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Land Of The Free, Home Of The Stupid

by The Cranky Media Guy

There are times when I feel like I've awakened on Planet Stupid. Believe it or not, they're not all when I'm watching Jerry Springer, either. When I see examples of incredible stupidity around me, I just want to shout. OK, lemme level with you; sometimes, when I see examples of incredible stupidity around me, I do shout! If you happen to be one of my neighbors in this little town house complex I live in, I apologize, but it feels good to let it out, damn it! Don't think of me as a nuisance neighbor, think of it as "interactive media". Screw this "audience picks the plot of the murder mystery" crap we're always promised is just around the corner. It's far more satisfying to just yell back at your TV (and you don't need a fancy new cable box to do it, either).

The latest example of something that got me a'hollerin' was on C-Span this morning. (I promised not to use that "hick accent" stuff anymore last week, didn't I? Sorry.) I saw an "investigative reporter" from Channel 3 in Philadelphia testifying before some Congress-weasels about how easy it is to buy prescription drugs on the Internet. (By the way, have you ever noticed how the "investigative reporters" on TV news shows only seem to appear during sweeps weeks? Are they like bears and hibernate during non-sweeps periods? Do they work for Kelly Girls and only get hired a few weeks a year? Now, there's something that needs looking into, says me.) Anyway, this info-babe is yapping on and on about how just about anyone can buy Viagra and Prozac without a prescription on the Web. Yadda yadda yadda, new regulations needed, yadda yadda yadda, save the children, yadda yadda yadda. The whole time she's going on about this "menace to society", I'm sitting there, yelling at the TV, "You're missing the point!" She, being on TV and all, didn't hear me. Too bad.

I'm gonna venture a guess here and say that Ms. High Horse probably makes in excess of $100k per year, given that she's working at a network affiliate in the Number Five market in America. Anyone want to bet that she doesn't have a health plan, as well? I didn't think so. Probably includes subsidized (or free) prescriptions, too, huh? And who is she testifying to? A bunch of self-important haircuts and shoe shines who, unlike the rest of us, get to vote themselves raises whenever they feel they've done a particularly good job of "running the country" (they just pulled that scam the other day, in fact). These self-aggrandizing welfare cheats--who are inching closer and closer to the $200k per annum mark--also happen to have the finest health care America can provide (at taxpayers' expense, of course).

Is it really surprising that no one in that room could relate to the problems of a person who just might need to count pennies, even when it comes to health care? Let's be honest here. Do you think Bill Gates is buying his prescription drugs from a web site? Not likely. Who might? Um, how about the millions of Americans who don't have any health coverage? You know, the people the Clinton administration and Congress abandoned a few years ago. Hi. Remember us? No? Can't expect them to remember us--what do they call us again? Oh, yeah, voters! I guess that's what happens when you can't afford to give a five-figure contribution to a reelection campaign.

The info-babe and her Congressional testimony reminded me of another story I saw on TV a few months ago. It was about bodegas (small grocery stores in ghetto areas) that also illegally sell medicine. I can't remember which local station it was on or if it was one of the news magazine shows that did it, but I do know it wasn't on Fox Files. I can be sure of that because the story didn't have any topless women in it and Fox Files seems to have an uncanny ability to find fast-breaking stories involving frontal nudity that the other news organizations miss. I for one had no idea just how much news was happening on a daily basis that involves strippers and/or excessive drinking in college frat houses. Thank you, Fox Files, for plugging this hole in my knowledge base. Ah, but I digress.

Anyway, you had the usual black and white, hidden camera, footage of the news operative going into the bodega to buy some medicine that can legally only be sold in a pharmacy. (They never let you see the person who has the camera hidden in their hat for some reason, but I always picture Inspector Gadget.) By the way, since you can buy tiny, concealable cameras that shoot in color, I can only assume that somebody, somewhere, has decided that black and white makes footage look more "undercover" or something. Well, you know what came next. Yup, the reporter, in full view, waltzes into the bodega, demanding answers. Everybody in the store professes no knowledge of any medicine-selling. The reporter gets to look smug as he brandishes his teensy little VCR complete with screen, rolls tape and says, "You don't remember this?"

The question that never gets asked is why are these stores selling medicine? Well, how about the fact that a lot of the people who live in crappy neighborhoods like that don't have money for a private doctor and the public clinics are overcrowded, substandard health care factories? I hear CBS has a show called Becker starring Ted Danson as a cranky, but caring doctor who runs a free clinic in the South Bronx. (I've never seen the show since it airs opposite WWF Raw.) They ought to run that show on the Sci-Fi Channel. Folks, the only way Ted Danson will ever see the South Bronx is if he happens to be watching Fox Files on a night when they run a story about an outbreak of toplessness on Bruckner Boulevard.

True story: Back in the 70's, a friend of mine was volunteering at the emergency room of Fordham Hospital (a city hospital, since torn down) in the Bronx. He was a sophomore who intended to go to medical school when he graduated, but he had no medical training whatsoever at this point. It was a Saturday night and the ER was hopping. The doctors were busy with gun shot wounds and the like. A patient who had had a slug taken out of him now needed a few stitches to be done. One of the docs took my friend on the side, handed him a suture kit and said, "Go to it." My friend tried to explain that he had no experience and didn't feel competent to do this procedure. The doctor said to him, "You see anyone else around here who has the time for this right now?" My friend looked around and saw nurses and doctors busy in all directions. "No," he said. "I guess you're it, then," said the doctor as he walked away to attend to someone more seriously hurt. That, my friends, is what health care is like in poor neighborhoods. There ain't no cranky-but-with-a-heart-of-gold types like Ted Danson plays. Senator from Hell, Strom Thurmond (go check, the River Styx runs through his district), just had his prostate fiddled with the other day. Betcha they didn't have some liberal arts major playing Operation ("Ow! You hit my funny bone!") with his intestines!

Level with me here. If your kid was sick one night and the only legal option was to take him to a city hospital emergency room where you would very likely be stuck for hours but you knew that the little store down the block had the medicine you needed, how worried would you be about the law? What Mr. Bodega is doing might be illegal, but you know what? If you asked the people of the neighborhood, I'll bet they think it's a good thing he's doing it. Of course, the reporter, another blow-dry with a Gold Card, didn't bother doing that.

"Hey, Bob, you're screwing up everything! It's no fun being a reporter if you can't use the Hidden Camera!" Sheesh. Sorry. What was I thinking?




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