Sunday, June 11, 2017

Confronting the Unfathomable

I want you to sit down. I want you seated in your favorite chair; a chair simultaneously stable and comfortable. I don't care if it's a Louis XIV antique or the latest offering from IKEA or some beat up old thing you salvaged from your Grandpa's house when he died. 

Sit down.

Ready?

I am pissed-off. Granted, this doesn't exactly qualify as news. But I am.

There are things I just don't understand. Like voting for Donald Trump. Or putting ketchup on french fries. Or why we are okay with some kinds of carnage but not others.

Take the FDA's proposed ban on Opana. One thing twenty-first century Americans can agree on is that we're in the midst of a very serious opioid epidemic. When they're not gobbling them like candy, America's opioid addicts are dropping like flies.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention figures about 40,000 did in 2016 alone.

So the FDA is taking decisive action, and asking the manufacturer to cease production. And unless you're an Endo Pharmaceuticals shareholder, who can't get behind that?

What I don't understand is why we don't do the same thing to Smith & Wesson.

If anything, gun deaths are an even bigger tragedy. And I'll tell you why. Excuse the reference, but no one is holding a gun to the head of opioid addicts demanding that they swallow Percocet and OxyContin and Opana in quantities not endorsed by their manufacturers.

I think we can agree this a fairly voluntary activity.

In contrast, no one agrees to be shot to death. Not as they walk down a street or drive a cab or walk through a college campus to their next class. It is a highly involuntary occurrence. It is one that is forced upon you against your will. You absolutely, positively do not want this to happen to you.

And yet tens of thousands of people die each and every year in gun-related homicides. Tens of thousands more have their lives irretrievably altered as the result of a shooting. In 2015 alone, 13,286 people died in a gun-releated homicide. Another 26,819 were wounded. 

On a per-capita basis, the U.S. looks like a third world nation insofar as firearms-related deaths are concerned. We're number eleven, right between Uruguay and Montenegro. Of course, with a world-leadng 112.6 guns per one-hundred people, it could be said we have an unfair advantage. 

And exactly what do we do about all these guns and all this death?

Nothing.

Cowed by a moneyed and well-entrenched special interest group known as the National Rifle Association, our elected representation nervously avoids any conversation about gun control lest the Chuck Norris wanna-bes who constitute the NRA's membership threaten to hold their breath until their lips turn blue.

And in this instance, our representation is highly sensitive to being viewed as the source of bodily injury.

Even the most sensible, level-headed suggestions (i.e. banning assault weapons or employing smart gun technology, which confirms the owner's fingerprint before firing) are routinely regarded by the NRA as heresy.

They lean heavily and indelicately upon our Congress until their will prevails. There shall be no restrictions on firearms whatsoever. Period. (God originally issued eleven commandments, but only NRA members are privy to this fact.)

So the carnage continues. The next time you hear of half-a-dozen high school or university students mowed down in the prime of life, consider this twist on a former NRA tagline: Guns don't kill. Special interest groups do.

And sad to say, it is with our consent.

I only wish we had the compassion for once and future murder victims that we do for junkies.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sad

At one point in my life, I loved driving. While never behind the wheel of a British, Italian, German or even Japanese sports car, the well-sprung Hondas I owned provided highly satisfactory driving experiences when I acted on my urge to push the envelope.

Accompanied by the sounds of a deep-breathing engine flexing its muscles, I would row through the gears, judiciously applying the throttle and brake, flattening out curves by riding their apex—it was great fun.

So when I first heard of autonomous cars, I blanched. You mean a computer is going to control my car? It reminded me of the kiddie cars I rode at carnivals, which moved safely at litigation-proof speeds on a pre-ordained path underneath a metal canopy with faded and peeling paint.

Even at the tender age of six, I saw this charade as a bloodless imitation of the real thing and never rode them again.

But times change, don't they?

I now drive professionally, and have grown the loathe the act. Surrounded by packs of motorists convinced they have thirty minutes to complete three-hours worth of errands, I suffer tailgaters, the distracted, the impatient and the stupid.

Upon hearing the concerns of those who question the legalization of marijuana as it relates to the operation of a motor vehicle, I respond that we already are driving under the influence. All of us. Every day.

So autonomous cars now seem like a really, really good idea. Even if they put me out of a job. And in the wake of last night's events in London, they now seem like an even better one.

In the escalating tech war that seeks to eliminate terrorism, terrorists now resort to employing everyday objects as weapons. Cars and trucks have become their weapons du jour.

And the sad fact is that an autonomous vehicle—which strips the driver of the ability to drive—would seriously impair the ability of terrorists to do what they have done in Nice, Berlin, Stockholm, New York City and now for a second time in London.

What does it say about a population that the only way to keep it safe is by relieving it of its free will?

With so many in America seeking to reduce the numbers of those currently in prison, how ironic is it that terrorism is slowly turning the entire world into one?


Friday, June 2, 2017

Finding the Cloud in the Silver Lining

There aren't many disadvantages to being a celebrity.

Even as your earnings typically skyrocket, you suddenly find yourself besieged with offers. Developers want you in their exclusive properties. Car manufacturers want you in their cars. Designers want you in their clothes.

The list goes on and on and on. An avalanche of free luxury goods spilling into your lap while you earn more money than you ever have before is an experience I—for one—can't even begin to fathom.

It is life in an entirely different language.

But there is a down side, too. Namely that when you're a celebrity, well, you're a celebrity. People notice you. Even when you're not hawking your latest book/concert tour/movie.

Kathy Griffin makes a good case in point.

Acting on her puckish sense of humor, she posed with a likeness of a decapitated head. It just so happened that it belonged to our so-called president, which I think is entirely reasonable. It is merely a physical representation of what many of us have suspected for months—that Donald Trump has lost his.

How else to explain the mystifying decisions, defensive behavior and outright stupidity that have been the hallmark of this administration?

If I had posted that picture, no big deal. Just another libtard spouting his impotent rage over the results of the last election.

But I'm not famous. Well, not yet, anyway.

Kathy Griffin is. She's on TV. She does all sorts of stuff. People know her name. And even if they don't, they recognize her face. That's because she's a celebrity.

So when she poses with a fake head of the sitting president, it gets noticed. It's a big deal. And the torrent of outrage from Republicants has been, if not interesting, certainly amusing.

Conveniently forgetting the abuse they heaped on the Obamas during their eight-years in the White House, they are swollen with righteous indignation. They cry it's a disgrace to the office and shows a shocking lack of respect.

I would counter it's no greater a disgrace to the office than Donald himself, and offers a degree of respect equal to that Trump routinely shows for anyone who isn't white and wealthy.

Rock on, Kathy. And stop apologizing!