Friday, November 22, 2013
You can just kick back and read this a few times. It'll do you good. And a hatlo hat tip to Martin Bashir, who obviously has just had it up to here with the incredible endless fountain of hypocrisy that Ms Palin has managed to tap. I happened to sample the yammerings of the young conserv table talkers over at the Blaze Network last night, and one of 'em was fuming about Mr. Bashir's piece on Palin. I hadn't heard of it at all before that.
Here's Mr. Bogg's take: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/21/how-the-bashir-stole-christmas/
You may infer that Mr. Bogg has now resumed his commentary on life in the United States from a new deer stand. I'm thinking he just couldn't escape Ms Hamsher's gravity any other way. I'm hoping he'll find much happiness at his new digs. I'll check daily.
In other matters, our Early Blurs web-mistress sent me a link to an ebay listing which describes one of the records I made back in the '70s with the other original Red Clay Ramblers as "hippie bluegrass." You can go check out the link if you like (how long it'll be live I have no idea):
As the term appears in the actual link, I guess that will live as long as this blog. Pretty cool. I like how the term amounts to a triple bank shot which after several other dings and scrapes deposits Mssrs Stretch and Bland together in the corner pocket one might term the dustbin of histoire. I will gladly apply the necessary bandaids to my bow arm and point out to all that this is simply a tiny example of the workings of the millstones of said histoire, which pretty much universally grinds all of our aspirations to powder eventually. It is a further delight on this Friday morning to recall watching the Senior Senator from Kentucky weep bitter crocodile tears all through the evening news last night. Too bad they didn't get around to ending this filibuster nightmare back in '09.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Sitting in the Walmart parking lot yesterday on the way home from work, some snatch of an NPR story on the Affordable Health Care law brought into clear focus what the Law aims to accomplish, and how. I was struck later by the appalling fact that this clarity was not readily obvious to me long long before yesterday in the Walmart parking lot. But of course the Republican din of distraction has been at full volume since before the Law was even passed, and has included such features as protests with men brandishing arms, signs suggesting Mr. Obama was a bushman, the idea of "death panels," messages of panic and horror and fear from all manner of accomplished salespersons such as Mssrs Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity, and an entire faux news network complete with all manner of pretty blonde news readers and associated with all the major American sports events. In ordinary American life, the din far outdistances the small bits of real information. This is primarily why we now have half of our Congress controlled by charlatans and muddled idiots--a terrific wound to our government's ability to function.
In all of this on-going and distracting din I've never heard, once, the statement of a simple truth--the truth I heard yesterday by accident in the middle of an NPR story which was not even directly about this fact. Here's the deal. One of the most central features of the health care reform bill is the elimination of existing conditions as a factor in obtaining health coverage. The meaning of this fairly complex idea is that the insurance companies are now expected to simply insure everyone. Thus, policies which distinguish between, for example, male and female insurees, are no longer allowed. The fundamental idea is this: all people are either healthy or ill. The illnesses may vary for any number of reasons among the pool of ill, but that detail can't be allowed to drive the crafting of policies which favor the well and drive away the ill.
Even on reasonably clear PBS news coverage of the problem of policy cancellations, this basic premise is omitted. Last week there was a flurry of stories about individuals who had lost their existing policies. One middle-aged woman on PBS complained that since she was no longer able to get pregnant, why should she pay for insurance covering pregnancy issues.
This is exactly the crux of the new law, and must be addressed head on. On the PBS show, it wasn't. You can imagine that it's never addressed on Fox. But yesterday on the NPR piece, the federal employee trying to explain the new law addressed it, and clearly. New health insurance coverage is aimed at covering everyone. Not everyone will need any particular coverage, e.g., prostate cancer isn't relevant at all to women, pregnancy coverage isn't relevant to men, and so forth. But--to make the law work there must be a general policy which covers everyone. This is the fundamental difference between the ACA Law and the current situation. Insurance companies can no longer carve out policy coverage which cherry picks the pool of potential insurees. And on the other hand, the pool has been expanded to include everyone, which should make for much lower rates.
This is the fundamental change. Yet the House has already passed another "reform" which, by allowing existing cherry-picked policies to remain in force forever, basically rolls back the reform. But this fundamental remains mostly obscured, to the public, by the din. And the folks banging the pot lids include every Republican in Congress. And yesterday, this group was joined by several dozen Democratic House members. This suggests that even many Democrats do not understand the fundamental change the law accomplishes (or that many Democrats care more about their personal advancement as Important People than their charge as representatives of their constituents).
This din started in 2009, with the orchestrated efforts to shout down all rational conversation about the new law at various meet-the-public events held by Democrats who supported the law. This was the advent of the so-called "Tea Party." With the really terrible execution of the "roll-out" in October, the Obama Administration has opened a vein. The entirely unnecessary blood-letting will draw all the sharks who care not at all about any such thing as affordable health care. Indeed, this is what we're watching now. "Oh my, you're bleeding, let me help you with that." CHOMP.
The reform to our very broken health care system has not yet been accomplished. The sharks await the next election cycle, and the next. All the while their hope is that most of us never really face head on the fact that in life there are but two groups of people, the healthy and the ill, and that these demarcations are never permanent, but only seem so. The healthy never need health care coverage. For the ill it is often literally a life and death matter. You can't get radiation or chemotherapy at the ER. You can't get dialysis. The ER doesn't give out essential medication, and it doesn't perform crucial operations if you can't pay for them. A fellow I know, in his 80s, just got a pace-maker. The bill was for $100,000.
[photo of sharks from National Geographic]
Update: A great article on the current state of the start of the Affordable Care Act:
It is remarkable and disgusting to discover, each and every day I click over to sample Fox News, how the unrelenting din of attacks on the Affordable Care Act remains the primary subject of this so-called "news" channel. Has the United States ever had to deal with such a powerful media effort at brainwashing its citizens? In the next Democratic Administration, should we be so lucky as to manage in 2016 to deflect the Republican attack on democracy once again, the first order of business should be some well thoughtout effort to mitigate this cancer on our democracy--the gigantic propaganda machine that operates 24/7 to confuse and confound all reasonable thought on the serious subjects which the United States must deal with--before such subjects become so powerful that they deal with us as they will. Events beyond political control do happen. While the Romneys can then talk of things "sorting themselves out naturally," the human cost of this way of operating is not only unacceptable for any civilized people, but will have its own terrible political cost as well.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
In the photo, James Stewart is giving Shelley's character in "Winchester 73" a pistol. The Indians are about to attack, and he tells her to save a round, just in case. She nods. "I understand," she says.
There was always something funny and wry and honest about the characters Shelley Winters played. I wonder if she ever had the opportunity to sit and have a beer with Barbara Stanwyck, another wry, honest actor. It's hard to get behind the facade actors have to put up, though Shelley did write an autobiography. I'll bet it's pretty honest too.
Here's how she summed up her life:
One New York apartment, two Oscars, three California houses, four hit plays, five Impressionist paintings, six mink coats, and 99 films.
She might be my favorite actor, on the distaff side at least. She didn't get enough great roles, but in that she was also realistic. "Ya gotta play the mother to keep your career going," she said.
Update: I've started reading "Shelley, Also Known as Shirley," the first part of her autobiography. About "Winchester 73" she says, "I was the co-star, with James Stewart but the real star of the movie was the goddam rifle." The book is delightful reading, with many hilarious anecdotes: imagine Marlon Brando hiding on the roof of her apartment building, with one shoe missing, while Burt Lancaster searches her apartment for a suitor he suspects is hiding somewhere. And as I just recall--this very scene is depicted in "One Eyed Jacks" a decade later. "Jacks" was Brando's only directorial effort, and stars himself and Carl Malden, with the great Ben Johnson in a supporting role. Peckinpah was a writer on "Jacks." But surely Brando added the missing shoe detail in the opening scene, and must have smiled at the inside humor of it.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Libby and I went on our Southwest US musical tour in March and April of 2003. That happened to be the moment when George Bush decided to start the war with Iraq. We watched the shock and awe on motel teevee screens as the damn thing unfolded in its early, naive moments. Or maybe it was naive for George. I knew damn well that thousands of young Americans were being tossed into the meat grinder, and I wondered how the lessons of Vietnam had been so thoroughly forgotten.
When we got to Arizona Lori Piestewa was officially missing, and stopping at a gas station in Tuba City on the way to the Grand Canyon we read of prayer vigils for her safe recovery. Later she proved to have been killed during the action that also produced the brief capture of Jessica Lynch, whose ordeal and rescue was then turned into a p.r. lie by the Bush Administration. After we returned to NC we learned that a mountain near Phoenix formerly called "Squaw Peak" was to be renamed Piestewa Peak in honor of a fallen native-American soldier. On the way out of Navajo country, on our drive to Santa Fe, I bought a tee shirt at a gas station that depicted several Apache warriors on horseback, with the words "Homeland Security Since 1492." After Santa Fe we drove through Roswell to Austin, Texas. On that leg of the trip, passing through Pecos, Texas at dusk, we noticed signs which said "Thank You, Johnny Mata." He was another soldier killed in the early days of the war, and a native of Pecos. (Yeah, I know: native Americans didn't have horses in 1492.)
It was strange to have our little musical trip punctuated by these intimacies of the war. The country went on as it does. The teevee will tell you something terrible every night. But you don't always experience a personalization of the stories at the DQ or the Seven-Eleven. Or if you do, maybe you have to look a little deeper. While we were in Flagstaff we went to the Sunset National Monument and saw the ruins of the pre-1492 landscape:
Before that stop we'd driven down the long empty road from Tucumcari to Las Cruses, and seen a portion of the library of that lost culture:
A few miles later, at Los Alamos, our modern equivalent:
We drove the back roads as much as we could, given the time constraints and what was available. Between Las Cruses and Flagstaff, off of I-10 (hardly a back road), we stopped in Deming and had the best plate of chili rellenos and refried beans In the world. Who knew. Around the corner from that restaurant was that pretty Facade with Burglar Alarm. I took several shots. Down that street was an old armory. I imagined scenes from The Wild Bunch, but I didn't see a photograph worth taking. We were only in Deming for an hour or so; we didn't have a gig there. Heading west, we took NM 180 up through Silver City and made Flagstaff that evening. In my memory Deming became a perfect little southwest town, sleepy, an easy place to live, probably hot as hell during the summer, some old-timer saying "yeah, but it's a dry heat," the words coming out of the shade under his Stetson. Dusty pickup trucks, appaloosas and the jingle of tack, a shot glass tossed down in the cool dark of a corner bar, chaps and barbed wire.
Squaw Peak changed to Piestewa Mountain pretty soon after Mr. Bush's decision. The changes in Deming were only apparent this past week, when some civilian leaving Walmart fell into the profile of some gung ho deputy sheriffs and was subjected to treatment that, one hopes, will eventually bankrupt that sleepy little town. I'll put up a link, but in brief, the guy was falsely suspected of stashing drugs in an internal orifice, and after being hauled up to Silver City, was subjected to several body cavity searches which culminated in a sedated, full colostomy. All of this proved negative (I hope he doesn't have polyps, and if he does, I hope they at least removed them). The guy was also billed for all these procedures. Since he's now suing both Deming and the medical facility in Silver City, presumably he didn't die of apoplexy upon receiving that bill. Here's the link:
How very very sad. Deming makes the news. The rot of endless wars on concepts--terrorism, drugs--the logic of General Sherman has eaten to the very center of the planet. When it comes to security, absolutely nothing can withstand this acid. This was the deepest truth at the heart of Watergate, and no one learned it. And how appropriate that the Miami Dolphins surround Mr. Incognito with their love at the same moment that trained medical personnel find it impossible to withstand patently and obviously appalling demands from law enforcement to misuse an invasive medical procedure in such a fashion. It's a war, boy. You don't understand unless you've been in an NFL locker room.
We're done with Iraq now. I think. Unless maybe Mr Christie finds some reason to return and make that place even more hellish than it already is. Did you know that 22 American veterans commit suicide every day, these days? I didn't know that. Heard it on NPR this week. They don't mention it much during the fly-overs at NASCAR events.
Here's some more real stuff about our war universe:
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In the land of the Houdahenians, the Tuesday past elections were not of notice. We watched to some degree, and cheered the defeat of Mr. Cuccinelli in our northern mountain of conceit, hoping like most sensible people that his loss was due to his state rape law, the mandatory internal vaginal sound measure that proved so unpopular that it was eventually withdrawn. No pun intended! It's not clear what it means. A man at least as twisted in his approach to women's rights was elected the new Virginia Attorney General, and promised more objectionable laws pertaining to women's lives. The voting patterns in Virginia are also distressing, with most of rural Virginia standing with Cuccinelli, including all the counties in the beautiful southwest, the heart of bluegrass country. Why would women anywhere in Virginia vote against their own well-being? (Here's one theory: far too many Virginians still adhere to a religion which teaches that wives must "submit" to their husbands in all things, and in Virginia white men voted in the majority for Cuccinelli.)
Then there's the nullification rant by Ron Paul which accompanied Mr. Cuccinelli's sorta concession. Libertarians won 6% of the vote in this election. Would their absence have given McAuliffe a resounding win, or somehow allowed Cuccinelli to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. One would think the former, although conservative pundits are already using the muddled Libertards as an excuse. Charlie Pierce posts pictures of the Antietam battlefield to refute Mr. Paul's glib reference to a political theory which grounded secession and the gawdawful civil war, which the Pauls, father and son, would certainly have sat out in France or Argentina, pontificating all the while on the idiocy of war and the bravery of the southern patriots.
Over at Edroso's place Roy quotes a conservative groucher who predicts nothing but horror from the DeBlasio win in New York City. Up there it's going to be the '70s again in short order, according to this mope. I watched about half of Mean Streets before flipping to DeBlasio's victory speech. I will admit that he sounded somewhat in the rosy vein. It may be that New York will continue to be New York. It always has. The grouser wailed that real estate values are going to fall. As Edroso remarks, this'll be good for smart investors. There is nothing like New York City, not even San Francisco or Paris. That won't change any time soon. And probably drug dealers will continue to refuse checks.
Here, Kirby is starting to spray. He is very soon for his little "operation," before his balls get to be the size of cantelopes. The brothers are mystified by his odiferous doings. Momma has retreated to a rug upstairs amongst all the stuff we've stored in what used to be the best room in the joint, just to get away from all the noise and agitation. I've got a storage shed laid out on the ground, so maybe by Christmas or New Years or Easter we'll have some place to put all the stuff we don't use but can't throw away. What do you do with hundreds of cassette tapes, anyways. Even sorting through them is a pain, yet down in the pile somewheres is a couple of tapes of a wonderful New Mexico fiddler, and another one or two of Cyril Stinnett, the most amazing left-handing fiddler from central Missouri. Can't very well let that stuff vanish.
Our neighbors, meanwhile, lost their last cat to wild dogs. None of ours are allowed outside, and I'm tempted to keep the .22 more at the ready. I'm pretty sure I've seen these dogs--a nursing brindle pit bull mix and two adolescent pups who follow at her heels, wild as hell. She's surely teaching them to hunt, and they'll be nailing the odd fawn before long. Dogs in a working pack are some serious stuff. Meanwhile the leaves drift down, at last daylight savings time is over, and this is the best time of year. I've got lots of stacked and covered fire wood, and plenty of split red cedar for kindling. Getting to be time to go get that winter bottle of Dewars. There's about one good shot left from the Aught-twelve edition.
[For more on Mr. Stinnett see http://mofiddledance.org/profiles/cyril-stinnett/ ]
Update (11/11): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/09/virginia-attorney-general-race_n_4247571.html
As I've said before, joining the chorus of many liberal commentators, Republicans really do not believe in democracy. The process is just a Rubic's cube to be manipulated as necessary.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Norm Ornstein, via Lawyers, Guns and Money:
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era—this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others.
The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths.
In North Carolina, a post-Shelby County law not only includes one of the most restrictive and punitive vote-ID laws anywhere but also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Whatever flimsy voter-fraud excuse exists for requiring voter ID disappears when it comes to these other obstacles to voting.
In Texas, the law could require voters to travel as much as 250 miles to obtain an acceptable voter ID—and it allows a concealed-weapon permit, but not a student ID, as proof of identity for voting. Moreover, the law and the regulations to implement it, we are now learning, will create huge impediments for women who have married or divorced and have voter IDs and driver’s licenses that reflect maiden or married names that do not exactly match. It raises similar problems for Mexican-Americans who use combinations of mothers’ and fathers’ names.
Roberts looks like such a nice man. So fatherly. Nice smile. Manly hair. Yet he has set the United States back to pre-World War II. If it was an experiment rather than a Delphic Utterance, the events since Roberts' May ruling would surely demand a mulligan. Almost instantly upon the gutting of the Voting Rights Law, most states in the South, and some elsewhere, instituted various draconian voting rules aimed clearly at making voting for minorities, women, students, and poor folks much more difficult than previously. Given the known demographic patterns--that these groups of voters tend Democratic--there can be no doubt at all that Judge Roberts was mistaken in his appraisal of the facts--that things had changed in the democracy, that special oversight was no longer needed. But this being his basis for overturning the law, surely the new voting rules in the several states should be in themselves an argument for reinstating the Voting Rights Act as it was prior to May, 2013. To continue Ornstein's metaphor: well, we took the light down at that intersection, and the folks started running into each other at the intersection again. Sadly, Delphic Utterances are not like traffic experiments, and the Court is well nigh as infallible as the Pope. All the work that went into getting the Voting Rights Act. My god.