Dear Reader (and those of you mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 to have an SEIU-member nurse read this to you),
I know, I know. I don’t want to pay for it either. But sometimes you just have to take a beating, dust yourself off, and get back into the fight.
Not me, of course. I for one welcome our new bureaucratic overlords. I can be helpful explaining the forms to the proletariat and informing our leaders where subscribers to this newsletter — healthcare kulaks, let’s call them — are hiding their unearned wealth.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the PPACA (a term which, when pronounced phonetically, sounds a bit like a person struggling to scream “There’s an alpaca sitting on my face!”), because I have little new to add. But one thing did occur to me (and I think I’ll be making this point in Friday’s column, so don’t give me grief about the repetition). A reader who likes to do the Internet equivalent of sticking metal forks into wall sockets was reading the comment section on my L.A. Times column. I don’t really recommend this for most of you, though at the same time it’d be nice if I had a few more defenders in there. Anyway, here’s a snippet of a commenter from L.A.:
Why can’t Mr. Goldberg get his mind out of the toilet and take a positive look at this? Is he a fool? I hardly think so. Is he a prisoner of his own ideology? That’s closer to the mark, but unfortunately he’s one of those famous people (per Tommy LaSorda) who “buy ink by the gallon.”
The reader who sent me this wanted to note how in L.A. people confuse Tommy LaSorda for Mark Twain. But I have a different point to make. A lot of people on the left cannot come to grips with the conservative “overreaction” to Obamacare. I don’t think it’s an overreaction, and I can help liberals understand what’s happening. Just consider the Patriot Act. Here was a law that affected a teeny-weeny number of people. Almost all of the horrible things it did never happened. Remember all that teeth-gnashing about searched libraries? Totally bogus.
And yet, people all over the country got their dresses over their heads about the Patriot Act. Why? Well, I would argue partly out of addlepated paranoia, ignorance, and Bush hatred. They would argue it was out of deep-seated principle. Let’s compromise and say that for many, it was both, and for a few, it was all about principle.
Well, opposition to PPACA seems vastly more rational to me. By its very design it affects everyone. It costs them money. It will cost them freedom. It will cost our country money, medical innovation, and mounds of debt. It involves far, far more government intrusion into our lives than the Patriot Act. And yet, many of the same people who considered the Patriot Act an American Nuremburg Law think this is one of the greatest moments in American history.
I’m writing this from California, where I’ve spent much of the last week pricing calf implants. Just kidding. And I wasn’t out here “going Galt” either, though it was tempting. Instead, I’ve spent most of the week playing with my daughter. I apologize for my light Corner presence, but, if it helps, Lucy and I had a great time going Galt at Six Flags Magic Mountain. We rode the Colossus four times.
I’d make a sick joke about how that sounds like something Tiger Woods paid extra for, but this is the family portion of this “news”letter.
(Oh, before you offer suggestions for other activities, I’ll be on a plane home when you read this.)
Here are some minor observations from my time out here:
I’ve seen fewer hybrid cars here in L.A. than I do in Washington.
Tattoos are completely mainstream.
I took my daughter to a freak show at Venice Beach. No really, there’s an actual, literal, carnival-style freak show at Venice Beach, complete with sword-swallowing, two-headed turtles, etc. Attending a freak show within the confines of Venice Beach felt a bit like going to an Olive Garden in Italy. You go into an establishment ostensibly dedicated to the theme outside its doors but which should be that less authentic than its surroundings. Or maybe it’s more like renting a pay-per-view porn movie at a brothel. Regardless, I felt a heck of a lot more comfortable watching a dude hammer a giant nail into his septum than I did strolling past the skeeves.
But the most intriguing thing I discovered was in the men’s rooms at Six Flags. It seems that kids today think it’s vital to claim a small slice of immortality by carving their initials, graffiti tags, or girlfriend’s names into the toilet seats at amusement parks.
I find this fascinating.
Now, keep in mind that there are metal detectors at the gate, so you can’t come in with knives or any other cutting device. This means, I suspect, that boys and young “men” are using car keys to carve their names and whatnot into the hard plastic seats at a place crawling with teenagers in Bugs Bunny costumes. I’d guess that it takes a good deal of time to grind your name into a hard plastic seat — maybe 20 minutes to a half hour. To do so, even for a relatively short kid, would mean bending over, possibly putting your knees on the wet floor of the crapper, and working at this task for a good long while.
No girl will ever see these territorial markings, only males. Given the traffic patterns of these bathrooms, you will have to work through a lot of men and boys knocking on the stall door as you yell “Occupied!” while continuing to dig at the plastic butt-guard like Charles Bronson working the tunnels in The Great Escape.
What sort of self-esteem issues are involved here? I did some crazy, stupid, shameful stuff as a young man (“Why put a timeframe on it?” — The Couch). As President Bush likes to say, when I was young and irresponsible I was young and irresponsible. So I get the male imperative to do stupid things.
But never on my worst day did I ever feel that I needed the pride boost of saying F-you to conventional morality and bourgeois norms by spending half an hour scratching “Jonah Rules!” on an amusement-park toilet seat. Never on my best day did I feel like I had to let the world know that I’m the cock of the walk by scraping “JG Rocks” on the headpiece of the porcelain throne. I have endured the brain-melting power of adolescent love and the soul-filling satisfaction of true love. But I’ve never felt the need to immortalize that love by inscribing “Jonah Loves Jessica” in urine-brined plastic.
But that’s just me.
Last question: What are the odds Joe Biden has already carved his initials in the Oval Office bathroom seat?
Hey, wait . . . a . . . second. That L.A. Times commenter was right! I can’t get my head out of the toilet!
Youth, Terrible Youth
So my daughter and I have been talking about Scooby Doo a lot. She thinks the show, in all its myriad incarnations, is riveting. She will interrupt conversations with “Oh, Daddy, did you know . . .” and I will expect to hear about something from school or from her daily life, and she will commence to tell me something about Shaggy or Velma or Scooby.
The show has gone through a lot of changes over the years (the Wikipedia entry is disturbingly interesting; one of these days I must remember to carve it into a great chain of toilet seats). In case you didn’t know, the show now features real monsters and ghosts quite often. Not always, but often enough. For decades, the monsters weren’t real, merely the attempts of hucksters and con men. Now the makers of the show teach little kids that there really are vampires and witches.
At first, I thought this scandalous. I always thought the point of the show was to teach little kids not to be scared of things that go bump in the night.
But this is actually the least offensive thing about the show. Bear with me.
Recently, I caught the tail end of one of the newer episodes, and I was dismayed to discover that the perpetrator of the scary hoax was not the bad guy. He was something of an environmentalist/historic preservationist who wanted to keep some greedy corporate fat cats from developing some land. It seemed like something close to an endorsement of ecoterrorism.
Obviously, I was going to turn this revelation into an NR cover story. But as I pondered it, I thought more deeply about the original series. The show starts in 1969. The kids of Mystery Inc., who seem to have absolutely no parental supervision, are clearly counter-cultural. Freddie may not be gay, but he wears an ascot, and, for anyone under the age of 60, that alone is an invitation to a beating. And given that the show was launched in 1969, he may just be dressing that way to duck the draft. (Indeed, why the heck aren’t Fred and Shaggy knee-deep in some rice paddy somewhere?) Velma, meanwhile, certainly looks like she runs a pottery shop in Burlington, Vt., if you know what I mean.
And Shaggy, well, he’s a filthy hippy who always has the munchies. ’Nuff said.
These spoiled, educated kids seem to have enough money to drive their van all around the country (again, perhaps to stay one step ahead of the draft board). As my daughter says, “They’re always on vacation!” It reminds me a bit of the Port Huron Statement’s opening line: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort . . . looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”
Wherever they go, they are told about something scary. They refuse to take the word of their elders, and opt to investigate. Lo and behold, they discover that the local taboos are not true, but are in fact useful myths designed to protect the financial interests of the landholding ruling class and the property of disgruntled heirs seeking to maintain control of unearned intergenerational wealth. These hoaxes would have worked, were it not for these “meddling kids” who refused to know their place.
It’s like “Hanna Barbara” is really Charles Beard’s pen name.
G. K. Chesterton would have recognized the agenda here: to teach kids they should reflexively overturn received wisdom in a fit of misplaced hyper-rationalism.