Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pub Chatter #127

     The Colonel and the Crusader are doing up the whole Thanksgiving angle this weekend. Since it is front and center in the news, I’m going to talk a little bit about thanklessness. It seems some serious college student athletes (is that an oxymoron?), were doing the sights in China. It slipped their mind that they were no longer hanging on the UCLA campus and shoplifted some shades. With no fear of prosecution stateside, their skills were lacking--they got caught. In China, they will lock you up for that even if you are on the basketball team. President Trump happened to be swinging through Asia and mentioned that he would like the boys released.

     The Chinese, being the gracious hosts they are, said okay and the boys are now back in school in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the father of one of the boys has a history of a mouth that writes checks his ass can’t cash. He says, “It was no big deal.” But, not a word of thanks to the President. My mind, being small and narrow, cannot help but wonder how this scenario would have played out in 2015. Do you think it would have been no big deal if Obama had been the President speaking to the Chinese? ( Okay, we are assuming the Chinese wouldn’t just laugh if he drew a line in the sand.)

     Forgive me, but I think the network news would have broken into regular programming to run the story of the President’s daring rescue. LaVar Ball would have been on CNN singing a chorus of “Obama Shall Overcome.” UCLA would be putting up a statue of Obama with his boot on Xi’s neck. Now, I’m not saying snowflake news, LaVar Ball, UCLA and CNN are racist---oh wait, yes I am. Darn, all I set out to do was call them hypocrites. I guess that’s what happens when you start name calling.

    To top it all off David Crosby publicly announced he didn’t want Trump voters at his appearances. That just brought an end to thirty plus years of me listening to his music. It also means I will be getting rid of a rather large portion of my music collection. Sad how a man who got a new lease on life with his new liver has no more feeling for his fellow man. Maybe he should have gone with a new heart. As the old CSN song goes, “Bye bye baby.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pub Chatter #126

     Riddle me this cape crusaders, opioids are controlled drugs, right? They are closely monitored in hospitals and pharmacies. I’ve worked in places where they are counted by pairs of nurses at the beginning and end of every twelve-hour shift. Sooooo, how did these drugs escape and create an epidemic all by their little ol’ selves?

     I blame unrepentant capitalism. Wherever there is a demand, some ambitious soul will bust a gut to supply it---for the proper remuneration, of course. Truthfully, the familiar devil of supply and demand that is behind this epidemic is not confined to capitalism. He favors no economic theory. People want narcotics and will go to extraordinary lengths to get them. A reliable system of supply will spring up to meet the demand no matter where you live.

     You’ve heard the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This is never truer that in the procurement of drugs. So, let’s all take a deep breath and admit the opioid epidemic was something we wanted and subsidized--until we got it. Now, it’s a national crisis. You can’t get more American than that?

     Here in Seattle, we are combating the epidemic by opening up safe havens for injection. Public shooting galleries to prevent accidental overdose and disease from dirty needles. Around here we prefer a safe and healthy kind of slow motion suicide. I first thought, “Why not? Over time it would help with the homeless situation on our city streets. My illusion was quickly shattered when someone said that the shooting galleries would make Seattle a “destination” for homeless addicts all over America.

   Here’s a radical idea: try spending money and resources on the demand side of the equation. No demand for a product is its first step to extinction. The government should stop subsidizing opiate use. We can start in medicine chests across the country. Simply order Medicare and Medicaid to stop paying for long term opiate use. Make frequent, unannounced urine drug screens mandatory for everyone receiving any kind of government payments. That means Congress, the courts, government employees and those receiving entitlements. The military already does this and they still believe they live in the land of the free.

     Then, give current users a reason and assistance to quit that is motivated by something other than jail time. Subsidized healthcare should begin with the addicted. However, we must be careful. If hunger, cold, homelessness and no cost rehabilitation can’t motivate a person to seek help, there’s really no help for them. I’m not implying personal worthlessness. I am saying save who we can and admit some cannot be saved no matter what we do or how much we spend. You know, the whole serenity prayer thing.

     Law requires medical professionals to report child, elder, and sexual abuse. Why not drugs? I’m not saying no one needs long term painkillers. I’m saying the government monitors everything else in healthcare why not prescriptions for opioids? Nobody has to stop taking them or prescribing them. But, if Sam wants people to stop, he needs to see who needs it most. In the majority of cases, he holds the purse strings.

     The opioid epidemic, like most crises, is within our power to overcome. The truth is that we are unwilling to do what is necessary to overcome it. After all, we might want a script for Oxycontin when we get old.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pub Chatter #124

     Every November 11th I have a time when I sit quietly and think about this one particular night.

     It was at the start of my 1900 to 0700 shift at Clark AB in the Philippines. I was watching my first in-bound C141A coming in for a landing. The landing lights cast bright halos against Mt. Pinatubo in the background. The crew greased the landing and taxied up to one of the few spots left on the parking ramp. The flight crew cut the engines and hustled off leaving the plane in my care.
     I checked the oil, filled 'er up and kicked the tires. After a quick walk around, I had a call put in for a couple of shops to send out men for repairs the crew wanted to be done. The GI’s riding this flight home stayed on board even though take-off wasn’t until morning. The shop mechanic avoided the cargo bay when we had passengers staying on board, but sometimes, if nothing else was shaking, I’d go sit with them. They were on the way home from 'Nam.
     I was in and out that night. The guys in the back spent a quiet night. I ended up being there all night as the work took longer than expected. The flight crew was back not long before quitting time. We breezed through the preflight, got the engines cranked up and they were back on their way stateside.
     Like I said, every November 11th I think about those guys who stayed with the plane.  They were going home. The big aluminum boxes they were in got draped with a flag just before they got off in the states. They got a nice escort off and went back to their families and funerals.
     I was one of the lucky ones. Not all the guys I spent time with in the service are celebrating Veterans Day today. But guys, we’re thinking about y’all.

Pub Chatter #123

     On Monday my oldest son turns 43. There was a time in my life when I thought that was old. Now, it keeps getting younger every day. I didn’t plan on getting old, it just sort of happened to me. The only thing that really bothers me these days is taking care of young folks whining about their aches and pains. Why when I was their age, I had aches and pains and had to pay to go to the doctor.

     Old people are required by law to bitch about the younger generation at least once a day. That was my jab at the little wussies. On to the business at hand. This week I want to talk books and movies. I’ve decided to leave the political and moral discussions to the Colonel and the Crusader. Friday is the Colonel’s forum. The Crusader will continue to be here on Sunday. That gives me time to write, read and watch movies.

   I’m going to start with a tough one--The Dark Tower. If you are a Constant Reader of Stephen King, bear with me. This is not the Dark Tower that you spent years reading as each volume came out. How could it be? A better question might be why would Hollywood even try? Has a sudden phobia I don’t know about developed against movie franchises? Freddy and Jason got God knows how many movies. The Dark Tower couldn’t get at least seven?
     That said, The Dark Tower is a good action movie. The secret is to divorce it from the books. Bad guy out to destroy the universe vs gunslinging hero is a winning movie formula. In that respect, the movie succeeds. To me, that’s entertainment.
      In telling the story, The Dark Tower makes the same mistake as the new It. It relies on the audience to know the characters and why they act as they do without developing them on screen. If you haven’t read the book, there’s no reason to care about the characters. On the other hand, if you did read the book, you are left feeling flat. Whether or not you have read the books, my advice is to wait for a free version.

     Annabelle Creation is a prequel to the original Annabelle. It dodges not only the book problem but the
original script of the first movie. It does this very well. At the heart of the movie is the “be careful what you wish (pray) for” moral. The doll’s creator, Sam Mullins, tragically loses his daughter when she is run over by a passing car in a fantastically well-done scene. He stops production of the handmade dolls. He and his wife pray for Bee’s (their dead daughter) return to their lives. Oops, they get what they asked for--at least it looked like Bee. Of course, it isn’t Bee. The doll is the evil spirit’s conduit. Priests lock it in a closet lined with pages from the Bible.
     Things get better until Sister Charlotte and six orphan girls arrive to live with the Mullins’. The kids innocently let the demon loose and the dying begins. This one is already out there to rent. Go and get it.

     Camino Island is our last stop. I haven’t read everything John Grisham has written, but I have never read anything by him I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. That still stands. I went through the book in about three sittings because I’m too old to sit up reading all night like I used to do.
     The story revolves around the theft of the original, hand-written manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald from Princeton University. The story’s protagonist, Mercer Mann, is recruited to infiltrate the world of the bookstore owner currently in possession of the manuscripts. Mann is a woman. So the point of view is decidedly female. Some Grisham fans say it’s “too girly.” I guess I read too many female points of view books. I liked it.      

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pub Chatter #122

     Three cheers for the proposed tax bill put out by the President. The prospects for its survival are grim, but it may serve as ammunition against tax and spend politicians later. To effectively change the face of the tax code, it is imperative to change the faces in Congress. I don’t know jack about economics, but even I know that one cannot endlessly spend more than you take in. A nation built on this practice will come crashing down. It’s simply a matter of time.

     America’s thirty-five percent business tax is a cry to export business elsewhere. The proposed cut to twenty percent is still not competitive worldwide, but it is an improvement. Hopefully, it will survive and help bring business back home. This is more than a break for businesses. It is a break for everyone. Businesses do not pay taxes--customers pay taxes. If you are a consumer, this is your tax break. The caveat is that should it pass, customers must demand it be passed on to them in the form of lower prices.

     I am a flat tax advocate. Income tax, if we must have one, should be like Social Security tax. If you make a dollar, you pay a percentage--no ifs, ands or buts. Seeing deductions vanish would be a positive. If you really want to tax the rich, eliminate deductions.
     Folks in the Emerald City are already crying about the potential cut in their mortgage interest deduction. Poor little liberals have an average $750,000 mortgage. Cutting the deduction to $500,000 will cost them. Poor dears, they won’t be able to take off from work to march for higher taxes on the rich. If you can afford three-quarters of a million for a house--shut the fork up. Pay your damn taxes and quit whining.

      Okay, enough of that. It has been an exceptional day. I already had the bit about taxes written and couldn’t bear to toss it out. Spent the day with fellow writers at Tacoma Community College. We were there for Write in the Harbor 2017. Murder-mystery writer J A Jance was the speaker at the Friday night and the first hour today. She shared insights about drawing on life experiences and people watching in writing characters. Breakout sessions the rest of the day today. I think I’m ready to press on with the next draft of Trails of Trouble.  Good stuff.
     Speaking of good stuff, we topped the day off by going to Smoking Mo’s for their tenth anniversary. Smoked pulled pork and chicken with mac and cheese, beans and coleslaw. We added deviled eggs with smoked jalapenos and cinnamon apple cheesecake ice cream. Had to hurry home for stretch waist pants. Feeling stuffed, but extremely happy.
     The crusader is here tomorrow.