It’s a beautiful day in Missoula, Montana, and I have spent the better part of the morning watching a man hack away at the eighty year-old willow tree next door. Based on the sheer quantity of cracking sounds, saw-binding, and last-minute-falling-limb-out-of-the-way-jumpng, I would say that he is not so much a tree surgeon as a chainsaw owner, but this is America, dammit. We don’t tell people that they can’t do something based on who they are, or where they were born, or how much money they make, or whether they’ve had any formal training, or how many times they swing a running chainsaw past their femoral artery in a way that makes even the dog jump nervously. That’s how they do things in England, and we didn’t have a tea party in Boston in 1773 just so the ignorant could be prevented from taking decisive action. No, the tree of liberty must be trimmed periodically, using a Stihl that’s way too small for the job and starting from the bottom up for some reason. That’s how nature renews itself, probably, and that’s how America stays strong, or at the very least extremely loud. You can either stand on the balcony with your coffee and watch, like a sissy, or you can get right up in there and start cutting at stuff and felling enormous limbs onto the chain link fence, like a patriot/unlicensed contractor. I think you know which you’d rather be, and we at Combat! blog do, too. Won’t you join us?
First and foremost, if the name Alan Grayson doesn’t mean anything to you, it should. He’s the freshman Democrat from Florida who recently remarked on the House floor that the Republican health care plan amounts to “don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.” Now he’s the object of a censure resolution from Tom Price (R—GA,) but he still refuses to apologize. After months of “debate” in which Republicans mercilessly attacked Democratic proposals without offering any reform ideas of their own, Grayson believes his party should be playing offense. “One of the responsibilities we have when we’re in the majority is from time to time to be the Speaker pro tem[pore],” he says. “And it’s been my misfortune to have to listen to them attack our bill now for months and drag out our work on this bill endlessly, while according to Harvard scientists, 47,000 Americans die every year for lack of health insurance.” Grayson has a point, and it’s one that’s been troubling Combat! blog for some time: Why can’t a party that controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress even draft, much less pass, a bill that has become the centerpiece of its agenda? The Democrats have sixty senators, for god’s sake—they could nationalize Major League Baseball and declare Friday Silly Hat Day if they had the guts to do it. Instead, they seem terrified at the prospect of alienating—or simply proving wrong—the 41% of the electorate that still believes Obama’s reform plan involves death panels.
Then again, maybe that triumph of sheer ignorance, like the rest of the monolithic stupidity that seems suddenly to have overshadowed the nation, is pretty much imaginary. That’s the contention of David Brooks, who believes that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the rest of the right’s Straw Man Death Squad influence the media much more than they do the actual population. Brooks points out that two years ago, right-wing pundits had Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney in a dead heat for the 2008 Republican nomination. The mainstream media was fretting over Rush Limbaugh’s urging the GOP faithful to vote for Hillary in Democratic primaries—a genius plan that failed only because it didn’t, you know, occur. Now Glenn Beck is on the cover of Time magazine, and a fixture at Combat! blog,* and to have become an all-powerful demagogue in a society gone dangerously retarded. To which Brooks replies, “Really?” The question perennial question one asks when watching Beck—”How could anyone believe this [shoeshine]?”—might best be answered with “They would have to be imagined by a news reporter.” Don’t believe the hype, says David Brooks, and I hope he’s right. With any luck, the man does not make America stupid so much as he encourages the already stupid to talk louder.
Then again, one stupid man with a gun can change history. Ask Yitzhak Rabin; he ran afoul of his country’s right-wing fringe in 1995, and as Thomas Friedman points out, some of the parallels between mid-nineties Israel and late-oughts America are eerie. The reformist leaders of both countries faced political opponents who not only attacked their policies but also sought to delegitimize them personally. Rabin was accused of treason and depicted as an SS officer—something you would think the Israelis, of all people, would have the taste not to do. Friedman points out that the right has begun to argue not that Obama is a bad President, but that he is an illegitimate one, for reasons ranging from the status of his citizenship to the Constitutional illegality of the majority of the federal government. Plus, Obama is literally Hitler. Whether Glenn Beck’s nation of frustrated anti-federalists is real or not, he shouldn’t be whipping up the lunatic fringe. It is not the mainstream media’s job to legitimize every crazy idea.
No, the mainstream media’s job is to propel to stardom slick douchebags like this guy. Probably this is not news to anyone else, but that man is Terry Fator, the ventriloquist and cloying stage personality who won the most recent season of America’s Got Talent. He’s recently signed the largest Vegas contract ever awarded to a ventriloquist.** Meanwhile, the Ukraine—a nation that can’t even successfully insist on not being Russia, half the time—has produced this:
I weep for the future of this country.
* I don’t have an intern, so I’m not sure how our circulation compares to that of Time magazine. Maybe if we ran more stories about urban superpredators.
** Unless you consider Frank Sinatra fingering Ann Margret under a roulette table an act of ventriloquism.