A Book Review — Thank Goodness for a Stuffed Up Nose

I recently finished skimming a book by the author Bernard Goldberg. If he's someone I should recognize, I'll have to admit I'm delinquent. His recent book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37), makes reference to another one labeled Bias. If it's as biased as this latest effort, then it's appropriately named. The closest he gets to indicting the real culprits is naming a headline-seeking religious zealot from Alabama and a weeping tel­evangelist, best known for having sinned. I suppose I should mention the book was loaned to me by a friend who is much farther to the wrong than I.

Mr. Goldberg takes on "gansta rap" and several tasteless sitcoms, areas which drew no complaint. Most of the people he named were relative unknowns to me. The majority were vaguely familiar, but seem to have kept pretty much under my radar. While they may be screwing up lots of people, blaming them for screwing up the nation seems like it makes them more powerful than I imagine they really are. He particularly dislikes entertainers — mostly Hollywood types — though he does not include Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarznegger or a Senator named George Murphy on his list. Like Texas oilmen, most of the entertainers he condemns are more useful at fundraising than at guiding our political thought. But their names are clearly recognizable, so his readers can shake their heads knowingly in agreement — a form of name dropping.

His political sinners include Robert Byrd, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, and John Edwards. There may be others, but this gives an indication of who he thinks the screw-ups are. The politicians came near the end of his list, nearing as it did the number one sinner. I kept thinking he might redeem himself by naming the one person who has most ignored the Constitution, who has taken a great nation to war on falsehoods, undone a century's worth of environmental progress, reduced taxes for the wealthiest among us, laden our children and their grandchildren with enormous debt while polluting the air they breathe and the water they must drink. Instead, he chose Michael Moore.

He says in his introduction that most of his choices are from the Left. If most means the same as all, then he spoke truthfully. I'd have settled for Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell. Even Gale Norton. But Michael Moore?


This Is Not Forever, Darling

For every good outcome we seek, there seems to be a downside which inevitably adds its counterweight to any solution we suggest. As I watch the endless and infernal television ads touting pharmaceutical companies and their products, I realize why they are making so much money. It seems that our greatest desire is to live forever, and to be forever young and pain free while doing so. The fact that disclaimers for their products take up more airtime than the rest of the ads does not seem to give us pause. The hidden message in such ads is that our wish can be granted if we are willing and able to pay.

Congress, at the urging of our president, has recently passed an industry-written prescription drug bill offering an array of choices that the elderly are now trying to decide which, if any, they can afford. The most likely answer will be none, though that hasn't become clear as yet. The medical community fought Medicare for years before realizing it was their salvation in disguise. The term "socialized medicine" was coined as a pejorative to discourage its passage.

We are now faced with a huge and growing number of people with no health insurance, and the problem is larger than business or the medical community can solve through private enterprise alone. Problems of this magnitude can be solved only with government intervention and the use of tax dollars, and cannot be solved by favoring tax reductions for those most able to pay, nor will they be solved by those favoring tax reduction for those somewhat less able to pay. They will not be solved until the middle class begins to hurt even more than it now hurts, because only the middle class has enough power to bring enough pressure to force action by a reluctant Congress — because they are the ones who vote. The solution will be expensive and will obviously require different priorities than those currently in vogue.

Once a system is in place and the costs are known, many guidelines will have to be established. Sooner or later, we will have to face the reality of our mortality. I doubt that it will lead to forced euthanasia, but it may well lead to more realistic decisions about expensive care. More thought and more money will be given to Hospice, I suspect, than to the many painful, demeaning short-term treatments currently in use.

The Eskimo people put their old folks on an ice floe to freeze or become polar bear food once they could no longer provide for themselves or contribute to the common good. We live in different circumstances, but we will have to face similar choices. We may not look for the nearest ice floe, but we will have to give Mother Nature more opportunity to take her course. After all, Mother has always known best.

Whose Uterus Is It, Anyway

South Dakota's legislature just saw fit to require that every orgasm have a name. I'm not against families, but I'm more than a little tired of all those pious males holding placards and sounding righteous about the right to life. Their voting patterns indicate that their commitment to life ends at birth. The life they seem to revere is the life of the fetus, not the child. They tend to favor capital punishment, and to decry welfare of any kind. They tend to be overwhelmingly religious, but have somehow missed the Biblical injunction to care of the widows and orphans, and by implication, the poor among us. That may be tarring with too wide a brush, but I think the odds are greatly in my favor.

I would like to know what percentage of the South Dakota Legislature is female. Does it go without saying, predominantly male? Since that limits the majority's role in child making to a few seconds of extreme pleasure, I question their right to make such decisions. Sometimes the pleasure is mutual, but since the male genitalia do not include brains, and since they are not known for altruism, any sharing seems incidental. I suspect that the Mississippi legislature has a similar disproportion of males, meaning they are faced with the same limitations. It also appears they will not be limited by their limitations, but will follow South Dakota in their commitment to piety and motherhood.

Recently I've noticed more pictures of women holding placards at abortion clinics. It shows, I think, that the groups are beginning to recognize the same limitations I do, and their effect on PR. These are the same people who fight any effort to distribute condoms to sexually active youth, on the basis that it encourages the behavior they want them to resist. Since all of us are made by the same basic process, most of us can thank lust for our very existence. These people think it will go away if we just pass a law. Since the sex drive is built directly into almost every creature, abstinence and the rhythm method are never going to be adequate methods of contraception.

Recent statistics indicate that parent notification requirements have not reduced the number of abortions. If anything, they seem to have increased them. Since I did not come with the equipment required to carry babies myself, I don't deserve a vote, but I would be more than happy to settle for an all-female vote on the question. If the majority of the women in this nation think every pregnancy should go full term, I'll settle for the law that requires it. If that same majority says rape and incest are not legitimate reasons for aborting, then I'll say the right people decided the issue, no pun intended.

Since that will obviously never take place, I think all males in the offending legislatures should swallow footballs and let them slowly pass. Their stretch marks would be signs of true commitment.

I've Got A Secret, Yours

There are many things the American public should be worried about with respect to the current administration, not the least of which is its obsession with secrecy. Loyalty and secrecy are such high priorities with Bush and Cheney that you might expect their aides to be taking blood oaths while holding a burning scrap of paper in their bare hands. This was true well before they had 9/11 as their excuse. Now, of course, everything is justified by the war on terror. If you're as tired of that expression as I am, then you're really pooped.

What seems ironic, though perhaps logical, is their interest in other people's business. Patently illegal wiretaps without benefit of court approval are symptoms of contradictory values. A young teacher is in trouble for comparing this behavior to Hitler, and while he may have shown some immaturity in pushing the envelope, he had a great deal on his side to back up the suggestion. I would sooner have compared these acts to the KGB than to the Nazis.

Now they are taking declassified material off the available list. Some of these things go back to the 1940s. Those include my teenage years, and I am now an octogenarian. Anything I might have wanted to keep secret at that time I would probably be happy to brag about now. What secrets from that era could possibly be of interest to terrorists? Any dirt on public figures from that era has either been thankfully forgotten, or else long since revealed. Even the tabloids aren't interested. The Germans now know we had radar and the Japanese know we cracked their code. Russia got the secrets for the atomic bomb in the 1950s, and today the rest of the world can find them on the Internet.

Following their twisted logic, it is not surprising that they are pressing to criminalize the whistle blowers who let the NSA cat out of the bag. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Turning someone into a criminal for leaking someone else's criminal behavior is not something we should support. We should be handing out Medals of Freedom, not trying to jail them. Sending our armies to Iraq to establish democracy, while running a secret police system at home is the height of hypocrisy, and we are witnesses to it. The real question is, will we put up with it? To string a couple of old phrases together, I know not what course others may take, but as for me and my family, we will Vote in November.