“You Can’t Fix Supid!!”?!

You Can't Fix StupidI have started a habit of most nights quickly checking out what was on the MSNBC primetime lineup. Normally, it doesn’t take more than ten minutes, because all the shows are pretty much the same, and they are just reporting stuff that I’ve already read about. But in doing that last night, I came upon the image at the left. It was from yet another anti-immigrant protest. It is notable that most of the people in it were African American. It reminds me of a parallel universe Dean Martin, “Everybody Hates Somebody.”

That wasn’t what caught my eye, however. I was shocked to see that sign, “You Can’t Fix Stupid!!” I know the line. It is from stand-up comedian Ron White. Now, I really don’t much like him. I admire his skill. Much of his material is funny. But I don’t like the whole, “whisky-soaked, cigar smoking, redneck who got rich and smokes pot” routine. For one thing, it strikes me the way most country music does: inauthentic. And not only does his audience seem to eat up the act, they think he’s wise. (And just to offend educated liberals too: I have a similar problem with Louis CK.)

Despite my general problems with him, White’s “You Can’t Fix Stupid” routine is actually kind of sweet—or as close as he comes to it. He’s saying that you shouldn’t marry for looks (actually “looks alone”). He says that you can fix pretty much any physical defect (all referred to females, of course; he looks like he might be getting to lap band surgery territory himself); but you can’t fix stupid. I have my own problems with this because I think the whole idea of intelligence is kind of a myth. But the overall idea is that you should marry someone because of what’s inside, not what’s outside. So hooray!

But what on earth is a sign that reads “You Can’t Fix Stupid!!” doing at an anti-immigration demonstration? I really don’t know. I fear that it is saying that people from Mexico and Central America are stupid. I hate to think that. In addition to everything else, it is demonstrably false. An unaccompanied 7-year-old who makes it all the way from El Salvador through Mexico to the United States boarder, is not stupid. And in general, the people who come here illegally are the most intelligent and motivate of people. I have far more respect for them than some random American whose only brilliance was that he was born here.

The problem is, I can’t find another compelling explanation for the sign. It could refer to the government’s response to the crisis. But I really think that’s reaching. If we can’t fix the stupidity of the government, then why are these people demonstrating. And barring any truly bizarre explanations, like the protesters also selling tickets to an upcoming Ron White appearance, I can’t think of anything else. If anyone else has any ideas, I’d appreciate hearing them. Because I really don’t like to think of my fellow Americans like this.

New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Blood PressureI have some medical news and it’s less than a year old! The Cleveland Clinic reported, New High Blood Pressure Treatment Guidelines. This is a big deal to me. I don’t suffer from high blood pressure, but I do suffer rather badly from high blood pressure hypochondria. It isn’t about dying really. I don’t mind dying so much, although I do think I’m deserving of another 25 years. At that point, my shelf-life will certainly have expired. But one thing is for certain: I don’t want to die of a heart attack.

The problem is that I spend the vast majority of my waking hours typing at a keyboard. And I have started to suffer from some minor carpal tunnel syndrome in my left arm and hand. It is basically just some numbness. And what is numbness of the left arm the first sign of? A heart attack! Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “Since you know it is just carpal tunnel and heart attacks are more about the upper arm and shoulder, shouldn’t you just calm down?” And the polite answer to that is, “No!” The not so polite answer to that is, “How dare you insult my hypochondria!”

There is a very real problem with the traditional blood pressure charts. They tell you that the perfect blood pressure is 120/80. But then they say that pre-hypertension is a systolic value of 120-139 or a diastolic of 80-89. So basically, you are being told, “You blood pressure is perfect; and its in the range where we start to get worried.” Of course, your blood pressure could be too low as well. Hypotension is defined as a blood pressure below 90/60. The ultimate hypotension is 0/0 where you’re dead.

In addition to the mathematical problems with the pre-hypertension, I find this offensive because when I was skinny, which was 45 years of my life, my blood pressure was always around 90/60, and no one ever said anything, except that one time I almost died and it was 60/40. Since I got pudgy about five years ago, my blood pressure has gone up. Today, it seems to be about 111/75. But depending upon when I take it and how much caffeine I’ve been drinking, it can easily get into that pre-hypertension area. And this concerns me because, as I said: (1) I deserve 25 more years; and (2) I don’t want to die of a heart attack.

Well, the big news about the new guidelines is that they’ve gotten rid of the whole idea of pre-hypertension. It doesn’t say why, but I suspect that there is a picture of me in some scientific paper with a caption that reads, “This guy is the perfect example of why we need to get rid of pre-hypertension.” I obsess about it and that can’t be good for my blood pressure or any other part of my body functioning. If I had actual hypertension, then it could be treated. But the idea that I kinda, sorta have a condition that some day might be something that we might want to think about treating is enough to bring on a heart attack!

The new guidelines also get rid of the old rigid standards for hypertension. They are more nuanced and especially take into account the age of the patient. I’m not quite sure what the issue is here, other than that people’s blood pressure does tend to go up as they get older. But I suspect a lot of it is an effort to stop over-treating people with medications that may do more harm than good.

But the heart rate guidelines are still the same as always: 60 to 100 beats per minute, unless you are an athlete, who can have heart rates that are as low as 40. In this regard, my heart rate has always been high: around 90. I could probably bring that down if I got a little more exercise. It probably wouldn’t hurt regarding that carpal tunnel either.

Courts Have Good News for Obamacare

Ignorant Small Businessman and Useful Conservative Fool David KlemencicThere has been an issue that has been making its way through the courts. Because of some sloppy language in the ACA (Obamacare), it would appear that people who live in a state that has not set up its own healthcare exchange are not qualified for the federal subsidies that are one of the cornerstones of the new law. The fact that people are attacking the law from this position just shows how low conservatives will sink. All it means is that poor and middle class people in red states will be harmed. And it is done simply to make a statement that they don’t like Obama—it really has nothing even to do with the law.

Clearly, this was not the intent of the law, but a pedantic reading of the law would indicate this. So I wasn’t at all surprised to learn this morning of a “2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.” Now that’s not the whole court, so it will undoubtedly be appealed to the full court. And then it will be appealed to the Supreme Court. It didn’t bother me, because I’m actually pretty optimistic (maybe just naive) that the “originalists” on the court will look at the law and say, “Clearly the intent was to provide subsidies for everyone.” What’s more, there seems to me to be issues of equality. A federal law applies differently to you depending upon what state you live in?!

Well, The New York Times reported that within hours, another appeals court ruled the other way, Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health Care Law. According to it, “The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was ‘a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.'”

The one dissent on the DC panel was Judge Harry Edwards, who said that the only reason for the suit was an “attempt to gut” Obamacare. He also said that the White House’s broader reading of the law was “permissible and reasonable, and, therefore, entitled to deference.” This is pretty much what the Richmond Court found as well.

In a sidebar to the article, there is a quote from David Klemencic, the owner of a carpet store in West Virginia. He is one of the plaintiffs in the case. He said, “If I have to start paying out for health insurance, it will put me out of business.” It’s an interesting thing to say when the case has absolutely nothing to do with his business. But as I said: this is how far conservatives will sink. And this is how ignorant conservatives are, because Obamacare doesn’t apply to Klemencic’s small sole proprietorship. So basically what he’s saying is that even though he doesn’t have to provide healthcare for his employees, he’s really angry that they might be able to get it without his help. (Assuming he even has employees and if he doesn’t, I don’t know what he’s talking about.) There so should be a special level of hell for people like that.

Klemencic also wrote an OpEd in Inc, Why I Am Fighting the Health-Care Law. It’s just a bunch of Republican talking points, ending with, “For me, though, the loss of liberty is Obamacare’s real threat.” Jeez! Based upon some of the statistics he quotes, I assume he either didn’t write it, or got lots of help.

So overall, I’d say this is a good day for Obamacare. It’s even a good day for David Klemencic, although he may never realize it.

Hopper Painting

Edward HopperOn this day in 1882, the great American painter Edward Hopper was born. When I was younger, I wasn’t that impressed by him. But over time, he’s become one of my favorite artists. It’s mostly his compositions that I find stunning. Over the years, that’s what I’ve come to see as most important. Especially looking at art on a computer screen, it is hard to appreciate the micro-artistic elements. But mediocre painters have a poor sense of composition and drama. Hopper is especially interesting because he created great drama with so little.

He was raised in an upper-middle class family with a mild-mannered father in what seems to have been a matriarchal household. They did not ever seem to have to worry about money, although Hopper’s first instruction in art was via a correspondence course at the age of 17. He did eventually go the New York Institute of Art and Design for six years. For twenty years after that, he was forced to work as an illustrator for an advertising agency. I suspect that he also had some kind of trust fund, because he only worked part time. He was also able to make three trips to Paris, to check out the new trends in art there. He managed not to notice much, though. How does a young painter go to Paris three times between 1906 and 1910 and never even hear of Picasso? Well, Hopper was rather shy and I think he spent the time mostly soaking up the atmosphere and painting.

During that period, he was already doing notable work. In 1913, he sold his first painting, Sailing (painted in 1911). I’m not that fond of it, but you can definitely see how it fits into his artistic development. It was not really the beginning of a new career, however; more a one-off. He continued his freelance advertising work.

At around this time, he started to do etching, which until today I had no knowledge of. Much of it is really good. Here is Night Shadows from 1921. I think it shows the development of his compositional skill. I love the extreme perspective:

20140722-nightshadows-hopper.jpg

Clearly, at this point in his life he was grasping for anything that worked. As he was perfecting his etching skills, he started to work in watercolors. This work is excellent as well. By 1920, he was clearly doing great work, but no one had really noticed. He became involved with fellow painter Josephine Nivison in 1923. Being outgoing, she was able to get Hopper more attention, leading eventually to his first solo commercial exhibit 1924 (the same year he and Nivison married), where all the paintings sold. And the rest, as they say, is history.

His style stayed much the same throughout his career, but especially in the 1940s and 1950s, his work is more finished. Consider, for example, New York Restaurant from 1923:

New York Restaurant - Hopper

And Hotel Lobby from 1943:

Hotel Lobby - Hopper

I’m actually rather fond of his less finished work. In fact, I most like that aspect of his work early on, right after leaving school. But he hadn’t perfected his compositional style at that point, so I didn’t present any. Regardless, all of his work is interesting and worth checking out.

Happy birthday Edward Hopper!

Afterword

Here is one of my favor Janis Ian songs, “Hopper Painting”: