Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The tangled web of deceit

You can glean golden nuggets of wisdom in the darndest places. For example, how many of us have heard of that old chestnut “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive” and don’t have the slightest idea where it came from? A few people might jump up and say that it is a quote by Sir Walter Scott, and they would be correct. What of his works is it derived from? If you said either of his best-known works, Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, you would be wrong, but you shouldn’t feel ashamed just because those books are acknowledged to be classics and you’ve never read them, and probably shouldn’t. Those OLD books; even Don Quixote, which was very amusing at first, ran out of steam after a hundred pages, and I ended-up tossing it aside. If you want to read a book that is not only an exciting and absorbing read, but is also true, I would suggest Jean Denis-Bredin’s account of the Alfred Dreyfus affair; I throw that out there because I can’t believe that no has tried to make an epic movie out of this. Maybe Steven Spielberg can get on the case.

But I’m way off track here, farther than you think (the above quote came from Scott’s epic poem Marmion, if it makes you feel smarter to know that). The point here is about deception. It is my belief that the Seattle Times and its Washington D.C. bureau reporter, Kyung M. Song, was trying to deceive us recently. Song was responsible for an overly fawning story on Republican freshwoman congressperson Jaime Herrera Beutler from Washington’s 3rd District (probably at the direction of the Times’ editors), which had been held by Democrat Brian Baird for 12 years. According to Song’s story, after just two months in office Beutler has proven herself to be a “pragmatist” who wants to “set her own course,” and has a voting record that indicates “independence.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but I’ll get to that later.

Who did Beutler learn her trade from? State senator Joseph Zarelli—who is the principle force behind the state legislature’s current anti-immigrant hysteria—for one. Zarelli is a right-wing extremist, although nobody in the media wants to call him that. At the very least he is a hypocrite; one may recall that this man who seemingly opposes any and all public services himself once collected unemployment insurance while he was pulling in a salary as a legislator; he also blamed his arrest in 1983 for driving with a suspended license and cocaine possession on prejudice against Italian-Americans (can’t you just smell the acrid scent of hypocrisy?). Today, Gov. Christine Gregoire is more or less Zarelli’s lapdog, licking his feet to whatever more services cuts he wants to carve out of the budget while demanding more tax cuts for his corporate pals. Government is supposed to serve the public, not the private, but whose counting?

Who else? U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to whom Beutler was a senior legislative aid. Suffice it to say that Progressive Punch’s score of 4 percent out of a 100 indicates she is somewhere in the extreme reaches of right-wingdom. Beutler’s rating is 9 percent, but give her time; as state Democratic leader Dwight Pelz told an apparently incredulously Song, "I don't care about her rhetoric as much as her votes. You can't have it both ways." So we know who Beutler’s “mentors” were; during her brief tenure in the state legislature, Beutler was known as pro-business, anti-labor, pro-gun, anti-environment. In a nutshell, a typical visionless Republican.

So how did this “ethnic” candidate get elected to the Congress in a district that was evenly split ideologically? Immigration was a hot-button issue during the 2010 season, but Herrera (as she was known then) barely mentioned it. Despite having a Latino father, she in fact opposes immigration reform. So why did she play “pragmatist” and not discuss it? Although the 3rd District is 90 percent white, it’s largest minority group are Latinos, about 5 percent of the population. The 3rd District voted in the slimmest of majorities for George Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Obama in 2008. Latino voters may have made the difference for Obama, and the district did elect a Democrat to represent them the previous six elections. Did Herrera think that as long as she kept quiet on the immigration issue, Latino voters would be fooled into voting for her just for her name? Is this “pragmatism”—or cynicism and opportunism?

After the election, Herrera started calling herself Beutler, her husband’s name. Why did she do this now? Maybe because during all the anti-immigrant hysteria, it was suggested that keeping it for the time being would “prove” that the Republican Party was “inclusive” and not the hate-mongering bunch they are. But now Beutler (who actually looks more Anglo than ethnic), could throw-off the ethnic label and embrace the Anglo world she wholly desires to identified with; like Michelle Malkin and Clarence Thomas, she doesn’t want to identified with “them.” Her handlers no doubt believe that having used Latino voters once, she doesn’t need them again. Now that she has been elected to Congress, she can prove to her 90 percent white district that she is just as white as they are.

Beutler, of course, voted with the rest of the House Republicans to repeal the health care reform package (she was “delivering on a promise’ she made to what is essentially a vocal minority who oppose anything identified with Obama). Thus she is merely like many Republicans in this state where right-wing extremist rhetoric doesn’t play, no matter how it is couched; Seattle-based KOMO radio has a decidedly right-wing slant which doesn’t “fit-in” with the alleged liberal culture of the city, so commentator John Carlson (and former Republican gubernatorial candidate) tries to sounds “reasonable”—even when it is easy to see that beneath the façade is your typical muddle-brained right-wing extremist with little of substance to say. I was listening to him the other day in a discussion with someone from the Wall Street Journal concerning health care reform. Carlson claimed that Republicans are trying to have an “adult” conversation with the “American People,” when at every turn we see nothing but pit bulls who bite for no reason save instinctive malice. The so-called “Obamacare—the particulars of which were actually constructed by Congressional Democrats—is complex because it needed to cover every hole that private industry would poke in it to avoid adhering to its goals. Republicans—whose commentary when it is “intelligible” is most closely associated with bathroom wall banter—is merely to “live within a budget” which is which is little more than empty rhetoric to satisfy the ignorant masses; if Republicans are serious about cutting out government pension plans, then they should cut out their own voluntary since they don’t need one anyways. Finding new ways to pay for needed programs that address the underlying structural weaknesses of the institutions and infrastructure that maintain a civil society (that private industry will not or cannot address) cannot be countenanced; in pursuit of a visionless ideology, Republicans ultimate creation is how Voltaire once characterized Earth: The privy of the universe.

Having voted to repeal “Obamacare,” what empty Republican gestures is Beutler supporting? A “shopping cart” of health care plans that range from expensive with lower co-pays and deductibles that only the well-off can afford (and thus ultimately pay much lower bills) and the “cheap” than the low-income can afford but with high co-pays and deductibles (and ultimately far higher bills); their only other ideas are tort reform and allowing the purchase of health plans across state lines. Of course, this ignores the differences in health care costs between states; the “health insurance” my company offers is technically illegal in Washington, but is legal in low-services Texas where the company’s situs is. An acquaintance of mine also told me an amusing story about the only time someone attempted to sue his doctor-brother for malpractice; the grandson of a 95-year-old patient who died of cancer sued his brother for not properly telling the deceased the dangers of smoking. The grandson refused to meet him in his office; he preferred to rent a conference room at a hotel. When the grandson learned that the cost of such a rental was $1,500-an-hour, he decided to vacate the suit, apparently there was no easy money in it after all. There are also in fact companies in existence today that offer a smorgasbord of health plans; I checked them out myself. If you are a low-income person working for a business that doesn’t provide health care coverage or “low cost” health insurance, it’s a lose-lose situation. Carlson also took a patronizing tone when he referred to “the poor” in regard to his contempt of Medicaid; like all “reasonable”-sounding Republicans, his “bite” is far more sinister than his “bark.” As an aside, while discussing the possibility of a federal government shutdown this weekend, Carlson's stablemate Ken Schram joked about how "non-essential" personnel like Carlson and himself were the kind of people who ought to be out of a job first; too bad it is just a "joke."

House Republicans are now being called “courageous” for proposing a $6 trillion budget cutting scheme; it's yet another cheap stunt to satisfy "the base." Once more the media and the “experts” are lulled into being gulled not only by the right’s political cynicism and racial hatred, but its long-term goal: Control of the country by elites and corporate interests. This is why some prefer to call this a "republic" instead of a "democracy." Of course the Republican “plan” is skimpy on details: The people who vote Republican are excessively bored by details; they prefer talk that reflects their own self-pity. They think in simple terms; if something doesn’t affect them directly right now, it isn’t a problem. If they can’t see it, it isn’t a problem. There is a new Fox News commercial: “Moving Forward” is its catchphrase; it was aired in the midst of a History Channel show on the country’s crumbling infrastructure. As we recall, the Republicans opposed all of Obama’s stimulus plan—including that which funded infrastructure, even if it did create jobs; how can a country “move forward” when it’s falling apart?

This is the worldview that Beutler and Republicans share in common; it can’t be couched in “moderate’ terms to serve a newspaper’s gender agenda. If someone doesn’t make enough money for his or her family, they don’t need help according to the people Beutlers has attached herself to; they should eat less, or resort to some other extremity. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” comes to mind; that is the extent of Republican “compassion” for their fellow man.

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