Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NUDITY IS EVERYONE'S CONCERN


CONSIDERED OPINION

By : Rep. Victoria N. McCummings, Ph.D. (Child Development); Representative (New York State Legislature); Senior Chairperson, New York State Board of Decency Regulation; J.D., Yale University School of Law (1984); Art Lover.

You can scarcely turn on the news these days without hearing about some scandal involving nudity. All too often, these scandals affect the most vulnerable members of our society: Children. In our digital world, images travel fast. In centuries past, societies could better control nudity because there were not as many ways to broadcast it. Now, photography, the internet, television, DVD-video and even personal newspaper ads transmit nude images everywhere, without regard to whether an innocent child sees them. This is profoundly troubling because nudity is dangerous. That is why I have introduced legislation to curtail the expansion of nudity in 21st Century life.

I have never liked nudity. I do not like bare breasts, nipples, pubic hair, chests, genitalia or buttocks. They are—quite simply—disgusting. They revolt me. They are not pleasant to look at. When I was younger, I became physically ill when I saw a photograph depicting John Lennon and Yoko Ono standing naked next to each other. It was just revolting. Even before that, I became very uneasy when studying classical sculpture. Michelangelo’s David, for instance, often requires me to avert my eyes. I do not care whether art experts and nudity apologists say there is nothing threatening about these works. I disagree. Just think of the children who may see them. If they make me feel ill, imagine the damage they could do to children. It is heartbreaking to even think about it. If we truly care about our children, we must do something about nudity—now.

And it is getting worse. Teenagers use the internet to spread nude images all over the world in an instant. They post nudity on their Facebook pages, leading to shock, embarrassment and family strife. Clearly, we must do something about this. We must find a way to prevent children from accessing nude images, as well as from creating new nude images. Nude images are as dangerous as crack cocaine and crystal meth. Like drugs, nudity leads to immorality, licentiousness and unproductive behavior. Nudity is like a cancer. It threatens to undermine our society’s very foundations, just the way opium destroyed Chinese society in the 19th Century. Unless we act now, nudity could well destroy our Nation.

My legislative plan includes measures calculated to do two things: (1) Control existing nudity; and (2) Prevent the creation of new nudity. To control existing nudity, I propose making clothing mandatory at all times. Naked bodies cause untold damage to our society. When people see nudity, naughtiness, envy, disgust and even violence ensue. In short, nudity represents a very real social danger. To that extent, police measures are justified in reducing it. Public nudity has always been illegal. Traditionally, our society has drawn a moral line between female nipples on the street and female nipples in the home. But this is an irrational distinction; nudity is dangerous no matter whether it occurs in a full sports stadium or a private home. Nudity incites harmful behavior and leads to moral decline; it does not matter whether it occurs in public or private. In short, a female nipple is a female nipple, no matter where it is bared.

In this light, I propose legislation that will make private nudity a crime. No longer will citizens be allowed to sleep naked or even take showers without in some way “covering up.” Although group nudity poses greater dangers than individual nudity, individual nudity is dangerous to the extent that it incites bodily comfort in the perpetrator. That bodily comfort—like criminal intent—can mature into more severe offenses against the law and decency. In my view, bodily comfort is not good for society. By threatening criminal punishment for individual nudity, we can suppress bodily comfort. As long as some people are afraid to get undressed, we reduce the potential for nudity-related harm. We may not fully eradicate individual nudity, but we will at least strike fear into every man or woman who dares to remove his or her clothing at any time, for any reason. And less nudity means safer children.

We must also take steps against the creation of new nudity. Nudity is most dangerous when preserved in tangible form. Prior generations did not face this threat as much as we do. At most, statues and paintings depicted nudity, and only the rich could obtain them. Now, however, we are literally awash in nudity. Nakedness is everywhere. Photography and film largely bear responsibility for this terrible proliferation. Not coincidentally, crime and immorality have intensified in the generations since photography and film increased public access to nudity. We wonder why children talk back today? We wonder why people disrespect each other? We wonder why they hold nothing sacred? Simple: They see too much nudity and they spend too much time naked.

Under my legislative plan, we will combat this free fall by striking at the source: Devices that can create nude images. I intend to introduce legislation that will compel camera makers to develop “nudity-safe” mechanisms for their merchandise. These mechanisms will automatically detect whether the camera is recording a nude image, then disable the camera’s image-making capability. As soon as the nudity disappears, the camera will regain its image-creating capability. This represents a technological approach to stopping nudity proliferation. When my proposals become law, every camera sold in our State must meet Anti-Nudity obligations under the statute. The statute will also criminalize the possession, use and transfer of any camera or visual recording device that does not meet Anti-Nudity protocols under the law. By these measures, we will reduce the creation of nude images. In so doing, we will protect our children from a major source of potential nudity. If cameras literally cannot create nude images, we necessarily will see a drop in nudity. When there are less nude images, there will be less abuse on Facebook, less immorality on movie screens and safer children. A society with less nudity is a safer society.

I recognize that it will be difficult to eradicate all nudity-producing media. Artists will always paint or draw naked human bodies. But it takes much more skill to draw nudity than merely to record it with a camera. Additionally, direct Anti-Nudity obligations under the law will make it impossible for artists to observe nude models because models will no longer be able to lawfully pose in the nude. This will require artists to produce nude images solely from their imagination, not their direct observation. I believe that imagined nudity presents only a marginal threat to public decency. If an artist convincingly depicts fanciful nudity, the law can deal with him as necessary. Thankfully, there are not many artists with the ability or resources to produce large amounts of dangerous nudity. We can handle a few renegade painters. By eliminating nude photographs and movies, we eliminate the most widespread abuses. Everything else is just cleanup.

I am confident that I will obtain legislative support for my initiative against nudity. Like terrorism, nudity lurks among us. One can never know for sure whether the person next to us creates nude images, or whether he secretly wishes to get undressed. By taking strong action against nudity, we reduce the likelihood that nudity will affect our children. We will usher in a whole new era of safety in which our children learn that remaining fully clothed is far better than undressing. True, we will need to modify our behavior to comply with the law. We will have to learn to use the bathroom in new ways, shower in new ways and sleep in new ways. We will have to learn how to change our clothing without becoming fully naked. And we will have to learn how to reproduce with minimal nudity. Nonetheless, these are bearable burdens because they lead us to a better society—a nudity-free society. By waging war on nudity and the harmful social problems it creates, we both defend our children and edify ourselves. We are better than nudity. We can control it and defeat it. When we pass my law, the era of naked terror will see its last day.

Nudity is everyone’s concern. It is dangerous. We must band together and address it as a society. Today, we can take a step toward a better life—a fully clothed life. Once we overcome human nudity, we can conquer animal nudity, too. We have a duty to our children. Until every mammal learns that nudity is wrong, our children will not be completely safe. Until every dog, cat, hog, bird, horse, rabbit and cow learns to wear a coat and stockings, there will be danger in our society. But we will move incrementally. We will take one step at a time. Today, we move against nudity in humans. Tomorrow, we move against nudity everywhere—and when there is no more nudity, there is peace for all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

THE TRAGEDY OF PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION : PAYING FOR A LONG SHOT

AN ESSAY

We learn that education is a good thing. When we are young, we learn that the good students get into good schools, and that students at good schools get into good graduate schools. Then the good students at the good graduate schools get really good jobs, and they make lots of money. In sum, we absorb a distinctive mythology about education; education tantalizes us into believing that diligent study, good grades and academic achievement translate immediately into “worldly success.”

“Real life” teaches a very different lesson. I always put the phrase “Real Life” in quotation marks because so many people do not understand that it does not reflect an “absolute” or a “norm.” Rather, the words merely describe cruel commerce and all the ruthless human behavior that accompanies it. Still, people who use the term “real life” generally do so in order to scare some dreamer away from “unimportant” pursuits and to focus on what will “make money.” If he doesn’t, after all, he will “not succeed” and go homeless. In commerce, results matter. It doesn’t matter how you get results; you just need to get them without getting caught breaking the law. A guy with $4,000,000 in the bank got results, ethics or no ethics. But an ethical guy with $600 did not get results. What good did ethics do him in “real life?”

But dreamers aren’t the only ones who can’t cope with “real life.” Intelligence and academic success don’t matter, either. In some sense, dreamers court disaster because they should know that commerce doesn’t care about individual expression unless it makes money. But what about everyone who studies hard in school, tries to get good grades and values knowledge? They face the same risks as the dreamer. This is the tragedy of education: It does not prepare students for commerce. In fact, if people prize educational values too much, they will probably fail in commerce.

Still, education is a step along the “traditional life path” leading to “success.” Every “successful” person spent some time in school, somewhere. Some were good students. Others weren’t. No matter a student’s ability, every student hears rhetoric about academic success. They compete with one another to get better grades than their friends. They struggle to outdo one another for accolades and recognition. They proudly advertise their grade point averages next to their names in the belief that a higher number indicates greater intelligence and a better chance at employment. Education, then, becomes an instrument to win employment. While some students truly relish the opportunity to learn, most are satisfied simply to get degrees that enable them to compete for jobs. In other words, wide-ranging knowledge is simply a forgettable means to win some boring, compensated post at a private firm.

In this sense, a mythology develops around education. Students think that smart people get good grades, and good grades grant instant access to the “best jobs.” “Best jobs” mean jobs that pay the most, not the jobs that are most intellectually rewarding or noble. But this is all a myth. Jobs do not depend on intelligence. True, students with good grades have something to flaunt at interviews. Yet no one gets a “job” simply because they are smart. Rather, jobs are private contractual relationships between “employers” and “employees.” Unlike education, employment cares not for enrichment, intellectual broadening or self-expression. Instead, it is concerned with the small-minded advancement of the employer’s financial mission. Students learn to address many issues from many perspectives. By contrast, employees are expected to address one issue from one perspective—all the time. In this light, it is easy to see why truly passionate students could have a hard time coping with “a job.” Jobs, as commercial relationships, are narrowing. Employees are instruments to the employer’s gain. The employer gains nothing from rumination. He gains only from purposeful, targeted activity. Thus, “educational values” differ profoundly from “commercial values.” For years, students learn that their individual ideas and impressions matter. Employees quickly learn that they do not. In fact, they may even be censured for exploring their own ideas. In short, the sole question in employment is: “How does this activity economically benefit the employer?” This unabashed instrumentalism is hard for intelligent people to swallow.

But there are other, less abstract barriers to success in employment. Employment represents a private, contractual relationship. As such, market rules dictate whether there are enough employers to offer work to hopeful employees. After all, employees are a substantial expense. Employers must set aside money for wages, offices, health insurance, payroll taxes, food, and myriad other incidentals associated with keeping a human being working on their land. During profitable times, employers have extra money to hire more people to do their bidding. During leaner times, employers do not have enough money to hire. During losing times, employers must cut existing employees in order to maintain any profit at all. These natural “boom and bust” periods in commerce play a large role in whether employees find jobs. It does not matter how smart, zealous or motivated a student may be. If times are tough, no one gets a job. In fact, people are just happy not to lose their jobs. For those who don’t have a job yet, it’s tough luck time, valedictorians included.

Employment, then, is a matter of both grace and luck. Grace plays a role to the extent that the employer—as the economically dominant party—agrees to allow an employee to serve him for “compensation.” Grace is not objective; employers hire people they like. There is no magical checklist that automatically entitles a hopeful applicant to a job. Luck plays a role to the extent that economic times must be sufficiently robust to allow the employer to spend money on new servants. Contrary to university rhetoric, no academic wizardry can influence these factors. In commerce, bottom lines dictate who gets hired. If there is not enough money to hire, no one gets hired. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if Leonardo da Vinci applies; if the company can’t afford to hire anyone, it won’t. Intelligence and merit have nothing to do with it.

This is a jarring truth for students who spend their whole lives studying in the expectation that their academic toils will yield a reward some day. It is even more jarring for students who take their education further than others. Professional schools, for example, advertise their “graduate employment rates” all the time. In recent years, college degrees have increasingly proven insufficient for “really good jobs.” Recent graduates experience this trend when they try unsuccessfully to land even entry-level positions after college. In order to increase their chances to obtain “high-paying jobs” after college, they decide to go to school again, this time to be doctors, lawyers, accountants or even social workers. In so doing, they immerse themselves in an education more rigorous than anything they have ever encountered. They mercilessly compete with one another for grades, knowing that employers do not even interview candidates who fall below a certain threshold. They put themselves through anxiety, stress and personal turmoil to get the degree. After so much work, they expect some results. At this stage, they really could care less about what they study; they simply want a comfortable job after enduring so much academic hazing.

But a professional degree is no automatic ticket to employment, either. Just because a student gets a law degree does not change the commercial dynamic that drives employment markets. Private firms either have extra money to hire or they don’t. A student’s miraculous academic success at law school will not guarantee him a job at a super firm if the firm does not have a healthy profit margin. In this sense, a professional education is no entitlement. It may be grueling and unforgiving, but a student’s academic tribulations do not magically open employment doors. Only grace and luck can do that.

This is tragic. I know from experience that professional school is not pleasant. In fact, it is anxiety-ridden, exhausting and mentally debilitating. School demands so much energy that students must forgo virtually everything else in their lives to keep up. It can ruin relationships, destroy finances and impact health. It seems to go on forever and impose a new reality on students. They must either give themselves fully to the discipline or risk failure. It teaches exacting attention to subtle details and self-excoriation for failing to notice them. Finally—and ironically—many students go into unsalvageable debt to finance this harrowing “learning experience.”

After all this trauma and sacrifice, it is no wonder that professional school students expect a reward at the end. But they don’t get it. Rather, they get a chance to win a reward. Moreover, because employment moves in cycles, it is really a long shot. There are so many things that can prevent a professional student from getting a job. There are no guarantees. In fact, there are a million uncontrollable contingencies that can derail a student’s hopes. A student may get fantastic grades, but lose out on a job because he wore a bad belt to the interview, and the interviewer put special (and unexplainable) emphasis on belt choice. A male student may be a close runner-up for a job, but lose out because the firm wants to hire a woman, not a man. Another student may have conveyed a nervous impression or have been sick on interview day, dashing his chances. Still another may be number one in his class, but really anger the interviewer because the interviewer has a deep-seated resentment toward overachievers. And some other student may send out hundreds of resumes and receive no response from anyone, ever. Worse, there are pernicious, unfair factors at work, too. Some employers may only want to hire students from certain “prestigious” schools. Others may ignore everyone in order to make room for a friend or relative. Still others may only want to hire women they find sexually attractive. Lastly, there is always the “boom and bust” cycle in commerce. When times are tight, no one gets a job, no matter how brilliant they are. In short, only grace and luck lead to employment. Intelligence and sacrifice entitle students to nothing.

Getting a “good job” is a long shot. Despite popular academic rhetoric, diligent study, intellectual curiosity and school success do not magically lead to employment. In fact, educational values have little to do with employment. It is tragic when superb students with real academic promise cannot find suitable jobs.

But there is a way to escape this tragedy. I, for one, do not regret that I obtained a professional education. I saw that employment had little to do with the educational values I cultivated as a student. I did not sacrifice my passion for learning by playing the employment game. Rather, I went to work for myself. By refusing to participate in the “employment game,” I preserved myself from the psychic agony and perpetual disappointment that stem from the employment relationship. It is a more difficult road in the sense that I must find other ways to make money. But what I lose in stability I make up for in happiness. I know that winning employment is arbitrary, and that employers are capricious. Furthermore, I know that getting a job is hardly a “reward;” rather, I view it as a form of surrender. I do not like servility. No matter how “good” the job, employment is a species of servility. Employees are servants. They are conceptually weak and fawning. I do not like being a weak concept. If employers have the power to extend grace, I escape potential disappointment by refusing to even petition them.

Yet I pity all the hopeful students who think their academic effort will lead them to success in private employment. They will soon see that commerce plays by different rules; no one is entitled to anything, unless, of course, they are related to someone in power. Relationships and connections are always better than merit and intelligence. That’s “real life” for you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

NEW IDEAS

I have been having some adventures lately. Sometimes I blame myself for not writing more. But when I don't write, I inevitably get out and start experiencing things. It's incredible how much you can experience in life when you actually have time to just go with the flow. There is comfort and advantage in stable routines. But there is occasional value in breaking them. I never shy from that option, even if it scares me at first.

I am grateful for my life. My obligations are not tremendously burdensome. I do not worry about money too much. I complain about as much as any rational human being does. Complaining is human; humans rarely actually feel satisfied, even when they should be satisfied. I have time to write and to experience new things at the same time. I'm not overflowing with good fortune, but my health is good, I have been in a loving relationship for 10 years and no major disaster has befallen me since 2007. No one demeans me, commands me or orders me to fulfill obligations. In this sense, I am enjoying relative "freedom from unhappiness inflicted by the outside world" as Freud called it.

Most importantly, I am getting new ideas. Time off means time to reflect and time to resettle things in your mind. That is exactly what I have been doing. In the next few weeks, I will explore new issues and offer some new perspectives based on things I have perceived lately. Put simply, I am assembling new memories. It is too easy to forget things in life. Holding onto experience and details is a craft. In some sense, it is intensely self-conscious. There are some things we cannot avoid remembering. But there are myriad others that slip away from us almost instantly. We can't get them back. That's why it's important to take memory seriously. After all, memory begets inspiration. So I take it seriously.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more Reason, Commerce, Justice & Free Beer!

Friday, June 26, 2009

PROFITING FROM MICHAEL JACKSON'S DEATH

OESTERHOUDT STRIKES

I am posting twice today in order to respond to something I find totally shameless. I just logged onto iTunes and decided to look over Michael Jackson's catalogue. I expected to see the usual $0.99 price tag next to each song. But then I saw that some popular tunes--like Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean and Don't Stop Til You Get Enough--cost $1.29.

I recognized immediately that iTunes was gouging customers in order to exploit their sorrow and love the day after Michael Jackson died. They saw how many people were buying Jackson's tunes, likely encouraged by endless news coverage. So what did iTunes do? They recognized a "business opportunity." They decided to get a few million more dollars by raising the price on customers ready to pay anything. In short, they decided to profit from Michael Jackson's death.

I don't care whether this is "a good business move." It is just base. There are times to exploit outcry and public sentiment for commercial gain, but not right after someone dies. Why can't iTunes just charge the regular rate? I suppose they just couldn't resist cashing in on the once-in-a-lifetime spike in demand for these songs. Once the media coverage subsides and public interest returns to "normal," the price will revert to $0.99. Until then, iTunes is ready to rake in some extra dough on Jackson's death.

Things like this remind me why I detest commerce. I actually have some decency and would never think to make extra money because a person died. But that's why I am not successful in business; I have a conscience. I suppose I need to fix that if I want to start banking up some serious money in my life.

Ethics and decency are for paupers. Shamelessness and crude profiteering are for the successful. I'll take poverty, thank you.

I feel bad about Michael Jackson's death. I think he was a deeply unhappy man who never had a chance to live a relatively "normal" or "peaceful" life. His parents pushed him into the spotlight before he knew who or what he was. After that, his life was no longer his. The public thought he was a "weirdo." And no matter how much evidence the State mustered against him on child molestation charges, I could never escape the impression that he was on trial because people thought he was "too strange" for society. I am certain that this affected him. His whole life was a circus act. He could not really have been happy in these circumstances.

But iTunes doesn't give a shit about that. He died, he's enjoying renewed popularity because he's in the news and people are ready to buy his songs. This is no time to read eulogies. This is no time to reflect and express sympathy. Hell no: It's time to artificially raise prices and make some money, baby--just the way street hawkers raise the price on umbrellas when it starts raining.

CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY HEALTH CARE FUND ADMINISTRATOR



By : Mr. Marcus H. Lovejoy, M.B.A., B.S., Fund Manager, Coordinated Care Systems LLC (a Delaware Limited Liability Company); Trained Statistician; Cost Control Analyst; Certified, Standard & Poor’s Profitability 100 Association; Philanthropist.

People wonder why our health care system has problems. I’ll tell you why: Too many sick insured motherfuckers sucking up trillions of investor dollars.

It’s a disaster. You have these 32-year-old insured people who get chronic diseases. They live ten, twenty years before finally succumbing. Every day during that time, they require incessant care, medication, hospitalization, therapy, treatment, surgery, assessment, rehabilitation. Do you have any idea how much this shit costs? It costs $20,000 to remove a fucking wart in a 30-second procedure. Imagine how much it costs to care for some ailing asshole who needs constant sunctioning, recurrent surgery, ICU care and ventilator treatment for years on end. Let me tell you: Caring for sumbitches like that would break an African country’s national treasury in less than two weeks.

So what do we do? To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know. All I know is that insured sick motherfuckers really ruin my day. I run a major health insurance fund. Our company provides top-notch care to paying customers. But we assume that most people won’t require constant care for years on end. We assume that they’ll need some surgery once or twice per lifetime, not every goddamned week. We assume that they will get better, then live healthy lives during which they can pay premiums. Most people do. They pay their premiums, go to the hospital once or twice in their lifetimes, then die. Look, death might be traumatic on the family. But for me it’s a relief: It means the asshole won’t need any more bank-breaking care at the fund’s expense.

We do what we can to cut really sick people off before they drain the fund into non-profitability. Our company employs hundreds of lawyers to do two main things: (1) Draft policies that restrict coverage; and (2) Find ways to deny coverage to everyone who faces an expensive illness. As concerns the first matter, our lawyers write 100-page contracts that give the appearance that insured people will get the care they need. But upon closer inspection, they contain thousands of exclusions and exceptions that provide the company a way to bail out when care gets a little too pricy. For example, we might cover eye injuries, but not corneal injuries. Or we might cover leg injuries, but not “injuries involving the leg” as that term is defined in a later section. Additionally, we include clauses that limit our liability for certain covered care at a certain dollar amount. This means we can call off a hopeless show before it gets out of hand, like the guy who needed a $15,000,000 brain surgery. We only covered $1,000,000. He had to agree to pay the remaining $14,000,000 or forget about the brain surgery.

Hey, I have a fund to run. I don’t have time to worry about a tumor on some fucker’s brain. I’ve got a Board of Directors to answer to. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say I’m a mean-spirited prick who doesn’t care about people. Well let me tell you something: This business is not about care. It’s about dollars, bee-otch. And I don’t make dollars when some lucky moron pays $54.99 a month and gets fully covered for a $15,000,000 surgery. Sure, I’ll let that happen: IN HELL. And I’m not afraid to say it: I’d rather keep my job than put my ass on the line for some kid with leukemia.

As concerns the second matter, our lawyers know how to fight people who claim coverage for expensive illnesses. When it looks like someone has a minor illness—like a cold or something—we don’t fight it. A doctor visit here or there won’t affect our returns. But when it looks like someone just came down with Parkinson’s or—worse—a woman just had a difficult pregnancy, we scramble for ways to back out. We scour medical histories and applications for inconsistencies and pre-existing conditions. We look for lies in statements. We send out investigators. We look for anything that lets us invoke an exclusion. Basically, when an insured woman is writhing in labor for 20+ hours with a premie, we start sounding alarms. We know the bill will be enormous. Do you know how much it costs to keep a premature peanut alive in a neonatal ICU? It’s in the tens of millions. Then I say: “Fuck her if she thinks we’re gonna cover this shit.” Guess what? We never do. We have our ways; and you’ll never know what they are. You just get the denial letter that says: “We regret to inform you that, pursuant to your policy…(no coverage) blah blah blah.”

So yeah, I have a stressful job. I have a lot on my mind. I have people to answer to. They want to see quarterly growth, not loss. This fucking recession isn’t helping things, either. Now I have to worry about insureds complaining about their jobs and reduced pay. In a way, I’m glad they don’t pay their premiums, because that means we can just strike them off the rolls; and that’s one less potential multi-million dollar Parkinson’s sufferer to worry about. On the other hand, we need lots of people paying premiums to keep the company afloat. The key to success in the health insurance business is twofold. First, you need to keep a healthy premium flow coming in at all times. Second, you need to make sure you don’t pay out more in benefits than you gain in premiums. Obviously, lots of customers mean lots of premiums. That is good. But when lots of customers get expensive diseases, it can erase all your gains in a heartbeat. Basically, it’s a balancing act: Keep the premiums coming in without paying out too much in benefits.

That’s where I come in. I scrutinize benefit payouts. I have charts. I have reminder programs. I have manuals. I have employees who keep me informed about each and every last insured bastard who might come down with a rare blood disorder. I take Tums® for ulcers. I have anxiety. I am edgy because I never know when I’m going to get another bad phone call from the Senior Claims Reviewer: “Some guy needs a full intestinal transplant.” When I get calls like that, my heart sinks. “Fuck. There goes another $10,000,000. What the hell am I going to say to the Board?” Then I call the lawyers and tell them to start checking payment records and medical histories. Most of the time, we find good news that lets us deny coverage, or at least really cut it down.

But sometimes we don’t. Those are bad days. Then I need to call up the Chairman and tell him why we just authorized $10,000,000 to some schmo who paid only $100 a month for basic hospital coverage. “I’m so sorry about this…” I say. Then comes the screaming interruption: “Lovejoy, you dumb ass! Do you know what this is going to do to our numbers for May?!? You incompetent little fuck, etc., etc.” Then I glance around the office and try not to have a heart attack. All because of some heartless, selfish man who decided to get intestinal cancer on my watch.

My job isn’t all doom and gloom. I have won awards at industry dinners. Health Insurers’ Insider® magazine even called me a “scrupulous professional fund manager; one of the best in the biz” in their 2006 “Health Industry All-Stars” issue. I take comfort in the fact that my company is a major American business that employs over 5,000 people from coast to coast. I also take pride in the fact that we provide competitive coverage in the private health insurance market that helps people lead healthy, productive lives. My work earns me a great salary. I have a beautiful home and two great kids. Private health insurance did this for me. There are some moments in which I am truly grateful for my job. And I wouldn’t have it if America didn’t trust private enterprise to handle health.

Still, most of my life is a battle. I live my days worrying about whether some lucky insured will hit the care jackpot and get a lifetime of free medical treatment after paying a measly monthly premium. I will say it now and forever: I hate high-priced insureds. They make my life miserable and they hurt my company. Kids are the worst. When some kid gets cancer, you’re looking at decades of high-dollar care at clinics, sanitoriums, hospitals, rehab centers and university laboratories. Then there’s surgery, therapy and all the fucking doctor visits. Then you’ve got specialty examinations, referrals, CAT scans, diagnostics, blood tests and every imaginable MRI test. This shit adds up like a bar tab from hell. Chronically sick kids are the bane of my existence. They cost billions of dollars to keep alive. And for what? So they can weakly breathe through a tube while sobbing relatives crowd around the bed and miss work? What is the fucking point? I wish these expensive little shit-sprouts would just hurry up and die. They are costing way too much, and no one is happy about the situation. I mean, for Christ’s sake, the kid ain’t getting better. He’s just going to keep wasting away until he finally croaks. Why make me pay billions of dollars to prolong the inevitable? You selfish cocksucking assholes. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! I just want to pull my hair out when I think about it. And to think that the company is slipping down the Fortune 100 list because of these greedy dying kids…it’s just a disgrace.

I am in the health care management business. It’s not easy. It’s stressful. It’s agonizing. It’s difficult. When you deal with other peoples’ money, life is tough. And I deal with billions of investor dollars every day. Investors don’t want excuses. They want profits. That’s where the anxiety comes in: How am I supposed to generate a profit when people get sick for years and don’t die? Do they realize how uneconomical that is? No, they don’t. Sick people sit around and expect care while our investors grimly foot the bill and wait for them to kick off.

As a health fund administrator, I think about people differently. I have no personal stake in people’s lives. I don’t care about their pain, dreams, hopes, emotions, fears and aspirations. I just want to know whether they represent a company liability. If they do, they force me to make tongue-tied explanations to the Board. If they don’t, God bless them, because they bring in profits. The Board likes profits. It doesn’t like liabilities. You figure it out. Die, you sick fucks. You’ll make my life so much easier when you stop racking up those monster medical bills.

So here’s what I really feel. I confess that I don’t like sick children, sick old people, women who experience pregnancy complications, people who require unanticipated surgery, people who require long-term hospitalizations and anyone who costs more to keep alive than to let die. Here’s my message to all of you: You are selfish, lucky money-grubbers. You make my job difficult. And you can all go to hell.

Having said all this, if you are in the market for affordable, reliable health insurance, call your local Coordinated Care Systems agent. Because it’s your health—and you matter™.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

THE MILITARY IS SOCIALISTIC BECAUSE IT CARES ABOUT ITS OWN MEN

AN ESSAY

Several days ago, I watched a documentary about American military strategy against Japan during World War II. The basic lesson boiled down to this: “America won not by overwhelming manpower, but rather by overwhelming firepower.” Unlike the Japanese—and especially the Russians—American military leaders recoiled from suffering heavy casualties in battle. Instead, they preferred to leverage massive technological advantages against their enemies, ostensibly because they cared about their soldiers’ lives. In the Pacific, this involved blasting the Japanese with massive battleships, airplanes and tanks. Obviously some infantrymen had to die in the final push to take island fortresses, but not before the Navy and Air Force gravely weakened the defenders with numbing firepower. In essence, although America mustered huge numbers of military personnel in World War II—over 16 million—commanders won battles without subjecting them to unnecessary risks.

That tradition continued after the war ended. In virtually every conflict America has fought since 1945, the military has put a premium on technology over manpower. Manpower is vital to operate the technology, but American strategy bets on technology to win battles, not massed men. In Vietnam, the Air Force dropped countless tons of bombs on the jungle in an effort to root out the Viet Cong. B-52 bombers razed North Vietnam’s cities to the ground. When American troops got in trouble, they called in air support to hammer their attackers. In most cases, the Air Force faced no opposition at all. They freely bombed, napalmed and strafed their enemies. American soldiers died. But a whole lot more Vietnamese did.

In Operation Desert Storm, America took its “technological” approach to war to the ultimate level. By 1991, the United States held sway over a formidable new “computerized” arsenal, including invincible tanks, stealth bombers and “smart bombs” that could home in on individual targets. Again, although America deployed hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Gulf, the technology did the fighting. Day and night, the Air Force systematically pulverized the Iraqi army. By the time the Army moved in, there was almost nothing left to shoot. And once the advance into Kuwait began, the Army savagely destroyed anything that resisted. This time, only a handful of American soldiers died, while up to 100,000 Iraqis did. So complete was the slaughter that more American troops fell to friendly fire than to enemy action.

Beginning in 2003, America has attempted to leverage its “technological” approach to warfare in Iraq. Despite initial successes against “conventional” resistance on the way to toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, American strategy bogged down once the conventional battlelines disappeared. The guerrilla “insurgency” that arose after Saddam’s fall continues to this day. American troops must engage in demoralizing patrols. Often, they are hard pressed to tell civilians from foes. In most cases, they never even see their attackers, who either wait in ambush or plant traps for them along the roads. Technology counts for nothing in these circumstances. And this is why—despite the smug confidence of men like former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush—the capabilities of “technology-based” armies in the 21st Century have their limits.

Yet I do not fully criticize America’s “technological” or “standoff” approach to war. America fights wars all the time. True, they are not colossal, World War II-style struggles between established States. But they are wars nonetheless. America solves problems with warfare. It defends its ideology and commercial interests with warfare, just as every Empire in history has done. Perhaps this is what dominant world powers must do. And at least America is not reckless when it fights. It does its utmost to ensure that few Americans die. Officially, it tries to reduce civilian casualties, but civilian casualties are unavoidable when deploying such immense firepower. America avoids losing its own men by deploying firepower. If it kills some civilians in order to save Americans, it will. That is just how the game works.

I do not criticize America’s war methodology to the extent that American military leaders care about American lives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid unnecessary deaths. In fact, one might even say it is compassionate. Throughout history, many military leaders viewed their own men with contempt. They did not blink when hurling them into certain death. Generally speaking, however, American commanders rarely do this. While some men always must die to fulfill dangerous objectives, the real question is how many must die. The Russians never cared how many soldiers died. They just threw everyone in and trusted their overwhelming manpower to win. By contrast, American commanders actually take pains to reduce risks to their own troops by first inundating the enemy with firepower. In a strange way, this reflects care for individual lives. It might subject noncombatants to huge risks and inflict horrific losses on the enemy. But it is still “care.” American military commanders don’t hesitate to kill the enemy. They just don’t like seeing Americans get killed. It actually really bothers them.

I mention this because care for soldiers reflects a peculiarly benevolent, well-intentional government paternalism. In America, that is rare. In civilian life, for example, Americans learn to be independent economic creatures. They learn to “make their own way” without State help. They don’t get free health insurance; they bear the full price of irresponsibility, bad luck and failure. American civilians depend on themselves, not State apparati. In fact, Americans are patriotic largely to the extent that the American “Nation” provides them a “liberty sphere” in which they can pursue their own interests without interference from the government. They like America because America “leaves them alone” and lets them get rich. They don’t want help, because help is for weaklings. They want to be happy, independent economic producers who pursue their own self-interest. For the most part, the government lets them do exactly this. It does not step in when civilians suffer hardship or loss. It lets them bear suffering with remarkable indifference. It does not really “care” for them like a watchful parent does.

Not so in the military. The military is a governmental institution that shows incredible care for its members. In the military, the emphasis does not lie on the individual; it lies on the group. There is a “group mission” and “group ethics” that bind everyone to common—and noncommercial—goals. There is common care for each member. It may be harsh care, but it is still care. If a solider gets sick, army hospitals care for him. He does not have to worry about rent, food, clothing or bills. The military provides him everything he needs, leaving him free to focus solely on the “group mission.” Finally, American commanders truly care that their troops do not die in battle. This represents true government care. Symbolically, when military commanders actively worry about their soldiers’ lives, it represents government caring about its citizens. This differs from civilian life. If a civilian encounters unavoidable circumstances that put his life in jeopardy, that’s his problem. The civilian authorities do not care.

Should we be proud about this? Why does government care not extend throughout all of society, not just certain institutions like the military? Do we have to confront mortal danger in combat before the government starts really worrying about our well-being in life? The United States spends half its gross national product on maintaining the military. This includes all the fancy technology that gives the military the “overwhelming firepower” it needs to preserve its “manpower.” People complain that the government spends too much on things like stealth bombers, unmanned robot tanks and sophisticated airstrike guidance systems. But all these expenditures reflect care for individual soldiers’ lives, not just a desire to defeat potential enemies. Stealth bombers efficiently destroy things so that military commanders do not have to put American soldiers in jeopardy to fulfill a particular objective. The pricetag for stealth bombers, then, indirectly saves American lives by insulating American soldiers from combat risks.

For a country that prides itself on “self-reliance” and “making your own way,” it is quite striking that America spends so much money protecting those who are not self-reliant. After all, military personnel are quintessentially dependent: They depend on the military for everything, from equipment to food to accommodations to emotional support. In essence, the Armed Forces represent a massive welfare State dedicated to the safety and well-being of its members. It is ironic that most military personnel consider themselves conservative when they directly benefit from extravagant government largesse on every level.

In fact, they get the best. There are less than 5 million Americans in the Armed Forces, yet half the GDP goes to support them. The other 295 million Americans have to make do with the other half.

America can be socialistic when it wants to be. American support for the military—and the military’s obsessive care for its own members—proves this. That is why I do not think that “socialism” and “America” exclude one another. Our military is a shining example that Americans can truly care about each other from a social perspective. American commanders do not like to see their soldiers die; they take great, expensive pains to ensure that they do not. That spirit should permeate our entire society, not just the military. Yes, it costs a lot. But it bears tangible benefits. When individuals know that they have recourse to assistance when they need it, they feel good to be part of a larger community that cares about them. Soldiers feel proud to be in the Armed Forces for the same reason; they know the military will support them as long as they do not commit some gross infraction.

Considering all these factors, the military is a socialistic institution. It is not capitalistic at all. It might fight to protect capitalistic ideals among civilians, but capitalism in the military would destroy its cohesion and esprit de corps. If the military practiced capitalistic ideals, soldiers and officers would struggle to exploit one another for personal gain, not to advance “common goals” or “the mission.” Soldiers would fight for “themselves,” not their “buddies” or great principles such as “freedom,” “honor” or “sacrifice.” If the military were capitalistic, soldiers on the battlefield would say to their wounded comrades: “That’s your problem, pal.” Some Lieutenants would be richer than other Lieutenants, even though the regulations say that everyone with the same rank is equal. And if the military practiced capitalism, it would not really care if some undifferentiated soldiers died in a battle as long as it did not impose a cost “on profitable operations.” This is certainly not the case in the military as it exists in the United States. It cares too much about others’ lives; that is why it is not a capitalistic institution. Rather, it is a socialistic institution within a capitalistic society. And it would not be effective in battle if it were not essentially socialistic.

America can learn from the military. Military life is in many ways a rarefied existence. Military personnel are insulated from the pernicious “buy, sell, make money” cycle that typifies civilian life. Every soldier has a chance to advance based on his merit, not his money. He does not worry about bills, rent, clothing or electricity. Instead, he focuses his mind and body on larger “missions” that transcend his own commercial gain. And he knows that his officers truly care that he lives. These are not bad ideals. In fact, they are quite noble compared to the usual impulses that drive civilian life. Soldiers are not “on their own” in a society that could care less whether they live, die or go bankrupt. They are part of a family that cares. It may care harshly, but it still cares.

In the American military, commanders care so much about their soldiers’ lives that they are willing to level whole cities in order to protect them. We do not have to go that far in order to care about our fellow citizens. The military experience proves that America can actively care about its own people, even if it professes “self-reliance” and “total independence.” I would find it refreshing to know that civilian authorities cared as much whether individual citizens live or die as military commanders care whether their soldiers live or die. This might be socialistic. But it is also quintessentially humanitarian.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A SHORT BREAK, AND A WORD ON WRITING

I don't like it when "real life" interrupts my writing. But that's exactly what it does from time to time. Today, I have so many nagging administrative tasks that I won't be able to sit down and really generate a good post this morning. With luck, I will have some time this evening, but please forgive me if fatigue compromises my writing muse.

Tracey Ullman recently satirized J.K. Rowling in her State of the Union comedy show. Essentially, she mocked Rowling for obsessively controlling the "Harry Potter" franchise by depicting her suing the most insignificant transgressors against her "intellectual property." During one exchange, Ullman qua Rowling says to a U.S. Customs official who has aspirations to be a writer: "You're really not going to take time off from your job to write, are you? You're not going anywhere with this, are you?"

There was brutal truth in Ullman's satire here. Not only did she excoriate Rowling--who only had time to write because she was unemployed and received government benefits to help her avoid homelessness--but she also hit upon the sad reality that "employment" and "real life" tend to snuff out artistic expression altogether. Rainer Maria Rilke said that you should not even bother writing unless "you must do it." In other words, you "must" write, even if your obligations and commitments pose virtually insuperable roadblocks. That sounds great, and I even agree with it to a point. But Rilke never had to worry about his rent, nor did he have sick relatives to care for, nor did he suffer mental illness, nor did he have crushing debt that required him to seek energy-draining "employment" to pay it off. More importantly, Rilke never spent his hours attending to menial tasks and boring (but depressingly necessary) labors to fulfill commitments to creditors and family members. Because he did not have such commitments, he never arrived home exhausted, uninspired, torpid and incapable of imagination. Yet this is how we feel when we get home after a day of compulsory "service" fulfilling obligations.

In short, we have to slog out a living to avoid homelessness and bankruptcy. Rilke could sit musing in Paris salons and get handouts from scintillated bourgeois women. We cannot all be so lucky.

And it is not our fault. Our circumstances in life dictate whether we have time to write. When I have to take a day off from writing, I do not despair. I do not consider myself "defeated." I wish I could be like Rilke and all the "professional, successful" writers who do not have to worry about creditors, rent, administrative obligations and the myriad annoyances that plague me every day. If I were, I would have bottomless energy and creativity from the moment I wake up in the morning until the evening. But all too often I have to contend with some nonsense, or even work for someone else; and that sucks the very life out of me. By the time I get home, I can do little more than stare, let alone be creative. This is "real life."

Having said all this, I do my best to write despite all the personal and financial challenges that hound me. I try not to describe them in detail; this is not a psychiatry blog, nor do I expect anyone to really care about my issues. This is just the way life goes. Some have it easier than others. Still, I am relatively content with my lot. It could be much worse: I am healthy; I am just broke, in debt and romantically committed. I just resent the suggestion that it is somehow "anti-artistic" to refrain from writing one day because "real writers write" no matter what else they face in life. That is simply unrealistic. For debtors like me with relationships, bills and sick relatives, I have no choice but to be "anti-artistic" every now and then. If I weren't, I would be homeless or emotionally wrecked. And if that happened, my "artistic production" would fall to nothing. Thus, I take a break when I must, Rilke be damned.

As yet, I haven't found a wealthy patron to finance my scribblings. Until I do, I regret to say that I will occasionally need to take days off from writing once in a while in order to stave off bankruptcy and to maintain crucial relationships with important people in my life.

Does this make me a cop-out? Maybe in J.K. Rowling's eyes it does. But please forgive me; I haven't yet published 45 novels with 17 film adaptations. I actually fret over unexpected bills because every single dollar I earn has already been spoken for. To some extent, that stays my artistic hand. If I don't sometimes grit my teeth and handle administrative crap, my creditors would do me in. So I give up the writing some days.

But rest assured. Administrative nonsense only restrains me once in a while. At all other times, you can count on Reason, Commerce, Justice & Free Beer. And thanks again to all those who take the time to read what I write.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CITIZEN-CORPSES IN FAVOR OF ESTABLISHING A MORTOCRACY UNDER LAW



By : President Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States of America; Former Alzheimer’s Sufferer; Winner of the Cold War; Convincing Thespian (deceased 2004); Citizen-Corpse.

My fellow Americans and friends, I have been out of the White House for twenty years now and I have been dead for five. I think about my days as President very often. I only wish that I could do more for America. After all, we live in challenging times. Sadly, we live in an era of injustice. The longer I remain dead, the more I see that America treats corpses and dead people without respect. We are treated like second-class citizens. In fact, no one pays any attention to us at all because we are not there anymore. In most cases we are cremated or buried. But we are people, too. Or rather, we were people. Just because our existence is now in the past tense does not make us any less American than every breathing soul in our great country. And we still are proud Americans dedicated to equality for all.

No matter where you look these days, government is helping some disadvantaged group. America helps Indians, poor people, disabled people, Spanish-speaking people and even Eskimos. All these people get preferential treatment. All these people asked for equality and they got it. But what about dead people? Who speaks for us? Who advocates our special problems? In our view, this is a gross injustice. Government expends massive sums helping Eskimos obtain housing and legislative representation, yet it does nothing to ease the plight of corpses and long-dead ancestors buried all over the country. When I read the words “all men are created equal,” I don’t see a requirement for "all men" to be alive. It doesn’t say all “living men” are created equal. Men can either be dead or alive. We’re dead, and government doesn’t give a damn about us. This is simply wrong and unfair. We are men. We might be dead, but that doesn’t change our status as Americans entitled to rights and equality.

Americans must wake up to the fact that we matter. Sure, we might not be around to talk to you at breakfast or even to play tennis. But we are still people. Dead people, yes; but people, nonetheless. We might not eat or sleep anymore, but does that make us inferior? We think not. In fact, we outnumber the living by a large margin. We have needs. We have desires. We demand attention. And it is not as if we are not influential. We are not some fringe group. We are your fathers and great-grandfathers. Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are with us. So is Julius Caesar and Alexander Graham Bell. How can America turn its back on such great people? In short, we are sick and tired of being ignored. It is a disgrace that America does not even consider a group in which George Washington is a leading member. As citizen-corpses, we insist that the United States take us seriously.

We knew an America once. It cared about its citizens. It made a place for everyone. It treated everyone with decency and respect. But that America is gone. Now we see that America doesn’t care one bit about dead people. Sure, people may say a nice thing or two about their dead grandfather or uncle, but what have they done for him lately? Maybe they throw a few flowers on a grave or look up at an urn containing his remains. But how does that help us? We have opinions, voices and personalities. We have beliefs and ideals. Tossing flowers on us does not help us express ourselves or communicate our beliefs. In short, America totally ignores us. It does not even consider us people. This is the ultimate insult. After all, without us, America would not be the country it is today. We worked our whole lives to build the United States, and how does it pay us back? It literally buries and forgets us. Well let me tell you something: We’re not forgotten. We’re right here. And we demand to be heard.

How can Americans think we don’t matter? We left them their property. We sent them to college. We built the institutions that now keep them safe. We nurtured their parents and won wars that made our country strong. If anything, living Americans owe us a tremendous debt. But no, they act like we’re gone. They say: “Ah, we buried old Ronnie in '04; we don’t owe him anything except maybe a champagne toast every Thanksgiving.”

As a citizen-corpse, you have no idea how much this hurts me. During my life, I did everything I could to help this country. Now the living act like I’m not even there anymore. Do you know how demeaning that is? Have you ever walked in a room and people act like you’re not there? Well, that’s what I’m going through every day, along with every other dead man and woman on earth. It ain’t fun, and it ain’t right.

But we are not disheartened. We may be dead, but we know we are strong. We refuse to accept second-class treatment any longer. We believe that America should represent every voice, not just living ones. What good is a democracy if it ignores its single largest constituency? What good is equality if the largest group is unequal? We are committed to restoring justice and equality to American life. To do that, we must completely reorganize the government. Thus, from this day onward, we, the Citizen-Corpses, hereby commit ourselves to establishing a Mortocracy under Law. If democracy ceases to address the needs of the people—including dead people—then it must be replaced. Believe me, this is true. Thomas Jefferson himself told me he wants to do this.

For those who don’t know, a Mortocracy is a government in which the dead rule. As citizen-corpses, we believe that we can restore faith in American ideals by addressing everyone’s needs, including ours. Until now, the American “democracy” has only addressed the needs of the living. In so doing, it ignored us and treated us like dirt. Worse, it engaged in discrimination while professing equal treatment for all. No matter how much we complained, the American “democracy” refused to pass legislation to protect dead people’s rights. It earmarked funds for health care. What about dead care? It required all property owners to make their lands accessible to handicapped living people. What about corpse access? It provided lower taxes for lower-income people. What about variable tax rates for the dead? It established social welfare programs for poor people. What about benefit checks for dead relatives? In all these legislative acts, we saw indignity. No one ever even thought to consider our needs, let alone debated them. In the ultimate insult, many living lawmakers said: “We only have resources to take care of our own, not people who died 500 years ago.”

Those days are over. Now, we will make the decisions. We might not have lungs to breathe or hands to grasp, but we are determined to get the treatment we deserve. We might be rotting in a coffin somewhere, but that will not stop us from taking America in a new direction—toward freedom. We might already have disintegrated into dust, but determined Americans get things done no matter what adversity they face, whether they're dead, decomposed or both. We might have been vaporized in explosions or reduced to ashes in a crematorium, but we nonetheless are unique individuals with opinions. We intend to show up in Congress. We intend to make laws to advocate our unique needs and wants. This is what America is all about. And we believe that a Mortocracy will better speak for all people than a mere democracy. A government that speaks only for the living is no government at all.

We are certain to face opposition from the living. No one likes to change a system that works, especially if it works for only a few advantaged people. Obviously, the American democracy works very well for the living. They are getting everything they want because they withhold so much from us. They are not going to like ceding their power to challengers from beyond the grave. But the living have grown complacent. They have ignored the dead for too long. Life does not give them a monopoly on American power. More to the point, we believe that the living have betrayed the ideals of justice, fairness and equality that made America great in the first place. They thought they could just press on without considering us. They were wrong.

We may be dead. But we have great ideas for this country. It is only right that America starts listening to us again. To be clear, we do not intend to forget living Americans. Just because they discriminated against us does not mean we will revisit the same injustice upon them once we take control. No, we are not vindictive. We merely want the same consideration as they receive. We merely want to fulfill America’s great promise of freedom, dignity and justice for all—and that really means all: living and dead. What good is freedom if only the living are free? What good is dignity if only the living can expect dignity? And what good is justice if only the living can claim it? If America truly wishes to fulfill its noble promises, it must make room for the dead, too.

Support the Mortocracy. True, it is hard for you to see us because we are dead. In many cases, our bodily remains have long since vanished. We are not thrilling speakers because we cannot stand upright. Corpses are not eloquent, nor can they excite a crowd because they are not alive. Corpses stare straight ahead; they cannot thrill audiences with subtle facial expressions, smiles, scowls and smirks. We cannot solicit campaign funds because we no longer have functioning mouths, tongues or palates. In most cases, our soft tissues have long since rotted away. We cannot even write brochures because we are dead; we have no hands to type or even pick up a pen. Even if we did have hands, they would not be moving. Although we acknowledge these difficulties, we are confident that our message will prevail. Dead we may be. But we are people just like you. When you think about American principles, ask yourself whether it’s fair to apply them only to living people. Doesn’t equality mean anything to you?

It is time to stand up for justice for all—don’t be selfish. You are not the only ones here. Think about the corpses, too. Think of it this way: You will be among us some day. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You don’t like discrimination, do you? As an American, you shouldn’t. That is why it is time to establish a Mortocracy. It is the only way to give corpses the influence they deserve. And we all have a voice. Let us hear them all—even if it is difficult to hear a corpse speak.

Monday, June 22, 2009

THE PROCREATION PROBLEM : WHO WANTS KIDS AND WHY?

AN ESSAY

Last week, a friend told me an amusing story. He told me that a woman sued a man for battery after he put horseradish sauce in a used condom to determine whether the woman was “using” his sperm without his consent after they had “protected” sex. Sure enough, the couple had sex and the man threw the condom in the bathroom trashcan. Then he put horseradish sauce in it while she was in a different room. He went back into the kitchen. She went into the bathroom, and a few moments later the man heard a bloodcurdling scream. The woman irritated herself with the horseradish sauce; she did not suffer permanent injury. The relationship did.

This all might sound funny. But it raises some interesting issues about men, women and procreation. In vitro fertilization aside, men and women need to have sex with each other to reproduce the species. That, in turn, implicates monumental emotional problems, because men and women view sex in very different ways. In the horseradish story, for example, there was tension between the man and the woman because the woman was in her 30s and said she wanted to start a family. To use a clich├ę, her “clock was ticking.” The man, by contrast, said he just wanted to have sex. He didn’t want to be a father or alter his lifestyle to care for a child. More cynically, he also did not want to pay child support and compromise his income. This difference in opinion led to mutual mistrust between the two parties, which ultimately culminated in the woman’s duplicity and the man’s mean-spirited trick. Men and women do not see sex in the same way. And amid all this suspicion, children usually are a consequence to be either feared or exploited, not a gift to be treasured.

Several male commentators asserted that the horseradish story proved women are “natural gold-diggers.” That assertion assumes that women only want to procreate because it entitles them to a paternity check. It does not acknowledge the fact that women may have deep spiritual and emotional reasons for wanting to have children. Nonetheless, these commentators marshaled some evidence to support their conclusion that women “just want to make a profit” from “unauthorized procreation.” Specifically, they pointed to recent “legal warnings” issued to NBA stars “to guard their used condoms” and always to “assume that women want to get pregnant for money.” In a less extreme example, they also pointed to the right-wing-proverbial “welfare mother” who just wants to mass produce living children in order to maximize her individual benefit check.

As superficially convincing as this “evidence” may be, I am hesitant to label all women inveterate gold-diggers. I have no doubt that some unscrupulous women are willing to bear the pain of childbirth and the difficulty of motherhood in order to get a check. But there are unscrupulous men, too. Women do not have a monopoly on duplicity and deception. In this sense, these modern “male as victim” arguments are at best self-righteous and at worst hypocritical. Historically speaking, men have always enjoyed superior power over women. As recently as the 19th Century, for instance, women faced “petty treason” conviction (and burning at the stake) for killing their husbands, while men only faced “murder” prosecution (and hanging) for killing their wives. In virtually every way, the common law regarded the woman as the husband’s “property” and, as such, the husband had “exclusive rights to use it.” At common law, a husband could not legally “rape” his wife, even if the sexual intercourse was nonconsensual (“Rape be the carnal knowledge of a woman, not the perpetrator’s wife, against her will”)(common law rule, emphasis added). Women could not vote or serve in official positions (unless they were monarchs). They were barred from traditional employment. They depended on men for income and inheritance. At the same time, men had virtually free rein to “discipline their wives;” husbands’ domestic brutality toward their wives rarely troubled the law or society. In short, women have not been roughly “equal” to men until relatively recent times. And for centuries, men could freely tyrannize women without the slightest consequence. To that extent, I find these modern “male as victim” arguments strangely pathetic.

When it comes to procreation, why do men consider themselves victims? Obviously they do not like the law’s approach to child support. For better or worse, the law throws the financial risk of sexual activity on the male. It does not matter whether the male employed measures intended to prevent pregnancy; if the condom breaks, he is the “father” and he owes child support payments. He might consider this unjust, but society has decided—through legislation—that men must pay to help raise their children, whether they wanted them or not. This indirectly benefits women, since a wealthier father must pay more money to support the child. But in the abstract, child support laws are not intended to provide a windfall to women. Nor are they intended to express moral contempt for irresponsible men, no matter what the talk shows say. Rather, child support laws are intended to promote procreation and to protect children. The fact that they breed mutual suspicion and enmity between men and women does not alter their social purpose.

We have seen that men and women think about procreation in very different ways. But child support laws reveal that society and government see procreation in yet another way—a demographic way. For law and government, procreation is not about emotion, love or even suspicion; it is about numbers. Specifically, the law vigorously promotes procreation. After all, the law would not force unwilling fathers to pay money to support unwanted children if it did not have a policy preference for births. The law could care less about a woman’s comfort; the law merely wants women to give birth. More births mean more citizens. And more citizens mean more workers. More workers mean a bigger economy in the future, and a bigger economy means more taxes and more national power. National strength has everything to do with population. Nations with large populations can produce more than nations with smaller populations. More production means more power and influence. Just look at China. The fact that China has the most people means it has more labor capacity and the best economic potential. These are fundamental government interests—and they depend on procreation. No matter how mechanized a Nation’s economy may be, there is always strength in raw numbers. Nations with flat birthrates will not stay strong forever.

In America, both State and Federal governments employ many subtle methods to further their policy preference for greater procreation. Mandatory child support payments are only one example. More significantly, American governments frown upon abortion and contraception, even though the Federal Constitution technically provides a right to both. Many States, for instance, carefully regulate the circumstances under which citizens may obtain consultation about abortion or birth control. They purposely bias the informational debate to favor procreation over contraception and abortion. They tell women who want abortions that the State will pay for hospital stays and adoption services. They exclude contraception from health plan coverage. And from a historical perspective, American governments criminalized “frauds on procreation,” including homosexual sex and nonprocreative heterosexual practices. From the government’s perspective, every ejaculation should be well spent because it needs more citizens to compete in the global economy. Wasted sexual energy, in other words, represents wasted national potential. This is not a moral question. It is an economic one.

In short, governments in America take a positive stand for “potential life” and “procreation,” even if the woman—or the man—does not want to procreate. After all, America needs more Americans. If America promoted contraception and abortion too much, it would flatten the birthrate and allow China and India to overtake us.

I am not writing satirical scrawl. I am reflecting on genuine geopolitical strategy. Governmental support for procreation has nothing to do with mistrust between men and women, nor does it reflect real compassion for children. Government does not care about children’s emotional lives or spiritual well-being; it simply wants them to be alive and healthy so they can mature into productive citizens. Of course, government takes a risk that every live birth may degenerate into a crack addict, welfare recipient or murderer. But every live birth also represents a chance that the child will become Albert Einstein, Bill Gates or at least a bourgeois with taxable income. Abortion may snuff out future criminals, but it also may snuff out future industrial barons. Government would rather save everyone in order to protect the potential industrial baron. Again, this has nothing to do with caring or compassion. It has merely to do with national strength. Government’s support for procreation over contraception, then, reflects government’s national self-interest, nothing more.

There are two realities at work here. On the micro level, men and women bicker with one another over money and child support. Men want orgasms without financial consequence; women want orgasms, child support payments and the emotional fulfillment of motherhood. On the macro level, government just wants men and women to keep having sex. It does not foist financial obligations on men to morally denounce their ill-advised (or even unlucky) sexual practices. Rather, it foists financial obligations on them so that their offspring can develop into productive citizens. Indeed, government may say it prefers that men and women procreate only when married. But from a geopolitical standpoint, this is an inane requirement. Children are children. They all have the potential to later pay taxes, serve in the army and perhaps invent things. Marriage may provide a stable platform for procreation and a child’s emotional well-being, but government just wants births. A child’s emotional well-being is a peripheral concern.

Governments do not exist without people. Procreation is the only way to generate more people. Bearing that in mind, it should not surprise us that government prefers procreation in every circumstance. As obvious as this sounds, however, it is somehow unnerving to think we are just grist for the governmental mill. After all, we were all children once. Although our family lives may all differ in some respects, we all experienced family dynamics. We experienced love in some form. Some of us were more fortunate than others on that score. When we were children, we did not think about our country’s geopolitical fortunes or the State’s goals. Rather, we just wanted to live and experience life because it was new. We knew our families and little else. Yet little did we know that government had very different ideas about our existence. Our concerns and our emotional connections to our families meant nothing. Rather, we were simply “new citizens” with “future potential.” We not only would pay taxes and contribute to the economy, but our future sexual activity might one day result in more taxpayers and workers. Emotion and compassion have nothing to do with these expectations. No: For the government, procreation is about national survival, not the individual mystery of existence. And no matter what private squabbles men and women wage with regard to procreation, they are mere pawns in a much larger chess game.

Procreation is valuable because more people mean more power. Our sex is instrumental in creating power because it creates more people. Government does not want us to waste it. If we did, government would eventually have nothing left to rule.

Women want children for their reasons. Men want children for their reasons. Sometimes neither men nor women want children; they fight about it. But government always wants children. And it wants them for very different reasons than any individual man or woman.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

WE OWN OUR TASTES; WE ARE WHAT WE WANT

OESTERHOUDT STRIKES

Earlier this week, I wrote that art appeals to subjective taste. It is impossible to measure “good art” because no objective standards apply to it. A person either likes a painting or he does not. There is no magical checklist that automatically transforms a scribbling into a masterpiece. Greatness depends on publicity—and enough people who like you.

What appeals to one man will not appeal to another. For a lawyer, these are difficult concepts to grasp. After all, in law school, students learn that there are objective standards to measure everything. This is complete bullshit, of course, but the law adopts “objective standards” for administrative convenience. For example, the law judges “reasonable conduct,” “reasonable belief” and “reasonable reliance.” It does not look to the individual actor to determine what is “reasonable.” It looks to a fanciful “average, prudent person” to determine what is reasonable, then compares this nonexistent person’s assumed behavior to the poor sap under review. This is a totally unrealistic intellectual enterprise. But without it, there would be no standards at all for human behavior in society. People could get hurt and defrauded. Thus, while objective standards for human behavior may be unrealistic and philosophically untenable, they are vaguely necessary in order to maintain relative decorum in society.

Yet lawyers tend to forget that objective standards for human behavior are unrealistic and philosophically untenable. Instead, they start believing that objective standards actually exist. Legal education and legal practice have a perplexing, smugness-inducing effect. After all, lawyers wield very tangible power in our commercial world. Their words and writings have the power to impact property and even bodily security. By applying unrealistic and philosophically untenable legal formulae in particular cases, they can send people to prison or take away their homes. This naturally will make a lawyer feel quite powerful in his craft. But smugness in an unrealistic and philosophically flawed analytical methodology does not change the fact that it is unrealistic and philosophically flawed. Lawyers actually believe that there are objective standards in every life pursuit. This is just wrong. As Nietzsche said, there are no absolute “facts, only interpretations.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments 7(60) (Summer 1887)(my translation). Lawyers cannot fathom this. If they did, the pillars supporting their fanciful castle would collapse.

Yet how can we really debate the fact that objective standards and “truths” depend on interpretation? They do; moreover, they reflect the perspective of those with sufficient power to press home their interpretations. Still, everyone has a unique perspective. Everyone interprets differently. No matter what the law says or attributes to a person, that person still sees things and feels things in his own way. According to the law, he may “deviate from the reasonable standard,” but that is not because the person is intrinsically flawed. It is because the law—by sheer power—judges the person according to a standard that derives from its own perspective.

In this way, the law—and juridical thinking in the abstract—wields considerable influence in our lives. It does not just constrain our behavior by threatening punishment for certain “negative acts.” It also convinces us to think that objective standards exist in life as “absolute facts.” It convinces us that there is such a thing as “reasonable behavior,” even though that is merely a figment of some jurist’s imagination. They forget that everyone has a valid perspective and actually believe that there are universal standards governing everyone. This is unfortunate. On the other hand, it is administratively convenient. What kind of society would we have if every socially unpalatable person simply claimed he “did what he thought was correct” in particular circumstances? It would be a terrible mess. Nonetheless, every individual—in a strict, philosophical sense—is entitled to his own truth, perspective and interpretation. The law is not more right because it has the power to condemn men’s bodies or property. In this sense, the law sacrifices philosophical cohesion for administrative convenience. Legal thinking does not really care whether it represents “true truth.” It is content to merely keep things working without turmoil. Practicality wins over theory.

But there are realms in which subjective taste reigns and the law has no influence at all. Even people who believe strongly in the law nonetheless relish their own, personal tastes. Taste reflects individuality, not obedience to an artificial standard. When we say what we like and what we want, we express our own desires and thoughts. No objective standard applies to these things. They come from within, not from without. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche wrote: “Wanting liberates: that is the true lesson of will and freedom.” Also Sprach Zarathustra, Teil II (Auf den Gl├╝ckseligen Inseln)(my translation). In other words, expressing our own wants and desires from within frees us from the objective standards imposed upon us from without. Wanting feels good because it originates in us, not outside us. Nothing controls our wants; they bespeak us. They define us. The law might say we have “unreasonable desires,” but they remain ours. And nothing in the law makes its judgments intrinsically “right.” It is “right” only to the extent that power supports it.

Taste is crucially important in our lives even though the law has no authority to influence it. What do we consider “beautiful?” Do we refer to a statute book listing the objective factors that constitute “what is beautiful?” Certainly not. We consider things “beautiful” that move us and appeal to our intuition. We define ourselves by judging people or things “beautiful.” After all, certain people find certain things beautiful, while others do not. It has nothing to do with law or objectivity. Rather, it has only to do with individual desire and taste. From an individual perspective, we think about these things all the time because our tastes reflect our deepest core. We pursue things that we like in life. We want to appease our tastes. We want beauty. Why do we want things that appeal to us? Because only we have control over them. We decide what we like, not an external standard. Psychologically, we live for our wants. We make ourselves happy when we satisfy them. We descend into unhappiness when life’s circumstances prevent us from doing so. Wanting is everything because we are our wants.

Recently, I thought about all these questions when reflecting on my own tastes. I thought about people I find beautiful. What turns me on? What makes me say: “That is a beautiful man” or “That is a beautiful woman”? For the longest time, I thought that everyone could agree that certain people are beautiful, at least from a sexual or aesthetic perspective. But then I realized that I was imposing my own tastes on everyone else. This revealed to me just how pernicious objective thinking can be; it leads us to substitute our judgment for others in areas in which we have no authority. After all, we live in a society in which we learn that we can objectify things and rate them according to “reasonable criteria.” This modality works in some areas, but it definitely does not work in others. When it comes to beauty, everyone has a different view. And we have absolutely no right to judge another person’s view about “what is beautiful.” Some people find Tiger Woods beautiful. I don’t. By contrast, I think that Fernando Torres (the Spanish soccer star) is extremely good looking. Yet I’m certain that many people find Tiger Woods more beautiful than Fernando Torres.

Objective standards play no role at all here. Taste is subjective and individual. No one can take it from us. Only we know whether something appeals to us, no matter what anyone says in a book or manual. There are no “universal principles of taste or beauty.” If anyone dares to lay down such principles, he does nothing but memorialize his own subjective desires. True, many people have similar tastes. But tastes remain subjective. We cannot control the myriad details in life that excite our interests or lusts. At the same time, the same details that excite me may not excite my neighbor.

We should never be ashamed of our desires and tastes. In fact, they define us as much—if not more—than our DNA. Nothing truly expresses our individual uniqueness more than the judgments we make about beauty. Taste and desire live within us, beyond all juridical control. We need not conform our tastes and desires to some external standard; we are always free to like and desire whatever appeals to us. We may never get a chance to enjoy or relish the things we want and desire, but that does not deprive our power to want. That power always remains in us.

“Wanting liberates.” It liberates us from external strictures and gives us free rein in a uniquely individual realm beyond all external controls. I think it is important to remember this in a world that mercilessly seeks to hold us to objective standards. Worse, our world even attempts to change our wants. Why do advertisers try to foist a certain image of beauty upon us? Are we not free to make our own judgments based on our own tastes? Skinny, tan white chicks may appeal to many, but not all. Abercrombie boys may appeal to many, but not all. I find it presumptuous when mass media attempts to displace our own desires with “better ones.” When mass media does this, it encroaches on sacred ground—our ground. Wants and desires belong to us and no others. There is nothing “better” about one person’s ideal of beauty as against another’s. All are valid. Powerful people may ridicule less powerful people for having “strange wants and desires.” But those judgments carry no real force. We should be most vigilant when defending ourselves against attempts to “change our wants.” Our wants are us. If we allow others to displace our wants—or even to doubt or regret our wants—they displace us completely. When we no longer want, we no longer are.

For better or worse, our tastes reflect our individual humanity. They might be “weird,” “off-color,” “unconventional” or even “deviant” in some eyes, but they remain uniquely ours. No matter what the law says, objectivity is a fantasy, and subjectivity really does matter. It matters because our whole existence is subjective. No one will ever experience life the way we do. No one will ever see, feel, hear, touch, taste and smell the world in precisely the same way we do at this very moment in time. Our unique experiences and senses lead to unique emotions that no one can duplicate or even really understand. Our existence is subjective. We can only look through our own eyes; we have only our feelings. We have only one consciousness—our own. Within that consciousness, we want, we desire, we think; we even dream and fantasize. No one else does it the same way we do. And that is a wonderful thing if you stop to think about it. That is why our tastes, desires and wants really do matter, even if they mean nothing to the law.

Friday, June 19, 2009

GET AN EDUCATION THAT WORKS : GET A DEGREE IN WINNING


AN EDUCATIONAL MESSAGE

By : Professor Victor A. Siegreich, Ph.D. in Victory Management, Winnings University of New Jersey; Senior Lecturer in Winning; Author, “I Just Want to Win : Getting Ahead in Life Fast,” Doubleday Publishers (New York 2004); Former Managing Member, Baldwin, Gorman & Slippings, LLC a statistical consulting firm serving Federal Reserve Banks.

Isn’t it about time you ended your losing streak in life? Haven’t you had enough setbacks, letdowns and heartbreaks? Aren’t you sick of being rejected from jobs and romantic partners? Basically, aren’t you just sick of losing? You’re probably asking yourself why you can’t muster a win in life. After all, you always followed the rules and lived to be fair. You respected other people and never cut the line. You thought that being nice and studying hard would lead you to success. You thought that decency and politeness would ultimately pay off in your life.

You were wrong. Your quest for simple decency let the other guy get the job. Your commitment to kindness and intellectual enrichment confused you while the other guy got the girl and made the money. But you aren’t beaten yet. You can come from behind to win at life. Winnings University can help you do it.

Here at Winnings, we offer education that works, not education that enriches. First and foremost, we teach that life is a game that can be won. It has rules and customs. It offers rewards. Just like any game, a person who knows the rules—and who knows how to exploit them easily—will always come out ahead. More importantly, life is a game with competitors. Everyone is racing for the same goal; and there can only be one winner at a time. At Winnings, we remind our students that life is a game that must be won. And we teach our students that results matter, because winning is the ultimate result.

Traditional education fails to appreciate results. In liberal arts colleges, for example, professors teach that knowledge is valuable in itself because it “enriches the mind” and “gives its own psychic rewards.” This is nonsense. In fact, traditional education dooms untold students to failure in life because they do not learn that life is a game. Rather, they learn that life is a “unique experience” that “everyone experiences differently.” They learn that “everyone is valuable, no matter his abilities” and actually do not feel bad when they lose at something. In short, traditional education does not teach students how to win.

This is fatally flawed thinking for many reasons. First, life is a competition. Even the animal kingdom reveals to us that organisms must compete for limited resources on this planet. We are not different from hyenas or birds. Bold birds get the catch; lazy ones do not. Second, life is about results, not process. Results mean winning. In the animal kingdom, winning means getting food and dominating other animals. So too among humans: For us, winning means getting money and employing other men to work to make us even more money. Third, life is not a “unique experience” where the “individual matters.” Quite the contrary, life is an easily understandable game with easily understandable rules. Everyone wants to win, and everyone can learn how to win. Everyone wants the same results. Process is irrelevant; results are everything. We know who wins and we know who loses. Traditional education tries to conceal these brutal truths by offering an elixir for failure in life. But at Winnings, we simply acknowledge the truth about life and teach our students accordingly.

At Winnings, we have a simple motto: “Winning matters, no matter how you play the game.” Contrary to Vince Lombardi’s apocryphal excuse for losing, winning is everything; how you play the game doesn’t really matter. After all, winners get things done. They take charge. They beat the losers and take what they win. Nobody hears from the losers. After they lose, they don’t matter. So when a winner wins, no one remembers how he did it. He gets to tell the story. In life, the winner literally takes all, including the right to tell others how he won. And once he wins, he can sit back and savor his victory. That is why it is absolutely essential to win in the first place. Without winning, you become a loser. And nobody listens to—or even remembers—a loser.

Sadly, most people are losers. But it is not their fault. Our educational system justifies and even laurelizes losing mentalities. By focusing on process rather than results, losers whine about fairness when they should be looking for creative ways to win the game. Additionally, losers become indignant when people they consider “stupid” somehow manage to outwit them at life’s game. Rather than asking themselves why they lost, they cross their arms and whine that they are entitled to success because they are smart. This is a losing mentality. And our educational system perpetuates it by fooling students into thinking that abstract knowledge is valuable.

Knowledge is not valuable unless it translates into winning. Theory is worthless unless it translates into winning practice. Thinking never won anything; doing did. At Winnings, we make our students understand this. We do not care for erudition, theory or overintellectualism. Rather, we stress that practical success and know-how are much more valuable than critical thinking. After all, thinking leads only to paralyzed rumination. Thinkers vacillate. Doers just get up and get things accomplished. In a competition between a thinker and a doer, it is obvious who will win. The doer will get up earlier, put in more hours and doggedly pursue his goal until it is done. He will not think about the purpose of the activity or his existential disgust with his lot. A thinker, by contrast, will half-heartedly attend to his work. He will spend his time moping and questioning things rather than ruthlessly suppressing the competition for the ultimate win. A doer will run circles around a thinker. Intelligence does not matter. In life, the more zealous competitor wins. At Winnings, we understand that.

We do not believe in enrichment. At Winnings, we teach our students the skills they need to defeat each other in life’s competitions. We do not delude them into thinking that merely “knowing more” and “thinking more deeply” will bring them success in life. In our educational philosophy, results are everything. If an “enriched mind” does not bring results, it is not “rich” at all. We would much rather cultivate an “unenriched mind” that gets the job done than an “enriched mind” that wastes time considering theoretical nonsense. To that extent, we do not teach art history, African-American studies, Native American Oral History, Color Use in Late Romantic Painting, literature, music studies, philosophy, Japanese Theater, American Cultural Development or Non-Profit Institutional Management courses. Instead, we teach “Shortcut Analysis,” “Believable Deception Management,” “Intimidation : Theory and Practice,” “Ethics are for Losers,” “The Loss Avoidance Practicum” and “Money as Goal : A Result-Oriented Approach.” Our courses teach valuable, practical skills that immediately translate into winning. We do not waste our time with knowledge that does not pay.

In America today, education is a serious investment. Many students assume crushing debt for the opportunity to study at college. We believe that students have a right to expect a return on their investment. That is why courses at Winnings arm students with the knowledge, skill and values they need to win at life. We teach them that morals and ethics do not apply when they must win. In fact, we teach that morals and ethics are serious handicaps in life’s competition. We teach them that it is perfectly normal to exploit others for financial gain. And we teach them that it is better to make a profit than to do the right thing.

By the same token, we also teach our students that many people do not like winners. To address this issue, we offer courses dealing with envious people. In life, losers become embittered and resentful. No one likes to lose, and losers get angry after a lifetime of losing. They channel their anger toward winners and even attempt to derail their successes in the future. To deal with these issues, we offer courses such as “Intermediate Grudge Dodging” and “Don’t Hate; Appreciate.” Our faculty knows how to foil angry losers. We are pleased to offer students a way to foresee losers’ antics. In sum, winners do not let losers divert their attention from winning.

Winnings University can give you the education you really want. No matter whether you are a struggling young professional or a youthful high school student who wants to be successful in life, Winnings offers programs tailored to meet your needs. We are here to teach you winning ways. We are here to help you stop thinking and start doing. We know that this is difficult. After all, we recognize that you have made your way through an educational system that taught you it is “OK to lose once in a while.” At Winnings, we will eradicate that mentality. We have no tolerance for losers; and you should have no tolerance for losing. At Winnings, we will teach you how to stop making excuses and how to get the most from people. We will teach you never to quit. We will teach you real determination. We will teach to be annoying and downright unbearable when you need to be. We will teach you to suspend your “friendliness,” “politeness” and “compassion” in order to ruthlessly crush and surpass your competition.

You would not be looking into Winnings if you did not like the way your life is going. We can understand that you might hesitate before deciding whether to study with us. After all, you probably think that friendliness, knowledge and fairness are good things. Perhaps you do not want to be a ruthless, result-oriented winner who only thinks about outdoing the competition in life. Well, if you want to be a loser, that’s your decision. Winners do not worry about these things. At Winnings, we teach our students to ignore their conscience and just win. Your conscience and your ethics are slowing you down. They stop you from doing what is necessary to win. Yet you wonder why you fail. Isn’t it obvious? You have a conscience, that’s why. You have ethics. You want to be fair. You want to treat others as you would have them treat you. But tell me the last time ethics helped you get a job. When did your conscience secure a merger deal? I’ll tell you when: It didn’t. When you were fair, did people treat you fairly in return? No, they didn’t. And they never will. Who do you think you are? Jesus Christ? He didn’t win at life, either. He was poor and ended up nailed to a cross. In a word, people want to win in this life. If that means treating you unfairly, well that’s what they will do. Conscience and ethics are for losers and saints. Losers and saints don’t win in this life.

At Winnings, we offer a way to end your losing streak. Stop complaining about the winners; be one. Stop tying your hands with ethics. Just shut up and start cutting corners like the winners do. Fight with both hands. Stop learning worthless facts about 17th Century Dutch painting and religion. Stop reading Shakespeare; he won’t pay your bills or make you wealthy. Learn something meaningful. Learn how to win. It’s about time you actually got something out of your education. At Winnings, you can. With us, you will learn that winning is better than knowledge. With a degree from Winnings, you are guaranteed to win in life. That’s what it’s all about. Our education will transform you. With time, study and effort, you will abandon unproductive behaviors such as ethics, conscience and fairness. With time, study and effort, you will learn to make every move count. You will learn to manipulate every rule and exploit every relationship. Your education will actually do something for you, not just make you “smart.” Again we say: What good is “smart” if you wind up a loser?

Take your life in a new direction. Get a degree in Winning, Victory, Conquest or Domination. You can do it if you try. Transform your life. Come from behind. Knock it out of the park. Dunk it. Sack it. Put it through the uprights. Sink the putt. It’s fourth and goal. It’s the bottom of the ninth and you’ve got a runner in scoring position. It’s time to step up and win. Swish, baby, swish…3-pointer.

Winning matters. It feels good. It pays. It’s valuable. Learn how to do it at Winnings University.

We offer financial aid to all those who qualify.