Michael, They Haven’t Spared You Yet…

Michael_Jackson-Bad-FrontalWhen you were alive, they despised you. In every humanly possible way, they cooked up stories that maligned you. They teamed up and slandered against you. They continued this act of great ‘generosity’ until the last breath went out of your body. When the coroner arrived, they confused him with stories. At the wake, they would come and grieve over your sad demise. In their speeches, they would describe you a ‘blessed soul’ and your feats ‘great’. May be the ‘greatest’. They were ‘shocked’ and ‘devastated’ when they heard the news of your death. Some ‘couldn’t believe’ it. They are the hypocrites. They are the deceivers of their own conscience.

Those species desperately wanted your fall. They are now more than happy. Delighted over your death, they are now shedding crocodile tears to join millions of mourning fans. Death is the only occasion when they stop slurring and utter good of the dead. Either they are not bold enough to air what they really feel. Or they fear god – they don’t abuse the dead lest that might invite god’s wrath upon them. Yeah, they are hypocrites.

Once they called you weird and bizarre – for your friendship with a chimp, for your high-pitched (neutral) voice and several plastic surgeries. And now, with the same tongue and in the selfsame treble and tenor they describe you ‘King of Pop’ and ‘moon-walker’.

Millions of people all over the world keep pets including pythons, chameleons, lizards, scorpions and so on. Pets are individual choices. Unless it is a danger to the society or other individuals, why should the society bother as to what should a pet be?

While, a person’s voice is natural. Why shouldn’t you sing in your own natural voice? Should you have altered it for the sake of some lumpen elements and morons? 

Then, how about your plastic surgeries? To make up an injured nose, you once got it repaired. So what? Then you went for a series of surgeries for a number reasons including skin diseases. So what? There are so many actors and actresses, CEOs and CFOs, so-called spiritual leaders and religious heads who have undergone such plastic surgeries. Then, why shouldn’t you?

Then came their calumnious attack on you for your preference for the ‘company of children’. Your genuine love (so far it has never been proved otherwise) was misinterpreted and they called you a pedophile. Nobody called St. Don Bosco and great children’s writer Lewis Carroll a pedophile or child-abuser for keeping the company of children.

For his ‘Thriller’, the Church called you ‘son of devil’. You had avowed that your convictions contradicted the occult theme depicted in the album. There are so many Catholic priests and bishops who were/are devil worshippers. Church never called them devil’s sons.

Forget praising, they have never even recognized your musical genius and versatility, innovative and novel dance moves, the messages you carried in your songs, your 13 Grammy Awards, millions of admirers, your magnanimity that donated millions for social causes.

Don’t you think you are more sinned against than sinning?

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Valentine’s Day: Dreadful Day for Cheaters

v-day-cheaters(Spun off from a story done in 2007)

We just celebrated the most romantic day of the year – Valentine’s Day. Since we don’t have any day dedicated to Kamadev, our Cupid, this is the only day when our love and affection manifest in heart-shaped chocolates and rose bouquets. In America it is a great day for florists, greeting card and candy companies. Unofficially, it is also the day most marriage cheaters and multi-sweethearts-lovers dread and the day many of them get caught red-handed aided by detectives.

Ever year, private detectives reap a good harvest on Valentine’s Day. It is the time of year when most of their cases begin or end. Suspicious spouses or partners, mostly women, approach them with pieces of information to investigate into the ‘other life’ of their partner. Equipped with spy cameras, bugging devices or telephoto lens these investigators go on the prowl looking for cheaters. The fallout becomes fatal to many a relation. Hundreds of couples break up. Several of them call it a day, filing divorce suits. The reason is simple – romance is there on everybody’s mind on Valentine’s Day. If anything is going on, it will happen on the day.

As Feb 14 nears, partners, married as well as unmarried, put their other halves under close surveillance to detect the meaning of their promises. Everything that is uncared for months undergoes a close scrutiny. A credit card bill or a receipt from a gift shop, featuring two same gifts, might the let the cat out of the bag. Sometimes, a person becomes anxious when he/she discovers the partner is absent for hours on end with no cognitively justifiable reason and tries to find out what they have is really true love.

Often, the unfaithful would themselves spill the beans by confusing their lies. For instance, if he bought two pairs of diamond earrings, he would say the other one was for his mom. Or his girlfriend says the new red-lace teddy is a gift from her sister. Also, when a partner is found at a strange location with a gold ring or flower bunch and the person says, if asked, that he/she was coming home, it would look a ridiculous lie to believe. 

But, the devious have their own way to do smart things. They schedule ‘business dinners’ with their various lovers on the days before Valentine’s Day to leave them free to spend the actual day with their spouse. Gumshoes and divorce lawyers, however, agree that the evidence of cheating is much easier to find on V Day despite several alibis and shrewd designs. Mr Unfaithful usually uses office related errands to get away. While Ms Unfaithful gives the excuse of visiting a sick friend or a relative. Cheaters are more likely to be seen buying double Valentine’s Day cards or gifts or likely to have two romantic meals with two different people.

In some relations, the trouble of adultery or infidelity is already brewing between partners and one chooses Valentine’s Day to unearth an unassailable evidence for a divorce. Reports by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts say, divorce filings spike in mid-February every year. And, the months that follow witness numerous break ups and divorces.

Recession and the Theory of Chaos

depression-breadline3In the early 1930s came the ‘great depression’. Along with it came massive layoffs, resulting in unemployment and poverty in epidemic proportions. Every second person was jobless. Every other family was poverty-stricken. Charities opened food counters where people lined up not in hundreds, but in thousands. Every penny that you now find lying on the streets and parking lots was more than priceless. A few grains could satiate a hungry stomach. Academics and engineers were willing to plough snow for others. Professionals, once rolled in money and luxury, were available for raking and mowing. So-called mean jobs were no longer confined to the poor and illiterate. Those who came to the land with that great American dream started rethinking. Thousands migrated back to their places of origin.

But, the inevitable happened. The World War II broke out, becoming a boon for America, and a bane for the rest of the world. President Roosevelt found opportunities in times of chaos. America became arms and ammunition manufacturer of the world. It even supplied tanks to its bête noir – the Soviet Union. They turned automobiles into tanks that wreaked havoc, ploughshares into weapons of choice. New entrepreneurs sprouted, new businesses branched out, new skills bloomed and it bore the fruits of a new system. With the mushroom cloud billowing up, they called it a day – finis. At last, peace prevailed after the great turmoil.

Now, chaos again. It all began in the late 1990s as a slump in business. Then, bubbles burst. Followed by dips, crashes and slowdowns until the authorities agreed to a recession. Now, panicky of a depression. Workers are laid off. Businesses are closing down. Millions live on food stamps. More and more houses are foreclosed. Not education of their children, people are now more concerned about saving their houses from foreclosures and putting food on the table. Pennies on the roads and parking lots are now being picked up. The literate are again asking for any kind of work, shoveling snow or stacking firewood. Day care centers for pets are being closed and more pets are handed over to animal shelters. People have ceased to talk about new cars and SUVs and have started thinking about tomorrow.

Will there again be a boon – a war? Will their laboratories again develop the real weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?  And, transform manufacturing units into units that make nuclear warheads? Will there be more mushroom clouds to kiss the heavens?

The Holy Bailout Shit!

Their agenda is simple – when they make profits, they share among themselves, and when they incur losses they want you to share them. Nice economics – for them. Nice economics for the columns that support corporate interests. This is what privatization of profits and nationalization of losses. When they are financially bailed out, it is not their money that goes into the salvaging ritual. It’s your money – your hard-earned money. Who cares for you, by the way? They would continue to earn salaries in millions, place orders for private jets that cost millions, spend thousands in luxury hotels and float promotional ads worth millions even while drowning in debts. Because they know their debts are your debts.

When the capital market flashes pleasant figures, they take home millions as perks and bonuses, enjoy enormous hikes and allowances. When the stocks and shares plunge, they save their asses. Nobody is held responsible for anything, none is convicted and not even indicted. Once the dust of trouble settles, like simians they swing from one branch to another. They get away with everything they do.

An ideal situation is the nationalization of these companies and corporations. Governments can bail out these financial or manufacturing entities by bringing them under their control. If the money is tax payer’s that should be the only way out and only option they should resort to.

If administrations are really interested in saving these unscrupulous Bailout Protestcorporations and ‘insolvent’ multi-billionaires, they should also ensure every penny spent saves jobs along with companies. From numerous bail-out choices, they should go for companies that are more labor intensive like the automobile. They will certainly be saving thousands of jobs and that many families. There should be a ceiling/limits put for salaries drawn by CEOs and other top company officials. Those who travel chartered flights and fly private jets in times of crises should be incarcerated. The bottom line is no luxury at the expense of hardworking tax payers.

US Homeless Veterans – Anyone Cares to Talk about Them Now?

homeless-veteran-new-york-cityIt was in 2007. I was entering Washing DC when I saw at a signal a man standing with a placard. The message read, “I’M A HOMELESS VIETNAM WAR VETERAN.” I was literally shocked to see an American war hero begging for survival at the nerve centre of American/world politics. ‘Richest’ country in the world having their retired military personnel wandering around with a begging bowl!

First thing that suddenly occurred to me was the way India treats its men in uniform. When in service, they are moderately paid and under-equipped. However, after their retirement they are well-taken care of. Good service pension, good compensation if injured or deceased and monthly supplies including alcohol. They can also avail of military canteen where things including home appliances are available at a discounted rate. Besides, they are certainly to get a job, especially in companies that supply security personnel. They have reservation in government jobs. I have never seen a single Indian military retiree in a dire state like his American counterpart whom I mentioned above.

What I witnessed in the country’s capital was not a stray incident. US official statistics say there are as many as 200,000 homeless veterans who make up almost a quarter of the country’s homeless population. Majority of these people have served in the Vietnam war. While, some served in Korea or even World War II. Nearly, 2,000 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. These poor souls sleep under bridges, on grates, park benches and at bus stations. Some sleep in laundry rooms and wash themselves in fast food restrooms. All happening in the United States of America! Can you believe it?

Veterans’ homelessness became an issue during the presidential campaign. First raised by Democratic candidate John Edwards, it was talked about by Hillary Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama. Yeah, it was debated and discussed over and over and again. Now none talks about them. Everybody is busy bailing out the Wall Street and fixing the economy. And, the veterans – have they now become a forgotten entity?

Tunnel Dwellers in New York City

tunnel-dwellersIt is a parallel world hidden beneath the skyscrapers of New York City. Its population, called the ‘mole people’, is not a unified force now. They remain scattered in the urban wilderness of abandoned sewage lines and long-forgotten subway tunnels. Many of these homeless Vietnam-era veterans might walk among us on the deceitful ‘topside’ world. But, they prefer to live right under our feet. They are close to the city’s din and clamor, but find peace and tranquility in a fascinating labyrinth of eighteen levels of tunnels and 468 open or abandoned subway stations. Until a few years ago, before 9/11 to be exact, they were like an organized community. With the terror strike, city official began to tolerate the mole people less and cracked down on tunnel dwelling. Still sporadic homesteads are there in these gloomy bowels of the city, remnants of a subculture that spread under the city like a fantasy world. It is amazing to see how the human mind and body adapt to unfamiliar conditions and strange things.

Watch: ‘Dark Days’, an eye-opening documentary made by Marc Singer, who spent two years living with tunnel dwellers and became a part of the subculture.

Watch: ‘The Tunnel Dwellers of New York,’ a documentary by Chantal Lasbats, who travels through narrow portals into a maze of corridors and passageways to meet a few hardy denizens of this hidden world who continue to live there

Read: ‘Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City’ by Jennifer Toth

Patient Dumping in the US

This is not a new story, but certainly a news story as the cruel practice is still going on in several parts of the United States. And also, as it is hardly any news for the mainstream media whose eyes are trained on Paris Hiltons or Britney Spearses.

Patient dumping – that is the issue. By definition, patient dumping is the practice of only treating patients that can pay, leaving the poor to government or charitable organizations. It is denial of treatment to emergency patients or women in labor, or transferring them to another hospital in an unstable condition. But, that is a euphemism for ruthlessness. As far as I have understood, hospitals are service oriented, even though they (especially private ones) have to make some profit to run. But, in the US, lots of them are big corporations with the whole and sole goal to make profits.  When an indigent patient gets admitted, some hospitals treat them and leave the bills to charity, either government or NGOs. While some others, after administering first aid, leave the patient in the streets.

Patient dumping became shockingly evident in 2006 when surveillance cameras captured the sad plight of Carol Ann Reyes, a 63-year-old homeless woman with dementia, who was treated at Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower hospital in Los Angeles. A taxicab dropped her off in the city’s crime-plagued Skid Row area. The video footage showed this hapless woman wandering, wearing a hospital gown and a diaper, completely disoriented. The hospital lost her clothes and even left her without pants and shoes. When interrogated, the hospital confirmed that she was put in a taxi and the driver was told to take her to Skid Row. Remember, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, part of Kaiser Permanente, is the largest health maintenance organizations HMO in the country.
 
Reyes’ movements were recorded by ‘dumping cams’ mounted outside the entrance of Union Rescue Mission, the largest homeless shelter in LA. The cameras were installed a year before after Los Angeles Police Department accused hospitals of dumping people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. While, the mission sent tapes and written logs of dumping incidents to the city’s attorney’s office.

In L.A, patient-dumping hospitals ordinarily ‘discharge’ homeless patients onto the streets of Skid Row. Why this dumping fixation with Skid Row? Because, this area has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of homeless people, and is known for its shelters and services. People’s Medical Society, which has long advocated against the too-early discharge of people from hospitals, says dumping helps hospitals to make bigger profits at the expense of dumped patients.

In 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which forbids the practice known as patient dumping. However, a report by Public Citizen says hospitals in almost every state have violated this federal law. During the first ten years since the law had come into existence (Sept. 86 to Sept. 96), almost 700 hospitals violated the law. Actual number was more than this as many cases were not reported to the government. The situation is getting worse as more people are becoming homeless and more insured people becoming uninsured.

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