Monday, December 7, 2009


I thought President Obama's speech at West Point was well-constructed, and well-delivered. It had the needed tone of seriousness, and conveyed the clear impression that he'd thought deeply about his decision. He outlined the history of our involvement, and made a case for the importance of staying involved. If it's true that a sign of a good contract is that both parties think they got screwed (that's what "they" say, although I could never figure out why it wouldn't also be true if both parties thought they got a great deal), then maybe the fact that no one seems to like it means he came to the best possible solution to an unsolvable and impossible situation.

I wish he'd gone the other way.

The threat of terrorism is real. Al Queda and similar groups, and crazy people (like the one at Fort Hood) influenced by them, represent very real dangers. The question is to what extent we can lower the threat with armies. And the answer, I'm pretty darn sure, is: we can't. Haven't. Won't. The corollary question is to what extent we can change the nature of a country like Afghanistan with soldiers or, for that matter, with good works and intentions. To the first part, the answer is the same as above; to the second, given decades of time and trillions of dollars, the answer is maybe there's an outside chance. At impossible cost.

A few guys living in caves have caused our country to burn trillions of dollars and thousands of lives -- not to mention lives not ended but forever altered. There's something terribly sad that, after all these centuries, the decisions of a few men, whether made in caves of limestone or marble, continue to cause soldiers to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, believing in their mission, perhaps, but understanding it not at all. And that, in the two current wars, the most hawkish voices arise from the gullets of those least familiar with war, least willing to wage it themselves. Five-Deferment Cheney, not a single one of whose utterances about Iraq proved true, is still given credence and air time. Kristol, Goldberg, Hannity -- none of those guys ever served, though they all were of an age that they could have, when it started. I did serve, I received wounds; and although my experience in Vietnam was far less traumatic than those of many (MOST) others, I think I know a little bit about what war is and what it does. I have a friend, much more conservative than I, who spent his year saving and restoring bodies blown apart. He hates war, too.

But really, that's not the point. War happens, and until humans evolve way further (assuming there's time left in which to do it), it must. The point is that fighting terrorism is not like fighting an invading army. Terrorism isn't a place. It doesn't need caves or countries. Is it reasonable to think that if we filled every hole in the mountains in Af/Pak, terrorism would go away? Can plots be plotted only there? Does calumny come only from caverns?

President Obama said he's willing to be a one-term president if that's what it takes to get health care reform. Would he make the same stand in the response to terrorism? If so, he'd deserve his Peace Prize. Because it might be only he that could do it. It'd be lost on the remaining Republicans (as opposed to true conservatives) and the RWS™. Supporters of Sarah would maintain their current and constant apoplexy, and reason would flow past them like amnion in Texas.

I suppose we can build nations. Arguably, we did in Japan and Germany after WWII. Vanquished, the citizenry of those countries bought in, or, at least, acquiesced. It remains to be seen what we did in Iraq. Whatever we did, was the cost worth it, in terms of our national interest? What argument is there to be made for "saving" Iraq, that can't be made for so many other failed states on the planet? Humanitarian concerns are -- no sarcasm intended -- laudable. In a split-second decision, I might risk drowning to save a kid; but is it a national paradigm? Do we destroy ourselves to rescue others? And that's the issue: is enough at stake to risk more lives and treasure and, possibly, our very existence as a nation? Of that, I'm not convinced. More specifically, even if we turn Afghanistan into Las Vegas East (okay, how about Cleveland?), will we have improved our own security? The President says yes. I'm not convinced. And, absent that "buy in" by Afghanis, nothing lasting will happen.

Also unknowable is how many more terrorists we will create in the fight. Nidal Hasan, it's said, is one. Without doubt, there are many more.

The speech we need to hear is the one that explains what it really takes to respond rationally to the threat of terrorism: the one that says you can't kill crazy; armies can't find and eliminate cells in all parts of the planet. We need to hear the speech that says we protect ourselves best by police work and intelligence gathering, and by regaining our position of respect in the world. By enlisting others, based on their view of us, to reject and to help find those who would do us harm. By changing the paradigm. And by addressing our own problems at home, not the least of which is a broken health care system that's killing, for lack of access, more people every month than died on 9/11, and has been doing so for decades.

I don't doubt that concerns for Pakistan, where the nukes are, are at the heart of Obama's decision. Nor do I claim to have the sort of knowledge needed to assess the risk of those nukes falling into terrorist hands, and to what extent the outcome in Afghanistan affects that risk. I'll admit, therefore, that I'm just talking into the wind. But I wish, when people are sent off to fight for something, to die and be maimed in the name of some executive decision made -- as always -- by those not actually doing the fighting, that it could be crystal clear that there's no alternative. That was, I'd say, the case in WWII. Maybe in Korea. Not, most assuredly, in Vietnam; Grenada; Iraq. Afghanistan? Probably, at first. Now, after eight years of inattention by F-D Cheney?

There's a pretty interesting report in the NYT about the decision-making process. I'm glad it was as deliberative and careful as it was; it seems the antithesis of what we know of (Bush's non-inquiry into) Cheney's decision to invade Iraq. And yet, by definition, if it took that much soul-searching, it's far from a dead certain choice among the options. So why not take the one in which fewer soldiers have to be destroyed? Why not make the case that in a war unlike any other, old tactics no longer apply, that we need to think outside the ammo box?

I think I know what would happen if he did: the RWS™ and those who find their paranoia and shallowness convincing (which seems to be an ever-increasing number) will rend the country apart. If we can't have a conversation about health care reform, the need for which is obvious, without deceitful demagoguery and cynical slime, we sure as hell can't have one about terrorism. The time when our political system can handle such a thing is long and irrevocably gone.

[For a somewhat contrary opinion, or, at least, an article that sheds some light on the strategy which makes it sound plausible, read this.]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Like It Is

In essence, that's what I've been saying here: our political system is broken beyond repair.

We have a president smart enough and willing to take on our very serious problems: health care, climate change, a broken economy. That there is need in all these areas is undeniable (except for people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and the rest of the RWS™.) And yet.

John Kyl announces every Republican senator will vote against health care reform. Every one. No matter what. And Mitch McConnell wants another six weeks of debate. Reconcile those two facts, will you?

That's but one example of the dysfunction. On the left we have a party of disorganization and undiscipline. On the right, one of ideological "purity," based on denialism. Of the failures of their central tenets; of the facts; of the damage being done to the country by fomented hatred, based on lies. And, of course, evolution. Sort of the perfect avatar.

So here we are, curarized by a full quiver of poison arrows: an unprecedented propaganda machine in particular (yes, Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio) willing unabashedly to distort and dissemble, and a lazy remaining media, ill-equipped and uninterested in countering it; liberal politicians congenitally unable to focus; conservative ones unable to rise above failed ideology or to assimilate facts; an electorate consisting of too many gullible people unwilling and unable to think for themselves, preferring paranoia over process. And in Congress, not limited to but egregiously exaggerated on the right, the easy forgetting of everything they've ever said when they were in power: the "nuclear option," "up or down vote," "elections have consequences." Today, down is up; if I said the opposite yesterday, well, you're a hater for bringing it up.

So, yeah, Friedman is exactly right. We're on the way to failure as a political entity, and when the dust settles and there's nothing left, the death will have been brought entirely by those who most vigorously (and disingenuously) claim to be fighting to save our country.

I wonder if there's a point at which they'd admit they were wrong: a tax-free country unable to provide any services, polluted skies and soaking seaboards, starving people unable to cross the moats around the castles? What is their ideal, their end-point? How much higher do health insurance premiums have to rise, how many more dying for lack of it? How far do the glaciers need to recede, how much further behind do our students need to fall? How much money do the oligarchs need to accumulate before it's enough, how wide the gap? Really. I'd like to know. What is the tea-party ideal, how do they plan to get there, what would it look like? Does the previous eight years not tell them anything about soil in which they plant their flag?

If they could wave a magic wand, who would be left in this country, what would they be doing, and how would it work? Based on what evidence?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

How much do you have to hate Barack Obama to be upset at a decision to try KSM in American courts? How much do you have to hate America, for that matter, to believe that our judicial system is unable to handle such a case?

As predictable as gas after baked beans, the RWS™ are outraged -- OUTRAGED, I tell you -- at the Eric Holder announcement. It would be laughable were it not the case that their sad minions will dutifully ingest the fury without a nanomoment of reflection. The end is near, they'll agree. It's proof, once again, of the hatred Obama has for our country. How dare he, they'll assimilate like the Borg, act as if the Constitution is a worthy document, that American legal norms are to be honored. That showing the world that democracy is viable, is tantamount to proving the opposite.

And yet, there they are: in the halls of Congress, on the airwaves, scalded and screaming. Can there be any more solid proof that the right wing are willing to destroy everything we are, just to make political hay? And, in taking up their cries, is there any remaining doubt that the Republican party, as currently constituted, has NOTHING to say worth listening to? That they've gone so completely off the rails in their desire to discredit Barack Obama that they constitute a clear and present danger to our survival? That unless things change -- unless we can hope very soon to have a credible and useful opposition party -- we are, quite literally, doomed?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A-Well-a, Bless-a My Soul

Here's some good sense from a Christian press organization. Lordy, it's even from Texas!

"...From the old Procter & Gamble Satanism libel to tales of more recent vintage about President Obama’s faith and citizenship, Internet-fueled rumors seem to run rampant. And, frighteningly, Christians seem at the very least to be as susceptible as the population at large to the habit of spreading false stories..."
Of course, I'd say the nature of religious faith is such that it fuels more gullibility, especially as it leads to building a wall between faith and facts which might threaten it. Still, it's nice to see some clarity on the matter, from a religious institution. I don't think it's mere coincidence that the party of conservative religionists is the one in which these sorts of falsehoods spread so easily; nor that the need for unquestioned belief is paired with the willingness -- need, that is -- to accept them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The "TED" series of talks is one of my favorites; always thought-provoking, always enlightening in some way. This one reflects much of what I've tried to convey, in my posts on religion, as to why the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving god makes no sense. The difference is that in this video the ideas are wrestled by a man of the cloth, with a soothing voice and a British accent (which, in my mind anyway, always denotes intelligence.)

That a man of faith struggles so openly and deeply is touching. I like it, even though, in the end, what he concludes -- which is eminently sensible -- requires no faith at all, and yet he needs to call it a sort of faith. What he concludes -- that there is a center of spirituality in all of us and that if we relate to each other from that center we'd be better off -- is perfect; and perfectly absent the need to invoke some sort of sky person to live it. Having thought hard about the contradictions inherent in the biblical view of god, he comes to the only thoughtful conclusion: it makes no sense. He even repeats a thing I've said in both of my blogs: if that's the way god is, I want no part of him.

But, as do I, he concludes that while there are things we can't know, we do know we are capable of love and reason and pain and that acting toward one another and the world in acknowledgment of that ought to be enough. Why addle it all up with a bunch of contradictory rules and beliefs that make no sense, and add nothing to that basic truth, that inarguable basis for dealing with one another?

Perhaps the Vicar wouldn't approve of my synthesis of his talk. If not, it wouldn't be by much that we disagree.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It's been, what, 6000 years? Finally, God has come up with a new model.

According to the latest specs, etched in two tablets of stone and handed down from atop Mount Sinai, the new bird is anticipated by God to be His finest creation to date. Available in two colors-—male and female—the bird reportedly combines everything God has learned from His previous works into one "new twist on an old favorite."
Wonder what got him thinking he needed to get back to work. I'm guessing it was watching Tom Delay on "Dancing With The Stars," or listening to Glenn Beck.

Once he gets that creation thing back up and running, let's hope he'll recall humans and come up with something a little less embarrassing.

(On the other hand, he did pretty well with this.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


A political story that has it all: stupidity, lying, cynicism, pandering, weakness. It's the perfect demonstration of everything that's wrong with our politics, and proof that there is, undeniably, no hope. Congress is failing us. Willfully. Gleefully. Irretrievably.

Unable to pass health care reform, unwilling to stop the flow of money to insurers who have no role providing care, the Senate Finance Committee nevertheless looks ready to approve the appropriation of fifty million dollars for "abstinence only" education. "It works," says Orrin Hatch.

He is, of course, entirely right. Assuming that by "it works" one means "it doesn't work." Study after study has shown its failure to change the biological call to the rutting of teenagers. Unanimously, Republicans voted for it, along with enough Democrats to pass the proposal.

So, what's the explanation? Are they too stupid to read; do they know the facts but choose simply to ignore them; is it a naked case of pandering to those in their parties who are, in fact, too stupid to read or understand? These fighters for fiscal discipline: willing -- nay, anxious -- to spend money on a discredited program. At best out of duncedom; at worst for completely cynical political reasons. Fifty million -- a drop in the bucket nowadays. But perfectly symbolic of where we are.

Fair is fair: let's not ignore the fact that Democrats, along with many Republicans, have voted to spend billions to continue building C-17 cargo planes, despite the fact that the Pentagon says they're unneeded, and despite Obama's urging to kill it. Credit to John McCain for calling them all out. (Unlike abstinence education, one can at least argue for building the planes as a jobs program. At least that would be semi-honest.)

Obama ought to veto the appropriations bill. I'm betting he won't.

Stupidity, ignorance of fact, craven playing to the craziest of one's supporters, caving to well-financed lobbyists. These stories have it all, and show, once again, why it is no longer rational to hope for good governance from Congress. This stuff was simple, binary: abstinence education -- doesn't work; more C-17s -- not needed. If they can't deal with such mindless stuff, how can we expect anything good on health care, energy, education, economy?

Answer: we can't.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Funny, huh? As opposed to the terrorist "plots" uncovered by our great defender, GW Bush, which involved a couple of incompetent crazies lured into fakery, under our new president -- the one who supposedly is weak on terror and abetting our enemies -- potential terrorists have been arrested who had actual plans and were in possession of the actual means to carry them out.

Just saying.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I'd love to know Glenn Beck's definition of communism. I'd be most interested to understand how he can call the administration both fascist and communist (which, in case you didn't know, are as mutually exclusive as "Fox" and "fair"). I'd be pleased to hear from those commenters of mine who recoiled in horror about an Obama appointee who said he'd been a member of the Communist party at one time: what, exactly, is the threat?

First of all, as the Communist party of the US says, there's never been a communist society on this planet. Moreover, in this country, whatever else they might be, the Communist party has about as much influence as a crazy guy in the street. What they are is a bunch of idealistic dreamers, with a vision of humankind that is entirely unrealistic. For communism to work, we'd have to be.... Christlike. All of us. Ain't gonna happen. Least of all, among Christians. The ideal of communism is people working together for a common good; no one exploited; all people treating all others fairly and compassionately; helping one another; caring; the need for central government nearly non-existent. (How's that for a conservative ideal!) I'm not sure what's so awful about that other than the fact that it's one hundred percent impossible. Just look around. (In case it needs to be said, those American Communists who supported the Soviet Union back in the day were as wrong-headed then as Beck is now.)

Personally, I'm fine with capitalism. I still plan to buy an HD TV some day, and if I could afford another Beemer (I had one thirty years ago), I'd get one of those, too (if I didn't care about gas mileage). But I don't consider those who have a pie-in-the-sky governing model some sort of existential threat; especially when the model has zero chance of being realized.

I traveled in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, on a Russian language study tour. (Time was, I was a pretty fair speaker of Russian: over there, people complimented me on my aksyent, when they weren't asking me about "Dev Brroobek" or trying to buy my Levi's.) No political scientist, I, it was nevertheless obvious to me that nothing about their society was communistic except the one collective farm at which I had the second greatest picnic of my life, and then proceeded to get drunk on the smoothest vodka I'd ever had -- to the consternation of the tour staff, based, as it was, in a "dry" campus back home. (As our large glasses were filled to the brim from pitchers of the stuff for a raucous toast, I was told to dump mine out and hide the fact with my hand. The "clink" gave it away, after which the glass was refilled, the staff lady gave up and drank happily along with the rest of us as songs were sung, accordions played, and people staggered off into the woods.)

What the Soviet government -- and the Chinese, and Cuban, all of them -- was, was totalitarian. They used the concept of communism ("Forward to the victory of communism," was plastered in signs everywhere), I guess, as a sort of ideal by which to get their workers to buy in. That, and the idea that they had a mortal enemy in the US, the defeat of which demanded the sort of sacrifices that their decaying society presented to them. Tiny apartments, crappy products, decaying buildings, while their leaders lived high on the свинья. They were a threat, all right, but it had nothing to do with communism, per se. They were, in fact, the opposite of communism: near complete exploitation of their citizenry for the aggrandizement of government power. The danger was their international aggression, not their not-believed, paper-thin look-the-other-way "communism." If you want to see the closest remaining thing to actual communism in existence, visit a kibbutz.

This is no polemic in favor of communism. True communists, in my view, are hopeless idealists, hippie squared, impossible dreamers. Theirs is a rosy view of humankind that is clearly counterfactual. In the political descent we are witnessing every day since President Obama's election, nothing could be more obvious.

My point is simply this: the cries of "communism" by Beck and his minions are but another example of the dishonesty of the leaders and the stupidity and gullibility of the followers of the right wing as currently constituted. Railing in the certainty that they know what they're talking about. They seen it on the teevee.

There is nothing "communist" about Obama or his policies, even if he appointed one to oversee green energy efforts.

We're more threatened by Tinkerbell.

Monday, September 21, 2009

End Times

Although the seeds were sewn in the Reagan era, and nurtured with care during the time of Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, I think this year -- 2009 -- will be marked by historians (assuming their writings will be found in the rubble by some future sentient beings) as the one in which it became clear that The United States of America was no longer governable. That its form of constitutional government, and, in the largest sense, its democracy, showed itself to have become irreparably dysfunctional. That the gossamer of good will which for over two centuries managed to hold together the elements of this fragile society is gone forever.

It takes more than we have. Had. Too needy, too unable to face reality, too frightened of our own shadows, and of the shadow of death, we are, it's clear, a pathetic species. Capable of so much, individuals having created transcendentally beautiful art, invented amazing things, taken flight, peeled back layer upon layer of ignorance, collectively we are inexplicably easily manipulated, distracted, lied to, compelled to act against our own interest, to fall upon one another in hatred.

These things have always been part of us. It's a given that politics are messy, dirty, and dishonest. But we've never been tested as we are now. "The Greatest Generation" (the very name being a media construct and an example of our banality [which is not to denigrate people of my parents' time, but simply to point out it was a talking head selling books that came up with it, and the other talking heads, in fealty to their exalted image of themselves, who took it up]) didn't have to think too hard: their war was conventional in thought and carry-out; their economic calamity clear and undeniable. Like a mother grabbing her child out of the path of an oncoming car, the actions were reflexive, the need absolutely clear.*

It's no longer so. Our wars are built on sand, our enemies are like vapor. (One enemy IS vapor!) It's in the future, more than the present, that the dangers lie; the answers aren't obvious, and are likely painful. Which is exactly the problem. Since Ronald Reagan and his voodoo economics, we've fed on the idea that we can have it all, now, with no sacrifice. And the cynics have figured it out. People want easy; they want certain; they need their hates to keep them warm. Politicians, and the corporations that give them succor, put it all together. They figured out how to deceive enough people into looking the other way, for short-term profit and in the name only of greed. Perhaps no one has said it more clearly and unapologetically than the recently departed so-called father of neoconservativism, Irving Kristol:

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."

(Not mentioned by Bill's dad, but entirely implicit, are the truths meant for the uneducated and frightened. He did say "children," though, which is the assumption behind the way the right treats the populace. The accurate assumption.)

So here we are: 2009, when it all gelled, then gummed to a halt. At the risk of sounding like a crazy liberal, it turns out the ranters against corporate America (like Ralph Nader, who should be strung up for his egotistical turns at presidential politics) have been right all along. Willingly, happily, energetically, we've become tools. How effortless it's been to get people to rage against their own interest! We've been treated as if we're too dumb to notice.

There's a good reason for that: we are. In numbers, at least, to make the difference.

In whose interest is it to convince people we need private health insurance, with their deadly rescissions, their rising fees, their enormous profits? In whose interest is it to convince people that regulating banks is fascism, as they, once again, leverage our future for quick profit? In whose pocket are our politicians: those who chip in a few bucks, or those who contribute hundreds of thousands, who spend tens of millions on lobbying? It should be so obvious that people would stop dead (literally, in a while) in their tracks before being whipped up into self-destructive frenzies. But they don't.

Why are crazy people like Glenn Beck, stupid people like Sean Hannity, damaged people like Bill O'Reilly, nasty people like Rush Limbaugh on the airwaves? Because they sell soap. Because the ideal of honest debate and thoughtful disagreement is no longer important. Soap is. Only soap.

As I said in my previous post, it was amazing to me to hear, pretty much verbatim, Beckisms parroted back to me with no understanding at all. As if the truth were self-evident. Unaccountable czars!! Completely unaware of the origin of the term with Reagan, the equal number under W, the fact that many were, in fact, confirmed by the Senate, that all of them have actual titles. To say it's dispiriting is to understate by a factor of 1.21 gigawatts.

There's much on the table about which to be concerned. Real debate, based on facts and with solutions in mind, is what's needed. Where we need giants in Congress, we have hyperpartisan midgets. Where we need an involved electorate, willing to learn and listen and think, we have sign-waving dittoheads, full of fire and bereft of fact. Where we need media to do their indispensable job, we have corporatized monoliths owned by ideologues who are entirely uninterested in real reporting.

"We want our country back," shriek the Beckians. Me, too. The difference is I want the one that had high-minded politicians and thoughtful and educated citizens, willing to give a little for the common good. They, it seems, want easy answers, leaders who didn't challenge them, and the certainty that they're right about everything. Funny thing, though: if they get theirs back -- and it looks more and more like they will -- they'll lose everything. Were I to get mine -- and it's clear it's gone forever, by design, by the very ones who think they're saving it -- there'd be a sliver of a chance.

[Perfect: as if ordained by god himself, literally as I was finishing the above, I received an email from a friend. "If you forward nothing else...." it said. Following line after line of high dudgeon and patriotic indignation, it screamed "Now President Obama has directed the United States Postal Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a new commemorative 42 Cent First Class Holiday Postage Stamp..

REMEMBER to adamantly & vocally BOYCOTT this stamp, when you are purchasing your stamps at the post office...."

It goes on, in the same vein, pulsing with Foxobeckian certainty. My response to my friend included this. I hope he noted the date, and who was president then. He will, I know. But the ones that sent it to him? It is to laugh. Weep. Sigh. Despond. Most literally, I see no hope for us at all. These are the people on whom the future turns and who, I'm certain, think they're absolutely in the right. They have no capacity whatsoever to see how they've been duped, over and over. Played, by the likes of Beck, Limbaugh, and the whole ugly lot, like a two-penny tin whistle. They've been taught not to think, and they never will.]
*Well, sure, there were cries against joining the war in Europe; and, of course, The New Deal had its detractors. And every era has its bogeymen. But the crazy has never been mainlined as it is now, nor has it found such grateful veins, even as the host dies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm reminded of a passage from my book:

"After nine months of idyll, my side of our little Beemer pulsated with silent tension, in time with the clenching of my jaw, as we drove over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. From quiet walks around a lake to blaring horns, overloaded traffic, and the prospect of endless work, I felt the pressure squeeze the minute we made landfall. A couple of weeks later it occurred to me that I no longer noticed; one resets the dial to a different level of normal. No wonder we die young."

A week away from television, internet and, for the most part, newspapers, was therapeutic. Addicted as I'd become, checking email several times daily, visiting an array of political websites at least a couple of times a day, I was worried I'd undergo physical symptoms of withdrawal. Hands shaking, pulse weak and fast, sweat on my upper lip. As I've made fairly clear here, the state of our politics was driving me crazy. Not, I hasten to add, without damn good reason. The inmates have, most surely, taken over the asylum.

Surprisingly, it felt great from the minute I got there, and I didn't miss the information overload one little bit. I relaxed, I hiked, I read three books. Returning home, re-entering the digital world, I found myself recoiling as I scrolled through my favorite (ie, most visited, as opposed to most loved) sites; the physical tightness that had come to be the baseline for the past couple of years rose in my chest, and I stopped the scroll.

It's not as if I was in a complete cocoon. The location, deep into the Sierras, was not unpopulated. In conversations, it became clear I was the only liberal, treated, often, like a sort of oddity worth investigating. The bearded lady, the lobster boy. There were a few strenuous -- if friendly and respectful -- conversations.

I was struck by a couple of things: people spouted the stuff they hear from Glenn Beck as if the truth were self-evident. Confronted with arguments, they were quite amazed. It's as if they had no concept that there were, indeed, other facts. Or should I have just said facts. They'd simply never heard nor thought of some of the things I said. About health care, about the economy. Examples:

Are you on Medicare? "Yes." Do you like it? "Very much." So what's the problem with so-called government run health care? "Well, it's running out of money." Yes it is. Does it seem strange to you that after years of complaining about that, when a President actually tries to address it, the Republican party suddenly screams he's trying to destroy Medicare? "Silence."

"How come Obama never addresses tort reform?" Did you listen to his speech? "No." He mentioned it clearly. "Silence."

"How could we pay for a public option?" Well, there are billions being spent on premiums right now. That money can be captured in several ways: indexed premiums, new taxes, whatever. It'd still be lower than what people pay now, because private insurers take thirty percent in overhead and profits. Tell me what value you think private insurers add to the process that Medicare doesn't? "Silence."

"I worry about all those unaccountable czars." Yeah, you and Glenn Beck. Did you know that several of them were actually approved by the Senate? And that they all have actual titles that don't include the word czar, and that every president has sub-secretaries or whatever you want to call them? It's how efficient government works. "Silence."

So I'm of two minds: on the one hand, it would seem that there's a role -- theoretically at least -- for a voice of reason amongst the madness. On the other hand, it's not as if hearing facts is likely to have had any lasting impact. Stopped them short for a moment. Surely, though, back in their echo chamber it's as gone as the night skies there, high and clear, so filled with stars that words back up and stop entirely, while the soul breathes.

The paragraph from my book describes returning to San Francisco to resume training, after two years in the military the last one of which was spent at comparative leisure, at the edge of a small lake, time on my hands, working undemanding hours at an Air Force clinic; the pressure of training and then of Vietnam as remote as the top of Sierra Buttes, above Sardine Lake.

So I'm asking myself: is it worth my physical health to return to the fray? Re-engaging in the real world, being reminded daily of the insanity of those pissing in their own pool?

We'll see.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


For a week I'll be so far from civilization that I'll have no internet, cell phone, TV, or even a newspaper. Might be therapeutic.

In any case, I'll not be able to respond to any comments, so don't take it personally. On the other hand, it'll be a troll's playground.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Well, I'll give Republicans credit for this: they're nothing if not brilliant. Okay, not brilliant, in the sense of intelligent. Tactically, more like. Unrepentant and unrelenting in their willingness to manipulate public opinion with no regard to the truth. It's really very impressive. Machiavellian. Disciplined. Deception elevated to high art, if low road.

Somewhere, sometime, in an epiphany of evil, Republican planners had an insight of such depravity that one must stand in a sort of awe. Give credit. Admire the surpassing cynicism and the lack of morality; the willingness to play on the weakness of the system they profess to honor and defend. It's complicated, and simple. And if my words are a little hyperbolic, I'm completely convinced of what I say.

The Republican insight, in its satanic simplicity, is this: in America, you don't need a majority to win the debate. Beautiful, huh? It distills two important truths: 1) The media have become indifferent to careful and thoughtful reporting. It's too hard, it requires intelligent reporters, and it has no effect on ratings, which are, of course, all they really care about. 2) It's incredibly easy to manipulate people of strong religious conviction: the more fundamentalist, the better.

It doesn't take genii (which is lucky, because there are none that I can see, on the right) to develop a long-term plan. First, cozy up, flatter, nurture, and stroke the religious right. Pander to them. Take up their causes. Who cares? It's not about actually believing the stuff. It's about creating a devoted stable of the credulous and gullible. And what are religious fundamentalists if not that? Give me a young-earth creationist, and I'll give you someone who has no use for -- has a profound and proud distrust of -- fact. Someone to whom facts and reason are, very literally, anathema. Someone who considers intelligence "elitist," and who not only hates thoughtfulness in others but takes existential comfort in their own lack of it. Good. Exactly what's needed.

Next, reinforce and expand this group as much as possible (knowing, of course, that it doesn't require taking over the whole country with credulity: a handful of states is quite enough.) Get them on school boards, run them in small time offices. Do everything possible to turn public schools into hothouses of fundamentalism: because the more kids are allowed to think for themselves, the less likely is the plan to work. (Thus the current mind-blowing -- except in the context of this post -- response to the President's plan to address school kids with the message to work hard in school, have goals, listen to their teachers. What greater threat to creating credulous crowds of captured and cowering combatants than a president inspiring kids to rise above themselves? Can you imagine any other place on earth where a message of setting personal goals [not goals set for you by others] would be considered evil? Oh yeah. In the sort of fascist societies they seem to see happening here! Or theocracies. How telling it is that the reaction is not just from a few crazy people, but from actual state party leadership. Not to mention the usual RWS™. It's beyond my comprehension that people say, and others believe this crap.)

There's a certain irony, of course: you'd think the natural tendencies of followers of Jesus would be to care for the poor and the needy and the sick, to help one's fellow man, to want peace and love in the world. You'd think they'd be Democrats. (And, once upon a time, they were. Until Republicans hatched their plan.) You'd think, in particular, they'd want to reform health care so it serves the needs of everyone. So in currying these folks you have to recognize their more fundamental need: easy answers. Clarity, not charity. In the heads of religious fundamentalists is soil most fertile for felonious fooling. Fear and paranoia are part and parcel of fundamentalism, no matter the religion. It doesn't take much to use it for other purposes. Claim the the other party is godless, is against their much-needed and fact-free answers to life's most disturbing questions.

Although it was evident in the recent presidential campaign, where Sarah Palin stoked people's fears and paranoia, rallying the "us versus them" inclinations of the religiously rabid, it wasn't until this summer that it came fully into focus.

With military precision, the hoards were marched into so-called town hall meetings, outrage fanned like a Southern lady's face in August. And, predictable as Rush Limbaugh's need for oxycontin, the media put the most fact-free lunatics front and center. For a few weeks, if you wanted to get some air time -- and not just on Fox "News" but on the actual news outlets (what passes for them nowadays) as well -- all you had to do was hold up the most hate-filled sign, pack the hottest heat, weep the wettest tears for the loss of "your" country. Your views would be treated with the same seriousness, given the same credence and weight as someone who actually knew what he or she was talking about.

Better still: by following the strategy you can get elected to national office some truly insane people. Or, if not insane, people willing to say anything. (Whether they believe it, is something I have a hard time deciding. Growing up, as I did, and remaining, mostly, among people to whom fact and honesty were of actual importance, I have a hard time understanding, as a good example, when a United States Senator claims "President Obama is obsessed with turning terrorists loose in America." The statement is so far off the rails that any of the possible explanations are hard to accept: he actually believes it; he's willing to lie outrageously. He is, of course, exactly the desired result of the long-term plan; as are those who elected him. He's not the only one.

And they're the ones the media loves. ALL the media.

The result of all this is a perfect substrate for brewing paranoid discontent. Credulous and naturally frightened people, and a press wholly unconcerned for and, now, incapable of seeking and saying the truth. So the looniest and most frightened, the least accountable and the least connected to reality are given enormously disproportionate coverage, creating the illusion that they represent the wishes of "the people." And it takes hold, enough to result in our genetically cowardly and self-interested congressional "leaders" backing away from what's patently right. Needed. Indisputably.

In America, you don't need a majority to win the debate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We're Hucked

Mike Huckabee, Christian, and phony good guy, is, in fact, a f*cking liar and a hypocrite. Big surprise, eh?

Along with other RWS™ he warns Democrats against "politicizing" the death of Edward Kennedy (as opposed to the lengths to which they did just that when Ronnie died). Then he warns that under "Obamacare," the details of which have yet to be written, Senator Kennedy would have been encouraged to die much sooner. I hope to hell someone in the Kennedy family will speak directly in response to this. Caroline?

"To say such a thing," that spokesperson ought to say, "to diverge so far from facts to advance one's political agenda is much more than an insult to the memory of Ted Kennedy. It demeans the speaker beyond redemption. It is a lie on its face. It is despicable and speaks directly to the depths of deception to which the supposed leaders of the Republican party have descended. That the ex-governor, failed presidential candidate, should be ashamed of himself goes without saying. Unfortunately, it also goes without saying that he has so little touch with the idea of shame that expecting self-reflection or apology from him is like expecting the Republican party to start making efforts to participate in meaningful health care reform. It ain't gonna happen. Still, I'll say it anyway: shame on you sir. Shame on you to the very depths of what might be left of your sorry soul."

[And as long as I'm suggesting things people ought to say, and not enough for a post of its own, there's this: Newt Gingrich thinks (affording a generous definition to the word) President Obama ought to fire Eric Holder. "Sorry, Newt," someone should reply, "Firing attorneys general that follow the law is what Republicans do. In this administration, it ain't gonna happen."]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Right In Toon

Pretty much says what I've been trying to say for a long time. Building a health care delivery system around private insurers just makes no sense; at least the insurers with whom I've dealt.

And yet the left is too weak-kneed and beholden, and the right is too hide-bound and dishonest to face facts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Things Change

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gun Show - Barrel Fever
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Recently watching, as is my wont, The Daily Show, I saw a bit that bears repeating. Today, people are bringing guns -- pistols, assault rifles -- to presidential town meetings. Remember back in Days o' Bush, when a couple was arrested for wearing T-shirts? Arrested. T-shirts.

I wonder if the same people defending the right to bring guns to presidential events were outraged at the arrest of that couple? You know: those right wing lovers of free speech and gun rights as long as the words and bullets are aimed appropriately. Anyone remember right-sided outrage over the arrest that previous time? I don't. Rush, Bill, Shawn, Ann? Nazi-fearing Glenn? Any of them? Nor do I have a minimicronanoliter of doubt that had the gun-toters been arrested, every one of the aforementioned would still be screaming, into the long dark night.

When, exactly, did the world stop making sense?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Wish

Here's the speech we need to hear from President Obama. Anyone out there have his ear? Staying in the Lincoln Bedroom? Feel free to send it along, or leave a copy on the night stand. And, yeah, I know he'd never give such a speech, and I even probably sort of somewhat agree he shouldn't. But it's hard to imagine creating a worse climate than the one that already exists.

My fellow Americans: During the campaign I pledged to try to change the tone in Washington. I believed that with your support it was possible to get people from both sides of the political aisle to talk to each other, all with a common goal, to get things done for the American people.

I was wrong.

It pains me to say this. Understand: I have not given up on the American people, nor the political process that has brought us so far in a changing world. But I have come to the obvious and inarguable conclusion that among the Republicans currently serving in the halls of Congress, there simply are not enough willing to work together to solve problems. There are a few, and I have and will always welcome their efforts to seek solutions to our most pressing problems. But over the past several weeks, the majority of them have made their intentions clear: without any hesitation, without any thought whatsoever to the common good, they've made it plain that their primary focus is their own and most narrow political agenda. They would rather derail the goals on which I was elected by you, and for which the people gave Democrats large majorities in both houses of Congress. The voice of the people is silent to them.
Of this there can be no doubt.

Can anyone consider it a serious effort when the opposition is resorting to lies? About so-called death-panels, about forced euthanasia. There is simply no truth to these concerns. They are completely made up, with the purpose to deceive, to protect special interests. And yet the untruths are repeated, from the head of the Republican Party, to its representatives in Congress, the very ones on the committees charged with finding solutions, to their media networks. At least the media talking heads have an excuse for lying: they're in it to sell advertising. What's the excuse of people sworn to work for the betterment of our people?

Can anyone consider it a serious effort when the specter of rationing and killing old folks is raised time and again, in the face of all the evidence that proves them wrong, with no attempt by people who know better -- so-called leaders -- to set the record straight? (Of course, we know that facts are no impediment to self-interest: the dishonesty and stupidity over my citizenship proves it beyond any doubt.) This is not pitching in. This is not wanting to help. It's wrong, it's dishonest, it's damaging to our country, and I've had enough. Our citizens know. The people out there living in the real world, away from Washington politics, know: our health care system is broken. Millions have no insurance. Millions more only think they do, until they lose their job, or get sick, until they discover the fine print that denies coverage. The cost of insurance is rising far faster than the cost of living. As a country we are on the way to being priced out of business.

As always, for the most cynical of reasons, strong forces are aligned against true reform. Attempts to control costs are distorted into visions of rationing. Attempts to find the best treatments are portrayed as wanting to kill our old folks. Offering people the opportunity to make their wishes known, to exert their own control -- let me repeat that: to exert THEIR OWN CONTROL -- over end of life decisions, are deliberately and dishonestly characterized as death panels. So let's be clear. Those people who have a financial stake in the status quo, who are able to profit by taking dollars away from the care we all need, are willing to say and do anything to prevent change. And they are willing to play the American people for suckers. Already, they've managed to get people riled up based on lies, screaming at town hall meetings, worried in their own homes, and they've done this by assuming you are gullible and incapable of seeking the truth. That is something I simply refuse to believe.

As that great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, famously said, “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” It has never been more important to prove him right.
It is in that spirit that I pledge to you once again: I was elected to fix our health care system so it works for everyone. So were all the Democrats in Congress. With or without the help of the Republican party, we will do so.

Our physical health and our economic health depend on real reform. It is time. It simply must happen. I have been, and I will remain open to all useful suggestions and to all who are willing to pitch in, to work together on behalf of the American people. I hope for and welcome the continued efforts of those Republicans who've tried to be part of the solution. I wish there were more, I'd love it if there were more. But I am no longer willing to engage with those who choose only to obstruct and to deceive. I'm done with them. And you should be, too. And, come the next elections, you should remember who was there for you when it counted most, and who tried to scare you off by peddling lies.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Howard Dean suggests allowing people under 65 to sign up for medicare. Seems simple enough. Figure out an appropriate premium, supplement those who need it. People who hate the idea of government-run care can have their insurance, and people who are okay with it can sign up. It'd be an interesting experiment, at the very least: a real handle on the extent to which the town-hall teabaggers and those who show up packing heat represent the sense of the populace.

I realize it's just a simpler way of setting up a "public option." I understand the concerns about cost. But with premiums thirty percent lower than private insurance, you'd still be able to pay as you go, assuming the lower overhead and lack of money going for insurer profits. And if fiscally conservative Republicans could actually start behaving that way, you'd think they'd be okay with a plan to find savings by looking at what works. You know: death panels.

Funny, huh? Conservatives hate government, hate socialism, hate medicare. And scream bloody murder (literally) at the merest mention of controlling its costs.

Meanwhile, I really hope Dr. Dean's idea comes to fruition. I wanna see how many of those crazies stand on whatever principles they think they're espousing and refuse better care at lower cost.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lying As Policy

I've made the claim several times that the right wing has adopted lying as policy.

Whereas there's no doubt I argue strenuously on occasion, I make an effort not to base my rants on inaccuracy or deception. I'd go so far as to say (without having re-read all of my stuff) that no one could find an example to the contrary. So I find this article life-affirming, as it were. Whereas neither side is perfect, it's pretty clear who's routinely crossing the line. Someone was nice enough to put the meat of the article in graphic form:

I rest my case, your honors.

Friday, August 14, 2009

To Kill The Republic

Paying for end of life counseling, advance directives, will be removed from the not-yet-extant health care bill, so it seems.

It's not the fact that advance directives are actually protection against the evils that Sarah Palin imagines in her tiny little mind, nor that paying for them was included in a Republican bill a few years ago, for which the loudest screamers nowadays voted back then. The worst thing about it is NOT that people with money will have an easier time having their wishes carried out than poorer people. It's NOT that Sarah Palin evidently has a doctor she doesn't trust. It's not even that, once again, easily, people with hidden agendas have managed to shepherd the sheep into bleating against that which they need most.

What's really, really, really sad is that the right wing and its screamers -- the very people who like to refer to Obama as a Nazi in order to hide their own tactics -- have adopted the use of the Big Lie, which is in fact a Nazi tactic. Having discovered during the first health care debate, if not before, that bald-faced lies actually work, the Republican party has now adopted it as their most fundamental modus operandi. They no longer even attempt to disguise it. Lying works.

So what does it mean for our republic? I'd say it's pretty clear. On the most critical -- and therefore complex -- issues that face us, that impact our very survival, lies will carry the day. No longer will rational discussion, based on respect for opposing views and aimed and coming to reasonable solutions be the order of the day. The most venal, the most self-interested, the least ethical or honest will rule the day. Lying works, so that's what they do.

It makes me sad beyond expression. It makes clear the end is coming, brought to you by the frightened, the gullible, the thoughtless. And the liars.

Lying works.

[In an attempt to forestall predictable responses, let me say I've never claimed the Democrats are above reproach. But I honestly can't think of examples of out-and-out lying about such a serious matter, programmed and repeated over and over, orchestrated and reinforced by all the leadership and members or Congress, done by the Democratic Party. I'm open to being shown examples. No, the fact is that since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have managed steadily to dumb down debate and most literally to have dumbed down our people, presumably knowing that eventually they'd be able to get whatever they want (or, more properly, to prevent whatever Democrats want) simply by lying big. The bigger, the more effective. And so it is. It's no longer possible to imagine real change for the better. Because lying works, Republicans know it, and only they are willing to use it as over-arching strategy. It takes a level of cynicism that I simply can't get my mind around; a level not given to liberals. Not, at least, in numbers enough to make it grand policy.]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Small Step

If anyone here reads Andrew Sullivan's blog, runs across this post, and finds anything familiar in the writing, there could be a reason... Anonymity doesn't do much for blog traffic, but any way to spread the word...

The word, of course, is the extent to which health care reform is aimed at doing things that will be helpful. Even -- especially! -- for those very people who yell and weep and carry guns to meetings, spouting verbatim the insane ravings of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin while having not the slightest idea what they're really talking about. "Keep government out of Medicare," they say. "Socialism."

The "socialism" trope may be the most laughable (were it actually funny): all of the proposals on the table fall over themselves to maintain the death-grip insurance companies have on us. (Talk about "death panels!" What is it when insurers deny coverage?) None talks about nationalizing the health care delivery system. Not even Medicare is socialism. Single payer -- which in my mind is the only option that makes sense, and which, like Medicare is NOT socialism -- is, clearly, off the table.

There's no possible health care reform package that will satisfy everyone; nor, given the way Congress works, one that will be free of pork-fat, undue complexity, or unexpected consequences that will need to be addressed. Still, what the various iterations seem to have in common are regulations to prevent rescission, to create portability, to remove limits on lifetime coverage, to banish denial for pre-existing conditions. Is it really possible that any of the screamers are against those reforms?

Cost is most certainly an issue, and there is a multitude of ways to address it. Starting, from the doctors' part, with the sort of thing mentioned in that Andrew Sullivan post. Only the surface has been scratched there. And, long after I'm dead, assuming the country still exists, I predict single payer will have come to pass, and people will be glad for it. Even the gun-totin' America lovers.

Signs at the meetings -- ignoring the ones showing Obama as Hitler, a completely ludicrous meme hatched and promoted at Fox "News" (sic) and ingested without chewing by its self-pitying listeners -- point out that Medicare is "bankrupt." While not yet true, it's a point worth considering. To the extent that it hasn't enough money, it's not the fault of Medicare, which spends far less on non-medical expenses than any private insurer. It's because of funding. It's because of the holdover idea from the Reaganomics that you can have what you want without paying taxes.

So, what if everyone were covered by a Medicare-like program, and no one paid premiums; or if there were the sorts of premiums and co-pays associated with Medicare? Currently I pay $14K/year in premiums for me and my wife. Would I be happy to have taxes raised in another area, even, say, by $10K/year? Who wouldn't take that trade? By getting rid of the 30% skim by insurers, that math works right away. And by taking seriously -- instead of demagoging as "death panels" -- the idea of finding cost savings in more efficient care, much more than that will be saved.

And yet, they rave and froth. Getting crazier and scarier. Arguing, in effect, for maintaining a system in which their premiums have likely doubled in the last ten years, which covers them sparingly, cutting them off when they need it most: sick, out of work. And they are ready to draw weapons over a plan to pay for help writing the very instructions that will keep them in charge of their care when they're unable to make decisions for themselves.

Who'd have thought people so in need of health care reform could be whipped into a froth by people who lie so freely and make easily refutable claims? I remain unable to understand. And bereft of hope.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Res Ipsa Loco

Given the bilious blather and purple prevarication heard on Fox News and coming from the mouths of Republican politicians regarding health insurance reform, this is just funny. But it does come from an article in a presumably credible magazine, Investor's Business Daily. I am, of course, among many who've pointed it out. Still, it's a perfect signpost along the path to destruction.

The key statement is this:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

I trust readers will be able to discern two teensy problems with that declaration... The second is that nothing in the current plans for reform is remotely like the UK system.

Evidently there's no end to the stupidity that passes for discourse in this, one of the most important and difficult of issues we face. Given the fact that there's no desire to be honest, nothing anyone says, no pointing out of error, will unslime the rhetoric. Facts are unwelcome: facts get in the way of the deliberate deception. Reality, as has been said, has a liberal bias.

It's really hard to be an optimist.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I simply don't get it.

Quite aside from the fact that the plan to disrupt health-care town-meetings is overtly to stifle honest debate on a very difficult subject, and despite the fact that there isn't even a bill yet (only a House version and several Senate versions that need reconciling), and even imagining that the anger is real and not ginned up by the distortions and outright lies of the right wing media or fomented by interest groups with a long history of ripping off the health care system for legal profit -- not to mention being fined one point seven billion dollars for fraud -- overlooking all of that: what the hell are these people so mad about?

As far as I can tell, the proposals out there -- the ones that are actually in writing as opposed to the absolutely insane claims of the Rush O'Beckly axis of a$$holery -- are fairly weak-kneed attempts at maintaining the status of most of the quo. Are people really that upset about a bill which aims to prevent their care from being disallowed? Is making insurance portable, and preventing the companies from pulling the plug on coverage when you get sick really that infuriating? Do they comprehend the power of an advanced directive? In what way is any of it socialism? Do any of the protesters even understand the word? I know Sarah Palin frequently says things that make George Bush seem like Demosthenes, but is she really so stupid as to believe her latest? Or is she just another of what passes for Republican thinkers, willing to say anything in order to scare people into accepting the current quo? Which enriches insurance companies at the expense of everyone else.

I have no doubt that plenty of people will buy what she's selling, like it was a 99¢ flat screen TV. Scared people. Bitter people. Malleable, credulous people. (For a thoughtful response to the ex-governor, read this.)

There are plenty of problems -- huge problems -- with reforming health care. Which is exactly why the stifling of discussion is so tragic. Can it really be that those screamers and yellers and shouters like things the way they are? Premiums doubling every few years? Losing coverage when they lose a job? De facto rationing by insurers bent on keeping as much of their money as possible, not spending it on actual health care? Is that what they want? Do they really hate Medicare? Are they so content with the way things are that their only plan is la la la I can't hear you? What do they like so much about the status quo? Has anyone asked them? When they stop screaming?

What's so entirely dispiriting is the extent to which these mobs have been whipped up to argue -- once again -- against their own interests. In the most cynical of ways, for the most ignoble of reasons -- ratings, on the one hand, vis a vis the insanity that is Fox News; and pocketbook, on the other hand, vis a vis the insurers who are off-loading billions of dollars intended to provide medical care -- people have been spun into outrage based on a series of outright lies. Socialism. Coming to kill Grandma. Death panel. It's no less disconnected from reality than if they'd been convinced to complain they weren't being sent to prison. It's unbelievable.

Except that it isn't. Headlong and happily, we're heading off the cliff, cheered on by the very people for whom the system is working fine: making them rich indeed while millions suffer. It shouldn't be possible, it shouldn't be that easy to deceive, but most clearly, it is. What I don't know -- and it's truly scary not to be able to know -- is how much of a threat such people are. (And may I say once again, it's NOT that there are those who disagree with the current iterations of health care reform plans: it's this mindless hatred that's being stirred up, using entirely false accusations.) Most clearly, it's a danger to the President himself, and to various Congresspeople, all of whom have had threats on their lives. One can only hope the Secret Service remains up to the task.

But there's also the threat to us all, as a country, not just of violence, but of destructive manipulation. It simply can't be argued credibly that the health care structure of the US doesn't need serious reform. Nor do I have much belief that either house of congress, nor either party therein, have the wherewithal to do it right. But the prospect that, because of these crazy implanted fears, we might get nothing at all, is depressing. And there are much broader implications: for any of our problems, various entrenched and cynical interests have only to follow the same playbook: lie unrepentantly, scare thoroughly, rely uncontestedly on the ability to misinform and misdirect. There a people aplenty to fall prey to it, as we see now most clearly.

We simply are no longer, as a society, equipped to deal with difficult. It's not in us. Not in enough of us, anyway, to change anything. So I fear, watching the disruptions, reading Sarah, hearing the RWS™ with their latest outrageous outrage.

The only thing I can't figure out is this: where do those guys plan to go when this country, at their urging and entirely of their making, is fully down the tubes?

[Yesterday I read a good suggestion. We should capitulate to the right, and move on.]

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