Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keep Pit Bulls, Ban Yappy Dogs

Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap over the years because of their eating habits. 
The muscular fighting dogs have been bashed pretty hard because of their tendency to try and eat cats, chihuahuas, small children, and the occasional fellow pit bull.  If they were just stealing millions of dollars through fraudulent mortgages, or crippling citizens through outrageous taxes, or ripping off Americans at the gas pump, you'd never hear a peep about the breed.
But in this country, the quickest way to ostracism is by eating things the do-gooders deem verboten, like sugar, sodas, salt, and anything else that tastes good.  Since Persian cats appear to be considered a delicacy among the spiked-collar set, it only makes sense that the do-gooders would go after the pit bull for its gastronomical choices.
The breed has been banned in a number of communities, and there is a growing clamor for outlawing pit bulls altogether.
The fact that irresponsible, overweight, tooth-challenged rednecks tend to use the dogs for their own clandestine canine versions of WWF wrestling doesn't help.
The do-gooders seem to ignore the fact that a dangerous pit bull is often the product of a boneheaded owner who is barely the animal's intellectual equal, just as some do-gooders continue to insist that guns are the problem and not the dirtbags who use them illegally.
So there is a movement apaw in the country to make the breed illegal.
I couldn't disagree more.
While I go along with the collection and elimination of dogs that attack children, small adults, and any creature named "Fluffy," I just can't get on board with picking on pit bulls that haven't done anything.  We've worked so hard as a society to eliminate discrimination based on race, religion, and skin color, which are basically the determining factors for human "breeds."  To single out an entire race of dogs seems like a step backwards in our social evolution.
Also, there are abundant examples of pit bulls that are loving and docile pets.  To get rid of them all would be like getting rid of all humans because some of them turn out to be lawyers. 
So I don't favor outlawing all pit bulls.
If the do-gooders insist on going after a particular breed, here's my suggestion:
Yappy dogs.
This undersize variety goes by a lot of fancy names dreamed up by breeders who believe the more esoteric and unpronounceable the name, the more valuable the dog.  (Go ahead, try and say "Shih Tzu" without making it sound like a vacuous bowel movement.)
The selection and removal of all Yappy dogs wouldn't require tests and determinations by experts based on bloodlines and carefully measured physical attributes, either.  If you're enjoying a sound sleep and your dream of a disrobing Jennifer Lawrence is cut short by the sound of a high-pitched yipping, yapping, endlessly barking little dog, you've found a Yappy.  And it should be removed immediately.
For the dog zealots certain to come out of the woodwork (and who are often just as rabid, pun intended, as my arch enemy the Tree Hugger), don't get your retractable leash in a wad.
I'm not advocating euthanasia.  I love all dogs, even the annoying breeds like the English Prince Wyndemere Yapper, the Malaysian Breasted Yappie, or designer hybrids like the Cockayap and the Yappapoo.  Where I'm sure to swell my long list of detractors is to suggest that Yappy dogs should be treated like children from the 19th century: they should be seen but not heard.  They ought to be kept inside like the expensive, ornate status symbols they are.  
However, the truly egregious outdoor Yappers should be removed from neighborhoods where people need to go to work in the morning, and sent to this legendary farm my parents used to tell me about whenever one of my childhood pets came up missing.
To be fair, just as is the case with most pit bulls, it's usually an obtuse owner that gives Yappers a bad name.
Which brings me back to my original premise, which is that laws should not be passed to ban all pit bulls. 
However, since the do-gooders are unlikely to leave this alone, here's a reasonable compromise:
Just as they insist on regulating the foods consumed by full grown humans through limits and taxes on sugary drinks, the buttinskis should be satisfied with passing laws restricting the diet of all pit bulls.  From here on, the breed will only be allowed to eat dry dog food, moist canned dog food, all animal abusers, and any dog owner too brain-addled to properly care for their pets.
And maybe the occasional treat of a sugar-hating do-gooder.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Officials Need More Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmetic, Less Drama

Usually when you read a controversial line such as "schools today are out of control," you're prepared for a diatribe by some old codger like me ranting about modern kids.
This week, I've been using that phrase a lot.  The difference is that I'm not talking about the students.
Those who are "out of control" are the administrators.
This week there have been three separate stories of school officials crossing the line of good sense.  It's enough to make one wonder: where do principals go for detention?  Is there a chalkboard in the teachers lounge that bears erasers in need of clapping?  Or even better, imagine the long queue of students waiting for an opportunity to mete out some corporal punishment on itinerant superintendents.
Truth be told, there appears to be a litany of education officials in dire need of a good beatin'.
The first incident involves a high school valedictorian in Prague, Oklahoma who, after delivering her graduation speech, went weeks without receiving the diploma she had earned with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  When she visited the school with her father to ask where the missing diploma might be, according to an NBC News story, the principal informed them that the honor student wouldn't be getting a diploma due to a deeply offensive act on her part; during her valedictory speech, the girl used the word "hell" instead of heck.
Then when reporters asked the Prague School District superintendent for more information, the official clammed up and refused to discuss the issue due to concerns about "privacy."
That ruse would never fly when you were a teenager sitting in the vice-principal's office while the dean of punishment pressed you for answers about the pack of cigarettes in the restroom.  But somehow, when the tables are turned, school officials hide behind anything to keep from being caught in the crosshairs of the truth.  Great example for our youth, eh?
Apparently, there's something in the Oklahoma water, because this lunacy has extended to an elementary school in Oklahoma City.  According to a Fox Sports story, a five-year-old was accused of wearing offensive clothing and ordered to turn his shirt inside out for the rest of the day.  What made the shirt so heinous that it warranted such embarrassment for the child?  It trumpeted the University of Michigan Wolverines football team.
The story explained that, in an effort to combat the terror of gangs wearing football jerseys from foreign countries like California and Nebraska, the school system has a rule that bans jerseys promoting schools outside of Oklahoma.  But if the barely-toddling gangsters wanted to wreak havoc while wearing Oklahoma Sooners regalia or Oklahoma State Cowboys gear, that would be within the rules.
I'm not making that up.  According to the story, the school's rule allows such sports team shirts as long as the team hails from an in-state school.
Of course, the insanity isn't contained in Oklahoma alone.
Again, in the same week that the previous two incidents occurred, MSN News reported that a "gifted and talented" middle school girl in San Bernardino, Calif. was yanked out of her class and reprimanded for violating another "anti-gang" policy.  If she was flashing multi-fingered gang signs or wearing a blue bandana embroidered with "Crips Forever," that might be a reasonable rule.  But she wasn't.
Her violation?  She had a photo of her brother, a military policeman, on the cover of her binder along with a photo of her gang.  The gang?  Her girls softball team.  It turns out that the school bans "added materials" on the books of students in the gifted and talented program.
To be fair, the school ultimately showed just how reasonable they could be.  They allowed her to return to school only after removing the softball photo.  The picture of the guy with the gun could stay.
Anytime you examine the cloistered world of a school, where omnipotent principals impersonate Blackbeard while mistakenly imagining themselves the undisputed captains of their ships, these kind of abuses are to be expected.  After all, it's not like American children have the same kind of rights as, say, Guantanamo inmates.
But when three different instances of abused authority come to light in the same week, it's a red flag worthy of consideration by those who live in the real world.
Sadly, these stories show just how severely the budget cuts have damaged our education system.  Personally, I'd be willing to pony up a few extra tax dollars if it meant our schools would expand their curriculum.  Specifically, I'm thinking a few classes in "remedial common sense" to be attended by the boneheads behind the big desks.  And for those fifty-somethings with lots of letters behind their names but no brains inside their craniums?  New federal funding to facilitate the construction of school-ground wood sheds, and the resurrection of good old-fashioned paddling -- this time, with a lineup of school officials bent over someone's knee.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Resort Fee Pricing All The Rage

I’ve learned a new trick that I’m going to start using in my every day life.
At my next yard sale, I’m going to put stickers on the “merchandise” listing uber-low prices.  Then, when the person comes up to pay the 25 cents for my scratched but original Ray Stevens album, I’ll explain that I also have to charge a 50-cent “Yard Sale Fee.”
I think I’ll try that with the next article I sell.  When the publisher asks where to send the $50 check, I’ll remind them of the extra $10 “Writing Fee” that is customarily added to the bill.
When he balks, I’ll tell him that “it’s common practice in the industry now” and that “all the writers are doing it these days.”  That should take care of any complaints.
I’m going to see if my wife can contact her employer about paying up on the “Attendance Fee” she is now charging on top of her regular salary.
Any of this sound familiar?
If not, then you haven’t stayed at a Las Vegas hotel lately.
I stayed at a fancy “Strip” hotel over the weekend.  (In the good old days, “strip” referred to the stretch of street bordered by big hotels on each side.  Now, it’s a description of what they do to your wallet long before you find the first blackjack table.)  I don’t want to embarrass the hotel by saying its name, so I’ll just refer to it as the “Suxor.”
There were a lot of things I liked about this unique venue, including its isosceles shape and ancient decorations. 
What I hated was the feeling of sodomy that accompanied nearly every turn.
The hotel itself was expensive, even with the “special deal” I used to land the weekend.
But it turns out that the “special deal” was really just the Vaseline.
The first screwing involved something that has become as common as homeless people handing out porn flyers on Las Vegas Strip sidewalks, and every bit as disgusting and distasteful:
Resort Fees.
It works like this:
The hotel lies, er, advertises a particularly attractive rate online.  The sucker, I mean customer, jumps at the savings.  While gleefully keying in his or her credit card number, they miss the microscopic disclaimer that says “some hotels charge additional fees at check-in.”
Then when the mark/guest shows up, the front desk advises them of an additional “resort fee” of anywhere from $15 to $50 a day, depending on the hotel.
At the Suxor, it was an extra $18 per night.
I’m a cheapskate, but I don’t mind paying more for nicer amenities and upscale accommodations. 
What I hate at any price is feeling like I’ve been tricked or ripped off.
It’s like going to Walmart, picking up a 12-pack of sodas with a tag that says “$4.88,” then hearing the checkout clerk explain “oh, there’s also a one dollar beverage fee.”
I know it’s asking a lot for an industry built on slanted card games and rigged slot machines to be honest, but how hard can it be to give a single, simple rate for a room?
I wondered why the authorities weren’t getting involved in this obvious bait-and-switch scam. 
Then I found the answer at the bottom of my bill. 
In addition to the $18 “Resort Fee” was a sales tax charge of, you guessed it, $18 and some change.  The clerk explained a lot of that was the Las Vegas room tax, which I estimate is currently somewhere around 73%.
And the wound salt?  They also charged sales tax on the Resort Fee.
So my advice to anyone thinking about a weekend in Vegas is: DON’T!
The House That Bugsy Built is no longer the inexpensive, glamorous, fun place filled with big stars and cheap food it once was.
If you’re looking for a deal, try Mesquite, where our hotels don’t gouge you with hidden fees.  The exception, of course, is the exorbitant bed tax.  Unfortunately, that can’t be helped…after all, we ARE still in Nevada, where the only thief bigger than a gun-wielding bank robber or corporate hotel executive is a government official.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Artifacts Or Fiction

This "artifact," picked up from the gravel
driveway in front of a local museum,
is actually one of the earliest known arrowheads
 crafted by Cross-Eyed Larry. 
According to ancient legend, this Native
 American was the worst arrowhead maker
 in the history of Native America.

I have a great affinity and affection for most things Native American, which is why I was pleased to have a chance to visit a Nevada museum dedicated to the "Lost City" of the Anasazi Indians recently.
I learned a great deal during my visit.
For example, based on the amount of pottery fragments from different tribes and periods on display, I learned this: 
Ancient people were clumsy.
How else could you explain all the broken dishes and pots?
There were a few "replicas" of those early pots which were beautiful, but most of the genuine artifacts were in pieces or had been glued together to form a single pot with a missing part or two.
As a result of my discovery, I have decided that I will never again throw away a broken glass or chipped dish.  I'm simply going to pack up the shards in something that will last a few thousand years, like a McDonalds styrofoam Big Breakfast container, and write my family name and year of breakage on the package.  (It should save the archaeologists of the 33rd century a few bucks in carbon dating material).  I'll probably have to include an extended explanation of what a "Walmart" is, since that seems to be the source of most 21st century eating utensils.
Another fact I discerned from my visit:
Multi-level marketing was alive and well back when the wooly mammoth was still roaming the plains.
I base this statement on the sheer volume of Native American baskets filling the shelves of the museum.  They had dozens of baskets of every shape and size, and for a variety of purposes.
When was the last time you saw that many bowls and containers in one place?
That's right, a Tupperware party.
Judging by the number of baskets shown, I believe the continent must have been lousy with Five-Star Directors going teepee to teepee selling TupperGrass baskets long before Christopher Columbus and his collection of copper-bottom cookware salesmen showed up and ruined everything.
As always, I enjoyed reading the works of fiction attached to otherwise unrecognizable artifacts throughout the museum.  As a fiction writer myself, I get a charge out of reading the products of degreed and well-fertilized imaginations on the little cards and plaques around an exhibit.  For example, there was a pile of dried and hardened mud in one of the display cases that looked just like the millions of similarly dried and hardened mud piles to be found in this corner of the Mohave Desert.  Beneath the pile was a card which claimed that the pile was actually petrified "poop" from an ancient and long-extinct form of sea sloth. 
I'm sure the fiction writer/scientist who made that claim performed a whole litany of tests to confirm that diagnosis.  After all, scientists are never wrong, except when it comes to that whole "Pluto is a planet" - "Is not!" - "Is too!" "Yo MAMA is a planet" "Yeah, well your pocket protector has lice" debate.
Ditto for a mashed up collection of desiccated weeds that another fiction writer claimed was an ancient Native American sandal.  I knew the scientist was lying because there was no eyelet for the Payless BOGO tag, not to mention the fact that my back yard in Utah was once filled with such "sandals" until I got my lawn mower fixed.
Of course, not all of the exhibits were inside the building.
Behind the museum was a display of rectangular buildings called "pueblos."  For those who don't know, "pueblo" is Native American for "mobile home with missing wheels."  And just as you'll find in any modern trailer park, you can tell the status of a particular ancient resident based on whether his "pueblo" is a single or a double-wide.
As my visit ended, I did the unthinkable: I stole an important "artifact" from the gravel driveway in front of the museum.  I showed the rock to my wife, who was duly unimpressed.
That is, until I explained that the item was actually one of the earliest examples of an Anasazi arrowhead created by "Cross-Eyed Larry." According to ancient legend, Cross-Eyed Larry was the worst arrowhead maker in the long history of Native America. 
He became known far and wide in Native American lore because his work was sought by members of the Vygytyrian tribe.  The arrowheads were so bad that, if a brave nocked and fired an arrow fitted with one of these stone ends, it was certain to miss its mark by a good 10-15 paces.  Vyjytyrian chieftains, who were previously considered cowardly throughout history and ridiculed at ancient casino powwows for their refusal to hunt live animals, were able to save face in the late 14th century by shooting and missing with one of Cross-Eyed Larry's terribly crafted products.
And now you know the genesis of the word "vegetarian," which as everybody today knows is Native American for "bad hunter."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sodas, The New Cigarettes

First they came for the liquor, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't an alcoholic.
Then they came for the tobacco, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't a smoker.
Then they came for the salt, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't a hypertensive.
Then they came for the sugar, and I did not speak out, because I wasn't a diabetic.
Then they came for my soda -- and there were no unskinny people left to speak for Coke or Pepsi.
                                                                        -Morris Workman, 2012
                                                                        (with apologies to Martin Niemoller)

"I told you so."
That was a statement from my wife recently, after a story broke about New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's push to ban non-diet sodas larger than 16 ounces.
It seems that in a city overrun with crack, murder, crystal meth, and Tom Cruise's ex-wife, the uber-rich mayor believes the biggest threat facing New Yorkers today is the Big Gulp.
Now this insanity has spread to the Land of Lunacy, which is what should be printed on license plates that currently say "The Golden State."
In El Monte, a scary little California city with a population of more than 100,000 people, the city council is considering a tax on what are being called "sugary drinks."
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, the city is terrified of joining three other California municipalities which have declared bankruptcy this year.  Their answer to save the day?  Charge a city tax of one cent per ounce on Cokes, Pepsis, Dr. Peppers, Mountain Dews, and other sugar-laced soft drinks.
I have to admit that my wife predicted this more than a decade ago.  She warned that, once the health nutzies (pronounced suspiciously like "health Nazis") finished branding cigarette smokers as enemies of the state and making it illegal to smoke everywhere except underwater, they were going to go after the Twinkies set next.
Turns out she was right.
The last line of the Star Spangled Banner should will soon be "o'er the land of the sugar-free," since it seems our country has a problem with individuals making decisions about what to put in their own mouths.  Of course it's up to the government to protect us from ourselves, since they've done such a great job of protecting us from murderers, thieves, bankers, and the Kardashians over the years.
How right was my wife about the move against sweets once victory had been declared in the tobacco wars?
According to the story, El Monte mayor Andre Quintero has a problem with sugary drinks, which he, quote, "likened to cigarettes."
To their credit, while El Monte officials are touting the crusade partially as a nod to a healthier lifestyle, they make no bones about the fact that they're actually using the health nutzie fad to make money for the city.
It turns out that they are the municipal first cousins of another fiscally irresponsible community called Bell, California.
In El Monte they paid their now-retired police chief more than $400,000 in 2011, and currently have two former police chiefs making pensions of more than $200,000 a year, according to the L.A. Times.
So the city wants to tax what they consider bad behavior, using the precedent set when Uncle Sam started taxing the hell out of cigarettes and liquor.
The strategy has worked all over the country, where cigarette smokers are now about as welcome indoors as rock-hard dog turds.
According to a statistic I recently made up but which sounds startlingly true, there are now fewer bars in the United States than at any time before the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 thanks to the various federal, state, county, city, and HOA taxes assessed against any entity that knows who Jim Beam was.
Now the chubby-haters are going after anything that might have been in John Candy's closet.
The bad news is that sodas will soon become as forbidden and expensive as Cuban cigars.
The good news is that I've started hoarding 12-packs of Mello Yello in anticipation of the black market that is sure to spring up. 
I'm also counting on the Mafia to join in by trafficking in bootleg root beer and illegally imported cases of Canada Dry, while my blood brethren in the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky begin moonshining a different kind of Mountain Dew.
This time around, the coppers, G-men, and revenoors will be easier to detect, because they'll be the rail-thin, pasty-faced, tofu-eating salad munchers in the crowd.
Just remember: When they come for your Big Macs; when they come for your Dominos Pizzas; when the faces of both Ben AND Jerry wind up on cartons of Cherry Garcia as wanted fugitives...
You've been warned.