Charlottesville and the Bill of Rights

El Bandolero is having some difficulty with the lack of any mention of First Amendment in the post-event discussions about Charlottesville. The popular outcry is totally against the white supremacist neo-Nazis who gathered at the park to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. It seems to Bandolero that, regardless of how many people may have disagreed with their position or their rhetoric, they were well within their First Amendment rights to be there and to say whatever they damn well pleased (short of inciting violence or treason, of course). There would have been no violence if, instead of trying to out-demonstrate and shout down the white supremacists, people would have simply ignored them. White supremacists are a total embarrassment to themselves. It is not necessary to try deny them their First Amendment rights. Counter-demonstrators are not needed. If people feel it necessary to respond to their speeches, they can certainly have their own demonstration. Neither demonstration should have the purpose of interfering with, or silencing, the other demonstration. But, what should have been a gathering of anti-supremacist protestors intent upon expressing a different opinion was, instead, a gathering of anti-supremacist protestors intent upon confronting and silencing the supremacists. Violence in some form was inevitable.

The reports Bandolero has seen state that the perpetrator of the fatal violence was a supremacist from Ohio and, yet, blame for the fatality (indeed, for all the violence) is laid at the feet of the supremacists as a group. We haven’t seen reports of how many of the supremacists and how many of the anti-supremacists were from outside of Virginia. We suspect virtually all of the supremacists were “outsiders”, and that most, if not virtually all, of the anti-supremacists were likewise “outsiders”. We suspect that if the event had consisted entirely of Charlottesville residents, or even Virginia residents, there wouldn’t have been more than a handful of people protesting removal of the statue; nor more than a handful protesting their protest In any event, one would not have seen the degree of agitation and, ultimately, violence that transpired.

It is unfortunate that monuments to Southern heritage have come to be viewed by a majority of people as tributes to slavery, or at least to a time before blacks started demanding equality. It seems to Bandolero that if this were the intention for a monument, there would be more statues of Jim Crow in town squares in the South. Maybe that would just be too blatant. We heard a black perspective explained on a news show; that these monuments and statues were not erected until around 100 years after the Civil War, and were erected not for the purpose of memorializing historical events or people but , rather, to remind the black population of where the ruling white sentiment stood in the face of the civil rights movement. It is, of course, natural and understandable that any memorial to the Southern past would, to a black person, first and foremost symbolize slavery and stand as a white tribute to a time when whites were supreme and blacks were slaves. But it is a mistake to presume that all whites, or even very many whites, see the same symbolism.

The Civil War came to be politically a war about slavery. Its seeds, however, were concerns about states’ rights in the face of burgeoning federalism. The “South” developed a growing resentment against federal intrusion and control over commerce, taxation and governance which they considered to exceed the powers the states had agreed to grant to the Union as expressed in the Constitution. There were several elements to this intrusion, one of which was slavery. The South did not secede from the Union solely to preserve the institution of slavery. However, slavery became the politically effective rallying cry for Northern support of the use of force in response to the South’s secession.

People like Robert E. Lee stood for several ideals other than slavery. They saw themselves standing for the right of a citizenry to sever ties and declare independence from an oppressive government, along the same lines that thirteen colonies had severed ties and declared independence from England less than a hundred years earlier. The South’s black population, however, could not see the larger picture that led up to the South’s secession. Bandolero is not saying they did not have the capacity to comprehend it. Bandolero is saying that it was outside the scope of their lives and their experiences. They were slaves. They were not participants in the state legislatures where arguments and decisions were made about laws and economy and taxes and whether or not a state should join the movement toward secession from the Union. The black experience did not include a history of struggle against a monarchy, a struggle against taxation without representation, a Boston Tea Party, or facing a trained army’s muskets at Lexington. The black experience and history was first, foremost and entirely one of suffering oppession and degradation at the hands of white masters. It is easy to see how any monument relative to Southern experience prior to emancipation or the Civil Rights Act would be seen by blacks as a monument to white masters and black subjugation.

As has become the norm these days, when there are two or more “sides”, each one views the others from an “all or nothing” perspective. The one thing as to which there can be no compromise overshadows and precludes not only appreciation but also discussion of other matters as to which there could be discussion and compromise or even commong ground. So, which side is guiltier of inability to see or to respect the other side’s perspective? Bandolero is well aware it would be politically incorrect to argue that blacks should put aside their blinders and learn to appreciate the heritage that many Southerners perceive in their statues and monuments. And, frankly, Bandolero would not espouse this argument. Their blinders are the result of generations of slavery, indignity, disrespect and subservience to the white race. The white blinders, by comparison, are not the result of generations of either physical or psychological suffering and degradation, but are the result of the inability to fathom and appreciate the justification for the black blinders.

That said, Bandolero’s position is that everybody ought to shed their blinders, everybody ought to view everybody else through glasses tinted only by empathy and tolerance, and everybody ought to view everybody else’s totems as nothing more or less than what they stand for in the minds of their creators and their compatriots, not as what they may be perceived in the minds of others or their compatriots. to symbolize.

El Bandolero will take this opportunity to express a fear that is related to the above remarks. It is the fear of the majority. Bandolero has been hearing the word “majority” a lot these days. One context everybody has seen pertains to the last presidential election. One often hears Mr. Trump’s legitimacy as president challenged because he didn’t get a majority of the votes; the majority of votes went to Ms. Clinton. Far too often, people have forgotten, or chose to ignore, that one of the most fundamental tenets of the Consitution and Bill of Rights is the protection of minorities and, especially, the rights of minorities. The foundation of our country guarantees that a majority cannot deprive a minority of its rights, or its existence. A majority of our citizens, even a super majority, cannot decide that a certain minority is to be deprived of life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, or that a certain minority is to be silenced and shall not have the right to assemble nor to petition the government for grievances. And, yet, in the aftermath of an event such as Charlottesville, Bandolero has seen many statements to the effect that “these people must not be allowed to spew their hatred and bigotry”. Bandolero suspects that if it were put to a vote, a vast majority of Americans would vote to either silence the white supremacists or expel them from the country. Of course, if it were legal to do so, a majority could silence the Republican party or disqualify any Republican candidate from taking office if somehow elected.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of everyone and anyone to speak their opinions and messages, however repugnant. The right is not conditioned upon the opinion or message being palatable or acceptable to the majority. David Duke and others like him have the right to assemble and to speak. More and more often these days, however, one encounters remarks along the line, “We revoked ______’s invitation to address _________ because his/her views are repugnant to the views and morals of a majority of our ________.”

Our nation’s founding fathers (Bandolero is not afraid to use a phrase that everyone understands just because it uses a sexist word like “father”) knew that “the majority” could not be simply trusted to always do the right thing. So they put the protection of the rights of minorities in writing, in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bandolero, for one, is not amenable to deleting such protections, even if it be the will of the majority. If “majority rules” becomes the credo of the United States, it shall have abandoned the foundation upon which it was built.

Schumer & Schiff – Shampoo Politicians

El Bandolero is a fan of CBS Sunday Morning. Hosted by Jane Pauley, it was previously hosted by Charles (“I’ll see you on the radio”) Osgood and often featured On the Road pieces by Charles Kuralt. Sunday morning TV also brings us the supposed news programs Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week With George Stephanopoulos. Certain faces are staples on the three purported news shows, and what comes out of their mouths is all too predictable. As soon as the host introduces Chuck Schumer or Adam Schiff, there’s no need to watch further. They read the same script every Sunday morning, and every other time they show up in front of a camera. We recently discussed Republican sleazebag Ted Cruz. and these Democrats are cast from the same mold. It’s the one labeled, “Sleazebag Politician”. Sleazebag Cruz at least gives us some variety from one Sunday to the next. Sleazebags Schumer and Schiff, however, read the same script every time. Just fill in the blank with whatever was the week’s big Donald Trump news item, and then repeat “collusion”, “obstruction”, “suspicious”, and “inappropriate” three or four times, with the same smarmy grin from the previous performance. It wouldn’t matter if Trump single-handedly discovered a cure for cancer, much less brought a thousand new jobs to Detroit, they would get “collusion”, “obstruction”, “suspicious” and “inappropriate” in the same sentence at least twice, repeating in the next sentence. Let’s coin a term: Shampoo Politicians. Lather (with lies), rinse, repeat.

You might wonder why Bandolero has omitted Nancy Pelosi from this post. Does he believe she has redeeming qualities? Certainly not! But, while Schiff and Schumer are total schleazebags, Pelosi is more or less one part sleazebag and one part idiot, in more or less equal parts. She seems sometimes to actually believe what she says, in the way that an alzheimer’s victim may believe he’s on the street where his house is located or may believe today is his birthday. Stop! Bandolero is not suggesting that alzheimers victims are idiots. He is suggesting that when Pelosi speaks, sometimes she’s being a lying sleazebag like Schiff and Schumer, and sometimes she’s being an idiot, inasmuch as, to our knowledge, she has not been diagnosed with dementia.

One of these days, Bandolero will probably speak of Mr. Colbert and his TV show. Or, maybe not. Colbert goes well beyond sleazebag, purporting to justify poor taste as comedy and treasonous barbs as protected speech under the First Amendment. Bandolero only finds one reason to actually watch the show – anticipation of a pie in the face. Stop! Bandolero is not suggesting that any asshole, no matter how gaping, should be targeted for assault, battery or any other form of violence. He is suggesting that a properly prepared cream pie applied safely and judiciously without malice or undue force to Mr. Colbert’s face on camera would not be a waste of good pie.

Ted Cruz – Sleazebag

El Bandolero, as you all know, is a conservative among conservatives. But, we watched Ted Cruz on Face the Nation this morning, and could only stand up and shout, “You goddam sleazy fuckwad!” He was trying to defend the Senate health care bill, and made a big deal of saying that it’s unfair to saddle young people with the cost of other people’s pre-existing conditions. This simply, and most clearly, shows that the politicians in D.C. are still lying to us and still not doing anything constructive to actually fix the problems that permeate the health care industry.

Insurance, Mr. Cruz, is the means by which the risk and cost of something are spread over a big pool of participants, so that everybody can be covered when risk becomes reality for a few. When you allow insurers to segregate groups based on what each group’s anticipated medical cost is going to be, and then set each group’s premiums based on its anticipated cost, then the people who need insurance the most will be the people who can’t afford to have it. You aren’t fooling Bandolero with vague assertions that you’ll have some sort of credits or allowances so people with pre-existing conditions can still get the treatment they need.

Consider the logical end point of Mr. Cruz’s argument. Logically, why stop with creating subgroups (such as people with pre-existing conditions) of the big group? Why don’t you just say that each person’s premium should be based on his/her personal risk? Set their premium for this year based on what their medical expenses were the previous year. Now, that’s fair! You stay healthy, your premiums will be next to nothing. You get sick and become a burden on the system, you pay for it! Of course, that’s not “insurance”. The idea behind insurance would be, for example, to spread a person’s $10k of medical bills over a million people. When you start creating “high risk” groups to make them pay more so the larger population can pay less, you’re perverting the concept of insurance.

Of course, if what you’re really after are the voters in that very large group of young healthy people, well, you’re obviously going to be working on ways to show them how you reduced their premiums. Not enough sick people are going to suffer and die to affect the election. You goddam sleazebag!

Bandolero now finds it necessary to support the concept of single payer coverage. The fairest approach for EVERYBODY is to have EVERYBODY covered by ONE policy that covers EVERYTHING. That way, the cost of paying for EVERYONE’S health care is spread over the LARGEST possible number of people. Why is this fair to young people, you might ask? They may very well be paying more in premiums than what their own health care would cost if they had no insurance. Well, dumb-ass, it’s fair because down the road, when they turn 50 or 60 or 70 and suddenly find themselves diagnosed with leukemia or dementia or whatever, they will have the coverage to pay for it.

The challenge with single payer is the administration of it. Bandolero cannot imagine entrusting it to a government agency, whether at federal or state or even municipal level. Frankly, Bandolero often finds himself looking back fondly at what was, once upon a time, AT&T’s monopoly of the phone system. Bandolero suspects that a similar capitalistic health care insurance monopoly subject to appropriate government regulation may be the way to go. It may have been a monopoly, it may have had power to squelch competition, but everybody had a phone, we took them for granted, and we had the best phone system in the world. Aside: Remember TPC (The Phone Company) in that terrific movie, The President’s Analyst?

If you want to penalize certain groups of people and make them pay more because they are a higher risk, then penalize the people who create their own higher risk. For example, make smokers pay more. Make sky-divers pay more. Make people who consume alcohol pay more. Bandolero has no problem helping to pay for medical care for people who have cancer. Bandolero has a problem helping to pay for people who have cancer because they preferred cigarettes over health; or paying to set broken bones for people who get drunk and crash their cars. (Although, statistically, it’s the drunk person who’s more likely to walk away uninjured, leaving sober victims mangled or dead)

What Mr. Cruz hasn’t done is ANYTHING that addresses the ANTI-TRUST and PRICE-FIXING practices of the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, and the medical provider industry. These are the NEW BIG 3 who conspire to make the big decisions that screw the health care consumer. Fifty years ago the BIG 3 consumer-screwers were Ford, General Motors and, um, who was #3, anyway? Chrysler? It wasn’t American Motors. We know what happened to American Motors. If Cruz, et al., are unwilling to go single payer, they’ll never get a handle on insurance premiums until they get a handle on the NEW BIG 3. This failure is primarily why Obamacare didn’t work. And it’s why your plan won’t work; aside from the fact that the needs of the citizens are not the focus of the politicians; their focus is on getting votes in next year’s elections.

No, Cruz and his ilk (by “his ilk” I mean virtually every elected politician in Washington, D.C.) are not making any good faith effort to fix health care. They are making every sleazy effort to create sound bites that appeal to the people whose votes they are focused on for the next election. YOU ARE A SLEAZEBAG, MR. CRUZ! You have an opportunity to convince us otherwise. We can only hope you will take advantage of that opportunity. But we’re not holding our breath.

Sen. McCain was also on the same show this morning. Good lord, he needs to retire, soon. We supported him back in his presidential bid, although we were already starting to see the signs then. The signs now are quite clear. He is far more dangerous than Donald Trump. But that’s a topic for another post.