Lights, Camera, Revolution!

I was listening to that incredibly talented entertainer Ricky “Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me” Roberts this morning  and got to hear one of  Bobbo “Its Common Sense Because I Say So” Basso’s Tom Paine takeoffs which inspires the following vignette:

INT STUDIO CHIEF’S OFFICE—DAY

THE SCENE: A standard Studio Mogul’s lair, self-aggrandizing celeb photos on the wall, lots of chrome and gleam and an acre-size executive desk.   The MOGUL, sits feet up behind the desk, requisite stogy clenched in teeth.  The WRITER stands before the desk, schoolboy at attention, making his pitch.

WRITER: I’m tellin’s ya, man, this story has it all.  It’s Mister Smith Goes to Washington meets BraveheartMeet John Doe meets Pulp Fiction….

MOGUL: (intrigued) Tell me more….

WRITER: Okay – Act One:  the handsome charismatic prince sweeps the country off its feet, wowing them with his repertoire of multi-syllabic sweet nothings…

MOGUL: Who you thinking’?  Pitt?  Clooney?

WRITER: No, no, here’s the twist.  The guy’s black .

MOGUL: Oh, Freeman.

WRITER: No, younger and hipper.  More a Don Cheadle or  a Denzel. So anyway, Act One he wins the country and sweeps into the White House

MOGUL: Black guy president?  So what, the world ends?  World always ends when a black guy’s president.

WRITER: No, no, that’s too cliche. I mean America as we know it almost ends.  But the American people come to their senses and save it.  So in Act Two  the country turns on him like a woman scorned!

MOGUL: Classic! Boy meets girl, loses girl.  So what brings him down?  Sex Scandal?  Corruption?  Corrupt sex scandal—I really like those? Bloody controversial war?

WRITER: No, bigger ‘n that.  The dude pushes through—are you ready for this—a healthcare reform.

MOGUL:  In America?  Get real.  Adolescent wizards and vampires are more believable.

WRITER: I didn’t  say comprehensive reform. Naw, just a little reform. You know, kinda a watered down Massachusetts thing that that guy with the really  good hair did before he ran for president.  Nothing as radical as that Nixon dude or Truman  talked about, for godsakes.  I’m not talkin’ fantasy here.   So, anyway, it gets it past and then all these mobs take to the streets screaming about how he’s a dictator bringin’ godless communism to America.

MOGUL: Serves the commie bastard right.  So in Act III he sees the error of his ways, begs America for forgiveness, repeals his ill fated reform and wins the girl—I mean the people—back!

WRITER: No, no.  Too obvious. The twist is in Act III the people, now driven  absolutely insane by this guy giving healthcare to millions of people rebel.  They take to the streets and storm the capitol.  When they’re done a new Republican congress populated by really good looking white people with really nice teeth (thanks to the dental plan their corporate employers provided them as top rank executives)  takes over.  They impeach the young, brash prince—and his trusty old F-bombing sidekick and make their handsome white Speaker with really good hair the new Prez.  Then the guy gets rid of the healthcare reform (and Medicare, social security, welfare, all environmental laws, meat inspection and the like). As the people rejoice in the streets (of course, a lot of them are living there by then) the music comes up – something really patriotic and uplifting…

MOGUL: How about Dixie?  That’s a catchy tune!

WRITER: Love it!  So the music comes up and we fade to black. Whadda ya think?

MOGUL: Love it, man, love it.  One thing—you think maybe you can tweak it so the healthcare reform turns out to have unleashed a virus or something that turns normal, rational people into invective-spitting deranged anti-government zombies?  Or even better, Libertarian Vampires ready to feed on the body politic? You know, Advise and Consent meets 27 Days Later.

WRITER: Don’t see why not.

MOGUL: Outstanding.  Only one problem though…

WRITER: What’s that boss?

MOGUL: We make fiction at this studio, not documentaries.  Whadda think we are—the History Channel?

FADE OUT

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Broken Cookie

Oh, what a difference a day makes. On Monday all the Democrats were wringing their hands in grief over the impending loss of Ted Kennedy’s long-held liberal seat in the Senate to Republican insurgent elephantista Scott Brown. Losing the seat would be a repudiation of Barack Obama and his policies among independents and disaffected voters, they all cried. Losing the seat following Obama personally campaigning for Martha Coakley would mean that his coattails had been shorn away. Losing the seat the day before his first anniversary as Commander in Chief would mean not only that the honeymoon was over, but also that the public was considering filing a petition of divorce. Losing the seat meant losing the filibuster-busting 60th vote in the Senate and, with it, the likelihood of passing Obama’s cornerstone healthcare reform this term, next term or any term. Losing the seat meant Obama now had the best chance of being a one-term Democrat since Bill Clinton blew healthcare reform back in ’93.

Woooh. That was a close one. But, as I boldly predicted in my fortune cookie blog Monday, Coakley won in a squeaker. In retrospect, I can’t imagine what all the hand-wringing was about. Did people really think the Democrats would actually take the Kennedy seat for granted and not find the best candidate possible to fill in his giant liberal shoes? Did people really think the Democrats would nominate someone with the personal touch of a cucumber and the political savvy of a stone to run for the a seat formerly held by one of the most gregarious, hand-pumping politicians ever to come from the Bay State? Did people really think the Democrats would run with a candidate who didn’t even know which team Curt Shilling played for? Moreover, did people really think Obama’s whiz-bang White House political machine would actually send their man up to the Bay State to campaign unless their own private polling showed that the thing was in the bag?

I mean, pleazzzz. These are the Democrats we’re talking about here, not a bunch of just-off-the-turnip-truck jokesters who couldn’t pass a bill holding a super-majority for the life of their party. These guys don’t blow elections by resting on weak Massachusetts candidates with the personality of a codfish. These guys don’t blow successive presidencies by trying to run healthcare reform straight down the middle into the unyielding Republican defensive line, giving up the ball at the next midterm election. This is the party of Carter! Gore! Kerry! Have a little faith, people.

No, the egg is certainly on the face of all those doubters who didn’t believe the vaunted White House machine would roll over this one as easily as a semi running over the Pillsbury Dough Boy, yessir. And After the Dems finish with healthcare reform, there’s nothing stopping them. Minimum-wage legislation, Wall Street-bonus bashing, reversing the 30-year slide in middle class income-level job creation? There’ll be no stoppin’ ‘em now that True Shoot Annie Oakley Coakley has stapled Scott Brown to the Cosmo centerfold…

Hold on, this just in.  What’s that…Brown?…By five percent?…Really?…Oh.

My apologies, all. I don’t know what I was thinking. (Damn you, California medicinal marijuana law!) Apparently the Democrats ARE THAT STUPID. And now, year one into his administration, Ba- “Rock the Status Quo” Obama is reduced to Bill Clinton sans philandering, waiting for the Republicans to overreach after winning the House next November and then nominating a right-wing ultra-conservative to alienate every independent in the country in 2012. Luckily for Obama, the odds are probably 8:3 in his favor on that one.

Oh well, at least I can take solace this weekend watching the Bolts take down the Colts this Sunday. After the trouncing they gave the Jets last week, there’s no stopping the chargin’ Chargers, despite what any party-pooping naysayers might have thought. I mean, people really think the Chargers would actually choke again in round one of the playoffs, throwing multiple interceptions and missing easy field goals……………

Boxed Out

The new movie “The Box” is out in theaters  and is doing decent business. Though watching Frank Langella play yet another spooky character—but I’ve already consigned it to my DVD rental list for the future.  I read the classic story the film is based on decades ago so the film does not promise to offer much surprise.  And besides, I’ve been watching Congress and the American public live “The Box” for years now.  It really is an overused story line  (kinda like Jennifer Aniston playing plain girls who just can’t find love).   It’s one of our favorite national plot lines.

Take healthcare reform. (Please. Ba-dump-bump.) Numerous studies tell us that lack of universal health coverage in America costs thousands of lives a year.  But does the debate focus on the fact that more mothers and infants die in America from preventable causes that weren’t prevented due to lack of affordable health care than in any other country in the developed world?  (And I just LOVE that canard that everyone in America has healthcare—they just have to go to an emergency room.  Emergency rooms are where you go when your problem has developed into an emergency—the kind of thing that can kill you.  That’s why lots of people die in emergency rooms, including lots of eclampsic mothers with metabolic toxemia who couldn’t afford routine prenatal care.  And why very few people—like mothers—die in the waiting rooms of their primary doctor while leafing through three year old Time magazines. )   Does the healthcare debate in America focus on the fact that our “best healthcare system in the world” places Americans 42nd in global life expectancy lottery?  That’s right, all you jokers of jingoism, put on those big ‘ol foam fingers and repeat after me:  USA 42! USA 42! Which puts us   not only behind all those Europeans with their (say the word! Say it dripping with venom!) SOCIALIST medical systems, not to mention (but let’s)  Jordan, South Korea and the Cayman Islands too!  Does the national debate focus on any of these legitimate, rational, life and death concerns?

Of course not. 

Our healthcare debate focuses not on the people who ARE dying but on the people who won’t die—at least for lack of government-provided healthcare.  Meanwhile, while we obsessed about granny’s being hauled before death panels their grandchildren and great grandchildren were left to face the highest risk of dying in childbirth or in childhood in the developed world.

And why?  Because we’ve put healthcare, like much of our public policy these past decades, in The Box.  The same Box as in a movie.  You know, the Box where, if you push the button, thousands of strangers will die, but you get to keep your own current affordable healthcare?  The Box where, if you chose, you can keep your taxes from going up even if it means somebody’s wife or baby will die? A Somebody who exists only to you as a statistic, whose  pain, suffering  and anguish at their mortal extinguishment has been rendered a moral abstraction.  So you can gather all the perceived benefits of pushing the button—even if these benefits prove as illusory as the victims of your actions prove real.  

That Box.

That is, basically, the box we’ve place the healthcare debate in.  So the large majority of us can keep our healthcare as is and pay no additional monies we’re going to push a button in Washington and thereby consign thousands to death.  Simple as that.  And we’ll do it  even though, under most of the discussed plans, the large majority of us  will keep our healthcare as is and pay no additional monies.  In the context of the Box, this is like pushing a button to kill someone and then getting nothing in return. 

In other words, it’s freakin’ nuts.  Not to mention incredibly immoral but, hey, why be picky.

The Box is nothing new in American politics.  We’ve done the Box on the environment, for example,  endless times. The Bush Administration allowed increased arsenic into water supplies; mining companies profit, children drinking contaminated water die. The Bush Administration  watered down the recommendation of government scientists and allowed coal-burning power plants to emit millions of additional tons of fine particulate pollution into the air.  Power plants—and ratepayers—profit; thousands will die from lung-diseases caused or exacerbated by the decision.  Buttons pushed.    When we have had the chance to push the costs of our own benefits onto other people—particularly weaker minorities—we Americans just love to push the button.

As the brouhaha over breast examinations prove, however, one we identify ourselves as the potential victim at the other end of our own button pushing and abstractions become personal realities, we don’t like pushing the button.  We push the Other Button in the Other Box, the one where someone out there—a bunch of statiscal abstractis–pays the money to give us the things we want. 

While we’re playing yet another round of The Box game in Washington over the next few months it might, however, behoove us to remember how the story—and, spoiler alert, the movie (though if you can’t guess the end from the trailer you just ain’t trying)–concludes.  The moral of the Box is that we are all connected to the button.  Push it and someone else may suffer but you, by your own moral failings, shall suffer, too.  Ask not for whom the bell, etc. etc.  It’s simple as that. 

Kill healthcare reform this year and the blood of that slaying—the thousands of Americans–mostly poor,  mostly young, a lot of pregnant women and even more precocious little babies—will die.  And that blood is on all of our hands.  But, as healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, as employers shed providing healthcare benefits even faster than shedding workers, watch out.  You push the Kill Healthcare Bill button this year, America, and next year—or the year after or year after that—you may wake up to find Frank Langella and his all too normal revenge-seeking zombies on your doorstep. You may find yourself with a cancellation notice from your insurance provider or a pink slip from your boss.  You may find yourself with a condition that could have been oh so easily treated six weeks or six months before but, for lack of primary care you are forced to queue up in an overcrowded emergency room.

You may find yourself dead.  Our your child. Or your grandchild.  That Frank Langella–he  doesn’t like to be messed with.

As we enter into the season of gift-giving full bore this week, let’s remember the true price tag of some of the boxes we’re trying to give out right now.  Like the healthcare box.  Sometimes nice little presents for baby and me come in a box.   Sometimes it’s death. 

So which are we giving this year, America?