Wednesday, July 22, 2009

D.C. Droppings -- XVII

Squeaky Gates
I am sorry for what happened to Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, arrested for disorderly conduct outside his home after police arrived to investigate a report of a burglary, which turned out to be him trying to force his way into his own house due a lock malfunction.
Gates not only is black, he is a historian and the most famous, honored and accomplish black person in academia. In fact, when I saw a quick Internet headline about a professor arrested, I assumed it was that buffoon Cornell West, who left Harvard in a snit because then president Larry Summers had the temerity to ask him about his level of actual scholarly work.

But in the hoo-hah about Gates, I have to wonder about his own scholarship after reading he now plans to undertake a “study” and produce a documentary film about racial profiling. What kind of scholarship is it to undertake a study and produce a documentary on a question you already know the answer to? Will Gates study the issue and find to his surprise that there is less racial profiling than he thought? Does Elie Wiesel forget?

A Washington Post writer has an interesting take on the situation such as Gates faced, and, frankly, while I don’t think it is constitutionally possible to disturb the peace of a police officer, I do suspect that the “Don’t you know who I am” response is not likely to make the police go away.

Finally, President Obama had one of the more hilarious lines I have ever heard at a presidential press conference. Asked about the Gates incident, he tried to be Mr. Everyman, Mr. Homeowner, and momentarily forgot where he was.

There was a report called in to the police station that there might be a burglary taking place. So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so...
... it probably wouldn't happen. But let's say my old house in Chicago.
Here, I'd get shot.
Seriously, I don't think the nation's "chief magistrate" ought to be commenting on local police cases at all, especially without the facts. Save the comments for Gitmo.

United Snakes of America
The purpose of the news conference was for Obama to make the case for health insurance reform. I have some knowledge and many thoughts about this subject—mostly to the left of Obama’s.

But I liked the way he went after the real villains of the system, the insurance industry, a day after the nation’s largest company, UnitedHealth reported a profit of $859 million. According to my math (disclosure: I am not good at it), this company which profits by raising premiums and denying care, increased its profit by about 250 percent in a year when every other part of the economy was in the bedpan.

Keep in mind, however, that it is the insurance industry more than any other that owns state legislatures and Congress lock, stock and barrel. It is yet another indictment of what H.L. Mencken called “boobus Americana,” the citizenry that allows insurance companies and car dealers to write the legislation that keeps the public stupid and broke. The insurance companies are writing the health legislation and the car dealers are successfully hectoring Congress to do something about General Motors and Chrysler forcing dealerships to close, as if that isn’t the essence of capitalism. Sell or go out of business.

Back to UnitedHealth, the Washington Post has just revealed that the consulting firm that for all my years of following the subject has been considered the icon of nonpartisan analysis is actually owned by the insurance conglomerate and has been cooking the numbers.
Disclosure: Like Exxon and other corporate miscreants, UnitedHealth spends a lot of money on global health, a field in which I am employed, and works with the U.S. government, which employs me, on the subject, and UnitedHealth contracts with the U.S. military to provide health care to service families. If Obama had any balls, he would not just talk about greedy corporations, he would end the relationships.

Cubbie Scum
Finally, I have been going to some baseball games lately, and the only thing worse than the Nationals are the fans who come to root for the opposing teams.

Because my father was born and raised in Chicago and played a decent brand of baseball as a young man, I grew up with a sympathy for the Cubs, my favorite team after my own hometown team of the Senators I, Senators II and now the Nationals.

I was a Cubs fan until I met Cubs fans.

Although fans of the Mets, Yankees and Phillies are more obnoxious and more prone to fisticuffs, it is the fans of the Cubs and Red Sox who make me want to take a baseball bat to their heads. The ones who attend games in Washington are trendy frontrunners who try to make themselves look human by following long-suffering teams. In reality they know nothing about baseball, show up decked out in team gear and come to games to socialize—to the point they stand up, wander in and out of aisles not only during an inning but during crucial at bats. I just hope the next fan who gets nailed by a foul ball is such a wannabe, and it is likely because foul balls only cream those who are not watching the game.

As bad as they can be, New York and Philly fans are at least passionate about baseball and their team, while Cubs fans are media creations by the likes of political camp-followers David Broder and George Will. They couldn’t tell you the name of more than two players on their team and they go to games to be seen and to drink a lot. Only Cubbie-scum can afford $8.50 beer after $8.50 beer.

The best that has been said about Cubs fans was said by their one-time manager, Lee Elia, in 1983. The only thing different about today's Cub fans is they are now unemployed from better jobs.

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