Monday, September 21, 2009

Randomness Break

So, I've been watching a lot of Sex And The City lately (yes, fuck you, I'm a guy who watches Sex And the City, it works best if you think of it as a satire). I can't decide if the show is pro- or anti-feminist. On the one hand, all the women in the show support themselves through successful careers (amazingly, since the plot often requires them to be dumb as posts) and they're sexually liberated (mostly). On the other, all of them are obsessed with finding the perfect man and getting married (Charlotte anoyingly so), the obsession with designer labels is just pitiful and some parts of the show are just stunningly anti-male (seriously, imagine half of those jokes being made about women and the uproar that would follow). Oh, and they all drink far more than is healthy although I'm willing to let that slide on the grounds we mainly see the characters in social situations. The mixed messages on feminism was something I got used to watching Buffy but with Buffy, the premise of the show constantly reminds you that these are not normal people. If you spend your teenage years beating the shit out of vampires, werewolves and the occasional robot, your worldview isn't going to be remotely normal.

What's interesting about the show, apart from the aforementioned indecisiveness, is the attitude of the characters toward non-vanilla sex or sexual orientations. While the gay character we see most often, Stanford, is slightly camp, he also manages to avoid the twin traps of gay characters in TV (being either celibate or wildly promiscuous). Although the premise of the show requires him to be as unlucky in love as the other characters, Stanford manages to be a warm and sympathetic character. Less sympathetically treated are the bisexual characters we meet in one episode. Although protrayed as pleasent people, the fact that they are far younger than Carrie (our POV character) and Carrie's reaction to them, means that their bisexuality (or possibly their tangled personal relationships) comes across as just one of those crazy things that the kids do these days.

It's amusing that TV can't seem to decide how to deal with bisexuals. Statistically, there are far more of us than there are exclusively gay people but while gay people have gradually become accepted and respected characters in TV (and about time too, don't misunderstand) but when we appear on TV, we always end up portrayed as either gay people who occasionally have sex with the opposite sex, straight people who occasionally "experiment", greedy or just flat-out insane. The idea that there are people who tick both boxes on the form marked "fucks girls" or "fucks guys" seems to make otherwise gifted writers lose all grasp of ambiguity (Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon, gifted writers both, take a bow). Naturally, there are a few exceptions. The entire main cast of Torchwood are portrayed as bisexual to one degree or another. The omnisexual (men, women and sometimes non-human species) Captain Jack is mostly portrayed as just slightly different although most of his on-screen lovers are male (possibly to accomodate John Barrowman's real-life orientation). His on-off relationship with his seneschal, Ianto, is portrayed as positive, loving and supportive which is part of what made Ianto's meaningless death toward the end of Children Of Earth bloody annoying.

Here's the FYI on what you need to know about us bisexuals: There's nothing to know. My faith teaches that love is the intermingling of souls. Some people find that with the opposite sex, some people find that with the same sex and it's all good because the love, that most important and rarest of elements, remains the same. Oh, every couple has their quirks but the love shared by two men or two women is exactly the same quality of love as that shared by a husband and wife. Bisexual people are exactly the same. We find love where we find it. This world is so hostile, so stacked against love in a million ways, that it seems absurd to place additional barriers in the way. Humans are animals, yes, but we are also something more and it is our capacity to love and to be loved that makes us something more than just a superevolved ape.

But, to return to the original rambling over a TV show, it seems another human quality is our capacity for sexual invention. In the course of the three seasons of the show I've watched recently, we have heard about: Anal sex, watersports, oral sex, chemically assissted sex (both clinical and recreational), any amount of costume play, threesomes (every possible variant), etc, etc. The main characters, all highly experianced sexually, always react to these with a mixture of bewilderment and disgust. These are women who have laid so much pipe you'd think they'd sprung a leak (and I mean that as a compliment) and they react with horror at the idea of anal sex? Do TV writers believe that real people only fuck in the missionary position? Fact is, for as long as humans have been fucking, they've been inventing different ways to fuck. Apart from the chemicals, all of this has been around for as long as we have records. Charlotte (yes, most of the sexually naive plots involve Charlotte, she's the naive character) eventually blows off the anal sex proposition with the hysterical rant that "I don't want to be the up-the-butt girl because no-one ever marries the up-the-butt girl and if they do, I'll be Mrs up-the-butt". Quite apart from being both stunningly naive and insanely stupid, the absurdity here is screaming at us. The characters obsession with rules regarding sex is self-defeating. It's sex, not a space shuttle launch. Of all the dumb shit humans do, sex is one of the few that really does come instinctively. It's sex, the only rules are the ones you make up for yourself.

Actually, strike that, there are rules. Here are the rules:
1) Consenting adult humans only. Sex is a grown-up game for grown-up players. Don't invite the under-age, the mentally under-age or your pets.
2) Fellas, either grow a beard or shave. Stubble only worked for Don Johnson.
3) Ladies, ditto. Most of us don't much care if you shave all over or go au naturel but stubble burn is just as annoying for us as it is for you.
4) Never tell the truth about your partner's genitals unless the truth is complimentry or something that can be easily fixed (i.e. requesting a wash is fine, requesting piercing isn't).
5) Ladies, if a fella goes off too early, don't make a fuss. Even if you're trying to be sympathetic, it comes off as pitying.
6) Fellas, if you go off too early, the correct response is not to roll over and go to sleep. The correct response is to use fingers and tongues to keep your partner on the boil until you're ready to go again.
7) Ladies, do not be ashamed to say what you want. Contrary to popular belief, asking a guy to fuck you rigid will usually be met with a sigh of relief. Having to always make the first move is nerve-wracking, especially in this day and age of sexual harassment lawsuits. I have no idea how gay women handle this one, anyone want to enlighten me?
8) Pulling out the toys is fine but give your partner warning first. Saying "you mind if my little plastic friend joins in?" is fine and it's a lot less stunning than having Black Beauty suddenly appear between the sheets.
9) Don't shag someone else's significant other if you can avoid it. Look, stuff happens and the heart does as the heart does. Sometimes, life gets complicated and love even more so. I know that as well as anyone but be aware that when you crash land into someone's love life, the stakes get very high, very quickly. Poly couples, make your own rules here.
10) If you're into casual hook-ups, that's fine. No judgements here. I happen to be a big fan of sexual pleasure and if it's just two people giving each other pleasure for the night (or day or lunchtime), that's fine. But for casual hook-ups, two additional rules apply: A) Rubbers are mandatory. No excuses, ifs, ands or buts. Unless you met your playmate at an HIV+ support meeting, slip on a rubber before you slip into your lover (ladies who love ladies, you get to skip that one); B) don't say "I love you" unless you mean it. If it slips out in the heat of passion, just try not to do it again. Everyone is in love when they're cumming and if they say it, don't hold them to it. But, in general, be up front about your intentions. If all you're looking for is a memorable night, say so.
11) Unless your partner is able to give a firm clear "Yes", don't go there. "FOR GOD'S SAKE, FUCK ME!" counts as well. If in doubt, "Are you sure?" is a good way to check. Granted, we've all fucked when we were beer buzzed or slightly high but if your partner isn't able to affirm their assent in a clear voice, settle for making out. That way, worst you'll have in the morning is a little embarassment.
12) No-one gives a shit about your porn stash. Really. This is the Internet Age, any of us can find any porn we want any time we like. Tits, cocks, pussys and asses are not a rare commodity anymore.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let Me Show You Another World

In this loopy land, it's taken as read that gay people have as much right to love and be happy as everyone else. Their bonds may or may not be called "marriage" but they are recognised by the state and held as legally indentical in all respects except the very, very technical (like what exactly defines consummation). They have non-discrimination and hate crimes laws that include sexual orientation. People are still fired for being gay on occasion but they can sue and win. Transgendered individuals can have their birth certificates changed to reflect their change. Law-enforcement bodies have official liasons with LGBT groups and with most sizeable ethnic minorities, listening and advising them to matters of law which are likely to affect them. Some bigots still decide to stomp gay people but law-enforcement makes a real and serious effort to catch them. In this crazy world, gays can serve openly in the military, never having to lie about who they are. They can even adopt if they pass the usual checks! Won't someone please think of the children?

In this mixed-up madhouse of a country, the abortion debate is largely over. Some tinkerng with existing laws is done from time to time as new medical techniques make revision necessary but for the most part, people accept that abortion is a decision best made by a woman and her doctor. If that doctor has a moral or ethical objection to booking an abortion, he will refer his patient to someone who has no such objection. Often, that's just a case of asking another doctor in the surgery to actually sign the form. For such a small inconvienience, a few minutes in most cases, most patients are willing to respect their doctor's beliefs. Virtually no-one even harasses these hussies as they make their way to the hospital!

In this morally confused morass, faith is something which most feel is best kept between the individual and their god. While many hold faith dear to them and are extremely devout, they recognise that faith is about how you live your own life, not how you tell others to live theirs. Their children learn Darwinism and only hear about creation in Religious Education classes! Most of these heathens do not even know which One True Faith (tm), their national leaders follow! And few of them even ask! They elect Christians and Muslims and Jews and athiests and agnostics and women and treat them just the same! They don't care who their leaders pray to or even if they pray at all! Surely, such a nation is tempting God's holy wrath!

In this socialistic dystopia, no-one ever goes bankrupt over medical bills because everyone is covered by, at least, the state's system. Some even have short waiting lists for elective surgery. If they would only pay a king's ransom, they could dispense with that waiting!...

Sod it, this faux-outrage style is too bloody difficult to write. The nation I am describing above could be Germany or France or my own England or most countries in the western world, it fits most of them to some extent. My American friends, if you've ever asked yourself why the rest of the world seems to not understand you, it's because we don't. So many of the questions your society divides itself into ever-smaller factions over simply don't exist here. It's not that we want to make you like us (although we worry that you want to make us like you), it's more that things which seem so utterly obvious to us; things like medical privacy, universal rights and the privacy of faith; divide your society so completely, if the solutions have even occured to you at all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too Many Morons

Geezus, it's getting difficult to read for all the idiots screaming their collective asses off about bullshit. The most fucking annoying part is that they won't listen to facts. You can show them all the studies and bills you want and they'll still believe what they want to believe. Here, morons, try and get these through your thick fucking heads:

There are no death panels. That was never in the fucking bill. There was a provision to pay doctors for having the discussion about end of life care that all of us will one day need to have but there is not and never will be some panel deciding on your productivity. That story you keep spouting about being sentanced to die on the NHS is bullshit. It's talking about a fucking dispute between doctors over when someone should be diagnosed as terminally ill. It's not a fucking Sword of Damocles hanging over your head, it's a discussion about the best way of caring for people. No, illegal immigrants will not be covered under the healthcare bill. I don't give a shit what Rush told you or what Glenn Beck is beaming into your fucking head today. Standing law prohibits illegal immigrants from being part of any federal healthcare plan and the only section of the bill that could be wilfully misinterpreted to apply to illegal immigrants has a proviso specifically saying that they won't be covered (pg 143). No, it will not fund abortions. Whether it should is a different matter but it won't.

Come on, just fucking think about this for a damn second. The people voting on this bill have to get re-elected, some of them soon. Do you really think that if they voted for a fucking bill which "pulled the plug on granma", they'd get re-elected? Of course they fucking wouldn't. And knowing that, why the blue fuck would they vote for it? Why are you willing to believe any shit about Democrats when you would have a shit fit if this had been said about your guys? I didn't like McCain but there's no fucking way I would have said he supported a "death panel" or killing off your elderly relatives. McCain has his faults but that isn't one of them. And yet, you scumbags will swallow any fucking thing if it's said about Obama. You're the morons who actually believe that pro-choicers just know that the foetus inside them is an innocent baby and want to murder it anyway. You don't want a "government beauracrat" to get between you and your doctor, which isn't in the fucking bill anyway, but you'll happily support one getting between a pregnant woman and her doctor. Where's your fucking concern for patient autonomy then? Where was it during the Terri Schiavo fiasco?

No, Obama is not a fucking socialist. Socialism's defining aim is collective ownership of the means of production and distribution. Taking equity in a piddling percentage of the business sphere in exchange for saving your collosal banks is not fucking socialism. No, it's not fucking communism either. The fucking right-wing has so corrupted the words that people don't know what they fucking mean anymore. The objective of communism was to institute a collectivist anarchy. Arguing that expanding government makes you a socialist or communist is fucking inane, it's directly counter to the aims of both ideaologies. And no, I know that's not what the USSR ended up with. That's why their version is called "Soviet Communism". They tried for communism, failed and ended up with soviet communism. All fucking clear now? No, Obama isn't a fascist either. Fascism isn't just a nasty fucking word, it's a specific set of principles. He's not marching people around or glorifying the military or ruling by dictate, no matter what drivel you hear on the radio. And for fuck's sake, don't call him both a fascist and a socialist. The two ideaologies are in direct opposition. Crack a fucking book and learn what the words mean.

ACORN is not a fucking boogeyman. They paid people to register voters. Some of those people put down fictional characters to pad their pay. ACORN was defrauded of the money and reported them itself but Mickey Mouse didn't turn up to fucking vote. ACORN was the victim you fucking imbeciles. But while we're on the subject of vote irregularities, can we count on your support to ban those fucking voting machines?

Stop listening to Glenn Beck, the man is fucking certifiable. He is suffering a psychotic break from reality and desperately needs help. Did you catch his little architectural art critique? The man is out of his fucking mind. In fact, stop watching FOX entirely, they're just lying to you and no, you're not bright enough to know teh difference. And while we're on the subject: Mr President, stop letting your people resign when Beck is attacking them, it makes it look like you're afraid of this fucking maniac.

People, the corporation is not your fucking friend. The corporation does not care about you. The corporation cares only about money. If it is more profitable to help you live, they'll do that. If it's more profitable to take your premiums for years and then cut you off at the first sign of trouble, they'll do that. If it was more profitable to rape you to death with a broken bottle, they'd do that too. The corporation will do whatever it takes to make a profit. Do not trust the corporation, their only objective is to move your money from your pocket to theirs and if they can find any possible way to do so without providing anything for it, you can guar-en-fucking-tee that they will use it.

Oh, and finally, you DON'T have the best healthcare in the fucking world. Stop believing the bullshit blown up your ass by those who wrap themselves in the flag while they pick your pocket. You might well have the best doctors in the world but in every way that can be measured, your actual healthcare outcomes are pretty fucking pitiful and you're presenting the bullshit arguement that because the NHS has problems, the only alternative is to do nothing. The NHS does have problems but it's a fuck load better than what you have now. And you're not being offered an NHS-style option anyway. For fuck's sake, the bill is about reforming health insurance and you act like you're being offered Soylent Green.

Grow the fuck up. The adults are in charge now and it would be nice to have conservatives contribute to the discussion again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Insurance Companies Are The Mafia

Now hear this: The corporation is not your friend. Repeat: The corporation is not your friend. Cool, that should have scared off any lurking Freepers.

I read a post earlier today of someone wondering why his health insurance premium was going up by 29%. The form letter the insurance company sent to him didn't offer any kind of explanation and he wondered, in today's economy, what could possibly have caused such a huge rise? Really, the answer is simple. Why was his insurance company raising his rates by nearly a third? Because they can.

Really, this is not hard to understand. Businesses exist to make a profit. The bigger the profit, the better. All fair so far. Basic market economics says that when the price of something gets too high, consumers will move to another vendor or drop out of the market altogether (mentally circle that last one, it's important). That mechanism keeps prices as low as possible, allowing the market to reward good companies and allowing consumers to get the best deal, right? That's what we all learned in Econ101, isn't it?

It's horseshit.

For many things, hamburgers for example, the free market model works well. If the price of a Big Mac gets too high, you go to Burger King or you skip lunch. But healthcare is not like a Big Mac. We all need healthcare (or, at least, the option of it) and we need it all the time. That means you are what is called a "captive market". You cannot drop out of the market without great risk to your life and/or health. Essential services always lead to captive markets, it's the nature of them. We can't do without electricity, water and healthcare (one could make an argument for putting mail in there too) and that allows the corporations that control the market to game the system, charging as much as they can and keeping prices within a few dollars of one another. Over here (Britain), we lived through privatisation mania under Thatcher (and, to a lesser extent, Major and Blair). All our essential services were privatised; water, gas, electricity and mail were all privatised. What happened? The same thing that always happens when essential services are privatised: Prices soar, standards drop and service is taken out back and shot. The "invisible hand" (and I wish people would read Smith, he was not in favour of this stuff) does not select for the best company, it selects for the most ruthless.

And it happens because corporations are not your friend. Corporations are not in business to provide a service, they are in business to make a profit and the corporation has no soul. The corporation doesn't care how it makes a profit, it just cares that it makes one. Were it not illegal, you can bet your bottom dollar that Blue Cross would sell crack. All corporations care about is profit. Legally, that's all they are allowed to care about. And that is why your insurance company will cut you off if you get sick (recission), why premiums continue to soar, why pre-existing conditions are screened out. Because pre-existing conditions undermine profit. Henry Ford, scumbag though he was, said at least one thing that bears repeating: "The ultimate goal of the industrialist should be to make the highest quality of goods possible, at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible". Ford was a clever man and he parlayed that into becoming very rich but his flaw was that he thought small. He thought in terms of actually providing a product, an exchange of cash for goods.

The new insurance lords do not think so small. They aren't a business, they're a protection racket. You pay a sum every month in exchange for your health, which will be preserved only if the collectors can't find some way to avoid it. If you actually need the service, they cut you off. So, in reality, this isn't insurance, it's a protection racket, a lottery. The insurance industry is the Mafia. Henry Hill is collecting your premiums. It is not in the insurance corporation's interest to preserve your health. It is in their interest for you to fork over your money and then die without claiming. Should you claim, it is in the corporation's interest to find any way it can to deny your claim. And the insurance corporations, like the mafia, are very good about remembering to kick some of that moolah back to the law enforcers (in this case, Congress). They convince you to buy into a lottery, pass some of the cash to the only people able to stop them and those people then vote to keep the lottery going. How is this not organised crime?

Right about now, some fuckwit reading this is calling me an anti-capitalism socialist. First off, my dear braindead, don't use words you don't understand. That's not what "socialist" means. Crack a book, if you can read. Secondly, I am not anti-capitalism. I am anti-corporatism. "Corporation. noun~ and ingeneous device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility". A Mom N' Pop insurance company, if such a thing could exist, would not fuck you over or would think very carefully about doing so for two reasons: A) Because they actually meet and therefore have an emotional tie to their customers and B) Because you can sue. Now, you can sue Blue Cross/Blue Shield too but they're big enough to afford a whole squadron of lawyers who can keep the judge buried in motions until the Last Trump. Mom N' Pop's can't afford to do that so they're forced to be reasonable. Nor is that an argument for tort reform because malpractice insurance premiums bear absolutely no resemblance to malpractice payouts. Actual payouts for malpractice have remained fairly static. So why have premiums continued to soar? See above, because they can.

The corporation does not care about you. The rule of the corporation is not the rule of Henry Ford. The rule of the corporation is: "Take all you can, give nothing back". That's why it used to be possible to support a family in half-decent style on one full-time wage and now, you'll struggle on three. Because the corporation's ideal situation is to have a small class rich enough to buy their product and a large class of potential workers who can be paid as little as possible, used and fired at will. The corporation does not reinvest the money and hire more workers if you give them a tax break. The corporation hires exactly the number of workers it needs for the work it needs to do and pockets the rest. And often not even that. I got laid off about a month ago. From a department of twelve, there are two left and there's still the same amount of work. So FOX (yes, I know but I was there before the buyout) are now expecting one person to do the work of six. I still speak to one of them. Yes, he's struggling. If the corporation decides it needs to expand, it will leverage it's assets, raise the capital and expand. It has nothing to do with how much liquid capital they have.

I'm not sure when the USA started to forget the lessons of the Great Depression. I suspect it was because right-wing bastards spent a lot of time and money brainwashing people into forgetting. But over the course of the Cold War, the USA seemed to become committed to the fallacy of the excluded middle, if the USSR was at the extreme of the economic left, we must be at the extreme of the economic right, completely unregulated dog-eat-dog capitalism. And unregulated capitalism always tends toward corporatism. Say it with me now: The corporation is not your friend.

Health care isn't a Big Mac. Health care isn't a commodity, it's a service. You put money in and you get good health out. It doesn't matter if it makes a profit. Let's try and remember that.