the last word (tm)
20/No. 5 - 464th issue – December 20,
firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.bunkerblast.info - Bellevue, Kentucky
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BILE FROM A STONE
(a street story from the editor)
Everybody knows you can't squeeze bodily fluids from a stone - not even a gallstone - but the City of Cincinnati thinks it can squeeze over $1,500 from me.
Late at night on October 8, I fell gravely ill while on the way home from Occupy Cincinnati. The symptoms screamed gallstones, and I was teleported by ambulance to Christ Hospital - where I promptly vomited a bedpan full o' bile. It turned out to be a serious gallbladder infection, but I thought it would quickly be forgotten.
Now I've received a bill from the city for $1,528.80 for the ambulance ride. This isn't a bill for the hospital visit. This is just the ambulance call.
They seriously think I'm going to pay $1,500 for a 1-mile ambulance ride???
Excuse me for a moment, but...HA HA HA HA HA!
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everybody thought I was a funny guy when I talked about trying to get discredited teen residential programs shut down by picketing them - because we all now that'll never work, right? - but I've got nothing on whoever it is at Cincinnati City Hall who thinks I have $1,500 to piss away on an ambulance ride. Do they think I got sick deliberately just so I could go for a spin in their neat little van that has cool lights and goes "wooooo!"?
I don't have $1,500. Understand?
Plus, a mile-long ambulance ride clearly doesn't cost them even close to $1,500. I'd like to know what company runs Cincinnati's ambulances. Most American cities today farm out their ambulances to a private firm, and I'd wager Cincinnati does too. In the disastrous '90s, Phil Heimlich made a big issue of his plans to farm out all the city's services. Never mind that some services should be strictly public or at least nonprofit, because there's no way to Make Money from them without putting lives at risk. The question is, what company hired by the city is price-gouging patients by overcharging them for an ambulance?
I'm not being unreasonable. This is a bit like the time years ago when AT&T signed me up for services I didn't order and then billed me for them. I never paid that bill, because I didn't order the services. And I'm not paying the ambulance bill either. Fair is fair. I'm not going to allow myself to be price-gouged.
The bill I got from the City of Cincinnati is labeled "past due" in 3 different places. That's because it's actually the second bill I got from them. The first was completely waterlogged when I received it and was totally illegible. This bill also invites me to call a toll-free number if I have any payment questions. I will not do that, because I now have cell phone only, and every call is a toll call (more on that later). I also will not mail them, for even the envelope they sent me requires a stamp, and I refuse to waste a single stamp on them. It's called thrift. The bill's address is in Cincinnati, but I looked up the address online and found it linked to a phone number that in turn was linked to ambulances in a Columbus suburb. No name for the firm could be found.
If it truly cost $1,500, it was supposed to be covered by whatever public or private health insurance I may have. If it isn't, then tough toilets. Tough toilets for them - not me.
What happens next?
Let's fire up Kermit the Frog's "what happens next" machine to see what'll happen when I don't pay the bill. According to several websites, the worst that might happen is that it'll go on my credit report, and my credit will be (keek!) ruined. This is just another reason why the system of credit scores (which has become a national religion) must be outlawed. Hard-working people are blackballed by bad credit scores, and this system must be banned at once.
Fair warning: if I get even one call from a bill collector regarding this, I will own them. The laws regarding harassing calls to cell phones are stricter than they are for traditional landlines. Not nearly strict enough, of course. But they make one call, and there'll be unshirted hell to pay.
One website commenter says collection agencies for ambulance services can sue you and somehow "waltz into your bank" and swipe every penny in your bank account. That would be illegal, of course, but if it happens to me, the hell that'd befall them over a harassing phone call would look like a cakewalk compared to what I'd do to them then.
I guess I'm supposed to just not call an ambulance if I suffer anything known to be life-threatening - because later I'll just be billed thousands of smackeroos. According to peeps on the Internet, ambulance services aren't allowed to reveal their fees to patients when they pick them up, because the patient might decline service once they find out how much it'll cost them. Well, now I know how much it'll cost.
My defense is very simple and would stand up in any reason-based court: For me to have to pay, there'd have to be a contract - which means I'd have to have agreed to pay. But I had no reasonable expectation that I'd have to pay - as ambulances are a public function. So where's the contract? The city has no case. Dismissed.
WHY OCCUPY HAD TO HAPPEN
I went to Occupy Cincinnati's trash pick-up event early this month, and when we got back to Piatt Park, a man who was clearly impressed with our ongoing protest walked up to me and asked, "Where were you 10 or 15 years ago?"
Actually, The Last Word has been around 18 years, but sometimes it takes a while for reason to sink in. I've wanted - nay, demanded - an Occupy-style protest ever since the day of the 1988 "election", and now people realize this movement is long overdue.
Here's a list of reasons why Occupy Wall Street and similar rallies in other cities had to happen - in chronological order...
• Ronald Reagan
• George H.W. Bush
• The Contract With America
• George W. Bush
• The wealth gap resulting from all of the above
• The Tea Party (although the Occupy movement was not designed as a response to these silly clowns)
• The Citizens United ruling
You can think of additional reasons, but I'm sure most of them were caused by some of the above factors. On a personal note, I'd add my own school experiences and CPH to the list. The absurdity of a 16-year-old being repeatedly assaulted at school and being locked up without a trial for daring to complain about it justifies a level of pushback that only the Occupy campaign can muster. (Damn, the nerve of me for complaining.)
You can't expect corporate statism to grow almost unchecked for 30 years and not expect the shit to hit the fan - at least not when people have access to the facts. I am absolutely baffled it took this long. But I'm sure some Soviet citizens were probably just as bewildered that it took 70 years for their regime to collapse.
Why now? Why not 10 or 15 years ago? Maybe it's because the level of desperation and panic we experienced back then wasn't suffered by enough people yet. Maybe it's also because alternatives to the pop-up media have now matured, and that's where peeps get their news now. It's just like how the Soviet Union fell because glasnost ushered in expanded freedom of information.
I saw a survey that showed Americans' worship of Big Business soared to a peak about a decade ago. It was a totalistic era when Corporate America was not to be challenged. All were required to bow at the altar of whatever corporations anointed themselves as our true guardians. But the same poll shows Big Business is now reviled. American glasnost means the national shame of grinding poverty and hunger is no longer covered up. Propaganda doesn't work as well when other choices emerge. The brand of authoritarian conservatism practiced by the modern Republicans is now embraced only by Wall Street, the very rich, and the nickel nobility of the exurbs - the third group being a sheltered, conformist bunch that benefits less than the first two from right-wing politics but has been programmed to lap up every bit of it. Everywhere else in America, it now has close to zero - and I mean zero - support.
Occupy Wall Street stresses the theme that the richest 1% of America owns almost as much wealth as the other 99%. But Occupiers' prime target is Big Business, not individuals. Corporate America now has far more than 99 problems - and I'm one of them.
TEA PARTY FIGHTS LITERACY
Does the Tea Party even understand what they're fighting against? Do these spoiled babies take stances just because they see "the liberals" taking the opposite view? Sometimes I can just imagine them saying, "Hmm, the liberals support something, so I'll oppose it just because that's conservative." As the Lipton Losers hoist high the flag of entitlement, one wonders if it isn't indignation for indignation's sake.
Recently, the Campbell County Public Library proposed building an Alexandria branch. Since the plan won't raise taxes, how could anybody in the southern reaches of the county oppose it?
Because that's where the Tea Party is. The teagaggin' Right lurks in the county's most privileged yet remote precincts - waiting to strike all comers. (The unconstitutional REINS Act was conceived in southern Campbell County, after all.) So they got all of about 8 people (no exaggeration) to show up at a library meeting to protest against the new libe. They wore yellow "No new library" stickers.
One Tea Party panjandrum said of the meetings, "The further north they go, the more people from the Tea Party will show up." Hahaha! Now that's comedy!
I used to work for the library, and I know that an informed populace likely cannot exist without libraries. Vandals clog the library's toilet, poo on their chairs, and eat their Dances With Wolves tape, but the libe will stand tall as a mainstay of our democratic republic.
It is the library that has opened the lives of countless young people to the world outside the poisonous abuse that might pervade their school or home. The Internet is rife with stories from folks who recall a youth of hiding library books from autocratic oldsters - while these borrowed volumes infused them with the tools they needed to become rehabilitated into a healthy existence. Thanks to libraries, talented people have overcome abuse and shared their talents with the world.
Is the Tea Potty's public meltdown really about censorship? If they don't value libraries, mayhaps it's because they don't want folks to read up on how to resist and escape abuse. (Remember, the Tea Partisans are the same people who follow dangerous clowns like James Dobson.)
There have been several instances of Congress or local governments approving or rejecting an idea solely because the Tea Party told them to. For example, Congress approved the failed Super Congress, while Boone County also bowed to a Tea Party Pooper demand by scrapping its greenway plan. It would be nothing short of outrage if folks in much of Campbell County lost their library all because of the Tea Party's say-so.
NKU SQUANDERS MILLIONS ON DIVISION I
I've known since I was 21 that Northern Kentucky University is an engine of futility, but this is ridiculous.
If a person has to collect any sort of government benefits, they have to live within their means - and I know that almost all do. Welfare recipients don't squander their checks on cosmetic surgery, but if they did, you'd have a right to be angry regardless of whether you're rich or poor. I don't know anyone on welfare or disability who spends their assistance money that carelessly.
As taxpayers (including the working poor such as myself), shouldn't we be watchdogs of other public expenditures too? Take state universities, for instance. NKU is spending millions to upgrade its athletic program to Division I, and it's above all criticism for it. It's now official: NKU is going to Division I, and the school is paying $200,000 over 5 years to join. That's only the first payment of millions of simoleons NKU will be making as part of this "improvement." NKU already spends about $4,200,000 annually on athletics, and now this sum will grow by over $3,000,000.
By the mid-'90s, half the doors were falling off the buildings, the library had holes in the ceiling, and one of the student publications had to be eliminated, but NKU can spend millions a year on athletics? I'm not knocking student athletes, and I'm not even demanding that NKU abolish its sports program, but don't you think there's some misplaced priorities here? Sure, I'd rather campus graybeards spend a little on athletics than keep wasting mandatory student fees on bulk subscriptions to Campus Report, but that doesn't excuse pissing away dough on the Division I move.
Fact is, NKU has already become a jock school. Its promotional materials stress athletics much more than academics, and that's been going on for years now. (NKU's homepage focuses almost entirely on its Division I campaign.)
University officials say they plan to pay for the Division I move from the current budget, sponsorships, publicity, and students. Oh, you can bet on students paying! At a time when tuition hikes are already out of control, students can now expect to pay even more - just to feed a few egos.
THE DAYS OF THE OLD CENSORSHIP YARD...
(a blast from the past)
How many of you remember them bad old days?
I'm talking about the era of forged Usenet cancels, Simon Leis's BBS raids, and Jack Thompson's campaign against 2 Live Crew. These events stoke memories of a decade that shall remain nameless, because you'd go screaming into the night if you heard it mentioned - for fear we might dredge up old, grainy photos of you with helmet hair.
Don't worry. Instead, I'm digging up some old computer files I have that continue to speak volumes about the Evil Empire's penchant for censorship. Going by the dates on these files, this is the fifth computer of mine that these files have Occupied, having been transferred repeatedly. What I'm focusing on here is the bogus accusations of forging cancels on Usenet.
In one exchange, a dialup ISP that I used back then informed me that somebody had accused me of erasing other people's messages. Their e-mail reads in part:
"As I'm sure you are already aware, we have been receiving several complaints about canceled USENET posts originating from your account. ...
"At this point, we're simply trying to collect information about the problem, and would appreciate any sort of possible explanation if you are aware of the problem.
"Anyway, it may be that these individuals who have complained are totally off base, but thought I'd ask anyway."
Of course the complainant was off-base. They always were.
I doubt the complainant was talking about cancels of spam posts - because those were supposed to be deleted. Rather, I suspect the idiot completely made up the accusation out of thin air. If I really did issue rogue cancels, wouldn't my ISP have found them?
The complaint was a censorship attempt. They didn't like me posting on "their" forum (even though it was public in every sense of the word), so they lodged phony complaints in an attempt to get my access shut off.
This campaign was very tightly organized. Another exchange in those old files dealt with how some cretins raised money from extreme-right groups to pay for extra accounts on ISP's that incurred long-distance charges. Then they used these accounts to post spam and harass dissidents. (By using out-of-town ISP's, it was harder to figure out where they were from.) This was an attempt to stage-manage opinion on Usenet and (by extension) everywhere else. Similar efforts go on today: Not long ago, conservative groups were caught posting Craigslist ads seeking to hire people to post right-wing talking points on various online venues.
But if you expose them, guess who gets accused of censorship. U! That's who! The right-wing intelligentsia has a strange definition of censorship. It's like when they said replacing old textbooks with new ones was "censoring" them. They wouldn't know real censorship if it cracked a big, stinky bunkeroo squarely in their face. Our arrest at the Steely Dan Library was censorship. Internet messages that hurt some right-wing droid's feelings are not.
It boils down to the fact that they were spoiled drama monarchs then as they are now.
BUSHAMERICA: WHERE EVERY CALL IS LONG-DISTANCE
You know what's groovy about spending $10 every month receiving phone calls? Yeah, me neither.
Throughout the age of American telephony, one thing was a guarantee: Receiving a phone call was free unless it was a collect call. If it was a toll call, it was paid for by the caller - not you.
But today, every call is long-distance - for both the caller and the callee. With traditional landlines largely abandoned in favor of cell phones, every call costs you. Whether you're calling your Uncle Wilbur in Oregon or calling the computer shop up the street, you pay. And you pay if they're calling you. There's no such thing as a local call anymore.
That's a clarion call for reinstating regulation of the phone industry. Why should recipients of calls pay too? Aren't you supposed to be in control of your own phone? A person who calls you shouldn't be the one who decides that you pay for their call.
It's time to bring back regulation to rein in phone charges. Much as we need limits on banks' "right" to foreclose on America's families (a practice that's in need of a nationwide moratorium ordered by the President), we also need limits on the telcom oligarchy's greed.
MONTHLY MORON MOTORIST
It's been an illustrious autumn for bad motoring!
Our Monthly Moron Motorist for September was discovered when I was out biking in the 'Nati. I was slowly going south on Central Parkway, and some unthinking galoot tailgated me for no apparent reason for minutes on end. (A private eye?)
The winner of this dubious distinction for October was encountered on my fact-finding mission in Texas. We were on US 83 approaching Laredo, when I saw a semi driving on the wrong side of the road. The truck almost caused a head-on collision with a van and a motorcycle. It was to the detriment of all of dignified society, and it is ruining baseball.
I took a video in an attempt to preserve the episode. The bad driving is seen at the beginning of the clip:
This frame from the clip shows the offending truck traveling on the left side of the road:
Our Monthly Moron Motorist for November was the careless rapscallion who ran a stop sign while we were on our way to an important family gathering.
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