1-12-13 Hodgepodge

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Condescending and Wrong

New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaking in defense of new restrictions on the availability of painkillers from city hospitals, inadvertently raised the best argument against the ban not once, but twice. The ban will substitute judgement of a few government officials regarding how much medicine someone "needs" for that of doctor and patient, at the threat of legal penalties.

Bloomberg immediately blunders into admitting that -- surprise! -- (1) government officials are not infallible, and (2) forcing people to live according to their mistakes can have adverse consequences:

Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn't get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there's nothing perfect … There's nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn't going to suffer, and it's always the same group [claiming], 'Everybody is heartless.' Come on, this is a very big problem."
Translation: "If I have made a mistake and you suffer, tough. Also, you're a wimp if you oppose tyranny so that you might avoid avoidable suffering." And note that, behind this bullying is the cry of,  "'You' (meaning Bloomberg) can't help it!"

But Bloomberg is nowhere near done insulting the intelligence of his constituents:
"We talk about drugs, heroin and crack and marijuana, this is one of the big outbursts-and it's a lot worse around the country than it is here. It's kids and adults getting painkillers and using them for entertainment purposes, or whatever field of purposes, as opposed to what they are designed for," he explained. "If you break a leg, you're going to be in pain, nothing wrong with getting something that reduces the pain. But if you get 20 days worth of pills and you only need them three days, there's 17 days sitting there. Invariably some of the kids are going to find them, or you're going to take them and get you addicted."
Now "you" really means "you", and Bloomberg is playing mindreader as he attempts to justify preventative law by telling us we're all addicts waiting to happen. (Has he ever heard of flushing surplus pills down the toilet?) There are numerous good reasons (not all found in the law, believe it or not) not to become a drug addict or to pass out pills to children. Bloomberg is unaware of this or ignores it as he tries to keep you from making your own decisions.

Weekend Reading

"In a [truly] free market, individuals with pre-existing conditions would likely have several options to choose from." -- Amesh Adalja, in "If Insurance Companies Can't Utilize Pre-Existing Conditions, Then They're Not in the Insurance Business" at Forbes

"The rich should not be treated as second-class citizens." -- Richard Salsman, in "The Lopsided Fiscal Cliff Deal: All Tax Hikes, No Spending Restraint" at Forbes

"Don't insult your young adult by treating him as a child if he has, in fact, been functioning as a competent member of a college community." -- Michael Hurd, in "Is Your Kid an Adult?" at The Delaware Wave

"There will always be people who will try to 'guilt' you." -- Michael Hurd, in "Guilt is not Love" at The Delaware Coast Press

My Two Cents

As a parent who will sometimes imagine what his daughter will be like as an adult, I appreciate the first of the Michael Hurd columns linked above. My own parents transitioned from treating me like a child to treating me like an adult very smoothly: So it is that I appreciate his outlining the possible pitfalls, so I can better follow their example when the time comes.


I always get a chuckle out of the "unitasker" posts at Unclutterer. This week, Erin Dolan reviews the mis-named "Double Dip Bowl".
This is one of those items that when you see it your first thought is, "ingenious!" Then, you pause for a moment and remember you don't own a restaurant that serves guests olives as appetizers.
Doland then does what I always do when confronted by such a contraption: try to imagine actually using it. She concludes -- rightly -- that it would make a great dust collector.

While we were still living in a matchbox in Boston, I came up with my own nickname for such items: "storage problem". I still use it.



Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,
In regard to Mayor Bloomberg, various Federal Prosecutors, and Conservative Drug Warriors who tout the risk of "Addiction" even among the terminally ill, I have this to say.

If there really were a just God, everyone one of these instances of "enlightened" lumpen brutality would be stricken by a chronic, excruciating and ultimately terminal disease and then be forced to adhere to the same "treatment regimen" that they have coerced onto all others. And, frankly, if I had the metaphysical power, I'd see to it that it happened. Perhaps we need a superhero comic that would illustrate the depth of this moral evil in which Bloomberg and his ilk indulge themselves.

I put Bloomberg, the DEA, the "anti-drug" federal prosecutors a few rungs lower in Hell than I would put Cardinal O'Connor, that Catholic prelate that prated on about how "there is redemptive power in human suffering." I think that there would be a great deal of justice in seeing that Bloomberg etal., received their full measure of "redemption."

c. andrew

Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,
My parents did much the same thing as yours. Essentially, we had to do chores around the house and on the farm up until we got a paying job outside the home.

The motivations were intense because if my parents bought my clothes, then they bought what they thought was appropriate - ditto the haircut. Let's just say that a buzz cut in the 1970's was not exactly mainstream.

I was doing chores for other farmers by the time I was 9 yrs old and had my first "real" job at 13 - milking cows at Zero Dark Thirty - and 12 hours later at 4:00 PM. By the time I was 15, my brother and I had put together a contract tree thinning business where I was out of state most of the summer. Now-a-days most of this stuff would probably be illegal for minor of my age at the time.

I think half or more of the trouble in the USA is the prolonged infantilization of putative adults in America. And the legal structure that almost makes it obligatory.

My parents were raised during the Depression and my mother - the youngest in her family (my maternal grandparents were born in the 1880's and their youngest grandchild, my youngest brother was born in 1976 - just to give you an idea of the generational spread) was the only person available to help my grandmother when she was ill - at 8 years old. (My grandfather had to work out of state because jobs were so scarce.) She raised us with the full expectation that we would transition to adulthood as soon as possible and allowed us to make our own decisions accordingly.

Here's the interesting thing, though. My mother is a very religious person and was giving a lesson in a church program when she asked her fellow religionists when they thought was the appropriate time for their children to start making adult decisions. (This was in the late 1970's) The vast majority - over 4/5's of those present said, "Never." No wonder life-boat and helicopter parents are the norm today. And doing their offspring no favors thereby.

c. andrew

Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Here's a couple of news stories that seem to indicate the Bloomberg has tapped into the zeitgeist of a generation.




Looks like there are a few more candidates in line for a bit of "redemption therapy!"

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the interesting comments, as well as for the links, which I'll have to follow up on later.

I fully agree with your sentiment regarding suffering: My example of flushing medication down the toilet comes from my own experience. It is what I did as I was cleaning out my father's room after he died. I am glad for his sake that he had morphine in the end.

Until I heard about this, I couldn't imagine wishing what Dad went through on anyone. Now I can.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "While we were still living in a matchbox in Boston, I came up with my own nickname for such items: 'storage problem'. I still use it."

Or you could just call them "mathoms":

It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up; for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents and kept those that he received.

It was a bit like that on my mother's side of the family: People'd give gifts of little usefulness or value, and often regift them for others to save the exense of getting something new. This did occasionally backfire: One year I gave my grandmother a wrapped LP of Burt Bacharach's greatest hurts...er, hits--turns out she'd given it to me three or four years before. But hey, Bacharach. Even at that age, with crudely underdeveloped tastes, I was already allergic to crap.

Gus Van Horn said...

Mathom? I like it!

It amuses me that I had forgotten that hobbits have a tendency towards clutter: As you may know, my wife reminds me enough of a hobbit that "hobbit" is one of my pet names for her. Oddly enough, she has a tendency towards clutter. She will be amused when I introduce her to the term this morning.

Anonymous said...

Syndicated comedy radio hosts Bob and Tom gave your Tom Jones song a rather special treatment. All they had was an old LP record that was horribly scratched and everytime pussy-cat came up, the cat was omitted by the needle screetching to a new location on the track. In fact, the LP was so degraded that by the end of the selection, pussyscratch was about all you could hear of the lyrics. Sad. So Sad to have such a fate befall such a sucscratchky song.

c. andrew

Snedcat said...

C. Andrew writes, "Syndicated comedy radio hosts Bob and Tom gave your Tom Jones song a rather special treatment." Ha! That's great!

The, hmm, rather strange vocal artiste Shelley Hirsch did something similar in her version of the song, only she didn't bother using a scratched record to elide "cat." (There are some clips of her up on YouTube. They're, well, memorable.)

That particular song, by the way, is on a 2-CD set of covers of Bacharach songs, Great Jewish Music: Burt Bacharach, on the Tzadik label. Tzadik is a label founded by John Zorn, a major avant garde musical figure, that specializes in music of all sorts with (usually) Jewish influences or played by Jewish musicians, etc. Now, there are some labels whose albums I would be willing to buy sound unheard, like MD&G and cpo, whereas Tzadik is one I won't buy anything from unless I can audition it first: It has some very good artists alongside some truly abrasive dogs. That Bacharach tribute album is a good example: Some of the tracks are excellent jazz covers, others are wastes of time and energy. (And the great Guy Klucevsek's accordion cover of "Who Gets the Guy/This Guy's in Love with You" is something Weird Al Yankovic might worship at.) Shelley Hirsch's track is one I don't like yet still one that fascinates me in its own twisted way--her cover of "Blue Moon" is memorable too; I dig it out when I'm in a certain mood--say, once in a blue moon. Or more precisely, about once every three years.

So, which musicians do I like on Tzadik? Besides Guy Klucevsek (whose Tzadik album Stolen Memories is just incredible), there's Paul Shapiro, some of Steven Bernstein's music, some of Anthony Coleman's music (especially his "Sephardic Tinge" series), and Davka. They're the most reliably to my tastes, anyway.

I especially recommend Paul Shapiro, who has done three albums on Tzadik--all of which I believe have been gifts for Gus at one time or another. The first two, Midnight Minyan and It's in the Twilight, are solid jazz on (for the most part) Jewish traditional music, while the third, Essen, is a wonderful set of covers of (mostly) Yiddish songs from the, oh, 1930s to 1950s, many of them funny. (The song I linked to is a tribute to Benny Goodman, whose version is good too but not as swinging.)

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, I wrote: "But hey, Bacharach. Even at that age, with crudely underdeveloped tastes, I was already allergic to crap."

Okay, to be perfectly fair, not everything Bacharach penned is crap, just most of it. Mind you, he did some decent songs for Dionne Warwick, and a couple of his other songs are okay. In particular, he wrote "Baby It's You," and even helped out on the background vocals for the version by The Shirelles. But no, I don't have much use for most of his most popular songs, and even with The Shirelles I like Carole King's songwriting effort better.

Anonymous said...

Snedcat wrote;
(There are some clips of her up on YouTube. They're, well, memorable.)

Well I just ran across a vocal offering that started with about 90 seconds of her making jungle background noises - and they were pretty realistic too! But the subsequent singing was not to my taste although it did seem to partake of a little bit of the African Tribal, at least as showcased in "The Gods Must be Crazy," that being the limit of my massive exposure to the genre.

On Goodman and Lee; I didn't realize that there was such a thing as Jewish Jazz. Interesting. Oh wait. "The Jazz Singer." Although I'm not sure that was representative of the genre either.

c. andrew

Snedcat said...

C. Augustus writes, "On Goodman and Lee; I didn't realize that there was such a thing as Jewish Jazz. Interesting. Oh wait. "The Jazz Singer." Although I'm not sure that was representative of the genre either."

Yes, sort of. There was a division between what is sometimes presented as "white jazz" and "black jazz" back in the big band era and before, with the whiter version usually dismissed as not swinging enough and as selling out with watered-down jazz for the "white bourgeoisie." (Some of it was, but a lot of it was good music in a more ragtime-Tin Pan Alley style.) Many of the leading white jazz musicians of that period and style were Jewish, like Jolson.

What is much more interesting and intriguing is that Russian jazz of the 1920s on (associated especially with Odessa, and with the Crimea more generally, and with the criminal underworld and Jewish community as well) was very much like The Jazz Singer--down to leading singers being, like Jolson, the son of the last of several generations of cantors. I saw a very interesting talk by a Russian musicologist, Inna Naroditskaya, who compared The Jazz Singer to a contemporary Russian movie with a similar story, Happy Boys (Vesyolye Rebyata), with a side emphasis on the possible political symbolism in the latter. (For example, the movie begins with livestock running out from under a red star and ends with the Jewish-staffed jazz band posed in the same arrangement under a red star. Ouch.)

In both cases jazz was one place where Jewish outsiders could make a name for themselves without entirely WASPicizing or Russianizing themselves, but it also left them in an artistic ghetto of sorts.

Soviet jazz is an interesting subject too. On the one hand, Gorky called jazz "dance music of the fat bourgeoisie," but it was also seen as the artistic outpouring of an oppressed working class. The result was that a very lively, spiffy Paul Whiteman sort of jazz was fully accepted by the 60s--there's some delightful music from comedy films from that time on--and the more gutbucket sort played on Voice of America and the like was not particularly frowned upon, especially compared to rock.

And the connotations of Odessa are still very alive in Russian culture. A fun example is this song, "About Love" by Byanka, a Belorussian singer who calls herself the "Queen of Russian Folk R&B," whose video is set in an Odessa night club a few decades ago. (I think "Russian folk R&B" means it has to use a Russian accordion, or bayan. Or it just means it's sung by Russian folk. It's not an entirely clear concept.)

Anonymous said...


That's some interesting history that I had never run across. And the implication that the Soviets were treating Jews as cattle succeeds as political commentary on many levels.

On the issue of Jewish Jazz being distinct from white or black jazz, I'm reminded of the scene from Neil Diamond's "Jazz Singer" where Diamond lands in jail after a riot where he goes blackface, at the urging of his black friends, so that they can make up a complete band doing jazz sets at an all black club. When he is outed as a "white boy" rather than a "brother" chaos ensues.

In the next scene, Laurence Olivier shows up to bail his son and friends out and says in a querulous voice to Diamond, who is still in blackface; "What? Being Jewish is not hard enough?"

c. andrew