Thursday, October 09, 2014

Should we stop flights from Ebola-torn countries?

Should we stop flights from Ebola-torn countries? Here's a reality check: The economic impact of Ebola, if it spreads in the US, is bigger than most people realize. We will find ourselves plunged into another Great Depression, with little way to recuperate from it in our lifetime. “How?” sputter the current administration’s apologeticists in righteous indignation.  Here’s how:

Our healthcare system, already plunged into chaos and financial difficulties due to new government mandates, will come to a staggering halt when faced with Ebola. The insurance companies that weathered the new standards of Obamacare will be faced with bankruptcy as medical costs soar for patients who must undergo expensive treatments. Many of these patients will die (50%, if statistics hold true, but I’ll even give you 40%) and they will not be able to pay their portion of those costs. Hospitals will also be bankrupted and strained beyond capacity. Some healthcare workers will quit, rather than have to work directly with such a plague.

Transportation will grind to a halt. Therefore, the supply of goods and services, even basic ones such as food and water, will be impacted.

Some people will refuse to go to work, but most people will continue to go to work, terrified on a daily basis but unable to afford to stay home. And if they did stay home, what then? They must venture out to get food, or have it delivered, and no one can ever be completely free of contact with the outside world. This trepidation will cause a decline in purchasing power. People will sit on their money and their savings, waiting until the dust settles.

So, can we afford to stop flights from Ebola-torn countries? We can’t afford NOT to.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sociopathy in Mankind

People are scandalized, and deservedly so, by the continued atrocities of the Muslim terrorists overseas. A third man was recently beheaded by sociopaths who are only too happy to do so.

This is not uncommon. We saw it in the Japanese, Germans, and Italians in WW2. To pretend we didn't is to do a disservice to history and the needless sufferings and deaths of many. Throughout history, it was repeatedly shown that murder and torture come easily. Because of that, I always avoid the term "humane", since it implies that humanity is, as a whole, kind and good by instinct. There is nothing further from the truth. Sociopathology is more prevalent than we'd like to admit, and we are all capable of it, as the infamous Milgram Experiment showed us.

Human nature is why so many of our ancestors were either the victims or the inflictors of various forms of torture and horrific deaths since the world began. There is only a thin veil between civilization and the primordial beast, and although we don't always understand why a sociopath chooses to step over to the other side, we know that they never return. If a pit bull, who's always been friendly, suddenly snaps and kills a child, we don't try to rehabilitate it. We put it to sleep. We know that the dog has crossed the line, and there is no turning back. Some decisions, whether by man or animal, are irrevocable.

The biggest mistake that we can do is to not study history, or take it seriously.  As George Santayana famously said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Although we are horrified by the terrorists' actions, we should not be surprised. Nor should we be surprised to see the articles that discuss the terrorists' recruitment of US youth. The terrorists appeal to anyone with sociopathic leanings. You can whitewash their attraction with the labels "mesmorizing", "deceiving", "gullible", but the fact remains that every American knows what terrorists are and what terrorists do. If they are signing up for the program, it is because deep down inside there is a ravening bloodthirsty beast who wants to dominate, has no regard for the lives or feelings of others, and enjoys mayhem, torment, and subjugation.

If we are able to stop a recruit from going overseas to join the terrorists, they should immediately be locked up and put under psychiatric evaluation for that very reason. If you are willing to go to such lengths to become a terrorist, there can be no room for you in a civilized nation any more than there is room for fire ants at a picnic.

As for the terrorists overseas, Obama's obvious and stated reluctance to commit ground troops continues to make us look weak. And if we are perceived as weak, with our porous borders, how encouraging to a terrorist. If we don't commit to ground troops, the only effective alternative is, as the Green Berets say, "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." Or, in this case, Allah is welcome to them. I don't think he's what they think he is, and I have a very strong suspicion that Allah and his terrorists will be sharing the same living quarters and it will make the tropics look like Antarctica.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flying the Somewhat Friendly Skies

I fly. A lot. And as I was thinking of all the wonderful people and stories I've heard in airports and from fellow passengers, it hit me that I should start a compilation. Their observations and stories should be shared. They're tales of joy, hope, fear, and possibly finding love at the airport:

TSA Employees Need Better Customer Service Skills

I sat next to a young woman recently. She was bulging with a 7 month old baby (a.k.a. "fetus"), and happy to whip out her cellphone and share all the latest photos. Now that they're 3D (as opposed to the standard sonogram type we had in my era) the little girl really 'came to life' on screen. That is, with the exception of one unfortunate shot that made her look like Skeletor. I was quick to point that out and we had a laugh. But then the conversation turned serious.

The young mother-to-be told me that she'd been up against a TSA employee who kept insisting that she had to go through the scanner and she kept telling him that she couldn't because she was pregnant. "Oh nonsense," he scoffed. "That won't hurt the baby." Incredulous she asked for the supervisor, who allowed her to avoid the machine altogether. "But can you imagine what would've happened if he'd been talking to a young mother who didn't know any better?!" she said to me. Yup. Everyone would've had a chance to see Baby Skeletor. But, as it turns out, it probably would've been harmless to the baby. To read more about this, please see Jim's correction at the very bottom. If the TSA agents had taken the time to explain this to the young woman, she might still have opted out, but she wouldn't be spreading this as a tale of potential disaster.

Some TSA Agents Don't Know What Service Dogs Are

And in the small airport of backwater Little Rock, Arkansas, I had a young woman sit down next to me with the tiniest dog in her lap. Being a dog lover, I felt that I'd died and gone to heaven. I had just been subjected to intense scrutiny because I had a laptop and metal rivets on the pockets of my jeans. Another woman had the agents pull out every tiny bottle she had in her luggage and painstakingly swab each bottle. We were joking about how they were all in training and feeling that power rush when "Emily" shared her story. Her dog ChiChi is a service dog that alerts when she has seizures. The little dog goes with her everywhere. When she came up to the agents in Little Rock, they stopped her and told her that the dog had to be in a carrier. "No," she explained patiently. "It's a service dog."

They acted like they'd never heard of a service dog before. "Well you still have to have her in a carrier," the agent said imperiously. "No, I don't," Emily said patiently. She is a softspoken little thing. They went round and round for a while and finally she asked for a supervisor. She handed over the documentation to the supervisor but "I felt as if they were just play acting, you know, like if you give a toddler a book to read and they pretend to read it but it's upside down," she said. Eventually they gave up and waved her through. Without a patdown. Without residue screening. So let's hope no terrorists have service dogs in Arkansas.

The Snotty Baby

Most people tell me that when it comes to seat companions they have two fears: 1) They'll get someone obese who should've bought two seats but is cheap enough to try to squeeze into one and lap over into their neighbors, or, 2) they'll get a screaming baby.

I got the screaming baby, complete with, I am only guessing here...Ebola. OK, I'm exaggerating a wee bit, but this child was a mess. It also was completely undisciplined, so it was allowed to stagger about, whining and screaming, wiping copious amounts of snot everywhere, while the mother would speak coyly to him. She would loudly say things like "Oh come on, Dantainerius. No one wants to hear THAT," and then would look about the cabin for approval, as if to say "Oh isn't he PRECIOUS?!" Everyone would steadfastly avoid eye contact.

In between us sat a young man that could put Adonis to shame. My friend and co-worker, "Amber", was sitting in the next row in front of me and she kept gesturing to Adonis, who calmly put his headphones in, pulled his cap over his eyes, and appeared to sleep throughout the chaos as the little monster repeatedly snotted all over his knee caps.

It was a two hour trip. It felt like four.

Finding Love

My friend "Marcie" flies with me. She's wracked up so many frequent flier miles she could probably travel the world for free. Twice.  She's a gorgeous older woman in her late 60s with an ebullient personality, and madly in love with her husband. As I'm single, she gave me hope one day: "Don't worry, honey," she said. "You won't be single for long. You may not be looking for anyone, but there isn't a time that goes by that I'm not asked out by some guy I just met in the airport."

Don't forget I told you this story: Some day there may be a sequel.

A Correction

My friend, Jim, is an expert. He writes:

The body scanners don't use x-rays. The TSA agent was right, the woman is misinformed. The scanners use radio wave frequencies, somewhere between cell phones and infra-red. X-rays are above ultra violet. Visible light is above infrared and below ultraviolet. So nowhere close to X-ray. 

Oh another thing - you are exposed to about 50 times more "radiation" in one hour inside that metal tube flying at 35,000 feet. But nobody seems too worried about that.

The supervisor was also right. Anyone can opt out of the body scanners because various people made such a big deal out of "naked scanners". Also a lot of people don't understand the difference in ionizing radiation and light. Both are actually radiation, but one is not harmful. So they think that radio waves and cosmic rays are the same. Well they sort of are, in the regards that both have a frequency and wavelength. 

Anyway you can request to opt out and the TSA is supposed to say "ok", then send you to the "machine alert" line for a physical pat-down and/or hand held metal detector screening. Which is slower and more intrusive, thus the push to get people to use the machine. It is faster for everybody involved. 

But the passenger was still ill informed. But whatever the case, anyone can request to not use the machine. 

If you fly often apply for global entry. It gets you into pre-check.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Well Dressed

You know you are well dressed when men scramble to open the doors for you, and sales women come up to you to ask if you need anything. When I have no makeup and I'm in shorts and a t-shirt, the only human contact I usually have would be when a small child accidentally sneezes on me.

This reminds me of the time I was the manager in a major department store. One of my top clients was a local anchorwoman. When she wasn't on the news, you'd never recognize her. She had bags under her eyes and children in the stroller. She would limp along, looking harried and tired: A typical homemaker who didn't have time to brush her hair. She was a faithful client, because I knew her size and would always hold things for her to try on in her limited amount of time.

The biggest crooks I've met were usually the ones that would wear designer clothing to a mud wrestling contest. They are too obsessed with form and there's very little substance. In fact, there may be a correlation: After all, look what Lil' Kim wears.

Perhaps I have a solution, however. Have you seen those oversized t-shirts that obese women wear to the beach which have a skinny bikini-clad body printed on the front? Perhaps I need a tee with a large photo of me looking respectable, in a freshly pressed business suit. Under it, in large print, it will say "THIS IS NORMALLY WHAT I LOOK LIKE."

Oh who's kidding who. Most people can't read. I just need to put a model from Sports Illustrated on the front of it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

If You're a Loser, You Can Still Find a Useful Idiot

I have an acquaintance who is still married but separated due to his wife being held in prison. I won't give out too many details here, as I don't want him identified for his childrens' sake. He periodically goes to visit his wife, when he's not having affairs, scamming chicks, or posting suggestive pictures on his Facebook page.

His justification for his lies and promiscuity lies in his claim that his wife had cheated on him many years before all this. Now that it's convenient for him to do so, he reasons, "no harm, no foul."

I can't hate him because he was there for me when I needed him during a rough patch in my life. However, what I didn't understand is that his support came with strings attached. When I realized he was hoping to worm his way into my bed, I backed away so fast I left a trail of dust.

In the past he has had a mistress. Now he is sleeping with yet another woman, while he whines to a friend of mine that he can't understand why she isn't interested in hooking up with him. At the same time, he keeps telling me that I should give him a chance and he recently sent me this creepy meme:

He lives in his own little world, imagining that women don't talk among themselves. And yet, he prides himself on supposedly being everybody's pal: The Counselor, The Shoulder You Cry On (until he can work his hand under your bra). He'll give you a hug, then cling to you for dear life as you try to wiggle out of a grip stronger than a straightjacket.

He has his technique down. If you hit on enough women, there will always be one that is desperate or dumb enough to go for it. So men: If you are a loser also, just keep asking. Eventually you'll find a Useful Idiot. Oh, and use that meme I just supplied you with. Perhaps you can do a mass mailing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Some People Embrace Urban Legends

My friend Jake is always embracing the next conspiracy theory, whether it's the Nephilim heresy (the idea that demons are mating with humans and producing evil offspring that roam among us), or UFOs or chemtrails. It's extra exciting if you can combine any two or more. But Jake isn't the only one! There are tons of people who want to get their knickers in a twist over an imagined problem. Why is that?

We live in a time and place where our minds are idle. We aren't consumed every waking moment by the necessities of life. Modern appliances and conveniences have bought us extra time. And what do we do with that time? We watch stupid TV shows or read idiotic books or magazine articles that don't challenge our minds. It's OK to do this occasionally, just like it's OK to have dessert after you eat your meal. But your body can't live on chocolate sundaes alone, and your mind can't live on a constant diet of trash without it craving something more. Many people are consumed by that constant craving. In fact, I would argue it's a spiritual craving.

We also feel the need to be important. From the earliest age, we wonder how we can distinguish ourselves. So we choose to stand out in some way. One person may stand out as a musician. One may stand out as a financial analyst. And one may stand out as the group idiot who's always trotting out the latest nutty theory.

Of course everyone has that need to belong. If we don't belong to a tribal group, we feel that terrible disconnect. You don't have to be in an actual tribe to feel that you're a part of a group. My particular "tribe" is my small church, which functions more as a family than simply a church. We love each other, we pray for each other, we cry for each other, we celebrate with each other. Not everyone is so blessed.

Those people who don't have a tribe search to belong somewhere. If they're gullible, uneducated, mentally ill, and/or craving something to satisfy their spiritual needs they may fall into a group that they see as exotic or interesting, even though outsiders see the group for what it really is. Cults are created from this class of people. The membership doesn't have to be formal, but the dedication is all-consuming. Let's lump cult-followers and conspiracy theorists in the Crazy Tribe, for the sake of brevity, OK?

Members of the Crazy Tribe are so dedicated to their brand of crazy that they discount any rebuttals. I've heard members of the Crazy Tribe say that they won't believe Snopes rebuttals because "everyone knows that members of Snopes are [insert whatever you despise here]." In fact, they will reject any facts for various reasons because they are so enamored with their membership in the Crazy Tribe. Suddenly they're important! They're being listened to! Well-meaning friends are trying to argue with them!

Of course that leads to the next point: If we argue with members of the Crazy Tribe, we simply solidify their position because we make them feel special. It's important to stand your ground and tell them the truth, but then you must let it go. If it continues to come up, you can periodically remind them of the truth, but in general you don't want to give their beliefs any credence. Don't argue after you've stated your beliefs: They aren't in the Crazy Tribe due to any logical decision they've made, so they won't be swayed by logic.

After Jake told me about a cult leader he was following (Chuck Missler), I emailed him a relevant article on false prophets, specifically naming Missler, as well as others. and explaining what was wrong in their teachings. A day went by, and then I got Jake's response back: "Great article! Really interesting to read. I'm so glad I've never fallen for any of that."

But there is still hope. A week ago, Jake sent me an article titled "Missler Debunked." Sometimes you get through, but you must give it time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Love is a Many Splendored Thing... Scratch That: It's Hellish.

This isn't a rant. I don't hate men. But I've lived long enough to realize that love isn't as easily defined as I thought it was when I was growing up. In fact, I'm writing a book about it (but more on that another time).

Love can be a rather painful process, overall, unless you're exceptionally lucky. I've been through two marriages which ended in two divorces and actually I'm very positive about my future. Yes: I still want to be married and live happily ever after. Will that happen for me? I simply don't know, and I'm OK with that. But it took me a long time to get there.

A Case Study

Some people are still on that journey. Take Trevor, for instance.

Trevor and I had gone on a couple casual dates and then I found out that he was a severe alcoholic (in the one to three percentile of the disease). By then, he'd decided he was in love with me. And by then, I'd decided I would never be in love with him.

I didn't lie to him: I told him the cold, hard truth with compassion. There is that certain something that is missing and I can't define it: I only know that it's not there. And yes, of course, his alcoholism is a disaster.

Will Trevor ever meet The One: That woman who is perfect for him? I doubt it. He would have to change more than he's willing to change in order to be The One for someone else and if you're not willing to be The One, certainly you can't expect someone else to be.

People Are People

When I was younger, I was willing to assume that people were these wonderful Chinese puzzle boxes. Instead, I've learned that most of them are as complicated as Tupperware: What you see is what you get. And just because I took steps to be a better person and change what needed to be changed in my life doesn't mean that others will do the same thing. In fact, I find that most people remain appallingly content with dysfunction and mediocrity.

I learned these lessons the hard way and, unfortunately, most people will have to do the same. Very few of us learn from watching others' mistakes.

Society Doesn't Help

As if the usual issues aren't difficult enough, modern society has now introduced even more things designed to damage relationships. New trends have emerged that should alarm all of us, like the hookup culture on today's college campuses. And sexual permissiveness and promiscuity has bled into our daily lives, encouraged by TV/movies and badly written but well-received erotic literature like 50 Shades of Grey (I'll talk about our lowered standards in literature another time). At the same time, we're fed ridiculously high standards: You have to always feel you're in love with your spouse or it's time to pack up and get that quickie divorce that's so easy to come by these days. Feelings mean everything: Commitment is so passé.

How do you find The One?

Dating sites are pitiful and plentiful. I've never had any success in any of them. Like a good job, you won't find the right one advertised online: you can only find it through word of mouth. If someone is worth having, they soon grow tired of dealing with creepy people and shut down their account. The ones that remain are desperate in one form or another: Maybe they're co-dependent. Maybe they're looking for a free meal. Maybe they're looking for a Sugar Mama. Maybe they have issues that make them so damaged that they are incapable of carrying on a genuine relationship in the real world. Are there exceptions? Of course. But by definition, an exception is rare.

As a Christian, I know that I can leave the selection of my future husband in God's hands, even though I'd like to help the process along at times.

Some people are lucky and meet each other when they're young, and weather the storms of teenagers and middle age and roof repairs and dog vomit on the carpet. Other people go most of their lives before they meet The One. Some meet through friends, others meet through coincidence.

My father, a cynical scientist, compares falling wildly in love with getting the flu: You can only hope you get over it quickly. And yet, he remains very much in love with his wife of 52 years: My mother, whom he met on a blind date.

So how do you find The One?

I have no clue.