Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dolly Parton's Propaganda

Like many Tennessee residents, my wife and I have signed our children up for the Imagination Library program which began as the brainchild of country-music singer Dolly Parton. The idea is that any child in Tennessee is eligible to receive complementary age-appropriate books through the mail. Most of them are innocuous enough and concern shapes, colors, and the personification of zoo animals. But every now and then they will try and slip one by you and indoctrinate your children with their liberal propaganda.

Case in point is Maple by Lori Nichols, who by her own admission, “looks to nature for most of her inspiration” and collects “acorn tops” as a hobby. You have probably already surmised that none of the book’s settings involve an NRA raffle. Let’s look at a couple of the illustrations:

You will notice the conspicuous absence of wedding bands on her parents’ fingers and the fact that they refer to the human child growing in her womb as a “whisper” rather than a “baby.” It should also be noted that instead of putting an end to their sinful cohabitation, they decided to plant a tree. I suppose it is difficult to find time to properly consecrate a relationship when you’re volunteering at the global warming propaganda tent…..

By the book’s midway point, we are informed that Maple is lonely and has been forced to turn to foliage for comfort since her parents were probably too busy drinking and watching Michael Moore documentaries to tend to her emotional needs. Already we see that this impressionable young girl has literally been transformed into a tree-hugging hippie.

Obviously still shackin’ up, Maple’s parent’s found themselves pregnant with another “whisper.” You will also notice the subtle disappearance of color from the parents’ wardrobe. This is indicative of the drab clothing of communism or perhaps even the final stages of cult assimilation. If you were waiting for an invitation to the child’s forthcoming baptism I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the book’s finale, it is revealed that Maple’s sister was named Willow and also had a tree planted in her honor. From the illustration, the two unsupervised children are left to fend for themselves while their godless hippie parents struggle to exploit the Federal government's welfare infrastructure.

While we are not provided with a proper epilogue, I think we all know how these stories end:

Maple, having dropped out of high-school to pursue exotic dancing full-time, has borne three children by as many men. She finds only scant comfort in her Wiccan coven and or the narcotics she pilfers from a few of her regulars. Her tree was lost to fire when her mom dropped a lit spliff during an unusually-dry summer.

Willow has fared slightly better and even managed to turn a small profit by selling hemp undergarments at Burning Man which led to some freelance writing work with The Huffington Post. Despite these modest gains, she becomes fascinated by radical Islam and before long finds herself on the ground floor of the Syrian caliphate. Her tree still stands and is occasionally used to burn Ronald Reagan in effigy.

Maple and Willow’s parent’s continue to avoid both personal responsibility and patriotism. They separated briefly when Maple and Willow’s father began a tertiary carnal relationship with a 19-year old named Conifer he met at an Occupy Wall Street rally.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Safelink "Obama Phone"

I recently noticed several posts concerning the distribution of what are colloquially known as “Obama Phones” in my area. This was done under the banner of a company known as Safelink which advertised “free phones” for those who qualify. For the past few weeks, they have been operating at one of the many service stations in town known only as “We Cash Checks.” Most mornings that I passed by, there was an older Caucasian couple manning the tent and they usually had at least one prospective patron.  

Being unsure of the program’s origins (or the idea that Barack Obama was its architect), I decided to do a little research. A Google search of “Obama phones” invariable leads one to the 2012 viral video of Michelle Dowery emphatically insisting that Obama gave her a free phone (and therefore deserved a second term). The memes generated from the video footage were subsequently utilized to illustrate the idea that Obama was an entitlement president.
Certainly I do not wish to imply that Facebook memes are incapable of conveying the scope of complex economic assistance programs, but every now and then one might slip through the cracks. So, I decided to check out the FCC website and identify the origins of the free phone program.

Companies like Safelink exist due to the Lifeline program that began in 1985. In turn, that program was included in the sweeping Telecommunications Act of 1996.The act was a truly bipartisan effort (introduced and passed by a Republican legislative majority and signed into law by Bill Clinton) that was wide in scope. Its provisions covered everything from requiring V-chip technology in televisions to block offensive content to de-regulating barriers to entry for telecommunication startups. The key section for programs like Lifeline would be the establishment of a Universal Services Fund.

The idea was to provide access to the telecommunications grid for everyone in America since urban centers tended to have affordable coverage while the same level of service was astronomically higher in rural America. In order to fund this, the FCC began charging a “universal services fee” to carriers who will often pass this along to customers on their bill. That money would be used to subsidize telecom service to outlying markets. From 1985 until 2005, Lifeline was only available to subsidize landline phone service after which it was finally expanded to include pre-paid wireless carriers.

The fund now takes in around $8 Billion per year and distributes it among four main programs:

Connect America Fund – roughly 50% of the budget / makes telecom and Internet affordable in “rural or remote areas”

E-Rate – roughly 25% of the budget  / subsidizes Internet access for schools and libraries (again mostly in rural areas)

Lifeline – roughly 19% of the budget / subsidizes phone service for “low-income” citizens

Rural Health Care – around 6% of budget provides telemedicine (rural doctors can video-conference in a specialist from a large city) for sparsely populated areas.

Safelink obviously operates under the Lifeline provision of the act and eligibility requirements are somewhat controlled by each state, but generally speaking if you qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, or section 8 housing you could get one of these. The government reimburses up to $10 per month per household for wireless phone service and eligibility is reevaluated annually. This usually covers around 100 minutes a month and unlimited texts. Additional minutes / service require purchase of a pre-paid service card. This incentivizes companies like Safelink to aggressively market the program to the public so that when they run out of "free" minutes they buy more.

As for the phones, at least in my area, they are provided by Tracfone and the most glamorous smartphone they offer is a reconditioned LG. None of the phones offered are 4G/LTE capable. The more likely scenario is that you would walk away from the tent with a flip-phone.

Details are important here. There is certainly a vast difference between the implication that the president issued an executive order that gives a Verizon iPhone 6s Plus and an unlimited data package to every welfare recipient and the reality that a three-decades old government program distributes relatively-antiquated phones with limited service to households in poverty.

Now some may still disagree with the philosophy of the program (and the underlying assumption that access to affordable communications is a right rather than a privilege), but in the grand scheme of the Universal Services Fund the vast majority of the $8 Billion in subsidies benefit remote and rural areas. Furthermore, one could argue that the Lifeline program (which began under Raegan / secured ongoing funding under Clinton / and expanded to cover cell phones under George W.) owes very little of its successes or failures to the current administration.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that one of Obama supporter’s ignorance of the program became the primary source of information for those who opposed it. In other words, we tend to be much more adept at disseminating outrage than understanding why we are so angry. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Miss Pooping Alone

The ability to privately evacuate one’s bowels in one’s own home would appear to be a given, and it was, before my son became a toddler. Now, despite my attempts to clandestinely slip away for a solitary colonic egress, my son always seems to realize what is transpiring.

Cell phone in hand, I will just have begun to prepare for deployment when the door-knob slowly begins to turn. Invariably, I react to this by remaining motionless. I suppose I still operate under the misguided assumption that, like the T-Rex, my son’s vision is based on movement and that somehow if I remain still my presence will not register. 

Alas, this has yet to work. Instead, I will see his adorable face peek around the door while showcasing his I-know-what-daddy-is-doing grin. In the majority of cases, he will enter and close the door behind him. In a large space this would be simply uncomfortable, but in our master bathroom the toilet resides in its own closet. This means that there is barely enough room for a seated adult to clear their legs with the door. So my son’s insistence on witnessing the watery interment of Taco Tuesday quickly becomes a logistical nightmare.

Once inside the shire, he will remove several squares of toilet paper (the quantity appears to correlate to the session’s intensity) and gently place them into the coiled remnants of my trousers. Once an acceptable surplus has been amassed, he will insist upon leaving which necessitates another stance adjustment.

Once he emerges from the restroom, we enter the proclamation phase whereby he runs through the house announcing that “Daddy made a biiiiiiiiiiiiig poo-poo!” This phase generally concludes once everyone in the house has acknowledged receipt of this information and replied accordingly.

Not one to leave a job unfinished, he will return at the conclusion of my digestive evacuation in order to officiate the send-off. This normally entails a solemn flushing ritual followed by a jovial “bye-bye poo-poo!” The only pageantry missing is a formal salute and a lone bugler.

Despite the intrusive nature of a toddler’s presence during such a delicate time, I realize that one day (once he has moved out and begun a lucrative career as an hologram surgeon) I will miss the company. I suppose at that point I will simply have to walk through the house announcing my own bowel movements.