The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘sex’

SPAM ME–SPAM ME NOT

Those of us who maintain our blogs on WordPress are fortunate.  We are provided with a spam protection device known as Akismet.  This program reviews the comments we receive and helps reduce the amount of spam in our comment notifications.

Although I receive a lot of comments, my spam comments which Akismet has caught are starting to rev up in number and are getting close to totaling as many as the legitimate comments I receive from my readers.  About 80% of them have one thing in common.

They are designed to get us to click on them so that they can show us the product they have for sale.  And what is that product?  Prescription pharmaceuticals.

Today alone I received eight solicitations.  None originated within the United States but came from  locations in Mexico, Spain, Ireland and Italy.  The drugs they had to offer included Viagra, Cialis, doxycycline and clomid, so we have two drugs for erectile dysfunction, one that treats Lyme disease and one to increase female fertility.  Now I’m beginning to question my own orientation and I’m definitely going to cut down on my walks through the woods where tics might be present.

In April last year, the Department of Justice cracked down on several large sites that were located overseas which offered people the opportunity to play poker on-line.   Apparently, these sites will soon be able to offer their services again to American players of the game.  (I guess they’ve figured out a way to tax any profits Americans might make).

The settlement calls for the three on-line companies to pay $731 Million, a portion of which is to be reimbursed to U. S. players whose funds were used to pay the board members and owners of one of the sites, instead of being held in segregated accounts as they claimed.  I’m glad these players will get their money back – or at least most of it.

But let’s put the vigor which the government put into its effort with on-line poker into perspective.  $731 Million is a lot of money in anyone’s book.  Heck, I would accept less and still have a fun weekend at Disneyland.  But when we compare that to the total of worldwide sales of pharmaceuticals for last year it pales by comparison.

The pharmaceutical industry last year had sales of $880 BILLION globally.

So I’d like to make this an open appeal to the FDA with a little help from their buddies in the Department of Justice.  Why don’t you look into these overseas providers who solicit Americans to buy their prescription drugs from them?

After all, the FDA doesn’t regulate the standards of manufacture of these drugs and who knows if any agency in the country of origin does either.  For that matter, who knows if they actually are real drugs or placebos?  Now there’s something into which the government could really sink its teeth.

And from a strictly selfish standpoint, I’d like to cut down on the spam in my in box.

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THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE WATER

If you are even one tenth as much an aficionado of great pizza as I you have no doubt your favorite version of this sublime delicacy.  Of course, growing up in New York, I still prefer the version that is produced there.  Even a bad New York pizza is better than a great pizza from anywhere else.

Living for many years in Chicago I became acclimated to the deep dish thick crust pizza that is the signature trademark of Uno’s and Due’s – started by an Irishman, Ike Sewell.  In fact I make a very good version of it.  It’s filling and satisfying and brings back memories of sitting in Ike’s restaurants with good friends and a pitcher of beer.

In Las Vegas there are a number of pizzerias all of which throw New York somewhere in their name to entice the unwary into thinking that they’re about to get the real McCoy.  Some of them do a reasonable impersonation of the genuine article.  They carry that off almost as successfully as I would doing an impersonation of Mae West.

A new pizzeria, Dom DeMarco’s came to town last fall.  It is only about a five mile drive from the house and people talked it up as the authentic thing – coming as they do from Brooklyn.  I stopped by one day and picked up a menu.  I thought it was pricey but ordered one the next night.  I got there ten minutes early as my salivary glands were in overdrive and found that my pizza beat me to the pick up station by some time.  There was no heat lamp so I had to reheat it when I got home and there were so few toppings I wondered if I had been given someone else’s order for a plain cheese.  All this for $28.00 for a 16” pizza.

I happened to mention this the next morning at the dog park and one of the other morning regulars said he had the same experience – no toppings and overpriced.  He also mentioned that when President Obama had been in town on a fundraiser he had ordered seven or eight pizzas for his entourage from Dom DeMarco’s.  Had I known that I would have realized that I was going to get gypped and not patronized the place.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I did find a pizzeria in North Las Vegas at Uncle Angelo’s Pizza Joint in Jerry’s Nugget Casino which is as close to the real New York experience as I have come.  When I ordered one I swooned.  Great crust, plentiful fresh toppings, excellent sauce, the right amount of cheese and baked to perfection.  A 17” pizza for $17 and that included a free pitcher of beer.   I was by myself so I passed on the beer and took home six wonderful slices to enjoy over the next three evenings.

So what is it about New York pizza that makes it different?  Everyone tells me that the secret ingredient is the water.  New York reportedly has some of the finest water flowing from the tap of any city in the country.  I can believe it – and I think the water has properties that go far beyond allowing for the creation of fantastic pizza.

I say this because I read a story the other day that former Rep. Anthony Wiener (D), NY is considering a return to politics, perhaps running for Mayor of New York City.  The former Congressional Representative resigned last year because of the flap over his posting semi-clad photos of himself on the internet.  He is apparently sitting on $4.5 million in campaign contributions which could be used to facilitate that bid.

Apparently the former congressman’s incipient career as a model for men’s undergarments didn’t work out.

I have a theory that New York City water increases libido and diminishes any sense of propriety.  It is possible that this may only affect politicians.  I have a call in to former Governor Eliot Spitzer to see if I can get some confirmation of this.  I will keep you posted as developments warrant.

Until then, I would suggest that politicians who either live in or are visiting the Big Apple take caution and make sure that they only consume water that has been bottled elsewhere.

There’s something in the water.

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THE PRICE OF VIRTUE

A man was attending a seminar and at the end of the day he went into his hotel’s bar to relax with a drink.  He sat down, placed his order and pulled out his notes from several of the sessions that he thought were most helpful.  As he sat there reviewing these a very attractive young lady sat down at the bar several seats away from him.

He couldn’t help notice her as she was truly stunning, very well-dressed and seemed to have an outgoing personality.  Much as he tried to keep his mind on the seminar material he found her too distracting.  So he put away his paperwork and moved to take a seat next to her, asking her if she minded if he joined her.

“Not at all,” she said.

So they introduced themselves and began chatting.  This young lady was not only bright but she was a brilliant conversationalist and the man realized how much he enjoyed her company and how much he desired her beauty.

After he had purchased several rounds for both of them he finally got up the pluck to ask her the question that was foremost on his mind.

“I hope you won’t be offended,” he said, “But if I were to offer you ten thousand dollars would you sleep with me?”

He waited for her reaction, half expecting to have her throw her drink in his face.  But instead, she paused and said, “Why, yes I would.”

“Well, would you sleep with me if I only offered you twenty dollars?”

The young woman looked very offended and said, “What kind of a girl do you think I am?”

The man replied, “Well, we’ve already established that.  Now we’re just negotiating the price.”

Although the intensity of conversation on the subject of Wall Street and banking abuses has died down in recent weeks, there are many of us who feel that financiers who make huge salaries are being overpaid and are taking risks that threaten the collapse of our financial system.  Perhaps there is some truth to those statements.

As our story illustrates, with few exceptions, everyone has a price.  And when the prize is the potential of earning billions of dollars, there is no question that even those of us of the highest morality might find the temptation  too great to resist.  In part that explains the demise of Lehman Brothers and MF Global – among many who have fallen by the wayside.

Although I in no way mean to serve as an apologist for the business of banking, I would say, in their defense, that making money is the sole objective of their business.  But if they do that in an irresponsible way that threatens the well-being and security of the rest of us, it is not only our right but our duty to object.

Speaking of finance, there is another industry which is playing its part in contributing to our outstanding and rising deficits which also threaten our well-being.  That is the business of healthcare.

Now I realize that most of us have a view of our doctors as trained specialists who have spent years learning their craft.  We see them as being charitable good-doers who want nothing more than to see all of us whole and well.  And, of course, there are many in this profession whose focus is exactly that.  They run clinics for the poor and survive through small contributions.  God bless them.  They are true beacons of light who have taken the meaning of their oath seriously and are living it daily.

But if our healthcare system depended solely on these charitable souls, the line to get in to see your doctor would extend across the country.  No, most of us depend on the dispensation of our medical services from practitioners who have a dual mandate – to take care of the sick and to make a profit doing it.  Unless we all suddenly start receiving Manna from Heaven, each of us has to do something to pay our way through life – a practice which we call “earning a living.”

Although it is not our customary way of thinking about it, I believe that it is only fair to call medicine, just like banking, a business.  And just as in the case of egregious behavior on the part of some bankers, we also have the right to call into question the motivation which guides some in the medical industry.

About twenty years ago I remember speaking with the partner in a consulting firm that looked to improve the efficiency of the way in which hospitals functioned.  He was a good friend and the two of us used to share horror stories about our respective businesses.

Randy told me about speaking with two hospitals (the only two hospitals) in a relatively small town in downstate Indiana.  Both of them were struggling to make it financially and they needed his firm’s help.  So he sat down with the administrators and senior staff of the hospitals over a week’s time to review their activities.  He returned to Chicago and spent a few days writing his report and scheduled a return visit to discuss it with both staffs.

Given their precarious financial positions, the first thing on his agenda was to discuss with them the fact that they had both placed orders for a new piece of medical equipment.  It was some sort of imaging machine and the cost which each had committed to incur was over $1.5 million.  The doctors on staff at both hospitals were in agreement that once it was delivered, the equipment would only be used once or twice a month.

So Randy suggested that one of the hospitals cancel their order and that they share the cost of the equipment and decide at which hospital it would be installed.  As he put it, describing the reaction to this recommendation, “You would have thought I was talking to a bunch of nuns and called the Pope the Anti-Christ.”

Despite the frosty reception to this statement he went on to explain the finances which lay behind his thinking.

“You can expect to be reimbursed approximately $2,000 per procedure.  If both hospitals combined do two of these a month, that comes to about $50,000 per year.  With only one imaging machine it would take thirty years to recoup your investment – and with two, it would obviously take sixty years.  But with the progress that is being made in this kind of technology you can expect that this equipment will be obsolete in ten years or less – so the fact is that you will never recover your investment – not even on one machine.  Buying  two is even more absurd.”

He continued his presentation and was gratified that they liked at least some of his proposals on how to improve efficiency.  Sadly, these represented the smallest improvement in the hospitals’ balance sheets.  They rejected all those which would have truly made a difference.  And, simply out of hubris, both hospitals took delivery of their new imaging equipment.  One hospital couldn’t have its rival look more modern and up-to-date than they were.

Several years passed and Randy and I got together one night for dinner.  During our conversation he asked if I remembered his telling me about these two hospitals.  I had.

He said, “Well, the end of the story is that one of them closed their doors last week.”

When we think of holding on to our virtue we often see this in terms of being able to resist the temptations money offers.  But if we really delve into the subject, being able to overcome our egos is just as significant a challenge.  We see that in the behavior of our “celebrities” and occasionally we see that in two small hospitals in southern Indiana.

Does virtue have a price?  Indeed.  And if we forego our responsibility to hold on to it the price is very dear – and it is one for which we all pay.

A VERY MODEST PROPOSAL

When I first began writing this blog I wanted to offer those who read it something a little bit different – something that they weren’t likely to see elsewhere.  Of course, the stories of the lessons I learned from my family are uniquely mine and have never received any media coverage – so they certainly qualified.  But my main focus was to ask people to think about America and our challenges – and to try to offer some unique solutions.

I try to keep abreast of the news and it astounds me how time after time and day after day there is one story or another about a public official who has gone sexually astray.  The list is so extensive that a person who didn’t know better might think that sexual dalliance is not only common among public officials but might be a bona fide job requirement for holding their position.

There is no doubt that sexuality is one of humanity’s most controlling forces.  And I personally believe that what an individual does with that is between them and their own conscience – unless it adversely affects someone else.  But on the other hand, if an individual is willing to betray the presumed sanctity of his marriage vows and then go home and treat his wife as if nothing happened, it makes me wonder – do you and I have the right to scrutinize that person’s character and make judgments (a word I really dislike) about him as an individual.

I believe that in this case the answer is, “Yes, we the voters do have the right.”  Let me explain my thinking.

Two people in a sexual relationship are about as intimate as I think people can get.  When it is combined in a marital arrangement, it goes beyond passion and takes on the cloak of trust and responsibility and commitment.  Those are good and wonderful things if both parties earnestly try to fulfill their part of the bargain.

But if a person willingly breaks that commitment to the person on earth with whom he shares the deepest intimacy, I cannot help but wonder how seriously he will take his commitment to those who put him in office.  He only has to face us occasionally at the polls – while he has to live his life of deception daily in front of his spouse.

When it comes to voting on that arms contract, if this person can so easily cast aside his marriage vows, why should we not expect that he might also take a bribe or a kick-back from an unscrupulous supplier?  I will admit that writing my earlier post today about the John Edwards trial set me on this path.  I began thinking how I would vote if I happened to be a member of his jury.

To return to my theme of trying to present novel solutions and using my historical background I considered how other great nations and empires had addressed this problem.  Specifically, I thought about the ancient Chinese empires; the Egyptian Dynasties; and the Babylonian Empire.  They shared a common way of dealing with this issue.

In each of these great empires, all of those who served the state in important posts (of course, this was before women’s lib so they were all men) were eunuchs.  This naturally curtailed any skirt-chasing  (or whatever the ancient equivalent name for that was) and allowed these highly trusted individuals to focus on the job for which they were hired.

Of course, today we have an inclusiveness in our society which allows women to hold any of the posts that were previously only available to men.  So in the interest of equity, should we implement the ancient remedy to keep our male advisors on the straight and narrow, it seems only fair to do the same for those ladies who desire to hold elected office.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Women who serve the public in office shall not be allowed to use any beautifying enhancements such as lipstick, blush, mascara, rouge, etc.; they shall not be allowed to avail themselves of face-lifts (sorry Nancy P.); they may not engage in any treatments to reduce cellulite and may not purchase clothing that is considered provocative.  (We will, of course, create a Federal agency to implement more specific rules and oversee this whole thing).

I’m planning on submitting this idea to my Congresswoman as soon as I can reach her.  I may have to sell certain parts of this but I am sure that her ears will perk up when she reads about creating a brand new Federal agency.  (She’s a liberal Democrat).

If you think about it, we have so many problems which we seriously need to address that is if this is all it takes to get us back on track, what I am offering is really a very modest proposal.

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