Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday: Fly Fishing

I am writing this from a tiny room in a motel outside Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where I have come to fly fish for trout. We are in a beautiful region of the Appalachian Mountains, with shallow limestone streams everywhere, and, they say, the best trout fishing in the country.

When I was trying to get fly-fishing gear in Montgomery County I discovered that nobody stocks the stuff except for one (expensive) specialty shop in Bethesda. There are fly streams near us, but most people don't bother with it. It's tricky to learn, and a hard way to catch fish, but satisfying in a unique way. I will assume here that you know nothing about fly fishing.

I am fishing with artificial flies, which are essentially fish hooks with bits of feather and fur wrapped around them. Most of them are very tiny -- I bring my reading glasses with me when I do this! Some of the patterns of the flies are ancient, there are particular very specific ways to tie them -- the royal coachman, for instance, has white wings, a body made of peacock herl with a waist of red thread, and a tail that is made from a particular pheasant feather. Most flies are designed to look like the variety of mayfly that is hatching on the stream at the moment, and as there are hundreds of varieties there are of course thousands of imitations. Further, the fly may be tied to imitate the nymph stage of the mayfly after it hatches underwater, the mature fly as it dries its wings on the surface preparing to fly, or the "downwing" stage of the mayfly's short life, after it has completed its mating cycle and fallen back into the water to die. Some flies don't really look like anything from nature, but fish think they look good to eat.

The thing with artificial flies is that they don't really weigh anything, not much more than the hook itself. If you've fished you know that you usually cast by swinging your rod and letting the weight of the bait or the lure carry your line out over the water toward your target. In fly fishing you can't do that because the fly is essentially weightless, so you use a special line that is thick and heavy (but usually one that floats), with the fly tied to a long length of very thin monofilament so the fish won't notice it, and you wave your heavy line in the air over your head, back and forth, finally letting go on a forward stroke so the fly will gracefully land on the water without a splash, to be grabbed by a big fish.

Sometimes the fly lands on the water and no big fish takes it. That happened to me yesterday. Oh well, as we say, it beats working.

Fly fishermen tend to wade out into a stream, partly so there is room behind them to wave the line in the air, and partly because most of us can't cast more than thirty or forty feet, and you might want to get closer to the fish. These streams up here are perfect for wading, the bottom is rocky but even, where I was the water came up around my knees in most places, you wear waders of some sort to keep you dry and that technology works pretty well.

There are so many miles of good streams here and so few fishermen that it is easy to find a spot, even on a Saturday afternoon, all to yourself. I was able to stand in the middle of a beautiful stretch of Spring Creek called Benner Spring, with no one else around to scare the fish -- it was my pleasure to scare the fish entirely on my own. Hiking in, there were bunnies along the path, and squirrels, herons flying overhead. I saw a beautiful scarlet cardinal preening in a sunbeam, and while I was fishing a kingfisher came speeding along, following the water. There are bald eagles in the area but I have not seen any yet.

And of course the fish. There is no happier sound than that of a big fat trout jumping out of the water. Serious authors will tell you the trout is only interested in acquiring nourishment so it can reproduce; I recently read an article that seriously explained that they are not curious, they don't get angry, the only reason they will take your lure is that they want to eat. But I'll tell you, a fish could easily schlurp an insect off the surface of the water, minimizing its energy expenditure, maximizing its caloric profit. Instead, he races to the surface of the stream, grabs the bug in his jaw, and keeps going, flying out of the water and landing again with a big splash. I have to believe he's doing that for the pure fun of it. And, you know, to taunt me.

I didn't catch any fish yesterday, and doubt I will on this trip. I usually don't. I will pay a lot of money for special lines, reels, rods, lures, leaders, a vest, waders, polarized glasses, an out-of-state fishing license. I will gladly throw my stuff in the car and drive with my wife for nearly four hours (which became closer to six, but you don't want to hear about how disorganized I am) to stay in a cheap hotel and eat bad food for the thrill of waving a string in the air on the end of a stick for a few hours while fish jump out of the water all around me. I shouldn't joke, standing knee-deep in a gurgling mountain stream with birds singing and the occasional early autumn leaf catching your eye as it drifts to the water is worth doing. I pity the rest of you, back home in the suburbs.

I began fishing when I was about thirty, for one reason. All my life, I had recurring dreams of fish in the water. I never caught the fish, but I would be traveling to a body of water that had special fish, or I would be standing alongside a pool looking into the water for fish, or a fish would be pulling me somewhere. These are mysterious forces that you can't really see but you know they're there, and to catch them you've got to make them come to you.

Because of my dreams, which I had several times a week for as long as I can remember, I started fishing. I had a friend who fished for bass and I started going out on the boat with him, but I quickly became interested in catching trout on a fly. Okay, I'll tell you the connection, but you won't get it. My beard was turning gray, so I decided to shave it off and start fly-fishing. It all goes together somehow, I'm not going to try to understand it, it was a change in my life and I can't really see anything wrong with it, except that it doesn't make any sense. As if it would be sensible to live your life sensibly.

The water in California where I lived then is different from the water out here. Picture a Western mountain range, the Rockies, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevadas, and then picture an Eastern mountain range. They are geologically different, the water runs down them differently. The forests are different, the ground feels different, they smell different. Fly-fishing grew up in the Eastern United States, well I think it was a Scottish thing first, and though they fly-fish a lot in Montana and Idaho, the classic streams are out here on this side of the country. The flies match these hatches, the techniques are better adapted to these clear rippling streams than to the steeply tumbling roils of icy rapids you find out West. With kids and everything I neglected my fly-fishing over the years, I took the kids fishing plenty but it's not the same, you're untangling their lines and baiting their hooks, and I've only just picked it up again. Life has brought me to the East and now it is a pleasure to come up here to the traditional fly-fishing land to fish in the kinds of streams I always read about.

Oh hey, you should see this motel! There are no live insects in the room, as far as I can see, but this place struggles to meet a minimum standard. There is a bed, a toilet, a shower, a TV, which makes it better than sleeping in the car. And it's cheap. I have never seen a toilet like this. When you pull the handle to flush it, it explodes with a sound like a 747 firing up its engines, no matter how you brace yourself you are not prepared for that sound. The shower produces nearly enough water to wash the soap suds off your skin, management has devised some clever method for not wasting water, though customers here are probably recognizable to the townfolk for our distinctive olfactory aura. And this tops it off, this was cool, facing the motel there is a house with a garage where they keep the door open, and a heavy metal band practices, as far as I can tell, about twenty hours a day. I'm sure they're good, if good means something like "persistent." I wonder if the woman who runs this place pays them to ensure vacancy.

We have breakfast in a cafe where the whole family waits tables and cooks, and last night we sat in the "Hofbrau," which is these days a pizzeria but they didn't want to change the name, and had a beer and talked with the bartender, a college student at a little college around here. Bellefonte seems not to be a big tourist destination, though it is a beautiful little place with great scenery and excellent trout fishing, and I believe there are numerous bed and breakfast places here. The town is known for its Victorian buildings, this is an old town and you get a certain feeling from these big old churches and towering homes and offices. You don't see horses on the street but it wouldn't surprise you if you did.

I'll be back in a couple of days. I can tell you, since I came here I have not wondered once where the President was born. I'm not even sure this town has a newspaper, if they do I have not seen a rack or seen anyone reading it. Like Spring Creek (pronounced "crick") running along Water Street and out to Bald Eagle State Forest, time passes through Bellefonte and just keeps going.


Anonymous Robert said...

Sounds like a great time, Jim. Enjoy.


August 02, 2009 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The train has left the station and there's no turning back", stated the vociferous political commentator on Cable's MSNBC as Vermont, and Iowa joined Massachusetts in the legalization of Same Sex Marriage.

Soon thereafter, New York's Governor Paterson decided to chime in and declare via executive dictate -- reminiscent of medieval decrees -- that New York would follow suit.

The progress of the same-sex marriage agenda stems from the ironic pushback rendered from California, of all places.

Ironically, the heartland of America -- via judicial activist intervention -- embraced same-sex marriage in Iowa while the left coast republic of California, via democratic processes, rejected the idea.

Hence the cultural question of the hour: Is same sex marriage an inevitable reality in the United States?

The fact of the matter is that same-sex marriage celebrations may be a bit presumptuous and the inevitability of such corresponding outcome may be more an exercise of an uber-commited media machine serving as de facto advocates; meanwhile, in reality everything in the body politic of early 21st Century American demographic landscape speaks otherwise.

At the end of the day, the gay minority agenda may end up indefinitely deterred not by the white evangelical Christian right establishment but rather by ethno cultural minorities.

In other words, Blacks and Latinos may end up as the proverbial firewall preventing the advancement of the gay and lesbian agenda.

I quote Bishop Harry Jackson, President of High Impact Coalition: "The attempt by Donna Brazile, Democratic Strategist, and others to frame the same-sex marriage debate within the same context as the African American Civil Rights movement is egregious at best and reprehensible at worst. How in the world can you compare the plight and struggle of African Americans who came to our shores as slaves, were declared less than human, suffered unmentionable abuse, Jim Crow, segregation and still to this day experience discrimination, to the plight of individuals who desire to have government endorse a particular sexual orientation? It's beyond me."

Jackson, an African-American pastor, currently leads the charge in the District of Columbia to reverse recent city council ordinances legalizing same-sex marriage.

After all, Jackson seems to reflect the position of a very prominent African-American, President Barack Obama, who affirmed in the 2008 campaign the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Jackson is not alone.

Ethnic minorities, who in essence make up the base of the Democratic Party, a Party committed to same-sex marriage, overwhelmingly oppose the idea, according to Pew and other research.

Politically, the same-sex marriage agenda may solidify the gay and lesbian community within the canopy of the Democratic Party while simultaneously providing an opening for the Grand Ole Party to finally break away from its White over 50 male memberships and engage minority voters.

August 02, 2009 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could same-sex marriage push Hispanics, Blacks and other ethnic minorities into the ranks of the Republican Party?

Mat Staver believes so.

Staver is dean of Liberty Law School in Lynchburg, Va.

Staver recently launched the Freedom Federation, a broad multi-ethnic, Trans -generational coalition of 20 large Christian organizations committed to the preservation of America's Judeo-Christian Heritage.

"Hispanic and African Americans support traditional marriage even more than White Evangelical according to recent surveys.

This is the opening the Republicans need to engage the minority communities.

The faith based value system that flows within these communities is undeniable.

For example, as it pertains to America's largest minority group, Hispanics, the Republicans lost many as a result of the immigration reform debate.

Same Sex marriage may very well bring them back", declared Staver.

At the end of the day, what may very well stop the same sex marriage agenda in its track, will not be the efforts of repackaged Falwells, Reeds or Robertsons.

The same-sex marriage train may not reach the station of National and Federal acceptance because it did not count with the fact that along the way it needed to pass by the Garcia, Rivera, and Jackson stops.

Stops that may very well halt the same-sex marriage train right in its tracks."

If Democrats know what's good for them, they'll talk back to teacher unions and support school choice.

Once, minorities desert the Democrat Party, they won't be coming back.

And the Democrats won't win many more elections

August 02, 2009 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and here goes the middle class:

"WASHINGTON (Aug. 3) - Two of President Barack Obama's economic heavyweights said middle-class taxes might have to go up to pare budget deficits or to pay for the proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system."

when you campaign on a promise to not raise taxes, the voters remember it

ask W's father

Sir BO, the fabulous one-term wonder

August 03, 2009 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A plea echoed by many of us who check in with your blog on a daily basis: you must do something abut this blog whore who pontificates about anything and everything, except for the topic you have focused on. Enough is enough!

Your wonderful blog today "Sunday: Fly Fishing" was almost totally ruined for me (and I suspect this is this "anonymous" troll's purpose) by his/her/its predictable injection of irrelevant, bitter, sarcastic, and bombastic off-the-topic rants and raves.
Is this your blog site or is it this "anonymous's" blog site? Please moderate this egoist "Anonymous" away from here!

August 03, 2009 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really are scared that what I say about Obama is true, right, Dio?

I'm just trying to stimulate discussion

We ex-hippies from the sixties think debate is an end in itself

I think Jim's fly fishing sounds great

I did it in a stream down near Harrisonburg a couple of years ago but never caught anything

It's an art form

If anyone else is intrigued by Jim's fly fishing getaway and you haven't seen "River Runs Through It', you should check it out.

It was directed by Robert Redford and stars Brad Pitt and Tom Skerrit. It's about a Presbyterian minister who tries to teach his boys about life through fly fishing in Montana. Really great.

Chillax, Dio

August 03, 2009 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

You don't scare anyone, Anon, but your blog-whoring ways intended to annoy Vigilance readers speak volumes about you. Your repeated and deep seated hopes for President Obama to fail are interesting to observe. Is it a sign of racial or political discomfort that you would wish failure on this President and his plan? The more you talk about your wishes, the clearer it becomes.

Mat Staver believes so.

Mat Staver had the good sense to fold up shop and end his law firm's support of the CRC's failed attempt to derail MCPS from implementing a sex education curriculum that teaches respect for individual differences.

"Same Sex marriage may very well bring them [black and minorities] back", declared Staver.

There's that ever hopeful word "may" again. Staver and Co. hope Obama fails to keep high percentages of minorities' support and thinks the GOP "may" be able to use hatred for same sex couples to bring minorities over to the GOP side. No wonder you quote him, you both oppose equal rights for LGBT people and both hope for Obama to fail in some way. That's just sick IMHO.

I seriously doubt Hispanics are going to forget all about the refusal of all but John McCain to show up at the 2008 GOP Presidential candidate debate at Univision. And I seriously doubt Hispanics are going to forget all about what Michael Gerson called The GOP's Ruinous Stance on Immigration and come join the Grand Oldwhitepeoples' Party because of some supposed shared hatred.

And you're wrong about blacks too Anon. Blacks are not going to forgive and forget about the black people Katrina and our GOP controlled government left stranded on their rooftops, and they'll never forget that George W. Bush snubbed invitations to address the NAACP for the first 5 years he was in office and didn't come sucking up to them until the projected GOP losses in the 2006 midterm election became obvious. And I doubt blacks will forget all about the fact that the last GOP administration filed a brief against the University of Michigan's affirmative action plan or had little to say about the Jena 6 injustice. And I doubt African Americans will forget that four 2008 GOP Presidential candidates refused to debate at Morgan State University.

The Gates arrest and reaction have clearly demonstrated that relations between the races are just peachy keen so there's no need for affirmative action plans anymore, don't you agree, Anon?

August 03, 2009 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in the no-free-speech-about-BO, yes-we-can era, CNN is coming under heavy pressure to fire Lou Dobbs for reporting about the controversy over Barry O's place of birth:

"NEW YORK (Aug. 3) -- He's become a publicity nightmare for CNN, embarrassed his boss and hosted a show that seemed to contradict the network's "no bias" brand. And on top of all that, his ratings are slipping.

How does Lou Dobbs keep his job?

It's not a simple answer. CNN insists it is standing behind Dobbs, despite calls for his head from critics of his reporting on "birthers" — those who believe President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States despite convincing evidence to the contrary. The "birthers" believe Obama was born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president.

Dobbs' work has been so unpopular that even Ann Coulter has criticized him.

Dobbs has acknowledged that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

But he gives airtime to disbelievers, and has said the president should try to put questions fully to rest by releasing a long version of his birth certificate.

He's twice done stories on his show after the public leak of a memo from CNN U.S. President Jon Klein saying that "it seems this story is dead."

Klein said those stories were OK because they were about the controversy and weren't actually questioning the facts. But critics suggest Klein is parsing words, that even raising the issue lends it credence.

Dobbs hasn't made it any easier by using his radio show to fight back at critics, who he called "limp-minded, lily-livered lefty lemmings."

He considered going on CNN tormentor Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show to thank him (O'Reilly says the birthers are wrong, but he defended Dobbs' right to talk about it).

"He's embarrassed himself and he's embarrassed CNN," said Brooks Jackson, a former CNN correspondent.

"He brings more than three decades of experience reporting and broadcasting the news," Klein said, "and that's very valuable to a news network."

Dobbs is a CNN original. Except for a two-year break a decade ago, he's been with CNN virtually from the network's beginning. Much of that time was spent anchoring a business newscast that made him hugely influential in the business community and immensely valuable to CNN. Old-timers say the desire of advertisers to be connected with Dobbs and Larry King essentially funded the network for years.

Dobbs is considered among the smartest people at CNN, and also the most personally intimidating.

Dobbs has never been shy about fighting for his point of view. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters for America have called for CNN to take Dobbs off the air"

Anon-B, Barry O will fail. Socialism doesn't work. My only hope is that he isn't successful using smoke and mirrors to delay the political consequences.

Minorities will indeed begin to see, now that Democrats control the White House and Congress, that Democtrats never had their best interests in mind.

Ask the 1700 kids in DC that the Democrats want to pull out of their private schools and force to attend dangerous hellholes.

"The Gates arrest and reaction have clearly demonstrated that relations between the races are just peachy keen so there's no need for affirmative action plans anymore, don't you agree, Anon?"

The public reaction was that the police officer acted correctly to the lack of cooperation from some egghead at Harvard who makes a living out such things and that Obama unfairly attacked the officer's reputation and then had the nerve to imply it was a "teachable" moment.

The "teachable" moment was for Obama, who learned the public isn't going to put up with that crap.

August 03, 2009 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not bored with what you have to say about President Obama...just bored and constantly amazed at your egotism. Once are attempting to divert attention to yourself and side-stepping the issue. Go to your neighborhood bar if you want to "simulate discussion" - discussion, which to you, is nothing more than degrading and insulting others here. Engaging in dialogue with you is akin to getting into a pissing contest with a skunk! I bet you do the same thing with other blog are indeed a blog whore.
You do NOT belong in this have little to nothing to say of importance...and we are very, very tired of your attempts to hijack the blog. It's that simple.

August 03, 2009 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you are indeed a blog whore"

I don't quite understand this metaphor. Anyone who can explain it?

August 03, 2009 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To quote Robert (July 30, 822p.m.):

"Blog Whore--

A person who posts an insane amount of blog posts whether on social networking sites such as MySpace or Nexopia as well as their own personal blogs. These people are known for making blog posts about useless junk no one cares about or will ever likely read."
This is a frequently-used phrase in the blog world.

August 03, 2009 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what Robert said it was.

I was just wondering how that behavior had any correlation to the definition of "whore": "a woman who engages in sexual acts for money".

I just don't understand the analogy.

Are you saying the Anons are compensated for providing services to someone?

Or is it just some random term chosen for shock value?

Please explain.

August 03, 2009 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A whore will do anything you want, any time you want it done, any place you want it done, whether the deed, time, and place are appropriate or not.

Same with blog whores.

August 03, 2009 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Blog whore" is, indeed, a nonsensical metaphor. Our public schools are turning out low functioning literates.

August 03, 2009 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well that definition, in relation to blog whores, makes no sense. Apparently, blog whores post unwanted things. Here you say that a whore does anything you want. Makes no sense.

August 03, 2009 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody pays a blog whore. They offer their services for free, because they enjoy it.

August 03, 2009 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike any other type of "whore".

The term is nonsense.

I read last week that scientists have discovered a new form of matter.

Maybe that's what Robert's brain is made out of.

It's a new type of logic.

One and one don't always equal two.

August 03, 2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger JimK said... must do something abut this blog whore who pontificates about anything and everything, except for the topic you have focused on....

Diogenes, I would have been happier if someone had posted a comment suggesting a good bend in Spring Creek for catching big fish, but alas the usual occurred. I deleted one completely vacuous comment yesterday, but as you know my tendency is to allow the discussion to roam as it will most of the time.

The good part is that this blog is one of the very few places where the two sides of the culture wars talk to each other. Granted, the "talking to each other" amounts to yelling across a chasm most of the time, but I would not be interested in hosting an environment for like-minded people to congratulate one another in a circular manner.

The greatest benefit of someone like our current troll is in reminding the rest of us that such people actually exist. That isn't much of a benefit, though, given the amount of noise they generate.

A perfect example is Anon's statement that Ann Coulter has proof that a question was planted at a press conference. First of all, can you believe that anyone would read Ann Coulter or cite her? But more tellingly, and more typically, the statement is thrown out there with no support, when asked what the proof is Anon just says there is some, and that's satisfactory for him or her.

I delete comments that are entirely irrelevant or personally offensive, and I have been known to delete them just to trim down the noise but I hate to do that. It is interesting to see how our side can manage to deal with the interruptions -- some here ignore them, some have taken the challenge to respond point by point, to wear down the groundless assertions one at a time. I hate to think we need me to ban somebody to maintain order here, we ought to be able to work it out somehow and maintain an interesting dialog.

If I may opine, it seems to me that our inability to deal with Anon trolls is a microcosmic example of liberals' difficulties beating conservatives in public "discourse" -- witness the recent memo detailing how teabaggers should disrupt public debate with questions about Obama's birthplace, distracting rather than engaging a speaker who is trying to discuss issues and policies. We have to learn how to deal with that, because as we saw for eight long years, the strategy of disrupting and misconstruing can win elections and lead to seriously negative consequences for our government and our people. I would love to see our online community reach equilibrium on its own, without me deleting and banning. Maybe someone has some ideas.


August 03, 2009 1:16 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


I have no ideas, but it is not difficult to just scroll down when the posts become annoying.

The political strategies here are very clear. The Obama Administration came into office facing urgent economic crises far greater than it anticipated, but made the decision not to cast aside the basic promises of the campaign. Taking the long view, the Administration correctly assessed that dealing with health care was something that had to be done sooner rather than later.

How to do it the best possible way, given the current political climate is difficult. And the GOP has figured out that if it can derail any program, then many of those who voted for Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2008 will conclude that it does not matter who you vote for -- nothing will ever get better. That is, largely, what happened in 1994. With an incredibly low turnout, the 190-20% of the voting population who voted for Republicans enabled Gingrich & Co. to take over the Congress, resulting in 6 years of Clinton just playing defense. That is what the GOP hopes to create again.

Obama clearly understands this, and will do everything he can to get the Democrats in Congress to reach a consensus to make progress on health care. The Blue Dogs, hopefully, will understand that all the campaign contributions in the world from health insurance companies will not enable them to get reelected if their previous supporters give up on the political process.

Health care is very complicated, and there are strong arguments on all sides of how to make progress. What happens in the next few months will be the test of Obama's skills, Congress' wisdom, and the maturity and commitment of the electorate.

August 03, 2009 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What happens in the next few months will be the test of Obama's skills, Congress' wisdom, and the maturity and commitment of the electorate."

David's quite right here.

It's going to be very interesting.

That's what's so great about America.

Never a dull moment!

August 03, 2009 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those still clinging to quaint notions of the American ideal, these have been a faith-shaking 10 years. Just as evolutionary science once got in the way of creationists' catechism, so has politics now undermined patriots' naive belief that the United States is a functioning democracy.

The 21st century opened with a handful of Supreme Court puppets appointing George W. Bush president after he lost the popular vote -- and we all know the costs in blood and treasure that insult wrought. Now, the decade closes with another cabal of stooges assaulting the "one person, one vote" principle -- and potentially bringing about another disaster.

Here we have a major congressional push to fix a healthcare system that leaves one-sixth of the country without coverage. Here we have 535 House and Senate delegates elected to give all 300 million of us a voice in the solution. And here we have just 13 of those delegates holding the initiative hostage.

In the Senate, both parties have outsourced healthcare legislation to six Finance Committee lawmakers: Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The group recently announced it is rejecting essential provisions like a public insurance option that surveys show the public supports. Meanwhile, seven mostly Southern House Democrats have been threatening to use their Commerce Committee votes to gut any healthcare bill, regardless of what the American majority wants.

This, however, isn't about the majority. These lawmakers, hailing mostly from small states and rural areas, together represent only 13 million people, meaning that those speaking for just 4 percent of America are maneuvering to impose their healthcare will on the other 96 percent of us.

Census figures show that the poverty rates are far higher and per-capita incomes far lower in the 13 legislators' specific districts than in the nation as a whole. Put another way, these politicians represent exactly the kinds of districts whose constituents would most benefit from universal healthcare. So why are they leading the fight to stop -- rather than pass -- reform?

Because when tyranny mixes with legalized bribery, constituents' economic concerns stop mattering.

Thanks to our undemocratic system and our corrupt campaign finance laws, the healthcare industry doesn't have to fight a 50-state battle. It can simply buy a tiny group of congresspeople, which is what it's done. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health interests have given these 13 members of Congress $12 million in campaign contributions -- a massive sum further enhanced by geography.

Remember, politicians trade favors for reelection support -- and the best way to ensure reelection is to raise money for TV airtime (read: commercials). In rural America, that airtime is comparatively cheap because the audience is relatively small. Thus, campaign contributions to rural politicians like these 13 buy more commercials -- and, consequently, more political loyalty.

The end result is an amplifier of tyranny: precisely because the undemocratic system unduly empowers legislators from sparsely populated (and hence cheap) media markets, industry cash can more easily purchase tyrannical obstruction from those same legislators. In this case, that means congresspeople blocking healthcare reform that would most help their own voters.

Of course, there is talk of circumventing the 13 obstructionists and forcing an un-filibuster-able vote of the full Congress. Inside the Washington palace, the media court jesters and political aides-de-camp have reacted to such plans by raising predictable charges of improper procedure, poor manners, bad etiquette and other Versailles transgressions.

But the real crime would be letting the tyrants block that vote, trample democracy and kill healthcare reform in the process.

August 03, 2009 1:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home