Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Vote for Kushism

Huffington Post is running a "Create Your Own Religion" competition. I submitted Kushism and politely solicit your vote for it.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Birth of a Metaphor

Since the publication of my fable about House Republicans as Gollum, I’ve fielded several queries as to where I came up with the idea, so I thot I’d share. It was while composing a response to a comment on a message board accusing the Republicans of hypocrisy, because “the same people” who voted for higher spending (Iraq, Afghanistan, the unfunded mandate of Medicare Part D) and lower revenue (massive tax cuts, mainly for the rich) under George W. Bush were now railing about federal deficits.

But no, I started to say, it’s not “the same people”. Since the Bush years, the GOP has been infiltrated by the Tea Party types, who spent many years as outsiders but were able to massively assert themselves after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates of corporate money backing them. And the Tea Partiers loathe the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Era almost as much as they do the standard practices of the Democrats. This has produced today’s schizophrenic GOP, riven by schisms within its own ranks. However much I may have disagreed with Bush’s neo-cons, they were at least willing to advance reasons for their policies, engage in discussions, and consider alternatives. The new breed wants none of that.

I began to point out that, during their years in the wilderness, the Tea Partiers lived in self-imposed isolation in a large dark cavern, where the only sound was the echo of their own voice, and this produced a destructive feedback loop that drove them deeper and deeper into their own internal world of obsessive paranoid delusions and persecution complexes, leading eventually to a dissociative break with reality, characterized by constant compulsive hand-wringing behaviors and repetition of rote phrases with special meanings only to them.

Then I found myself thinking “Hmmm, this is vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this story before?” And then it dawned on me, and presto! A metaphor was born.

It’s perhaps illuminating to see where Tolkien took his story from this point onward. His little creature, after years of isolation, falls in with a small group of adventurers who are literally trying to save the world. Forced at last to deal with others but not strong enuf to break free or to dominate the group, he relies on craft, guile, stealth, deceit, trickery, and sheer persistence to pursue the object of his obsessive monomania. All the while, his former personality keeps trying to reassert itself, ultimately to no avail. His dark side prevails, and it cares not a whit for the welfare of those around him; indeed, he’s oblivious to his own safety as he skulks over the brink of Mount Doom to his own destruction.

It’s unwise, of course, to push any analogy too far, but it will be interesting in the months and years ahead to see whether it’s the Smeagol wing or the Gollum wing of the Republican Party that comes to the fore. Unfortunately, this isn’t a mere academic exercise or a work of fiction, so “interesting” is perhaps not the right word to describe what’s at stake.

= = = = = =
Frodo: I wish [this evil] need not have happened in my time.
Gandalf: So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Negotiating with Terrorists

Negotiating with Terrorists
[Scene 1, 2009. They meet.]

President Obama: I’d really like the USA to have single-payer health care, the same as every other industrialized democracy. They almost all deliver better health results than we do, but none of them pays anywhere near as much money for it.

House Republicans: No way, José! That would be socialism, and we’ll never go for it!

O: OK, then, what would you support? What’s your plan for covering the nation’s 30,000,000 uninsured and 40,000,000 underinsured?

Rs: Well, how about this idea from the right-wing Heritage Foundation? We’d insist by law that everyone had to buy insurance thru private providers. And, to make sure that none of those lazy leeches could whine that they couldn’t afford it, we’d raid the Treasury to provide big bux to subsidize them, thereby further rewarding our big corporate donors.

O: Would that work?

Rs: Yup. We had a Republican governor (guy name of Romney) enact it in Massachusetts, and they love it there.

O: And you’d actually vote for something like that?

Rs: Sure, like you’d ever propose it or go along with it.

O: Well, that’s it, then. I give up. We’ll do it your way.

Rs: But ... but ... We didn’t think you’d actually do it!

O: It’s more important to ensure the health of the American people than to use this issue as a political football.

Rs: It would balloon the federal deficit.

O: Actually, the CBO ran the numbers, and — while it’s nowhere near as efficient as Medicare, which has administrative costs below 3% — it would actually save hundreds of billions of dollars overall thru competition (your basic Republican business model) and emphasis on prevention.

Rs: It can’t possibly be constitutional to require people to buy insurance.

O: The Supreme Court said it is. Besides, the states do it all the time with auto insurance.

Rs: If you manage to pass this, it’ll be your political ruin. We’ll call it Obamacare, and everybody will tie your name to it as we rail and spew against it and lie about it.

O: Obamacare, eh? I kinda like that. Better than “I don’t care”, for sure.

[Scene 2, 2013. They meet again.]

O: Well, your plan is now the law of the land. Whaddya think?

Rs: We hates it, we does, the Obamacare. We votes against it, my precious. We votes against it again! [Repeat 40 more times.]

O: But now every American will have access to affordable health care. I was certain you’d be pleased.

Rs: Nooooo, we hates it, we does. You must kill it, kill it now. We will kick over all the furniture and take our ball home and puke if you don’t.

O: Aww, poor babies! Upset tummies? Follow the Alka-Seltzer advice: “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Rs: Arrrrrhhh! Government health care? No, no, no, no, never ever ever ever ever. We might learn to likes it, we might. Kill it, kill it, kill it.

O: But it’s not government health care, remember? It’s private health care provided by private doctors and hospitals, paid for with insurance provided thru the private sector.

Rs: People hates it, the Obamacare.

O: They only feel that way about the name. If you ask them about each individual piece of what it actually accomplishes, they’re in favor of it, usually by huge margins.

R: No, no, no! We don’t wants to hear this. Kill it. Kill it now!

O: Sorry, it’s the law. We’re going ahead with it.

Rs: Obama is being mean to poor elephantses. He refuses to negotiate with us.

O: Negotiate!? Why should I negotiate? I already capitulated. This is YOUR PLAN!

Rs: Owwww, it burns, it does. It burns! Poor elephantses. Poor, poor elephantses. We don’t want to play this game any more.

O [aside]: Y’know, Dubya warned me not to negotiate with terrorists and blackmailers. I should spend more time listening to those Republicans. Sometimes they really do know what they’re talking about.