Justly Scrutinized: Don Zimmer, NRA, Elise Stefanik, Mary Soames

p1_zimmerDon Zimmer died the other day. The various headlines and photo captions noted unanimously that the 83-year old former NY Met and bench coach for the Yankees had established a career of 60 uninterrupted years in baseball. How sad then that the most prominent memory of this icon of America’s Pastime is the time Pedro Martinez grabbed him by the head and threw him to the turf at the start of a bench-clearing brawl between arch-rivals Yankees and Red Sox. After a few retaliatory pitches earlier in the game, the vile Roger Clemens threw high at Manny Ramirez and that was all she wrote. I saw that episode on TV in real-time and must have watched it again at least a dozen times. Sorry Don. If you’re coaching ball in heaven, stay in the dugout if Ty Cobb spikes Joe DiMaggio.


Tempers flare in Beantown

Who Does the NRA Work For?

I believe it is possible to support the Second Amendment and still revile the NRA. After all, the NRA – actually a lobbyist for gun-makers, more so than a gun-owner’s advocate – routinely goes off the reservation of sanity and backs such dangerous notions as the inviolable rights to make and own guns that resist fingerprints, and the manufacture of bullets capable of penetrating “bullet-proof” vests. Both these positions offend law enforcement – a group that you would normally expect to be pro-gun. Yet the NRA stands firm. Any restriction of any kind remotely connected to a gun of any kind is anathema to the NRA.

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Are those hollow-point croissants?

So of course, they now find themselves in a jam following the publication of a lucid essay on their own website titled ““Good Citizens and Good Neighbors: The Gun Owners’ Role.” The gist of the essay is that mass congregations of dudes bearing assault rifles in public places like restaurants might scare patrons, thus turning otherwise neutral people on gun rights against them. The essay says, “While unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms. Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”

In other words, people who might otherwise be inclined to support gun rights decide not to after bringing their 80-year-old mother to Applebee’s and encountering 20 guys in camo brandishing AK-47s all pissed that the two-for-one beer tap ran dry. As this observation about appearances makes perfect sense, the NRA leadership is as usual counter-intuitively apoplectic. The poor writer was simply trying to help the NRA leadership avoid alienating the centerline voting public, and for that he is pilloried. Somehow, I suspect the NRA will contort the essay into a secret Obama ploy to confiscate guns. That of course will result in a spike in gun buys – which is exactly why the NRA exists in the first place.

(Side note: a vicious psychopath has just been arrested in the stabbing deaths in New York of a few people, including two young children in an elevator in their apartment complex, one of whom died. How long before the NRA and its backers foment a facetious campaign calling for all steak knives to be registered?)

New Ideas? New Leadership? How about some New Imagination?

Driving up the New York State Thruway I heard an advertisement paid for by people supporting the candidacy of Elise Stefanik for the 21st Congressional district high up in what is called “North Country.” Stefanik who is a young darling of the right (supported by Paul Ryan, Karl Rove) is campaigning on the tag line: “New Ideas, New Leadership.” Blah. That flavorless stew reminds me of the scene in “Back to the Future” where the mayors of 1955 and 1985 employ the same lame-o motto: “Progress is his middle name!”

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Anyway, Elise notes in her ad that, if elected, she will work hard to “Repeal Obamacare and replace it with common sense solutions.” Forgetting the reality that the first time Obamacare could possibly be repealed is early in 2017, when all the provisions will have been established for better or worse, would it be too much to ask “what do you want to replace it with?” I’m fairly tired of hearing about “repeal and replace” without much on the “replace” side of things. She doesn’t mention any ideas in her radio ad, but perhaps that’s because time is limited. I checked her website instead and there she lists some things she’d like to enact, although they don’t seem replacement-worthy.

Elise would enact these provisions if given the chance:

1. “Let people shop for insurance across state lines.” I used to work at an insurance company and I can testify that they dissect every shred of data when setting policy prices. If some sick bastard in New York saw a cheaper policy for sale in Idaho, I can guarantee that before he could sign his name on the line that is dotted, the Idaho company would have adjusted the rates to take into account his rapidly-diminishing vital signs. In the end, crossing state boundaries to buy insurance would quickly result in homogenized premium prices, accruing a net zero in savings.

2. “Pursue real tort reform.” An easy target, puffed up by crazy stories of people “winning the lottery” over minor surgical gaffes. Of course, we also hear on occasion about a patient who suffers from the amputation of a healthy limb, or one who dies because the doctor accidentally prescribed 10x the amount of a strong drug. Does Elise think these people should have no standing to pursue recompense? In any event, the whole “tort reform” angle is not supported by the evidence. According to Forbes, “A new study reveals that the cost of medical malpractice in the United States is running at about $55.6 billion a year – $45.6 billion of which is spent on defensive medicine practiced by physicians seeking to stay clear of lawsuits. The amount comprises 2.4% of the nation’s total health care expenditure.” Two point fucking four percent. Can we move on please? Besides, if Elise got her way, the sellers of malpractice insurance would have a cow and see to it she became a one-termer.

3. “Fight the waste, fraud and abuse that costs our health care system billions each year.” Give me a break. This is worse than “New Ideas, New Leadership.” The generic “waste, fraud and abuse” are perennial boogie-men, but no seems to able to a) effectively define them, and b) show how to eliminate the onerous costs without spending more to investigate and prosecute the subject offenses. I’m sure someone’s grandmother somewhere is scamming the system to get a fully-pivotal, earthquake-proof, Corinthian leather-seated wheelchair for free, but do we want the US Government to spend $100K to prosecute the “theft” of a $5K wheelchair? Better to go after the wheel-chair company for their loose practices with respect to Medicare – but that would entail taking on a revered “job creator.” Never gonna happen.

4. “Protect those with pre-existing conditions by funding state-level high-risk pools” Given that those with pre-existing conditions are already protected under O-care, this sounds like a tweak.

5. “Allow individuals and families to purchase insurance on the same tax-advantaged basis as businesses.” I’m good with that. But please don’t whine when the budget deficit increases as a result. Just please admit you don’t care about deficits when you give away tax bennies.

Mary Soames dies at 91. Did she have the teeth of a 291 year old?

Getting back to recently dead people, I see that Mary Soames, the last surviving child of the lion of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill died at age 91 on May 31. Mrs. Soames lived an unusual and varied life, one that allowed her to accompany Sir Winston to such memorable events as the Potsdam Conference where Roosevelt and Stalin tagged along. Despite her historic pedigree, I was more fascinated with the photo of her as a young woman during WWII, surrounded by smiling British soldiers. Damn – what they say about British teeth!

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