Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kelly Ayotte,Sheriff Arpaio: Birds of a Feather (Or Down to Pink Underpants)

When Kelly Ayotte decided to attend a rally to celebrate Sheriff Joesph Arpaio, you might have thought, well, she really didn't understand who this man is, or she never would have gone. 

But she did more than go, she embraced him and all he stood for.

"He's a really dynamic person and a true leader in the fight against illegal immigration," Ayotte said. 

Ayotte thinks she is being bold and tough when she endorses certain ideologies, and she frequently uses the word "absolutely" thinking it shows she is not one of those mealy mouthed politicians who are trying to dance around a subject by adding lots of qualifications. So she says things like, "I absolutely support and believe in marriage as between a man and a woman." 

But then, when she realizes her "absolutist" stand has gotten her into trouble, and she has to carve out an exception to the absolute, as in the instance she was asked whether or not she would support a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, and she realized she couldn't really do that coming from a state where the citizens had passed a gay marriage law in a legislature which is as close as you can get to an unpaid, citizen's legislature she absolutely back pedaled without missing a beat: "It's absolutely for states to decide marriage."

So here is a woman who has mastered the art of appearing to be resolute, absolutely resolute, while actually waffling.

This may be why she admires the dynamic Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, of Arizona, who may not be well known in New Hampshire--he has never run in a primary in this state. (But he has traveled her to rub shoulders with Ayotte.)  

So who is this man Ayotte so admires?

He's the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, and he cultivates the "tough" image by doing things like humiliating captives, prisoners in the county jails. In 2005, he forced seven hundred prisoners, wearing nothing but pink underwear and flip flops, handcuffed, shackled to shuffle along a four block parade in the bright Arizona day to a new jail. 

"I put them on the street so everybody could see them."

He enjoyed the spectacle so much, he repeated the stunt with 900 prisoners a little later.

Ayotte described Arpaio as "dynamic," and in a sense he did change the way things were done in Maricopa County. Having control over the county jails, he found he did not have enough brick and mortar jails, so he set up a tent city for prisoners and surrounded it with barbed wire. "I put them next to the dump, the dogpound, the waste-disposal plant," he said, and he cut their food to two meals and reduced the cost per meal to thirty cents a day. "It costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates," he was proud to say. He put up a big neon sign on a guard tower, "Vacancy." You could see that sign for miles.

It must be noted most of the inmates of these jails, baking in the Arizona heat, have not been convicted of anything, but are awaiting trial.

Then he got hold  of an Army tank, painted the howitzer muzzle with a red and yellow flame pattern and painted, "Sheriff Apaio's War on Drugs," on each side and rode it in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.

The man has a sense of showmanship.

Under his supervision, jailers used stun guns on prisoners strapped into restraint chairs. 

This was less of a success in one sense: The county lost a six million dollar suit in federal court to the family of a prisoner who died, strapped into a  chair, electrocuted by Arpaio's men.

His deputies raid Latino towns and when he heard a swine flu was coming from Mexico, he said, "We should close the border."  Immigrants, he said bring crime and disease. 

You can see the appeal he must have had for Ayotte, who thought he had the right idea about how to deal with immigrants, no matter what else you might think of the man.

He wanted to interrogate school children about their immigration status.

He is a celebrity in the conservative circles in which Ayotte travels. He's debated Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard professor and defense attorney. Arpaio is not an unknown quantity in the ranks of the righteous right.

Of course, Arpaio flaunts his tough guy attitude from the safety of a position behind his armed guards--the prisoners are unarmed and shackled, not much threat to the sheriff. 

He's the classic sadist. He has all the power. He strips, humiliates and taunts. He's a one man Abu Ghraib. 

He's loved in Maricopa County, at least by his fellow travelers. "The Sheriff, he's a dynamo," one of his prison guards told The New Yorker. 

That maybe  where Kelly Ayotte got the word, "Dynamic." 

She maybe read the New Yorker article which came out before she called Arpaio "Dynamic."

During candidate debates they usually ask the contenders, "Who are your heroes?"

It's usually a softball question, a gooey moment for the candidate to say something about Mother, George Washington or somebody safe.

But it sometimes can be revealing, because when you mention a particular person, what the candidate and what the public knows about him does not rise to the level of a complete biography. A person's public image is a shorthand for a set of beliefs and feelings. 

Kelly Ayotte chose to embrace Arpaio. 

Tough guy. Tough on immigration.

The classic bully. Tough in the Abu Ghraib way: When you've got a man naked, beaten, chained, when you've got your dogs lusting for the man's vital organs, some of which are only too visible and unprotected, when you've got your men with their guns trained on the man, then you can be real tough and oh, so brave.

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.  That's where our Joe Arpaio is from.  A whimp in hero's clothing.

But conservative about immigration, as is Ayotte, with all that has come to mean.

For Absolutely Kelly Ayotte, I guess you call that "Dynamic."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Diagnosis of a Breed Disorder

"Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."
                  --Tweet from Representative Paul Broun, Republican-Georgia during the State of the Union Address

"We saw an unprecendented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama's direction; unlike anything we've seen in the history of our country.[We] have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government."
                    --Michele Bachmann,

Writing just after World War II, during the ascendancy of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society, several professors from Columbia and Harvard , Richard Hofstadter, Seymour Martin Lipset and Daniel Bell tried to make sense of what they came to call the "Radical Right." At various times they referred to the rising, vociferous, some would say hysterical, voices the "Paranoid Right," or the "Unreasoning Right."

Certain characteristics of the syndrome were noted: 1/ A dread of conspiracy 2/ A certainty that America was being threatened by change  which would be harmful and 3/ Frustration with  the "Mainstream Media" which was said to be ignoring, ignorant of or even complicit in  the conspiracy 4/ A feeling on the part of the spokesmen they were personally threatened or had already been harmed, even though by every observable criteria, these people, whether they were rich or Redneck, were not being harmed at all. 5/ A sense of impending doom rooted in the conviction the forces conspiring to destroy America were largely unseen, unappreciated by the distracted masses of hard working, well-meaning Americans who were preoccupied with their own mundane but less critical problems and the fate of the world rested with the talented,  eternally vigilant individuals who vainly sounded a call to arms to a sleeping giant of a population.
     More recently, another characteristic symptom of people afflicted with this syndrome has emerged: A rapid, high pitched voice, sort of a screech, which might bring to mind a man who sees his airplane crashing to earth while his fellow passengers snooze, read, listen to music on headphones, oblivious to the approaching catastrophe.

Typical of this syndrome is hallucinations of socialism or communism or fascism seen crawling up walls, lurking behind seemingly benign looking Congressmen, Presidents or Speakers of the House.

Another feature: A religious reverence for that secular Bible, the Constitution, in whose words are seen absolute values, like the right of any individual American to keep and bear arms, unto an arsenal of attack rifles, land mines, grenades, what have you.

Especially threatening is the presence of Big Brother which may take the guise of black helicopters, jack booted villains or something really odious called the Federal Government or sometimes simply "The Federal Bureaucracy."

The way this sneaky socialistic Federal Guvment gets control of your bank account and brain is sometimes by radio waves, but often more subtly, with reckless spending which results in big deficits which enslaves not just you but your grandchildren. Somehow, less mention is made of your children, with whom you may have a more complicated relationship, but your grandchildren, now there are true innocents.

And there is a proclivity for playing with words and language and images to conjure up spooky things, or to morph one image into another:

So, we have the "Death Tax,"  which this Banshee Right labeled the estate Tax.  I mean, an estate tax is something a really rich person who has an estate and probably a chateau has to pay so his neer do well kids don't get all the wealth but it has to be repaid to the country which made the accumulation of all that wealth possible.

And we have the transformation of an image. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." So we are reminded the real villain is not the instrument but the person wielding it, which is fair enough. Of course, if you want to put a fine point on it, as the NRA is doing, people  do not kill people, bullets do.

But the larger point is, it's the maniac with his finger on the trigger. To which I can only think, there are people who should not be allowed to play with guns or sharp objects. And there are certain objects which we likely ought to restrict, like fertilizer bombs or hand grenades or land mines,  or Browning Automatic rifles or fifty caliber machine guns or Uzis or formula one racing cars driven on I-95.

So, if a man plants land mines in his front lawn because he is sick and tired of the neighbor's kids from trampling his grass, well land mines don't kill kids, crazy old men do.

Now, I don't know what the NRA stance is on land mines, but I would submit land mines should not be sold in your local Walmart store because you never know what lunatic out there might see that landmine in the glass counter as he's wheeling his cart by and think, "Oh, that would be good for blowing up the neighbor's kids."  So you don't want to put such objects out there which will attract loonies like honey does flies.  A crazy person magnet, that land mine.

And if you accept there are maniac magnets trying to get sold, and we have an interest in not providing the maniac with the means to be a homicidal maniac, well then you have gun control.

And none of this has anything to do with the maintenance of a militia--you remember what militia men look like--those guys with the three cornered hats, the vest, the long musket and the nifty knee stockings and the square jaws and the Norman Rockwell faces.  That's a long way from Timothy McVeigh and that psychiatrist in Ft. Hood who shot dead unarmed soldiers who were doing what soldiers do lots of--waiting on lines.

Oh, and one last feature of this particular form of brain worm: Whenever a tax or a spending program or anything you find objectionable appears, it's always unprecedented and never been seen before in the history of this nation--which, of course is a tautology--but let's not quibble.
Has recent federal spending really been on a scale never seen before? I don't really know, and I'm sure Michele Bachmann does not know. This would involve complex mathematical formula e to compare 2010 dollars to 1864 dollars or 1944 dollars and knowing what the GNP for those years were and stuff like that.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that we were spending a lot more of the nation's wealth during any year of the American Civil War than we did during the recent bank bail outs.  I can say that with great confidence because, like Ms. Bachmann, I am totally unencumbered by hard facts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Who Loves Ya Baby?

 "Listen, Rush, of all the scary things in this health care bill..the scariest thing is this: The government , if this passes, will be able to go into your bank account or anybody's bank account--I just read this last night--anybody's bank account, take the money out to fund this monstrosity. Did you know that?"
   --Caller to Rush Limbaugh

"He's right folks, he's right."
     --Rush Limbaugh

"This is the crown jewel of socialism."
     --Michele Bachmann

"Around this chamber, looking upon us are the lawgivers--from Moses to Gauis to Blackstone to Jefferson. By our actions today, we disgrace their values."
    --John Boehner

"This is not about healthcare. It never has been about healthcare.  This is about what does he call it?  Remaking America. This is government taking control of 1/6th of the economy. They will take your arteries, your values and your pancreas. Yes, you heard me. Your pancreas is at stake. "
        --Glenn Beck

"And he was easily riled, likely to shout
Frequently wrong but never in doubt."
         --Cheryl Wheeler
        "Frequently Wrong But Never in Doubt"

So, now here in the state of New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, in the town of Exeter, just seven miles up the road from our fair town of Hampton, the Exeter Hospital is in a death struggle with Blue Cross Anthem, wrangling over costs.

And thousands of patients have a received  letters from the private insurance company telling them they need to find new doctors because the company is severing ties with the doctors' group attached to the hospital as well as severing ties to the hospital.

These patients are being told, not by the government but by that darling of all the conservatives quoted above, A PRIVATE COMPANY, PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, they cannot keep their doctors of many years and need to chose one from the company's list.

Now, you might ask yourself, how much worse could a government run program be?
And you might ask yourself, how much better does the private sector look now?

Or as Sarah Palin might say, "How's that private sector thing working for ya now?"

One thing about Medicare, it's mission is to provide health care.
What do you think the mission of the private health insurance company is?

Could it be to protect the interests of its stockholders? (Just a thought)

With Medicare, you've got this huge bureaucracy to deal with, which can be pretty frustrating, but eventually, the doctor gets to talk to another doctor in Medicare and usually, after enough noise and complaint, Medicare does the right thing.

And you can, if all else fails, call your Congressperson, which people do a lot, when Medicare gets them riled. And, actually, it works.

Not true with the private insurer. Not because the insurance company people are evil--well, some of them are, bu that's another story--but because they have a different mission, which is to make money for the stockholders.
As the good folks of Exeter, NH have discovered. 

But hey, we know all about the evils of the Democrats' law because we read about it last night, on the internet, so it must be true. So true. He's right. And the government is after your pancreas. (!) Yikes. 

Now, you might ask, what would the government even want with my pancreas? Or my arteries, which by now are not likely all that pretty. 

It could have been worse, Glenn might have discovered the government was after some other body parts which would have made us wonder about him, but the pancreas and arteries sound reasonably clean.

The gov'ment's coming in those black helicopters to collect your pancreas.  That's what they do when they are fixing to set the crown jewel of socialism, you know that don't you? They put it in a bed of pancreas.  That's true. I read it on the internet.

The question you've got to ask yourself: How much worse could the government be than what you have experienced with your own private insurer?

I mean, if the government wants your pancreas, can you imagine what Blue Cross Anthem or MVP might want?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So Like a Rush

Nationalizing businesses, nationalizing banks is not a solution for the democratic party, it's the objective.

                  --Rush Limbaugh

Every time the government grows we lose more of who we are.

                  --Glenn Beck

The nine scariest words in the English language: "I'm from the government, and I'm hear to help you."
                    --Ronald Reagan

I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.
Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.
Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

                     --Franklin Delano Roosevelt

As Hendrick Hertzberg pointed out in Monday's New Yorker (1/24/11) when the news broke about the Tuscon shootings, no one's first thought was that some unhinged leftist was responsible.

As President Obama said, we'll never know what formed the mind of the killer.

 But we all have a pretty clear hunch, an intution, however unscientific, certain kinds of minds are receptive to certain kinds of messages. The hyperbolic paranoid right has been putting out urgent Jerimiads for years, and if you think black helicopters in the sky are attempting to control your mind with radio waves, well then, you have not been directed to take a shot at Rand Paul or Glenn Beck or John Boehner; you know who the traitors are.

When Spiro Agnew was spewing forth his vitriol as Vice President, the newspapers were so inundated with anti Semetic and anti efete liberal letters they simply decided to print none of them, for fear of what they would incite. That was hate speech then. I don't know what those editors would make of what Glenn Beck is saying now.

Someone told me at work the other day that Social Security was an outrage: It was theft from her personal bank account. As surely as if a highwayman had robbed her, she had no choice but to give up her money or her life and freedom if she did not hand over her hard earned cash. She sent me a long email listing the horrible things that Social Security has done or that have been done to Social Security over the years: The card was never meant to become a national ID card, but just try signing into a hospital without giving up that number; the funds were supposed to be held for pensioners, but the account has been raided by Congress to fund the rest of the government and so on.

And I had to agree with her about the hits Social Security has taken--the email she forwarded (one can only guess the source) were like seeing the trees--lots of bad things have happened to a very good idea. But one has to see the forest, of course:Social Security is, has been and continues to be and will continue to be one of the greatest successes of any government on the planet.

That's why the Republicans hate it so. That's why they want to "Privatize" i.e. destroy it.

If they could turn it into a part of the New York stock exchange, they would. In fact, that's exatly what they tried to do when George W. Bush was president. The GOP didn't recall any of that--every memory of that effort vanished as soon as the stock market tanked in 2009.

Who us?

So the idea that American citizens have to be forced to plan for the future is an anathema to Republicans. I'm a free born man of the U.S.A. I should not be forced to do anything. Any government does that is a tyranny.

It's a very pretty  fantasy: Never force any citizen to do anything against his will.

The problem happens when a thousand motorcyclists who wanted to ride without helmets do not die. They shout Live Free or Die, but the thing is, they do not actually die. If they died, okay, they made their choice. But instead they are paralyzed quadraplegics.

And guess what happens then? Guess who has to pay for their care, their respirators, their bladder catheters? Not those free spritis, not Glenn Beck. The government winds up with the bill. The citizens.

And when people who are young and healthy and figure they don't need health insurance because they are not sick, they are probably, statistically speaking, correct. Yes, truth be told, we need the young who are healthy and not likely to draw from health accounts to pay into these so all the old gomers who are sick can have a bigger pot from which to draw. Sad but true. The young support the old.

But the thing is, as Atul Gawande suggests in his article about medicare care of the uninsured in Camden New Jersey, it's these uninsured who are wrecking the medical financial system. And some of the uninsured are those young paralyzed motorcyclists. Most are not. Most are drug addicts, elderly, mental ill, mentally incompetant, unemployed immigrants. A lot of them are people Glenn Beck would have no sympathy for. People he would throw to the wolves and he would tell us we are going to bring the country down with all our sympathy and willingness to let them suck from the government teat.

But he never spells out what he would do with these people in the ER. What do you want us to do with them Glenn? Rush, got any answers? John?

One building in Camden sent fifty seven patients, mostly elderly,  to the Emergency Room with falls resulting in three million dollars in health care bills. Looking at a block by block analysis of hospital costs, Dr. Jeffrey Brenner discovered that over six years nine hundred people in two buildings accounted for more than four thousand hospital visits and two hundred million dollars in health care bills. One patient had three hundred and twenty four admission in five years. One patient alone cost the system $3.5 million dollars over six years.

But does big John Boehner want to force any of these system destroyers to buy medical insurance?  Some of them had Medicare, no doubt. Many did not.

But even if all of them had Medicare, none of them were capable of taking care of themselves in the sense none of them stayed out of the ER. So what's your solution to this problem, oh all knowing rightist seers?

What if I said, maybe the government should get in there with some public health initiative and spend a little money up front so we can stop the financial hemorrhaging downstream?

Oh, government take over! Socialism! End of America as we know it. We've given up the best and most essential part of ourselves as Americans.

Would Glenn or Rush describe the government intrusion of forcing people to buy health care insurance as anything other than tryanny, government in your wallet, government destroying free choice, government controlling minds with radio waves and computers?

No, for John, Rush, Glenn and all the paranoid right, the delusion of the perfectly free soul is too precious to give up in the face of these cold statistics. Your freedom to live off the grid is more important than the idea that your lack of planning becomes my emergency. 

Actually, my problem is your  idea that we each should have the choice of living off the grid.

Take that idea to abducto ad absurdum and none of us should be forced to not uriante in the streets, or to defecate in the town square, or to have indoor toilets with a hook up to the town sewer lines. 

Take it further and none of us should be pushed around by the department of public health to get our kids vaccinated against the measles or against polio and we should be able to send our unvaccinated kids to school to infect others.

But then again, that isn't such an absurd argument that live free types haven't made it.

Public health, be damned. Give me my gun.

Until of course, we need help. Then just take me to the ER.


So I have been thinking more about why Republicans are so vociferous about saying people should carry guns, own guns, be gun toters.

It could be they are simply trying to distinguish themselves from wimpy Democrats who keep telling everyone violence and dominance and chest puffing are bad and we should all sing Kumbaya.

But I think it's something else.

I got an intuition when President Obama came to speak at a Portsmouth high school and at least one Live Free or Die stater arrived with a very impressive looking, lethal black gun strapped to his hip. He looked very powerful and dangerous. He was an out of work assembly line worker. Or something. But you could see from his self satisfied smile he felt good about himself, wearing that gun. He was gun proud. He was an important man. The media were all over him. He was important.

He was, in fact, as powerful as the leader of the free world, because he was clearly capable of killing President Obama, which made him as powerful as the President.

Any man with a gun is as powerful as the most powerful world leader.

So, that's it. We Republicans sell you self respect. Just buy a gun. We won't help you get a job, make more money, pay for your medical bills, take care of your parents.

But we'll get you your gun.

Getting hard yet?

It's the Guns



Ever since the Tuscon shootings, there has been the usual flood of talk about who or what to blame it on.  First, the local sheriff said it was all the hate talk, and when people began to think, well who are the haters, somehow neither Obama nor Rachel Maddow leapt to mind, but Glenn Beck who calls anyone who disagrees with him a traitor did. So did Rush and Sean Hannity and all those right wing paranoid semi schizoprhenics who stay out of institutions by making millions on the radio.

And Sarah Palin of the cross hairs ads felt compelled to defend herself because even if nobody mentioned her by name initially, it was one of those "You know who you are moments."

And then there was the backlash, from sources like Jon Stewart, who pointed out that just because you share some characteristics with Hitler (anger, hyperbole) that doesn't make you a Nazi.


But, of course, there was a reason so many people in so many locations thought, "That nut had thoughts fed him by the nuts on the radio. He's just acting, taking the next step you might take if you think the Democrats are traitors who want to control you, your bank account, your mind. Defend your country, yourself, be a hero.


But the most satisfying discussion I've seen of all this, the reasons for mass killings out of the blue, comes from the song writer Cheryl Wheeler, who I'm only now just discovering. She does not account for the Oklahoma City bombing or for the suicide bombers or the 911 maniacs in this song, but she covers a lot of ground including Tuscon and Columbine.


If It Were Up to Me

  • Words and Lyrics by:
  • Cheryl Wheeler
  • Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
  • Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
  • Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
  • Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
  • Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
  • Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
  • Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
  • Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers
  • Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
  • Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
  • Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
  • Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family
  • Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
  • Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
  • Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
  • Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system
  • Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
  • Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
  • Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
  • Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
  • Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
  • Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
  • Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
  • Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad
  • Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
  • Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
  • Maybe it's taxes, big business
  • Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads
  • Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
  • Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
  • Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
  • Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks
  • Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
  • Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
  • Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
  • Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing.
  • If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.
  • (P) October 1, 1997
  • Penrod And Higgins Music / Amachrist Music
  • ACF Music Group
  • International Copyright Reserved
Not that I really think we can take away all the guns. As my father-in-law, a life time member of the NRA, a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, often said, you could outlaw the sale of guns tomorrow and there are already so many millions of guns out there in America, it would have about as much impact as daming the Potomac River as it flows into the Atlantic. Sea levels would not drop; gun violence levels would not drop.

So it goes beyond the theoretical--practically, there is little we can do about the presence of guns now.

(But, just for the record, how crazy are Rush/Glenn/Sean/Boehner the whole self righteous right bleating about the Second Amendment and how it guarantees every individual American when, if you read the Second Amendment it begins and ends  with "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." That's all folks. It says guns are for the members of a militia (because in the eighteenth century there were no arsenals or ammo dumps--every militiaman kept his gun at home.

So how do the Atillas get from there to every citizen has a guaranteed right to keep an AK 47 or a howitzer or a Derringer in his home and on his person for whatever purpose he may choose? Talk about mental contortions--the Supreme court went through contortions which would put those Mongolian contortionists in Circe De Soleil to shame.)

Stay tuned. There is more coming in this space from Cheryl Wheeler. Actually, I have not made more than a few steps down the road of FDR, Gail Collins, Paul Krugman.  These folks have something to say.

They have taken up the torch of Richard Hofstadter, Walter Lippmann and voices from the mid twentieth century.

It's nice to think we have brains bubbling up thoughts. I mean, there hasn't been all that much good music since Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, for my money. It's nice to know, if we don't have music, we have writers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

You'll Never Guess Who Is Against Taxing and Spending

Hey, you'll never guess what I heard on the radio, driving home. They were interviewing some guy who I think was a newly elected Congressman and he had this great idea, actually two great ideas about how to get our economy turned around: First we cut government spending, and then we cut taxes.

Isn't that wonderful?

I don't know, because I came in late to the interview so I never got his name, but he really sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

He said, all we had to do to get things back on track is to cut government spending, which is spending money we don't have, which never sounded like a good idea to me in the first place because whenever I spend money I don't have, I wind up paying really high credit card fees. So that sounded like good government to me.

He didn't say what government spending exactly he was planning to cut, but those are just details and I'm sure he'll get to that.  I mean, you know he wouldn't cut Medicare spending, at least I hope he's not thinking about that because, I mean I'm cash strapped enough without having to pay for my mother's hospital bills. And same for Social Security. I mean, I can't cover her rent.

But this guy had the right idea, in general. But I was driving at the time, so I didn't get everything. I was on Route 95 behind a snowplow.  You know what I heard? Route 95 is part of the interstate highway system, and that was a big time government boondogle started back in the fifties by some lefty Democrat president. But, actually, sometimes things work out better than you expect, and I really do like that road, which cuts my commute by half, although I do hate the tolls. I mean, I pay taxes so why are they thieving from me at those toll booths?

And that snow plow was going, like forty miles an hour, and I'm following right behind it because there is no road anywhere but right behind him. And he's only going forty miles an hour, which is good enough for government work, isn't it? I mean, the snow plow is state government, or maybe federal because it's a federal road, but he was moving really slow. And it was like five in the morning so there were almost no cars on the road.

I hope they are going to cut that snow plow driver's salary, slow as he is. There's a perfect example of government. Forty miles an hour. Like President Reagan said, bless his heart, The nine scariest words in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." That was this now plow driver all over.

So then the other thing was cutting taxes. I mean I wish I had heard this guy's name 'cause I'd love to vote for him. He says, really it's simple, spend less, tax less. Smaller government. I'm for that. That guy was definitely from New Hampshire. I think he's new and just won his Congressional seat and I can see why with a program like that.

You cut taxes and businesses start hiring and they make more money, and of course they pay more taxes when they make more money, so it's a win-win. Democrats could never figure that one out.  That Democrat Party is the party of lame brains, really they are.

On Civil Discourse

Seacoast, New Hampshire (Hampton Beach in distance)

                                                             --Edward Hopper

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power...In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

                   --Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Barack Obama, ladies and gentlemen calls himself a patriot...Now I understand why he was so reluctant to wear an American lapel pin...Obama 2001:Scrap the Constitution. Spread the wealth.

                 --Rush Limbaugh

Much has been said since Gabrielle Giffords was shot about the need for more civil discourse, but of course polite and less rancorous discussion is a two way street and the sad truth is, one side of the political dialogue in this country is dependent on strident speech. The paranoid style of the paranoid right is not just a style, it's part and parcel of what the fear mongers, the irate right has to sell.

Part of this has to do with marketing--emotion sells.

Part of this derives from the substance of what Rush and Glenn and Sean have to sell: We are in grave danger of losing everything, the Titanic is sinking, so listen to me. It's not appropriate to speak softly when the ship is floundering; you have to get the crowd's attention.

The Democrats basically believe that the private enterprise system produces winners (for which everyone is happy) and losers, and the winners should be taxed to pay for a safety net. So the winners get to keep most of what they win, but not all of it--in the interest of keeping the game going for everyone.

The Republicans, the irate radio right, believe the winners should get to keep everything, that taxing the winners to support the losers amounts to theft; taxes and regulations are tyranny thwarting the liberty of the haves in order to rescue the undeserving poor. 

There really is no middle ground here.

As Paul Krugman noted in the NY Times, the way this played out in health care reform, the Dems saw health care reform as fulfilling a moral imperative to care for all the citizens, no matter how poor or "undeserving" while the right saw this as extending health care to the uninsured and poor as a moral outrage, and assault on the right of citizens to spend money as they choose.

The Republicans begin every fight by inventing a clever taunt for what they don't like--so they brought out "Obamacare," which sounds like some sort of socialist, Big Brother plot. They are really brilliant at renaming: So the Estate Tax becomes the Death Tax. Who can abide the idea of a tax on dying? But with healthcare, they weren't satisfied with Obamacare and now it's that Job Killing Heath Care Law Which is Going to Destroy this Nation. Not one of their more clever appelations.

It's always dire with the GOP. Nothing the Democrats do is ever just mildly misguided--it's always a nefarious plot to kill the nation.

They do complain a lot about how the Democrats just won't talk nice--and it's remarkable how they have all colluded to call the Democratic Party the Democrat Party. The most elemental form of courtesy, to call someone by the name he asks to be called by, is simply beyond Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and all who sail with them. They would call Muhammed Ali Cassius Clay until he died, if they weren't afraid of what he might to to them.Republicans were sputtering mad at the idea of a mandate to have health insurance--you cannot make me buy something I don't want to buy. This idea is if I want to take my chances, I ought to be able to. To make me make plans for misfortune is tryanny.

Of course, what every doctor who has ever worked in an emergency room knows is whenever you see the young guy carried in, a quadraplegic  from his motorcycle accident, he never has health insurance; he is always  the guy who was invulnerable, who never thought he needed health insurance and he winds up in the ICU with someone else paying for his live free or die fantasy. Except they don't die. If they died, then they'd have a right to their delusions, but they don't die. They wind up becoming a burden to their fellow citizens, because they are uninsured. 

Nobody has the heart to send these train wrecks  out of the ER to die in the gutter, and it wouldn't be legal if we did anyway, and so they  become dependent on the hospital and ultimately the bill is paid by his fellow citizens out of various accounts, either in the name of the hospital, the federal government or the state government.

So this disciple of Rush, and Rand and Glenn--and they are always from that persuasion-- this disciple  claims a  right to live free and not die but be sustained on a respirator. And once he is on the respirator, it is my obligation, , to rescue him from his own folly.

We have motor cycle helmet  laws in many states. (Not in New Hampshire). The citizens, the government demand you protect yourself because we are sick of taking care of all the brain injured people who we gather up from the road --road near- kill ,who litter  our highways. In fact what the government is insisting on is not so much that you buy something you don't want, it's insisting that you insure yourself against becoming a ward of the government. We don't want you on our account books. If you are uninsured, you are a charity case waiting to happen.

So now we say, no you can't take that chance with our money. You have to buy health insurance, not for you, but for us.

We require people to buy auto insurance. That's a government mandate which exists in almost every state.

But when we require people to buy health insurance, oh that's different.

Well, you don't have to drive, so you don't have to buy auto insurance, Rush argues. 

But that's a bogus retort-- you really do have to drive or die or rot in your home, unless you live in New York City, a car is not an option; it's a necessity to suburban and rural life.

So, yes, your fellow citizens have a right to require you protect them from having to pay for your care, so they have a right to require you wear a seat belt and your fellow citizens have the right to require you to buy auto insurance to pay for the damage you do to others and your brother citizens (who do not want to be your keeper)  have the right to require you buy insurance to pay for the damage which you do to yourself .

It's a case of the practical experience in the real world vs. the ideologically pure Republican bull that no citizen should be interfered with by the government requiring him to spend his money.

By that reasoning, we should repeal the income tax which takes away a lot more money from the average citizen than health insurance ever would.

But, according to the Republicans, the nine scariest words in the language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." 

As if.

As if, government can't do anything right: 

Except of course for Medicare, and Social Security and the national defense, and launching spacecraft, and defending against terrorists and putting out fires and providing for police and providing the launching pad for a little thing called the Internet and providing a GI bill which invested in the human capital of the Greatest Generation and several generations to follow it, and sent huge numbers of people to college, and provided the jump start to the housing industry. And while we're at it, dont' forget the interstate highway system and the air traffic control system and the Coast Guard and even the much malaigned FEMA and the guys who watch over drugs to be sure they don't poison us (the FDA) and the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control and the NOAA which prevents the fishing stocks from being completed depleted and the National Parks.

And those are just the few things our government dose which private industry could not do better which leap to mind.

And if you really think private enterprise does everything better than government just ask yourself whether you have an easier time dealing with your profit motivated private health insurer than your mother has dealing with Medicare.

I wish I could have Medicare right now. At least Medicare's mission is to provide for healthcare, as frustrating as it can be--at least it's not trying to avoid every expenditure as an insult to its bottom line and its stockholders.