, the odds of me making it through any remedial physical fitness training before boot camp are also zero.

And even if I made it through, I’m rather clumsy.  I’m the guy who would slip on a rock and accidentally drop his gun, which in turn would fire while conveniently pointed at someone else’s head.

Putting me in the military would be a horrible idea.

Almost.

You see, this is what most people imagine when they think of military training and work:

I bet he's running after ISIS.  (Photo is in public domain.)

I bet he’s running after ISIS. (Photo is in public domain.)

And this is what I see a lot of on base every time I go:

Okay, maybe I didn't see Slovenian soldiers.  But the guy is sitting on his butt doing work.  Close enough.  (Photo credit: Carol A Lehman)

Okay, maybe I don’t see Slovenian soldiers. But the guy is sitting on his butt doing work. Close enough. (Photo credit: Carol A Lehman)

Now, I’m not stupid.  I understand that the military occasionally needs soldiers to do physically grueling work in combat zones and those soldiers need appropriate training to do that work.  However, do soldiers really need any remote level of physical fitness to fire missiles from drones while sitting at a distant computer center?

When gays were banned from the military, Americans often heard complaints of critical skills being excluded from the force because their owners had a certain taste in sex.  Even though sex was irrelevant to the job.  And now, people are being excluded from the force because they have a certain taste in food even though the resulting girth would no longer hinder many soldiers from doing their jobs properly.

The U.S. military is outdated.  Fat people skills are state of the art; moreover, diversity in body type ought to be celebrated for the unique contributions each body is able to make.

Just make sure that larger soldiers aren’t put on the front lines.  We would make easy targets…

Advertisements

Gun Owners Insult My Intelligence

Has anyone else noticed that there’s too much gun violence in the United States?

No?

Okay, you’ll have to trust me on this one.  We have this Second Amendment thing here that gives us the right to own weapons.  Lots of weapons.  Big weapons.  Shiny weapons.  Deadly and fun weapons.

We start at a young age here.  (Photo credit: sirfoxyprincess)

We start at a young age here. (Photo credit: sirfoxyprincess)

I like the Second Amendment.

Guns have been shown to deter crime when they’re not aiding crime.  If only there were a way to get the deterrent effect without all those pesky negatives.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a proposal.  The problem with gun owners is that they’re often the people who think guns are cool; that means they’d have relatively little aversion to firing one.  We should mandate that guns be given to the people who are least likely to shoot them and most likely to exercise good judgment by storing them in an appropriate gun safe.

Let’s start by arming all Catholic priests.  Everyone knows that no priest would ever harm an innocent person.  Moreover, the Church has demonstrated its willingness and ability to police wrongdoing when its members don’t meet the highest of moral standards.

After all, the clergy loves holy things, not holey things.

We all know what Jesus would do.  (Photo credit: RIOT Devon England)

We all know what Jesus would do. (Photo credit: RIOT Devon England)

New Yorker Politics Insult My Intelligence

Throughout Germany, you’ll find a chain of clothing store called “New Yorker.”  It vaguely reminds me of Abercrombie without the sex and expensive merchandise.

On second, thought, maybe it’s not so similar to Abercrombie…

Doesn't that make you want to walk in and spend all your money?  (Photo credit: halleliebe)

Doesn’t that make you want to walk in and spend all your money? (Photo credit: halleliebe)

Once upon a time, someone over there concluded that “New Yorker” would work as a store name, at least from a marketing perspective.  We have brands with “New York” in the name here in the U.S. so it’s not unique to Germany.  However, New York seems to imply coolness over there when you’re talking about superficial things like clothes.

And New York is cool.  Unless you’re a Boston fan…

And then there are the images of New York that foreign countries see and they assume that all Americans live in New York… except for Barack Obama who obviously lives in Washington and a little girl named Dorothy who hails from the mythical land of Kansas.  New York isn’t particularly associated with anything cultural in this view, so you get a blending of stereotypes:

We all live in New York and wear cowboy hats and carry guns and lassos.  Okay, maybe we’re not portrayed with lassos.  The German media doesn’t inform its people THAT poorly.

So let’s have ourselves an information party.

Images emerge from individual parts of our very large country and they usually don’t represent much beyond a segment of that location’s population.  (Hint: most Texans don’t wear cowboy hats.  Most New Yorkers don’t work on Wall street.   Most Americans don’t eat at McDonald’s unless a need arises, or uprises in the case of obnoxious children.)

But I’m tired of griping about stereotypes.

Instead, I’d like to talk about one small-scale case that does reflect on the U.S. as a whole.  Recently in Virginia, one of our country’s most highly ranking congressmen was defeated in an election that was only open to a small geographic area; he even lost to an underfunded member of his own party.

Some call it a problem with the system.  I call it useful, even though I’m not fond of the political movement that ousted him.  Right now we have a large-ish and staunchly anti-government group called the Tea Party.  (To my non-U.S. readers: the Tea Party is not a political party.  They are among the most conservative people in the Republican Party and their name is a reference to the 1774 Boston Tea Party.)

I’m not going to debate whether the Tea Party has screwed things up on various issues because I prefer to remain nonpartisan around here.  However, its ability to influence events points to something positive.  In most countries, such a sizable anti-government movement could threaten political stability.  Instead, our dissenters run for Congress and they can win whether the national party likes it or not.

The reasonable expectation of being able to wield influence and enact change outweighs any disagreements one might have with one’s current political leaders. And, despite claims to the contrary, we are still free to openly disagree.

Blogger’s note: This post was inspired by KleesButterfly’s excellent take on how Germans are misrepresented. I decided to do an American version today because of the upcoming festivities.  (Plus, I usually do European travel photos on Fridays.)  To my U.S. readers: have a most excellent 4th of July.  Don’t forget that the day is about more than flags and fireworks.  Since it’s an election year, take the opportunity to refresh your memory on how the system works around here… and do it before you start guzzling all that beer.

 

Professional Athletics Insult My Intelligence

Stadium crowd performing "the wave" ...

Okay, I cheated.  This stadium isn’t in the U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a pet peeve about sports that I’d like to share with you: idiots who care about the “home team.”

Once upon a time we were all in high school, or most of us were anyway.  As you may remember, a big deal was made of the football team and other athletic successes.  It made sense in high school because  our classmates and friends were competing under our school’s banner and you could get behind your friends even if your school spirit was lacking.  Sure, it was obnoxious when non-athlete classmates would cry “we beat Smith High School” as though they had partaken in the victory, but sports were a reasonably wholesome diversion for the community, or at least the part of the community that didn’t get drunk or pleasured behind the stadium, or those who didn’t die from heat stroke, or get coronary disease from the stadium food, or meet other undesirable ends.

And then many of us went on to college and the athletics got bigger.  Unless you went to a small college, you probably never met any of the players.  At my college, they even lived in a separate dorm, although I did observe the occasional player or two in the dining hall for us plebes.  I suppose, then, that the players were at least nominally of the community.  But as we all know, college sports improves school spirit and increased school spirit translates into alumni donations.  A visible and visibly successful sports team also increases applications for admission (which helps in the almighty US News rankings) the way advertisements do; if high school kids have heard of a school, they’ll view it more favorably.  Nevertheless, it’s no harm no foul here because no one is getting swindled… with the probable exception of those athletes whose dreams of stardom are being taken advantage of for the college’s gain.

Unfortunately, these school programs prepare their graduates to be fleeced later on.

English: Anaheim Angels vs Boston Red Sox at A...

Okay, this one is geographically correct. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And that finally brings me to professional athletics.  Most players do not hail from the city they play for and they rotate from team to team as trades and free agency arise.  To say that the average baseball player is our friend or neighbor is more than a little stretch.  Suffice it to say that there is nothing inherently Boston about the Red Sox except the franchise name, and the same goes for all other teams.   Nevertheless, the sports business has convinced the public at large that such a connection exists, which gets people excited about “their” team.  They then become willing to pay for tickets and t-shirts and all sorts of other expensive paraphernalia.   In theory, that’s not a bad thing.

In practice, it means the rest of us end up having to fund, with our tax dollars, increasingly more advanced stadiums because the sports businesses threaten to move away otherwise.  What other business can get away with demanding substantial government subsidies like that without the public becoming enraged about it?

I know the sports franchises often claim that athletics attract customers for other local businesses.  Just a thought: if we took all that money that would be spent on a new stadium and applied it to something that would benefit local businesses more directly, I’m sure we’d get more bang for our bucks.

Obamacare Insults the Unemployed’s Intelligence

ORBIS flying eye hospital - recovery room

These tubes are somewhat more straightforward than Obamacare.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I’m unemployed and single.  Being unemployed, young(ish), and without health insurance, you might think I’m thrilled about the implementation of Obama’s health care scheme.

I am not.

The legislation was sold as something that would extend health coverage to people who don’t have it, as a warm and fuzzy legislative accomplishment that would ensure basic services for everyone.  And so I thought to myself that I’d visit the website to see what I’d have to pay.  I may not have an income, but I was always pretty frugal and parting with a few saved dollars to get insured might not be a bad idea.  Emphasis belongs on the word “few” because few is a euphemistic term for how many dollars I have.

Fortunately, the website links to a rate estimator (“subsidy calculator”) that asks for some basic information (age, income, number of dependents, etc.)  and spits out some numbers.  As it turns out, my income isn’t high enough to qualify for low-income assistance (Medicaid).   The webpage explaining options for the unemployed offers up this little gem on other reduced rate possibilities:

You may qualify for lower costs for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs on private insurance based on your household size and income. Some people with very low incomes may wind up paying very small premiums. You can apply for Marketplace insurance now. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014.

You can click on that link in the quote if you like; it provides no new information.  And I’m hardly surprised.  The quote admits that “some” low-income people “may” pay very small premiums.  Nothing concrete is promised, and that doesn’t match Obama’s lofty political rhetoric.

So let’s assume I’d have to pay full price.  For the least expensive option, I’d be spending over $2,500 per year.  As you might imagine, this is why I don’t presently have health insurance.

But fear not!  I have discovered the silver lining.  Although Obamacare assesses a penalty to people who don’t enroll in health insurance, the website explains what I can do if I can’t afford the premiums:

If you feel that any Marketplace coverage is unaffordable and you don’t qualify for other exemptions, you can apply for a hardship exemption. If you get an exemption, you don’t have to pay the fee paid by other people who do not have health insurance. Read more about exemptions.

So, for an unemployed person like me, Obamacare expands my health care options by allowing me to apply for exemption from a fee that wasn’t previously required.  Brilliant!

Incidentally, the non-enrollment penalty is “sometimes” called the “individual responsibility provision,”  which accurately describes things.   The mandate to enroll is what Tea Party (radical conservative faction, for my non-U.S. readers) have opposed most vociferously.  However, the requirement was originally a conservative invention in the early 1990’s that was devised as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s proposals for reform.  Back then, conservatives were selling the mandate as a way to make sure people who could afford it were paying into the system.  After all, hospitals don’t turn away people without insurance or cash; insurance holders end up eating the costs for their uninsured neighbors through higher premiums.  The conservatives didn’t make any attempt to sell this provision as “universal healthcare” and I laud them for their honesty and their recognition that people who can afford it ought to be contributing.

As for me, I look at Obamacare and see a massively expensive government program that in no way accomplishes anything it was promised to do in a country that is too far in debt to afford much of anything.  Low-income assistance (Medicaid) already existed.

Shutting down the government and risking a debt default were rotten tactics, but now I understand the Tea Party’s continued opposition to Obamacare.  I only wish someone on the liberal side would stand up and proclaim some objections that are more damning than what the Tea Party puts forth.  In the meantime, I’ll have to grudgingly respect the Tea Party for having the sense to oppose this law… even if the ideological reasons they offer don’t resonate with me.

Negotiations Insult My Intelligence

English: U.S. President is greeted by Speaker ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I have a lot of non-U.S. readers, I should start by explaining that our government has shut down all so-called “nonessential” functions.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t include the usual bloviating by our elected officials.

Here’s what happened.  One of our major political parties professes a desire to reduce the size of government and a segment of that party has gone radical.  (I believe the segment is supported by over a fifth of voters, so it’s not insignificant.)  They express the desire to prevent Obama’s not-so-popular health care law from going into effect because they believe it represents government overreach.  The health care law wasn’t popular when it passed and Obama and Biden still have to sing its praises because the population as a whole never warmed up to it.  The radicalized politicians are refusing to allow the government to continue spending money until an agreement is reached to void or postpone the health care law.  Because the Republican Party (not Obama’s party) controls the House of Representatives, they have this power as long as the party leadership goes along with it.  On the other hand, Obama is calling this an ideological crusade and claims that they are trying to reverse the voters’ verdict in the last election.

In short, no compromise happened by the mandated funding deadline and the government shut down.  I do not wish to blame either side for this.  Instead, I want to look at how idiotic the concept of negotiations is.  Right now, one side crusades for reducing government spending and eliminating programs.  As long as no political backlash erupts against the Republicans exclusively, we will be living in the radicals’ paradise.  With a government shutdown, these advocates have almost everything they want and more than they could have ever dreamed of getting through the regular legislative process.  Of course the radicals won’t compromise.  Would you give up your paradise for the opportunity to make even more concessions?

It’s also no accident that the Republicans have floated mini spending bills for national parks and other things people are complaining about not having.  If those bills were enacted, the shutdown could continue indefinitely or at least until the next elections.  Since the public isn’t blaming either party for the shutdown, the specter of future elections can’t deter anything.

Politicians are usually morons, but I have to admit that the Republicans have performed a brilliant end run around the legislative process.  Almost every government program the Republicans oppose has died, at least temporarily.  The focus on Obama’s health care plan only disguises this.

Chemical Weapons Insult My Intelligence

English: Two Muslim women in colourful s (the ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I missed last week’s Weekly Writing Challenge so I suppose I should participate in this week’s.  Fortunately, the topic treats a critical issue of national importance: Miley Cyrus’ twerking debacle.  In the United States, we constantly hear of the value of leveraging our diversity to meet the day’s challenges.  And as it turns out, twerking originates from African American cultures, defined broadly.

It looks like we have some diversity to leverage.

I do not wish to delve into whether yet another overrated “entertainer” has crossed the bounds of decency.  I care about the contributions she can make to her country.  As we sit here debating her sexualized gestures, a much more important debate is taking place over military action in Syria.  We should all find this juxtaposition breathtaking; moreover, an obvious solution to both problems emerges if we just take a moment to think about it.

I suggest that we send Ms. Cyrus to Syria to perform in lieu of military airstrikes.  Let her keep the scant costuming and all the hip movements she wants.  Syria, being a Muslim country, is much less tolerant of such behavior by women than we are; her presence there should sufficiently punish the guilty parties.  I also suspect that the inevitable fear of an encore performance would prevent any further use of chemical weapons.

And for those of us who are sick of hearing about Miley Cyrus, this solution presents an added bonus.  Sending her to a hotspot of international conflict would ensure that we’d never have to hear about her again.  After all, the media usually avoids reporting on anything of real significance.