Obama Care and Student Loans – what’s the link?

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that Congress must act to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this summer.  Wow!  The two major parties actually agree on something; it’s a rare day in American politics, especially in a presidential election year.  But wait.  All is not what it seems.  I knew it was too good to be true.  The party of NO really isn’t interested in solving the student loan crisis.  No, they want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act – a/k/a Obama Care.  Here’s what they did:

The House set aside, more accurately, ignored a bill sponsored by Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney that would pay for continued student loan  subsidies and prevent the rate increases by eliminating some tax breaks for big oil and gas companies.   Instead, Speaker Boehner put up a Republican sponsored bill which passed that would preserve low interest rates at the expense of a disease prevention fund in the Affordable Care Act, a fund that provides cervical and breast cancer screenings, among other things.

For the GOP, it’s not about helping students graduate with less debt – in fact, some among them blame students for going to expensive schools.  Romney told folks to shop around more to find the best deal, as if education were  something you could buy on Amazon.  Rick Santorum hinted that young people shouldn’t aspire to college at all, calling them educated “snobs”.  One Republican leader in Florida said that the state shouldn’t be subsidizing students who major in anthropology because there are no jobs in anthropology, which of course misses the point of education all together but that’s for another post.

During the student loan bill debate, as reported in the Boston Globe article referenced above, Speaker Boehner had the nerve to say, “my god, do we have to fight about everything?”  He’s such a hypocrite.  The GOP fight is not about protecting students from mountains of debt.  Do you think they care a thing in the world about helping needy students?  Their constituents, the wealthy corporate class pay for their kids’ education from trust funds -$60,000 a year is pocket change for them.

What is the GOP fight all about?  It’s a fight against women, the middle class, and young people who aspire to enter the middle class or stay in it.  It’s a political fight against President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are hell bent on destroying.  And it’s a fight to preserve the corporate ruling class that has bought the party, which was a gift from the conservative activist judges on the SCOTUS via their anti-democratic Citizens United ruling.

And so here we are, in the year 2012, as polarized as ever, with both political parties saying – “you know I am right”, which, incidentally, is a great and little known song by Pink Floyd guitarist, David Gilmour.   Get yourselves some free Spotify and have a listen: You Know I’m Right.

Nutella Spread Misled

Nutella is not a healthy food?  I’ve been spreading the stuff on all my food – Nutella and jelly sandwiches; Nutella and Rossi on the rocks; Nutella deviled eggs; Nutella dip for carrots and celery – pickles too; Nutella fondu; Nutella almond milkshakes; and my favorite, blob o Nutella on a spoon. Frankly, I’m outraged that the stuff is nothing more than chocolate goop.  I’ve been duped.

Of course, I could have read the label.  20 grams of sugar in a spoonful – that’s a couple of bowls of Lucky Charms cereal with extra marshmallows and sugar added.  No wonder I felt so strange after my Nutella and Red Bull breakfast.  At least I didn’t feed my four year old the stuff like the mother who filed the  lawsuit against Nutella maker Ferrero, the fine Italian chocolatier.  I actually don’t have a four year old and it was my 19 year who turned me onto the stuff.

Apparently, the mother, Athena Hohenberg, watched a TV ad for Nutella and was hypnotized by its wholesome ingredients and began feeding it to her young daughter on a daily basis.  When she finally realized Nutella was little more than a spreadable chocolate bar, she sued Ferrero and won.  Now the case has become a class-action lawsuit.

The TV ad may have been misleading, but the Nutella label did not hide its ingredients or the fact that it contained palm oil, and tons of sugar.  I can understand if the label did not make it clear that it had 20 grams of sugar per spoonful or serving.  Unsuspecting people might have believed 20 grams was for the whole jar.  On the other hand, I’m no expert on oils, but palm oil sounds recreational, if not healthy.  Notwithstanding the deceptive ad, misreading is not the same as misleading.

Mad Cows

Mad Cow Disease is back  and I’m not surprised.  I have to believe it’s some kind of bovine revenge for the Pink Slime scandal.  Those hefers and holsteins have had enough.  They have not responded well to therapy and whole herds appear engaged in some sort of mass protest – something about fair trade, pink eye, antibiotics and voting.  Strays have been found greeting customers in Walmart parking lots with incoherent moos, reeking of hand sanitizer.

Where all this will lead is anyone’s guess, but if cows get the right to vote, I think the Democrats will easily take the 2012 elections.

Music Soothes Those Under the Knife

As reported in a BBC article by Michelle Roberts, according to a research team that conducted a study in an Oxford Hospital, listening to music lessons the stress of surgery.  In the study, surgeons, (lol, I typed sturgeons initially) AKA “medical DJs”, either played a collection of “easy listening” songs or a hits oriented radio station to their patients under the knife.  The other half in the study were not exposed to music.  Presumably, they heard nothing more than surgical banter, and the ambient sounds of heart monitors and breathing pumps.

The results of the study suggest that patients who listened to music had “more relaxed breathing patterns” and felt less anxious than did those exposed only to typical surgical sound effects.   On the surface, this outcome seems logical, but what if the patients despised the music selected and as a result recovered slowly, or worse.  Couldn’t they or their families sue for musical malpractice? And just what music did these surgical DJs play anyway?

I am very particular about the music I listen to.  I despise “easy listening” music which sounds too much like elevator music to me or piped in MUZAK at supermarkets that makes people buy things they don’t need; something about making them feel nostalgic for the brands of their youth – it’s all very scientific, and frighteningly so…so frightening that when I hear MUZAK or any “easy listening” music, I panic.  I think I’d go into respiratory arrest if exposed to Barry Manilow or Celine Dion.

I had surgery recently and did not leave my fate into the hands of musical sturgeons or the ambient sounds of pumps.  No, I played this song, over and over in my head hours before my surgery and it was still spinning as the anesthesia kicked in:

Genesis – In That Quiet Earth – … 2007 Remastered LP Version

There is some irony in the title of the song, I realize.  However, it is a song with no lyrics and I assure you that I had no death wish.  In fact, the surgery was actually no big deal, but the tune from the 1976 Genesis album, Wind and Wuthering, a much underrated classic, calms my nerves.  I don’t know why exactly, but I used to play it a ton back in the day when feeling stressed.  It is not “easy listening”, but I guess, like MUZAK, it makes me nostalgic for a time when a song could comfort me like a security blanket.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Apart from family and the obvious joys of life, here are a few of My Favorite Things:

Walks in the Arboretum.  The Arnold Arboretum near my home contains every tree and plant in the world, it seems, and tons of squirrels, three stagnant ponds and 1 red-winged blackbird.  My youngest daughter and I used to feast on mulberries in May and climb the hills we called Everest with pretend canisters of supplemental oxygen.

Walks on the Beach.  Any beach as long as the sand hasn’t been used by too many dogs and smokers. I like to discover shells and cool rocks, not poo and butts.

The smell of a new car, but not new car smell in a can or those little hanging cardboard thingies that reek of artificial tropical flavors and cheap sickly sweet perfume.

Coffee.  I’m an addict.  I am.  And I’m not a snob.  No Starbucks or designer roasts for me.  I’d mainline Dunkin Donuts if I could and have been known to snack on 8 O’Clock Colombian beans straight out of the vacuum packed bag.

Road trips with an improvised itinerary.

Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park.  It’s been described as “perfectly flawed”. And it is, with plenty of obstructed views and seats that face the outfield.  But it’s friendly…mostly.  Friendly Fenway.

Hostess Orange Cupcakes.  I could eat 8 in one sitting, but I only eat one or   sometimes two with a fat free almond milk chaser.

21 Worst Things Ever

Buzzfeed had a list of the 21 Absolute Worst Things in the World:  Here’s mine, in no particular order:

1.  Facebook games – as if I don’t have enough mind numbing distractions to keep me occupied.  Anyway, nothing rocks like Angry Birds!

2. Ask Your Doctor – I shouldn’t have to ask my doctor if Oxycodone or Thorazine eye drops are right for me.  He should know, right.  “Doc, I saw that purple pill on TV.  Do you think I could get me a few of those?”

3. Horn honkers – I know how to drive.  Honk and I’ll go slower, unless you’re honking to say hi or cool car, or something social, which is not likely to happen unless in the South or Canada.

4.  Stupid rotaries – or roundabouts as they are sometimes called.  You just go round and round and round.

5.  Remote controls –   All of them.  And I have too many.  And I always lose the one I need or they all run out of batteries at the same time.  Ever try to program a universal remote? My TV is the one that’s not in the programming guide. When are they coming out with the voice activated TV?  You know they have the technology.  With a government grant, MIT probably invented it 75 years ago.  The Brits will say they did, though.

6. Unfriendly signs – Resident Fishing Only.  Resident Parking Only.  No Parking – Street Cleaning.  No Standing. What’s that about? What am I supposed to just sit?

7.  Hair in the drain – especially the realization that it’s mine.

8.  No towels – and having to dry my hands by running them through my hair.  And the motion activated devices.  I never can get those to work and I look like a miming fool.

9.  Forgetting to take the trash out on trash day.

10.  The sound of wiper blades against a semi-dry windshield.

11.  When the ATM is temporarily out of service leaving me temporarily out of cash.

12.  Cheap gas at places that only accept cash when I am temporarily out of cash.

13.  Places in general that only take cash.  Come on, it’s a new millennium.

14.  Price checks while standing in a long line, and slow friendly and talkative checkers.

15.  Those shopping carts with messed up wobbly or seized up wheels.  And wide shopping carts in places with narrow aisles, that support only one way traffic.

16.  Elevator and other piped in music or Muzak.  Imagine having to listen to that stuff all day.  As a kid, I had one of those supermarket jobs and the music scarred me for life.

17.  40 songs from my Spotify Playlist called the 40 Worst Songs Ever.

18.  Static Charges –  I get shocked 100 times a day.  I should design a line of static free clothing.

19.  SUVs – You are a danger to the environment and to me and my Honda Fit.

20.  Lost socks – Seinfeld had a good joke about that phenomenon.

21.  A call from a recorded voice that says: “you have an important call, please hold the line”.  Right.

How To Live To Be 100

Want to taste the fountain of youth?  Would you like to live well into your100’s? Frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to live that long – I’m afraid I’d be way too cranky for my family.  Below is a semi-to-non scientific method for reaching and living into your golden years, though I can’t promise those years will be wrinkle free, but I’m sure some wise scientist is working on some wrinkle free spray for octogenarians.

1.  Drink Wine.  Lots of it…in moderation of course.  Reds preferably.  The more tannic  the wine the better.  Grapes soaked in oak can help you age like an oak tree.   Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, are some examples of grapes to look for in your local wine shop or “package” store.  Package store – such a weird name for a place that sells liquor.  Must have something to do with prohibition.

2.  Breathe.  Breathe deep.  Seriously, don’t forget.  And try not to snore.  I don’t think that’s too good for you.

3.  Sleep.  Sleep deep.  Get you some REMs.  And don’t snore.  Not good for you and bad for your spouse or whoever you sleep with.  Cats sometimes attack snoring owners, so if you snore, you should do something about it.  I’m sure there’s some home remedy for snoring, like watching a rerun of I Love Lucy before going to bed, or playing a round of Angry Birds.

4.  Eat right. Laugh and travel before it’s too late.

5.  Don’t fight unless the battle is right.

6.  Wear a helmet.  Just do it, don’t argue.

7.  Sex.  If you’re old enough, and especially if you’re older (but not too old that is, without medical clearance) have it safely and often.  Contrary to what Rick Santorum says, it is ok and may just extend your life.

8.  Exercise, but whatever you do, don’t join a gym, lest you want a severe case of athlete’s foot.  Probably a good place to get the norovirus too or can you only get that on a cruise ship?  Equally bad is that you’ll stop going after the first week and be stuck in a two year contract.

9.  Drink Coffee.  Because you know you can’t live without it.

10.  Listen to music.  After all, music is the rhythm of life.   It is.

GOP Mascots

New GOP mascot?

The GOP needs a new mascot.  The intelligent, elephant is no longer an appropriate symbol for the modern day Republican party for the following reasons:

Elephants have a keen sense of hearing, and are known to be good listeners, a characteristic the Grand Old Party of NO lacks.  Despite their large size, elephants are sensitive, with big hearts, perhaps even bleeding hearts; one could argue that elephants are the most liberal species in the animal kingdom.

Elephants are vegetarians.  How many GOP vegans are there?  Maybe a few or just two.  The GOP has made pink slime into a political issue, suggesting that were people to stop consuming it, the meat packing and cattle industries would lose jobs.  Better jobs than lives, I say, but the point is an elephant would want nothing to do with finely textured beef, or a slab of Prime Rib for that matter.

Elephants have big brains and long memories.  The GOP seems to have forgotten all about the past.  They seem to have completely forgotten W Bush and have selectively forgotten most of the history of their hero, Ronald Regan, who gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants and argued that the rich should pay their fair share in taxes.  And of course they have forgotten that RayGun was responsible for the biggest deficit spending spree in history which produced colossal failures like Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative) and a plumbing nightmare where the wealth got stuck in the pipe and simply never trickled down to the middle class.

Here are a few suggestions for new mascots for the GOP:

Yosemite Sam.  He’d represent the gun rights crowd including the NRA, and the Stand Your Ground laws the GOP is so proud of.  And he would represent the young guns in the party whose policies would stick it to the middle class.

The Praying Mantis Zorak, from Space Ghost.  This would be a nod to the Christian right who favor school prayer and a theocratic government.

The Weasel – There are quite of few them in the GOP leadership.  And weasels are carnivorous, blood thirsty vermin, as illustrated by their treatment of one another in the GOP race.

Honorable mention: pit bull, rattlesnake, opossum, badger, buffalo carp, snail, and Dick Dastardly.

Our Nation at Wars

Is the U.S. a nation soon to be without a war?  We pulled out of Iraq in December 2011 and have been drawing down the troops in Afghanistan.  The Obama administration has favored diplomacy to armed conflict, at least in theory.  But unfortunately, or actually maybe fortunately, the answer is a resounding NO.  We will forever be at war on terrorism, because we need a good enemy, and terror is a great enemy because it’s not a country, or people, but an idea, an enemy for life, some might even say a convenient enemy in that terror will keep the military industrial complex alive.  But apart from the war in Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism, we are a peaceful nation right?  Not so fast.

We are actually a warring nation involved in more conflicts at this very moment I dare say than any other nation on the planet.  It’s what we do, especially in an election year.  So, in addition to the wars in Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, here are ten other wars we are currently waging; raging wars you could say.

  1. The Culture Wars: these include the war on science: creationism vs. evolution, and debate over the causes of global warming; gun rights vs. gun control and the constitutional implications therein; gay marriage, including the definition of marriage; the war on union rights; death penalty politics, crime vs. punishment, punishment vs. rehabilitation and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system; affirmative action debates; hoodies and Stand Your Ground laws such as the one in Florida that is being examined in the Trayvon Martin murder case; white flight from public schools; English first movements demanding English be the one and only official language and homeschooling, not so much a war, as a statement of some sort.
  2. Environmental Wars:  An inconvenient truth, but truth nonetheless that climate is changing and not for the better which is part of a GOP led war on mother earth: blast, frack and drill til there ain’t nothing left.  The GOP is against regulations, such as the FDA, which safeguards the food and drug supply and the EPA which works to promote clean water and air.
  3. The War on Women:  There is GOP opposition to the Lily Ledbetter Act which requires equal pay for equal work; the conservative fight to limit women’s access to health care and reproductive services including contraception.  In a recent development, the GOP denounced Hilary Rosen for attacking Ann Romney for never having worked a day in her life (outside the home).  In fact, Ms. Romney has worked tirelessly to raise 5 boys and according to Mitt, “reports” to him on women’s economic issues.  Reports to him.  Good grief.
  4. The War on Caterpillars: the GOP head Reince Priebus suggested this possible war that may not be too far off if GOP science deniers continue to block bills and regulations that could slow global warming.
  5. The War on Immigrants:  talk of building more fences and deporting all the undocumented; requiring English proficiency tests for elected officials; bans on ethnic studies; dismantlement of bilingual programs; opposition to the Dream Act; profiling laws such as the one in Arizona and on and on….
  6. Storage Wars:  A reality show on A&E
  7. Class Warfare:  The GOP argues that any discussion of income inequality equals class warfare, making it sound as if the 99% are dangerous Bolsheviks or Marxists bent on some sort of radical revolution.  The other side, closer to truth in my opinion, is the GOP war on the middle class.
  8. The War on the Constitution:  The radical 5 on the SCOTUS have reinvented the constitution to preserve, empower and protect big corporations as if they were people.  Now there are laws that limit civil rights including GOP voter suppression laws that squelch democracy and gun laws that rather than control, promote violence such as the Stand Your Ground laws in the “great” states of Texas and Florida.  Having lived in Texas, I must confess to having a soft spot for the state and prefer, for the most part, not to mess with it too much.
  9. The War on Religion:  This one is complicated and a little difficult to sort out.  There’s the war on separation of church and state – creationism creeping into the schools, demands for school prayers in public schools; and there are the politically correct wars – Happy Holidays as opposed to Merry Christmas and conversely schools celebrating all religious high holidays such that kids are only going to school for something like 40 days out of the year.  The fundamentalist evangelical born again Christians support only candidates that believe in the right to life and that the world is 300 years old or something silly like that.  The evangelical bible bangers won’t support Romney because he is a Mormon but will vote for him because they despise  President Obama (awfully Christian of them) who some assert is not a Christian, but rather a Muslim or as one elderly woman insisted, an Arab – remember the woman who made that comment to John McCain?  And there is the somewhat manufactured war on Catholics institutions, who cannot subsidize contraception, but would have been required to do so under the Affordable Care Act.
  10. The War on Drugs:  This war has been raging for years to no good effect.  However, there have been some changing attitudes that have led to decriminalization laws, medical marijuana dispensaries and dens, a/k/a medical head shops, and stricter regulations on addictive opiates, growth hormones and steroids, particularly those used as performance enhancers in sports that turn players into the Incredible Hulk.

And we will continue warring, thanks in large part to political parties that keep us polarized, because that’s what we do.  Although I believe peace is patriotic, if we all lived in perfect harmony, life would not be so interesting and the blogosphere might even disappear.  That would suck.

Top 10 Reasons Santorum Out of the GOP Race

10.  Quakers from the Quaker state reminded their native son that peace is patriotic, not war mongering.

9.  Stepped down before letting out the rebel yell that he knew would eventually come and doom his campaign.

8.  Rumor has it that he never used a can of Quaker State motor oil in his life.

7.  After a brief investigation, former Senator Santorum was found to be an educated snob.

6.  After encounter with fiery water while brushing his pearly whites, Santorum forced to reconsider energy policy which of course did not sit well with billionaire supporter Foster Friess or the frack for fossil fuels crowd.

5.  Incensed that the GOP leadership refused to adopt the slogan “It’s Not Ok”.

4.  Much to the chagrin of the Tea Party and the Country First movements, rumor has it that Rick Santorum drinks coffee, not tea and prefers the Canadian Tim Horton’s to a cup of Dunkin Donuts.

3.  Teaming up with Sarah Palin to co-host the Show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

2.  Foster “Grant” Friess spotted Santorum wearing Rayban’s and severed all ties to his campaign.

1.  Could not overcome top VP hopeful Wylie Coyote’s ultimate snub:  “you, sir, don’t need my help running the GOP off the cliff.”

Disclaimer: honest humor, not fact…as far as I know.