Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Democrat's prayer (and also a comedian's)

Oh please Lord, let Sarah Palin win the Republican nomination for President. Yes, nominate Sarah, who once revealed to Katie Couric that she doesn’t know the name of a single newspaper, probably because she has never read one. Assuming she knows how to read.

If it can’t be Sarah Palin, Lord, let it be Michelle Bachman, whose ignorance of history makes her a laughing stock.

If it can’t be Michelle Bachman, Lord, let it be the plastic Republican who is named after a baseball glove and who once strapped his dog to the roof of his car and roared down the highway, and who was for Obamacare before he was against it.

If it can’t be Mitt Romney Lord, let it be Paul Ryan, whose plot to kill Medicare has the majority of Americans seething with outrage.

Y’see, I believe that America for some strange reason is coming to its senses. And when the process is complete, the Republicans are finished. I was about to say “the crazy Republicans,” but is there any other kind?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Harold Camping was right. The world absolutely did end on Saturday, May 21st. You simply failed to notice it.

According to a story by Joanne Scheffler in the Cincinnati Enquier, end-of-the-world prophet Harold Campaing is “missing in action” while his radio station is playing nothing but music.

Camping has not made, says Scheffler, “at least an attempt at an explanation as to why his predictions "... have failed again … just like his last on September, 1994.”

Okay, so I have a theory. I know it’s only a theory, but play along with me here.

Suppose the world did end on Saturday. So many of us were left behind that we haven’t noticed any changes. Harold, of course, has gone up to heaven.

Meanwhile, the end of the world is happening, only it’s happening on the slow side. A tornado wipe out a third of Joplin, MO. Do you think that’s simply a coincidence? Than how about the flooding Missouri and Mississippi Rivers?

It’s too late to repent, dudes. You and are doomed. The righteous are already in heaven. As for the rest of us, none of us is getting out of here alive, even if it takes a few decades to die.

Incidentally, you’ll know for sure you’re in Hell if the Republicans take over the Senate as well as the House come the next elections.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New York’s Emperor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hoodwinked by fairies, seems to think subway beggars have been whisked off to Never-Never Land

So if you regularly ride the New York subways, you’ve heard speeches something like the these a couple of times a week from somebody shaking a filthy paper coffee cup full of coins at you:

“Ladies and gentleman, your attention please. I got AIDS. My wife is in the hospital with TB. I’m homeless. I got three kids to support and one of them is in a wheel chair when he fell out a window on the other two, who are on crutches. I’m a Viet Nam veteran. I lost my job. All I’m asking is that you give me a dollar, a dime, even a penny will help, anything you got….”

“I am part of da United Effort To Help Da Homeless Inc. If you’re carrying a cheese sandwich you don’t need, a ham sandwich you don’t need, a happle you don’t need, anything like dat, we will pass it on to some hungry people. Udderwise, please donate money…”

“I ain’t out there robbing nobody or killing nobody like other people….all I want is money to buy food. Do you want me to have to mug you for it?”

You’ll also occasionally hear people around you muttering, “Why doesn’t the mayor do something about this? This is against the law.”

Well here’s why he’s doing nothing – or at least nothing effective. According a story by Leo Standora in the New York Daily News, during a press conference somebody asked the mayor about panhandlers in the subway. His immediate reaction?

Bloomberg got irritated when the question of panhandlers came up in a press conference.

He cut off the questioner, saying, "There aren't very many panhandlers left, in all fairness to the MTA. Come on."

Yeah, right. Come on, Emperor Mike. There are also the quartets that come through crowded cars, elbowing riders out of the way to sing do-wop songs or to play mariachi music, followed by some aggressive passing of a hat. There are people with sunglasses banging passengers' shins with white canes while holding out a cup or a hat or a bag.

And did I mention the insane homeless who can empty a car during rush hour while they lie across seats, reeking unbearably of days-old sweat and excreta in their pants, picking lice and bedbugs from their hair and clothing, while laughing insanely, or cursing, or glaring menacingly at the passengers halfway down the car who are trying not to inhale?

Nope, the mayor, who claims to ride the someway to work regularly (although he takes a limousine, escorted by a security detail, to a subway entrance in midtown rather than walk to the one near his private mansion)…the mayor hasn’t noticed any of this.

Maybe he’s just out of touch. Maybe, as the New York Daily News suggested, the security detail that precedes him into the subway at 59th and Lexington (his home is on East 79th Street, a mile and two subway stops to the north)…maybe the security detail scares the panhandlers away. Maybe he’s secretly blind and has cotton stuffed up his nose and in his ears.

Or maybe he’s been hoodwinked by his staff, or maybe even by leprechauns or fairies, into believing those aren’t really beggers, they’re tailors who are sewing him a new suit of clothes. After all, the expensively-tailored Bloomberg did in effect declare himself emperor, overturning a term limits law that he had himself supported so he could run for a third term.

Given the Bloomberg bait-and-switch record on term limits and other matters, my guess is that he’s simply a liar.

So is he so out of touch that he doesn’t see or hear about the legions of panhandlers in the New York subways? Or does he see them but pretend they don’t exist? As my pal Hotwire Kellington from down the block during my Brooklyn childhood used to say, “Youse pays yer taxes and youse takes yer cherce.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mass murder accessory gets 15 and a half days in jail for each person he helped kill. Not a bad deal (for him) in my opinion.

I read that John Demjanjuk, the former SS. Guard at Sobibor concentration camp during WWII, is biding his time in a nursing home after a court sentenced him to a whopping five years in prison for being a Nazi death camp accessory to 28,060 murders.

I whipped out my handy-dandy calculator (well, actually I clicked on its icon) let the math happen, and calculated that he gets 15.6 days in prison for each person he helped to exterminate.

At that rate, it would pay some enterprising-but-out-of-work person to contract to kill, say, three people at $25,000 a head. You, for example? You'd have to do 46 days plus in prison, but you'd emerge with 75 grand in walking around money. Not a bad tradeoff.

Why such a light sentence?

I get the feeling the legal authorities felt sorry for Demjanjuk. He’s 91, wheelchair-bound, and got schlepped almost straight from court to the tender ministrations of what I suppose are geriatric nursing home nurses. And he had been on trial for two years. Poor baby!

Okay, okay, to be fair to the prisoner, an Israeli court dismissed a conviction against him (which named him as "Ivan The Terrible," a particularly sadistic death camp guard) as a case of "mistaken identity." And Demjanjuk claims he was framed by the Soviets, although it's hard to imagine why they'd go to all that trouble to mess up an otherwise nonentity.

Anyway, he’s not off to the clink yet anyway. He has six months or more of an appeals process coming up, during which he’s free to enjoy his nursing care, so long as he doesn’t leave the country.

My guess is he’ll die of natural causes before the bars ever slam shut behind him . Meanwhile the Ukranian community of Munich will take care of him and his ailments.

And not with gas in a “shower room.”

Too bad. This is almost a case of life imitating art, the art being a 1970-something book by Lawrence Block in his Tanner mystery series called The Case of the Cancelled Czech.

Tanner, a kind of freelance secret agent, captures another doddering former concentration camp killer and wheels him – on a gurney if I remember correctly – to an oven, and shoves the SOB in while he's still alive.

However, real life is so much more civilized than art.

Except when it isn't.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

What good is Medicare if doctors won’t accept it? Thank Republicans in Congress if you can’t find an experienced doctor to treat you.

Someone I know in California is 66 and has a heart condition. He’s had open heart surgery in the past. He had to wait six weeks to get to see his own cardiologist.

He’s not alone.

The problem is that while inflation increases, our Republican Congress has been whittling away at reimbursement rates, all in the name of cutting medical costs. Consequently, fewer and fewer doctors are accepting Medicare patients.

What follows is the general impression I get of paperwork that people have been getting from Medicare recently. It certainly feels right:

Your doctor charged: $9,750

For: nine hours of tricky neurosurgery.

We reimbursed him: $18.79.

You may be liable for the balance.

Have a nice day.

Sadly, doctors are being reimbursed at a pinchpenny rate that would bring joy to the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge. Yes, we need to control Medicare costs. But the way to start is by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, medical equipment makers and other profiteers – the big businesses that are out to make the elderly swallow a bitter pill of backbreaking costs on medications for chronic illnesses. These are costs that no other western country is paying.

Little wonder that last year, the number of doctors accepting Medicare patients dropped to record lows thanks to ridiculous provider payment rates.

And little wonder that Buzzflash.com is declaring, “Eric Cantor implies he supports death panels, as long as insurance companies decide and the rich are exempted.”

As long as the Republicans keep driving down doctors’ reimbursements we can be sure that:

•Fewer doctors will accept Medicare patients

• More Medicare patients will die or become gravely ill unnecessarily

• Fewer smart and talented people will want to incur the debt for the education it takes to become doctors. Instead, they’ll seek out a career trading subprime securities derivatives – and make billions while the nation grows poorer and sicker.

•Thanks to Republican (and some Democratic) servants of the insurance agency, there will be one class of medical care for the very rich and for Congress. The rest of us can face Republican death panels.

No wonder they’ve carried on about these death panels in the past. The Republicans invented the idea and evidently are champing at the bit to deploy it.