December 2013
This issue's contents Current issue Index Search

Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace


Today John Boehner said government-run health insurance is interfering with "the best health care system delivery system in the world". He is too smart to believe these words unless they are modified by adding two more: "for billionaires". The dishonesty of the Republican rhetoric lies exactly there, in that they know the number of people out there who can't afford any kind of serious care (emergency surgery, chemo, dialysis etc), and have nothing to offer them except lies explicit and by omission (characterizing health insurance as a liberty issue, urging them to be free riders paid for by everyone else).

MSNBC surprises

I had waited in vain for anyone in the media to point out what I expressed in the previous paragraph, that Republicans urging people to refuse coverage are not maintaining a right to turn them away at the ER, but rather are perpetuating a system in which you and I pay for their "free" care, a dishonestly un-Republican solution, really more socialistic than the Affordable Care Act. I finally heard Ed explain it on MSNBC's "The Ed Show", using his wife's ovarian cancer ($127,000 in payments from Blue Cross/Blue Shield) as an example. He also referred to "mainstream media", implying he thinks he is not, and he called out President Obama for being too timorous in a D.C. news conference (while praising the greater strength he showed the same day in an Ohio speech). Just as I believe Fox News is a flack for the Republicans, I had assumed MSNBC was flacking for the Democrats. I had never heard anyone on the channel criticize the President before, though he did it in an equivocal way, doling out an equivalent amount of praise. I'm confused.


Knowing my own government is likely spying on me all the time doesn't make me feel warm, or protected, or safe, or confident that any disaster has been averted, or even that its all being done competently. I do think about how much health care the NSA budget could buy.

An ACA success story

In the end, despite some misadventures with the NY web site, I am an Affordable Health Care Act success story: I bought much better coverage for a bit less money. In the midst of all the lies and misdirections, people are quietly getting insurance, or better insurance.


There was some blithering this week from the wackier breed of Congressional Republicans about impeaching the president. What loons they are. Newt Gingrich set this trope free in the world and its still haunting the right: a high crime and misdemeanor in their book doesn't mean ordering torture, but simply the act of being someone they don't like, having progressive beliefs they detest, and trying, as an elected president is entitled to do, to advance them by every legal and peaceful means available.

An Obama interview

I just watched Chris Matthews interview the President on MSNBC. I stopped watching presidents on television after Nixon; one had the sense he was about to melt down, not metaphorically but the way a nuclear-powered android might do in a chilling science fiction adventure. Reagan was way too fatuous and self loving, Clinton a bit clownish, Bush embarrassingly stupid. Watching Obama, I was again impressed he never breaks a sweat. How does he do it? Its really bewildering that he never seems angry or even riled up, never is off keel, never seems to take anything personally.

At one moment, he said that Snowden had raised some issues about NSA worth consideration. I agree. If we prosecute people like him and Bradley Manning, how will we ever know what the secret folk are doing? Obama promised to correct some of the outrages, defended the need for surveillance weakly, and claimed the NSA really has no interest in reading all of our mail.

Nelson Mandela

One of the most memorable moments of my life was, in a hotel somewhere on a business trip, watching him on TV, walking out of prison when apartheid ended. He was a wonderful man, quiet, calm, decent, not really a politician at all, and whatever his earlier relationship to violence had been, apparently refined, concentrated, made wise by suffering and imprisonment: a sort of perfect president without an ego. It is a shame that the people who have followed him in office have been more selfish, political and violent; but then it always happens. Trees never grow into heaven, as the Scandinavians say. No matter what has happened, there is no justification for the brutal system which came before, or for anything other than self determination. Whether democracies last, whether they are always overturned by capitalism, whether the pigs always become indistinguishable from the farmers, are questions being worked out here in the U.S. as much as there in South Africa.