Yeah I know, it's been awhile.

The title should suffice. After a very long hiatus I'm fairly ready to jump back in and write something. I will start this tirade by sharing a bit of personal information. We bought a townhouse six months ago mostly motivated by the recently enacted First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit Horse Pucky. We knew that we could afford to be buying instead of renting if we had that sweet, sweet cash to pay off a couple of other debts that have been eating our income since the dawn of time. What eased our apprehensions were the stories of others we knew who did the same thing and got their fat-daddy checks in the mail within weeks.

I think it's obvious where this story is heading. Long story short (which I will promptly make long, again): we haven't seen hide nor hair of that coveted, life-saving, and, more importantly, promised money. Now, I'm not a sniveller, a whimperer nor a whiner (I am a recovering murmurer, but that's different), but I am, as they say, a little put out. I haven't taken this lying down, though, before you read this and think, "Get off your keister and go get those benjamins!" and have spent hours upon hours on the phone with the government and minutes upon minutes talking to an actual person (all whom live up to the stereotype of a government worker). But, oh, how we packed those minutes clear to the rafters with the most mind-bogglingly idiotic conversations. Seriously. I have a facial tic, now.

And here is where we see the purpose of this prose. The last call I made bore this precious little nugget. At the end of the conversation, which (pardon my inelegance) could be considered pillow talk for how taken advantage of I felt, the young lady on the other end of a very long and impersonal line told me that I could take my case to the Tax Advocates. Now my gut assumption was that this was a not-for-profit or small-fee organization that offered help to the average tax payer in the event that the government was acting governmenty (yes, I made it up, that's what I've been doing in my long absence, making up words). But to my astonishment, the Tax Advocates are a government institution set up by Congress to help tax payers deal with the IRS. Ok, maybe the absurdity is a little vague at the moment, but let me put it this way.

Imagine, for a moment, that you have a decent sized home sitting a mile from the road. It's quiet, it's peaceful, it's serene and it has that long tree lined driveway that film companies rent from people and put in movies. One day, in all of your majestic genius, you decide you're going to start parking your car at the end of the driveway, closer to the road. After all, you think, the pretty little leaves keep getting stuck on the windshield of your ego... er, car. It takes exactly one hike up that looooong driveway for you to decide that it's just not prudent for someone important like you to spend all that time and energy just going from your car to your house. Now that trip would cause any normal person to slap his or her forehead and exclaim, "Goodness! What could have I been thinking? I'll have to find a way to deal with the leaves." But not you, no siree. "Common sense," you say, "is for the commoner. And I am above such simple thinking." You, in a not-so-rare show of superhuman reasoning, decide to buy another ego... er, car to get from your house to your other vehicle. This is not so different from what's happening with this Tax Advocates business. To put it another way, in case you've seen the movie Office Space think of Tom Smykowski (the "Jump to Conclusions Mat" guy)... it's that ridiculous.

So there's my latest frustration. I hope this didn't paint me, in the general opinion, as a pessimist because it's not as dire as it sounds. We're surviving and we're happy. We're making sacrifices and that's what it takes. At least, when all is said and done, I can look anyone in the eye and say, "I have people skills!" (If that's not funny to you then you need to watch the movie... then go back and read the last sentence again.)

"He made a million dollars!"

Symbolically Speaking

Excuse me whilst I dust off this old keyboard. The past week I've been trying very hard to finish reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I, like most of America, enjoy Brown's books. I really have to wade through a quagmire of bad dialogue, shoddy character development and latent homosexuality to get to the nugget of value in his books, but oh what nuggets they are. The absolute best thing that Brown's novels have to offer a reader is the lesson of deeper thinking. How much of his story is historically verifiable is not nearly as important as the opportunity to learn how to question. How to corroborate. How to connect. The messages of books like The Lost Symbol are really the cure for a problem that has plagued mankind for eons, the inability to think symbolically. Taking literally that which was meant to be symbolic is literally and symbolically destructive to the human experience.

One of the ironies that wraps itself around Brown's books is that, while he has no compunction about taking light jabs at Mormonism, he also has no problem with making the central themes of his novels out of Mormon doctrines and theologies. The newest installment in the Brown archives is no exception with its theme of mankind's potential for godhood. Another irrevocable point made in the book, one that has fascinated me for years, is the concept of eternal and permeating truth, that the same truths are found in every ideology, religion or philosophy because they have a genealogical path back to one great truth.

I realize that this is nothing more than a glorified book report but the urge to write overwhelmed me and the book is fresh on my mind. I heartily recommend any of Dan Brown's books as they are great for inspiring curiosity. I only caution those who are tempted to read one of them and then try to have an "enlightened" discussion on any of the novels' topics because Dan Brown is sort of the Wikipedia of novelists... he's a fantastic spring board into the material but not exactly a reliable sole source. And thus ends another demonstration of the very trait that makes me nigh unbearable to those around me who just want to enjoy the blasted book/movie/TV show. The eternal plight of a cynic, I guess.

Legislating Morality

This may or not be brief in lieu of the fact that we're in the middle of a move, but I wanted to expound on this idea that has become so central to the general popular debate. As a caveat let me put out a warning that one or two ideas may not be popular amongst more conservative minds so please don't show up at my new door with torches and pitchforks.

When most people have heard the term "legislating morality" it has flowed from the frothy mouths and frantic fingers of liberals reacting to conservative desires such as the criminalization of abortion and gay marriage. The rants are often passionately flavorful, peppered with an "advanced" vocabulary, but when I try to envision the people behind the words I always digress to an image of a thesaurus warehouse full to the rafters with monkeys tearing into the product, literally throwing big words around. But the simians aren't altogether wrong, you see. I think they're partially right in that morality shouldn't be legislated. Should we act morally? Yes, of course. Should we follow the good path and shun the bad? Absolutely. Does making statements in the form of question/answer sets make me cringe to the brink of implosion? I'm not answering the question because I'm on the brink of implosion.

Legislating morality is arrogant, at best and devastating at worst. It is arrogant because it is imposing the personal philosophy of one or many on another or others. It is the intellectual telling the rough neck that he is backwards and his ways are unevolved so the rough neck must be made to be progressive, evolved, sophisticated. It is the deeply religious zealot telling the liberal progressive that his ways are immoral and ungodly so the progressive must be made to conform to what the spiritual deem morally acceptable. There are as many more examples as there are ideologies, beliefs, opinions and tastes.

I will give an example and here I will get straight to the unpopular opinion. I do not agree with gay marriage. I don't agree with homosexuality, period. According to my beliefs it is a moral incongruity. In the words of our dear, dear president, let me be clear. I do not hate, or even dislike homosexuals, I only disagree with homosexuality. I disagree only with the actions, not the [mostly] wonderful people. However, it is also against my beliefs to deny anyone the right to choose. Homosexual marriage does violate what I believe to be the sanctity of marriage, but it doesn't violate the sanctity of my marriage nor anyone elses'. Live and let live, I say.

Long story short, it is the arrogance of our leaders that has lead them to assume they must follow this course. They assume that we need them. They assume that without them the very fabric of our society would come apart at the seams. We don't need to be told to be charitable and forcing us to do so will make us resentful and belligerent and those we're forced to help dependent and corrupt. There is no other logical end. W. Cleon Skousen wrote that the great human secret is this: A man will compel himself to go ever so much farther than he will allow someone else to compel him to go. How ironic that these "progressives" are creating the very atmosphere that can only lead to digression, even our doom.

Health kill 2: The Morality Question

I just about blew a fuse today. I read the article in The Independent called "The brutal truth about American healthcare" as well as a number of the comments left at the bottom (this is never a good idea for someone harboring even the slightest hint of misanthropy). The British newspaper (yes, I said British) launched an attack on the American health care system using the R.A.M. (Remote Area Medical) forum in Inglewood, California as a backdrop and plot setting. R.A.M., very quickly, is a volunteer non-profit organization that offers free medical care throughout the U.S. and the world.

The very first person quoted in the story had a priceless tale that I will cut and paste here since retyping it would make me frustrated enough to break the keyboard.

"Christine Smith arrived at 3am in the hope of seeing a dentist for the first time since she turned 18. That was almost eight years ago. Her need is obvious and pressing: 17 of her teeth are rotten; some have large visible holes in them. She is living in constant pain and has been unable to eat solid food for several years.
'I had a gastric bypass in 2002, but it went wrong, and stomach acid began rotting my teeth. I've had several jobs since, but none with medical insurance, so I've not been able to see a dentist to get it fixed," she told The Independent. "I've not been able to chew food for as long as I can remember. I've been living on soup, and noodles, and blending meals in a food mixer. I'm in constant pain. Normally, it would cost $5,000 to fix it. So if I have to wait a week to get treated for free, I'll do it. This will change my life.'"

She had a bypass surgery. Did everyone catch that? I hope no one was distracted by the emotional build up to her quote. Bypass surgeries, from what little I understand of them, can cost upward of $40,000. I'm curious how an 18 year old affords an expensive medical procedure, finds out it doesn't work, doesn't go back and have it fixed correctly, and then spends almost a decade watching her body decompose. Now, I'm not upset this girl got help, I'm not a monster. But R.A.M. is a volunteer organization, there is no federal mandate or legislation that requires them to help.

A national health care plan is not the same thing as charity, no matter what the busy body Brit or the delusional American may think. It angers me to the point of maniacal laughter to hear people cry out about "legislating morality" when talking about gay marriage or abortion but they have no compunction about forcing the entire nation to be charitable toward others. The hypocrisy here actually, and quite literally, gives me a headache. The supporters of socialized medicine shout, almost in unison, that every person has a "right to health". I would like to know what constitution they are reading because it isn't the one I uphold. We are guaranteed the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and let it be here said that the phrase is so simple that only the simple minded can misunderstand it. We should protect every life from being lost due to the actions or inactions of others but if that life is self-destructive (like eating poorly, smoking, spending any free moment in front of the television, and then not purchasing the means by which you can avoid dying because of your own choices) then it is that life's right to end. The quality of life is up to each of us individually.

The answer to the morality question is basic in its logic. It is morally good to help your fellow man. It is morally good to assist those in need of assistance, medical or otherwise. It is not morally good to enforce moral good. History's throat is raw from screaming that forced social-conscientiousness results in the general morale equivalent of mass depression which then leads to uprisings and revolution. Anyone familiar with Latter-Day Saint theology should recognize the idea of "forced righteousness" and the price that was paid to avoid such a fate. The decision on the table goes much deeper than simply providing health care. They are entering our homes in the dead of night and attempting to rob us of our God given gift, the gift of personal choice, responsibility, and subsequent power.

Health kill... I mean care.

The town halls are heatin' up, folks! The nation is all a twitter about this health care business and I thought I'd throw in my two cents (actually 1.2 cents, after taxes) since I've had my showdown-at-high-noon with government controlled health care. Sit back kiddies and let me paint you a portrait... actually just a little doodle... on a napkin... that has watermelon stains.

It was the summer of 1999 and I was not partying like the year it was. I was in Toronto, Canada serving a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and had been out about four months and still in my first area. I had been having abdominal pains all summer but attributed them to humidity combined with the experimental acne medication I was on before my departure. Every night I would curl up in a ball and ride out the storm. It wasn't until I had a particularly bad attack that my companion forced me to go to the emergency room to get checked out. I had never been to an emergency room before that so I thought the three and a half hours of mind-numbing waiting was probably normal. I didn't see a physician right away, they sent me right into the ultra-sound technician who, even after admitting that he wasn't allowed to say anything, diagnosed a gall stone. Well I was less than pleased at the news, but satisfied that there was news, an answer, an enemy.

The next transfer I was sent to metropolitan Toronto to be near "better doctors." The only doctor I saw, however, never admitted me into an examination room. He sat me in his office and from across his desk he told me that his advice was to tough it out and take care of it when I got home... 18 months later. At this point I was eating only saltine crackers and drinking water because anything else doubled me over like a taco shell (which, had I eaten one, would have added new depth to "you are what you eat") and was becoming fairly dainty. My mission president, who had a long and successful career as a hospital administrator behind him, told me the choice was mine, but if I decided to have surgery there was no way I was having it in Canada; evidently he could smell the inadequacy in the nationalized health care.

So back to the factory I went for some recall repairs. I only went as far as Salt Lake City and had my surgery that night. The laparoscopic procedure was so quick and efficient that even after they removed an entire organ from my abdomen I had no need to stay over night. Mere hours after being the personification of the Operation guy (who, ironically, I seem to resemble when I part my hair down the middle) I was on my way to stay with my uncle and aunt for 9 days. In fact I was up and out and all about the next day and only remembered I had had surgery when I laughed hard enough to strain my stitches. But I digress. I was informed later of the surgeon's comment that he had never seen such a diseased organ in someone my age and that had he not removed it when he did the disease would have spread to other organs with disastrous results.

The moral of this story, kids, is that when someone other than yourself holds the decision making power over your health or any other facet of your life then you are unnecessarily enslaved. When you're not responsible for the care of your own body then those are responsible have every [legal] right to dictate what you do with that body. I was profoundly blessed to have had the option to save my own life, but it must be remembered that that option existed by sheer virtue of my status as an American and the coverage of private insurance. I don't want my neighbors looking at my naturally plump body some years down the road and thinking about how part of their 48% tax rate is going toward my triple bypass (I hope I'm healthy enough to avoid that, but my neighbors likely won't know me that well and will just judgementally assume I'm gonna need one). I want to make the decisions for my health and my wife and I to make the health decisions for our own family, not the government. They can have my Snickers when they pry it from my cold dead fingers!

The End.

I can't help but feel like Fletch here when I think about what nationalized health will do to us. Moooon River!

Some Severely Swift Satire

And a lot of awesome alliteration, also. It's been awhile since my last post, as you've no doubt noticed and a lot has happened in the world. One item of pressing business I wanted to jot a few notes on is the continuing struggle of the caveman. The Geico commercials that have run these past few years have severely compromised our efforts to bring equality to our two species. It's true that I'm not actually a homo neanderthalensis, but because I've spent most of my life looking like one I feel I must be a brother in hairy arms. The incident that sparked this tirade occurred last week as I was buying groceries with my family. A woman saw my son and remarked to her friend under her breath that he was so cute, it was just a shame he's half caveman. The ignorance! I couldn't believe that after several hundred thousand years we can't get past this kind of senseless bigotry. I suppose it's true that speciesism is it's own punishment for that woman doesn't know me or my child or anything about the great things our species does for the world and therefore has condemned herself to live inside her own hate-filled pseudo-head. It did, however, give me cause to reconsider why I was so mad about this phenomena.

While many of my comrades have gone so far as to bellow for reparations for homo sapiens' attempt to wipe us out, I say let bygones be bygones, and Darwin be-darned! We can live in harmony on our little twirly dirt bubble, but it's going to take some work. First we need to stop thinking in terms of species, and this definitely applies to us first. We neanderthals can't keep using our violent past with humans as an excuse for our current plights. I personally have never had my life threatened by a human, just a little ego bruising by people who more than likely pass the same kind of ignorant judgement on the very next person they pass because of body image or wardrobe or anything else that short-sighted hate-mongers decide isn't acceptable. We also need to stop calling attention to species in the media. While a frequent cable news special highlighting the modern caveman experience makes us feel important it actually accentuates the line that we have drawn between us. Organizations that have been set up to help our cause and protect our rights have actually done more damage to our sense of unity with the human race. Any time a specific species is mentioned in the name of a group or a story about an individual we take a major hit to our credibility and the legitimacy of our claim of equality.

In closing let me say that we may look uncouth to humans. Our hairy... well, everything... and prominent brows may cause some to stare, but it is no different for obese people, or attractive people, or people with ragged clothing. These image judgements are specious at best and divisive at worst. We are the same as any other sentient being on this planet. We brought the world fire, for crying out loud! How hot is that? I am not a mindless brute, humanity, and neither are you. Let's all just get along.
  • Please note that the preceding post is a piece of fictitious satire and any claimed resemblence of the symbolic cavemen to real people is merely an unfortuate by-product of the author's inability to come up with anything more creative.
  • No cavemen were harmed in the making of this post.

"I survived Roe v. Wade"

While this topic has been stewing in my head for quite some time, in light of the recent birth of my son I've decided to write about this very controversial topic. I'm talking about abortion. I wanted to know more about that ubiquitous court case, Roe v. Wade, so I propped my eyelids open with some toothpicks and read the whole shebang (if your Nyquil ever seems a little inadequate, pick up a court document, it's guaranteed to be snooze-a-licious). While very informative and extremely well researched, the court's opinion seemed to lack what I consider common sense. Let me break it down.

The Supreme Court, in the spirit of following precedents (which is its banner responsibility), gave a succinct but detailed history of abortion legislation throughout history. From the ancient Greeks on down to the, then, present time they noted what other governments had considered legal action in pregnancy termination. They made sure to emphasize that the wisdom throughout the ages has been that until the fetus is "quickened," or in other words animated, it was still considered part of the mother and therefore not a separate entity.

Here's the problem I have with this "wisdom." Once the elements of life have combined, namely the sperm and the egg, to form a zygote, they are no longer divisible. The fetus, even before showing "signs of life," cannot become anything other than a human being. Essentially, the precedent that the court decided to uphold stated that a fetus in the initial stages of growth is no different to the woman than her spleen, as if that spleen could one day develop a heart, a laugh, a preference of beverage at Sonic, or a passionate love for another person. So I contend that once the other organs of a woman's body start to develop into independent organisms then I will eat my words, but until then I hold that this is faulty reasoning based on archaic logic.

Now I realize the troubles that lie in wait if abortion were to be made illegal, outright. I am fully aware of the various extenuating circumstances that arise with pregnancies, not the least of which is the case of rape. I can touch on that another time, but for now I'll stick with plain Jane, good old fashioned consensual sex. Women's rights activists claim the right to choose what they do with their bodies, and I completely agree. I whole-heartedly support a woman's freedom to do what she wants with her body. However, as I stated earlier, the fetus of an unborn child at every stage of pregnancy is a separate person with a body of its own over whose mere existence the mother should not have liberty to end. A woman who decides to engage in an act that has any possibility of resulting in a life has made her choice, and if she also chooses to look at herself as being "punished with a baby," then there are people waiting years, even decades, for the chance to raise a child, people who haven't been given the gift of fertility that she has.

No matter which way you slice it, the halting of a life's natural development at any stage is inherently bad. I apologize if any toes were stepped on, and by that I mean I regret that your toes were in the way. There's simply no other way for me to look at life now that I, even presently, hold it in my hands and feel the full weight of responsibility for it on my shoulders. And here is where I end this lengthy tirade.... for now.

P.S.-- I saw the title on a t-shirt somewhere, I thought it was hilarious.