Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blog #91: Of Politics, Potency Pills, and “Planned Obsolescence”

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Favorite Album Covers Archive

From our Favorite Album Covers Archives comes this cover from the Beatles final studio album, Abbey Road. Note Paul McCartney’s bare feet which fed the rumor mill of the time that McCartney was no longer with us. Ironic as he seems to be slated to be the last standing Beatle.


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Romney Criticizes Obama

Mitt Romney, one of a roomful of failed Republican aspirants in 2008, seems to be leading the charge in the “America Can Do No Wrong” wing of the Republican Party. He gave a speech this week decrying President Obama’s frequent speeches on foreign soil in which he apologizes for the United States’ past sins. “How dare he mention our past failings,” Romney seems to be saying, implying “A pox on the rest of the world.” Without realizing it Mr. Romney reminds us that the United States practically invented the phrase “we can do no wrong,” and that is the message he seems to think Obama should be making to the world. Fortunately President Obama ran his election campaign on a platform of not denying America’s past mistakes, and his present admissions represent his attempt to rebuild America’s bridges to the world in the spirit of honesty, and particularly to those parts of it with whom we’ve become estranged.

Friday morning’s Houston Chronicle likened Obama’s Thursday speech to the Muslim world to giving a speech while walking “in a minefield.” A local Muslim leader said she never thought the day would come when a U.S. president would go to the Middle East and deliver “words of hope and inspiration and appreciation.” And in our opinion his speech to the Muslim world will rank exceptionally high among his many remarkable orations. If you missed it you really should experience it, and thanks to the Daily Beast you can experience the msnbc version of it by placing your cursor and clicking here! It is available in both video form and as text.§

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Senator Hutchinson Blowing in the Wind

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, told host John King that the discussion of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court should be conducted “respectfully.” The only problem with Ms Hutchinson’s suggestion is in her choice of words. For some strange reason I’m having trouble associating the word “respectfully” with talk radio’s mighty bag of foul wind, Rush Limbaugh. And I can find no proof that the word can be found in Newt Gingrich’s vocabulary, as we’ve not been treated to a single example of his usage of the word.

Of course thanks to the Florida District Attorney the world knows that Rush Limbaugh has a hearing problem which he is treating with addictive mind altering prescription drugs, some of which in the past he has been charged with obtaining through illegal means. All of which finally sheds light on the true sources of Mr. Limbaugh’s inspiration.

What Newt Gingrich’s problem is we presume only his wife and his newfound Catholic Priest/Confessor know for sure. However on Wednesday Gingrich did acknowledge that he has not turned loose of his dream of a Republican presidential candidacy in 2012 by rescinding his call of Judge Sotomayor as a racist, thereby finally aligning himself with mainstream Republicans.

Of course the use of the term “better” was ill-conceived in a speech where you are trying to convince primarily white men of your place in the judicial sun. Few white men in power will ever concede that the term “better” is ever appropriate in the job prospectus of any minority person with Supreme Court aspirations. Better than what? Better than the judgement of a WHITE man? SAY WHAT?

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson


And good luck, Kay Bailey, on your GOP cleanup campaign. Your heart is in the right place even though the extreme wing of your party seems to lack that most basic human quality. Our prediction, Senators who eventually will have to run for reelection will take your advice and treat Judge Sotomayor with the respect you call for and that a Presidential appointment deserves, particularly a president who is ranking as high in the popularity polls as is this president. Meantime the ethically challenged among conservative extremists will use Justice Sotomayor’s nomination to raise lots of money and will make as loud a noise as they can manage before they get mowed down by the Democratic Affirmation Express.§

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Selling Prescription Drugs on TV?

Speaking of drugs, (as we were when referring to Rush Limbaugh) don’t you love the way prescription medications are being advertised on tv these days. I hesitate to say it but in my case there was one instance when their advertising actually worked. It was some years ago, and I had one of these golden age male enlarged prostates and whatever I was taking for it to increase my urine flow was woefully inadequate.

I spotted a tv commercial about my condition promoting a product called Flomax. It showed a middle aged guy (looking something like me) driving a pickup truck (not a bit like me) with a gigantic PortoPotty regally standing upright in the truck’s well. One could visualize the frequent stops where the man would hurriedly exit the cab, rush around back and with a single bound leap into the truck’s back to avail himself of the facility. I take my hat off to whichever agency’s bright light dreamed this up. It was just ludicrous enough to get me to talk to my doctor about giving me a prescription for Flomax, and damned if I haven’t been taking it ever since.

However, the ads you see most often on the tube these days are pushing those miracle pills that defeat that old abomination of the elderly male, e.d., which without the punctuation marks spells my first name, but with them it is shorthand for a condition called erectile dysfunction syndrone. For all you non old men out there, that means those dreadful times when no matter how delectable your inspiration, “you just can’t get it up.”

At this point we would like to make up our own imaginary commercial for a drug to cure your very own case of e.d. It is called: See-All-Is. The scene is of two old fashioned bathtubs out in the great outdoors at sunset, placed side by side on a bluff overlooking a beach with a great body of water. There are no visible pipes, and it is one of life’s mysteries how those tubs got filled with water. But each tub is appropriately filled and each one is occupied. In the left tub lies a male of indeterminate age, in the right one a drop dead beautiful member of the female persuasion. Of course each tub being filled allows only the head and shoulders of the occupiers to be visible. Shucks.

As we are lulled by this extremely pastoral scene a deep soothing voice drones on interminably: “Be sure to ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for sexual activity, and if he says yes, don’t forget to have him to direct you to where you might get some action? Men whose late mothers counseled them to avoid the mischief an extended digit might get them into, are urged to conduct a seance to determine her feelings from beyond the grave.

”Don’t take See-All-Is if you have athlete’s foot, as the possible loss of a foot or two might be seen by some as a serious impediment to walking, and don’t take See-All-Is if you have poison ivy as it might cause a serious dereliction of one’s outer covering. See-All-Is’ side effects include jungle dysentery, mange, and terminal jock itch. Nursing mothers, or ones who might in the future become nursing mothers, should not take See-All-Is because you don’t have that digit that See-All-Is pumps blood to, leaving you in eminent danger of hemorrhaging. And men, don’t take See-All-Is if you take nitroglycerin for chest pains as you just might blow yourself into the next time zone.

”If you experience an erection lasting more than four hours immediately check yourself into the nearest brothel, bathhouse (if you swing that way), or if neither is available, your local emergency room. And be sure to give your doctor a call to relate all of the fun adventures your condition has brought you, so that he can increase your fee upon your next visit. And so men, if your libido needs pumping up (along with your favorite alter-ego) don’t wait another minute. Call your doctor right away and ask him for a prescription for See-All-Is.”

So how about it men? Are you going to rush right out and ask your doctor about See-All-Is? Or any one of its three real life equivalents.§

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Dr. Brinkley’s Goat Gland Rejuvenation

I’m quite sure See-All-Is ranks high above Dr. Brinkley’s monkey gland implantations of the nineteen twenties and thirties. Actually when googled those monkey glands turned out to be goat glands. It was an odd story, indeed. One that could only happen in the America of its time, the free-wheeling 1920’s and ‘30’s.

Dr. John R. Brinkley, a physician practicing in Wichita, Kansas in the 1920’s, was a man who had had only two years training in a questionable medical school, and a mail order medical degree. (Kansas was one of three states he would have been allowed to practice in at that time.) He once worked as a doctor on call to a large Wichita slaughterhouse, and while there he was very impressed with the vigor with which goats slated for slaughter attempted to reproduce themselves before the slaughter house mallet ended their miserable dreams forever.

Several years later an elderly farmer came to the doctor complaining of a fractured libido. It is said that the doctor, remembering the enthusiasm of those goats on their way to slaughter, half jokingly suggested implantation of a sliver of goat testicle in his gonads. The farmer said “do it,” and the doctor had the farmer pick out his goat, whereupon it was castrated and a sliver of its testicle was indeed put into the farmer’s gonad. And several months later the farmer was bouncing in and out of various bedrooms thereabouts and thanking the doctor profusely for the return of his sex drive. And according to legend, the good farmer was soon blessed with the arrival of a baby boy, which he and his wife gratefully named “Billy,” we trust in honor of his Capricornus donor. And indeed word of the doctor’s good deed did like wildfire spread, and soon the doctor had bought himself Kansas’ first radio station and had begun advertising his services to a dysfunctional nation. And the money started rolling in.

Of course the American Medical Association frowned darkly upon this unlicensed physician advertising such an outrageous service, and due to AMA action he soon lost the ability to practice medicine in Kansas (or anywhere else in the continental United States. ) Then in a tussle with the I.R.S. the good doctor lost his radio station. Subsequently he was forced to move his operations to Mexico, where he opened a 100,000 watt radio station, XERA, in Del Rio, Mexico, and once again began touting his services, this time from a refuge outside of the continental United States. (Since radio signals don’t travel far during daylight hours, his station, XERA, would broadcast Spanish language programs during the day. At night, when his signal would travel across the length and breadth of the United States, he would broadcast his English language pitches and feature entertainment. He hired the country singing icons of that time, the Carter Family, to appear on his station, and in her autobiography the late June Carter Cash told of her family’s moving to San Antonio, Texas when she was a child, so that they could perform on the doctor’s radio station across the border in Del Rio, Mexico.)

And so you can readily see that radio has had a long history of nuts and charlatans on its airways. Which of course brings us to one of the more outrageous radio personalities of our day, Rush Limbaugh.§

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A Brand New Radio Animal

Rush Limbaugh is today’s brand, a new kind of radio animal. No selling of monkey/goat glands for him. He makes his living making the politically out-of-touch believe that by listening to him they will become relevant and empowered. He calls himself an entertainer, but he is does damn little entertaining, unless you are entertained by his black and white, pedestrian view of the world. Limbaugh feels no affinity for the truth, whatever that means to his pain-dulled mind. If chided about the fiction he pervades as fact and truth he whines that he’s no journalist, he’s an entertainer. So there.

Although what he, ex-president of vice, Dick Cheney, and the Emperor of Snide, Newt Gingrich, are saying these days is music to the ears of the devoted Christian Conservative wing of the Republican Party, their statements are highly embarrassing to the rank and file Republicans who would really like to get themselves reelected next year, and who sincerely wish to grow their party’s influence and see it become relevant once again. However, in our opinion heaven forbid that would happen after the last eight years of Republican misrule. Which is why we fervently support Messrs Limbaugh, Cheney, and Gingrich in their right to air whatever postulations their twisted minds might hatch. Just please don’t expect us to come anywhere near anything they espouse.§

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Would you care for some “planned obsolescence” with that hot water heater?

Michael Moore, the documentary film maker who jousted with the CEO of General Motors in his first film, Roger and Me, noted that Monday, June 1st at 8 am Eastern, General Motors would file for bankruptcy. In a Daily Beast piece published on the morning of its filing, which you can access here, Moore credits GM with inventing "planned obsolescence," the conscious decision to sell cars that would fall apart after a couple of years, forcing their customers to buy a new one whether they wanted to or not.

I didn’t realize that GM was the culprit that invented this dastardly condition, but I’m happy to take Moore’s word on this, as he has a high percentage of being right in his many creative endeavors. But as I await a Sears repair man to return my two year old hot water heater to a state of giving hot water again, I have been giving this matter of “planned obsolescence” some serious thought. It may have originated in automotive industry, but it seems to have spread like the plague throughout the entire world of appliances.

I grew up in the 1930’s and came of age in the ‘40’s. We lived in four different rented houses during the time I grew up, and in none of them did we ever have a hot water heater go out on us. Neither did we have other appliances go bad on us. If you bought an appliance from a reputable manufacturer it just worked. Refrigerators were replaced from time to time, but only because we sought a bigger unit, not because one was refusing to work.

Nine years ago when I moved into my present house, I bought a refrigerator from Sears. It has quit working on at least three occasions since I bought it, each time needing a repairman to come out to get it up and running again. Isn’t that interesting? What a change from the thirties and forties when manufacturers made appliances that worked. Nowadays if you don’t buy one of those three year warrantees on your appliances be prepared to pay through the nose when your appliance breaks down. And unfortunately the question is not if, but when.

A Kenmore Water Heater


Above is a picture of my Kenmore Water Heater which failed last week. What happened? According to the licensed repair man who refused to repair my unit because I did not have his fee of $180 in the bank at the time of his visit, my unit has been manufactured to suck in various debris, and it has been especially clogged up with lint being discharged from the clothes dryer which sits two appliances over from the water heater. All of this was delivered in a manner which somehow tried to cast blame on me for having this lint spewing dryer and letting it go untrammeled. When this debris reaches a certain level, bingo, denial of service, according to the repair man. Funny thing, after his denial of service our hot water resumed running like always. Whether he accidently fired it up again, or whether someone in the house was able to start it up as I’ve heard claimed, I have no idea. But I can shower again, and that is something the entire household is thankful for.

Obviously this water heater is a case of “planned obsolescence.” Why can’t the engineers at Kenmore design the unit so that it doesn’t suck up debris, and consequently periodically go on the fritz. They used to be able to do that way back there in the 20th Century. As the Shadow used to say, “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of appliance makers?” Well, if he didn’t say it quite that way he could have.

Our explanation: Sears, Home Depot and the other appliance sellers have this string of repairmen they have to keep on the payroll, and so these days the manufacturing community is obligingly adding this timed breakdown feature into the manufacturing process so we will have to call on their repair services from time to time. And to help them finance these work crews they attempt to sell us insurance plans with their products which will cover their labor fee as these carefully planned breakdowns reach their time.

This rather succinctly kills the myth that manufacturing techniques and the products they produce have improved over time. In the 20th Century American manufacturers proudly developed products that worked, and worked for long periods of time. In the 21st Century they have progressed to the point where they manufacture products with built-in fail, fail which usually sets in within a two year time period. And that my friends is what we in the 21st Century laughingly call progress. Thanks a lot, GM, for getting that ball rolling. What could possibly be next on your agenda? Dare we contemplate?

Happily not all appliances are affected by this malady. One bright exception to the rule are computers, which actually seem to double their speed and capacity with the passing of each year. And which can last many years past their prime, and usually can be kept in good repair by several widely available software repair programs.

Of course, computer vendors have good reason not to program “planned obsolescence” into their products. Repairing computers is quite costly to the manufacturer. It is true most problems are software problems, and those can usually be corrected by computer programs. But even providing call centers is an expensive proposition, which accounts for the fact that many users of Dell computers were suddenly having their service calls answered by techies with pronounced Eastern India accents.”§

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Several Faces of Dick Cheney

There are two interesting faces of our beloved ex-president of vice, Dick Cheney in this week’s Daily Beast. Primarily in a speech given before the Foreign Policy Institute, Senator Carl Levin, long a member of the Armed Services Committee, branded as lies Cheney’s claims that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” favored by the post 9/11 Cheney, produced meaningful intelligence which “saved American lives.” The entire speech, worth every minute of your time reading, may be found here! And turning over that leaf the Beast published a fascinating blog contrasting Bush’s vice presidency with a vice presidency of the past, that of Aaron Burr. Pointing your cursor and clicking here will bring it to your attention.!§

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Charles Darwin


Extolling Darwin’s Greatest Hits

Two weeks ago we decorated our blog with a poster extolling very gradual change with a picture of the late Mr. Darwin done in the style of President Obama’s pre-election Hope posters. We would like to follow that up with this extraordinary video discussion from the New York Public Library. It features two current authors in the field, Adam Gopnik in a fascinating conversation with Steven Pinker. You can experience this conversation yourself by clicking on the arrow below.§

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And it so came to pass that this week’s blog wound down and faded into the sunset. Or moon set depending upon your time zone. We enjoyed preparing our site for your visit, and sincerely hope you can find your way back to these parts again next week, same time, same URL. Until then, have a good week, and let’s all join hands and support Barack Obama as he continues his mission of leading our country out of Republican darkness and into the Democratic light. And at the risk of sounding like John McLaughlin may we wish each and every one of you a most hearty . . . bye, bye.§

The Real Little Eddy

1 comment:

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