Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS


The walking, talking embodiment of the mythical free market in Idaho today is Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He called a few weeks ago and asked if we could get together and get acquainted while he was in the north country on other business.

No harm in getting acquainted I thought, though for Wayne, there was some “harm” encountered. It seems the speeding ticket he received was because he was running late for our get together at an Irish Pub on Lake Drive in Coeur d’Alene.

Though we are polar opposite on many things, there are some issues where we have commonality – government over-reaching and the public’s loss of trust in government “honesty” at all levels, for example.

It was a pleasant enough discussion but when he used the phrase “free market” as in “we have to return to a true free market” I took strong exception.

I will tell you what I told Wayne. That fight was fought and lost 80 years ago, and there’s no going back. Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932. Roosevelt was the architect of government intervention in the so-called free market.

In order to fight the Great Depression and assist truly desperate Americans he campaigned on the federal government as the only entity that could protect the public from the excesses and vagaries of the private sector.

Hoover, a businessman and engineer, was the apostle of the private sector and the free market and he was soundly trounced. Ever since then there has been an inexorable pull of more and more governmental intervention the result of which is a “controlled market” and an international economy that is dominated by multinational corporations.

The fact is today our economy is riddled with subsidies for just about any conceivable interest. The subsidies are so rife and so numerous there is no way a majority of the electorate would ever sign off putting itself at the mercy of the private sector and the winners vs. losers free market.

The biggest mistake Mitt Romney made in the presidential election was miscalculating and then denigrating the 47% of the public he said in effect were takers living off of the in theory 53% producers.

In a sense he had the numbers reversed: 53% of the electorate likes its subsidies, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or one’s deduction for their mortgage payments. A majority believes they are better off with their entitlements, and yes, dependency, than believe the GOP philosophy of so-called free market and self-reliance.

So what is your favorite subsidy from the taxpayer, Wayne? Do you take the personal mortgage deduction? Will you turn back your social security check when you reach retirement? Will you enroll in Medicare when you can? Will you accept government help if struck with a catastrophic disease like cancer or Parkinson’s.

I have both PD and a rare form of an always fatal neuro endocrine cancer. My subsidy is a chemotherapy shot of a sandostatin once a month that I call my “golden rear” shot. I receive half in one rear cheek and half in the other. When I walk out of the Cancer Care Northwest office my rear is literally “gold.” That one shot costs $13,000 each month.

I was given six months in November of 2005, but I’m still here managing my diseases courtesy of good insurance, the government’s Medicare program, and lots of prayer from friends and family.

That’s my major subsidy, Wayne. And I know this: left to your mythical free market I would have been dead years ago.

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rainey BARRETT


I was a kid during WWII but old enough to be aware of the national condition (1941-1945) at our house. It was wartime with rationing – air raid drills at home and school – primitive recycling – black shades on all the windows. And racism. And hate. You didn’t need to be an adult to recognize it. Now, more than seven decades later, it’s happening again.

In the early ‘40′s, it was “Nazis” and “Japs.” When kids played “war,” someone had to be one of “them.” Others got to play “good guys” – the Americans. It wasn’t racist to us then. We were children just acting out what we’d heard parents and other adults saying. We were giving life to what we saw in our comic books and movies. We had posters in our grade schools warning us about “strangers” – about people who looked “different.” About “them.” Little kids can learn very quickly.

But we also learned fear at times. Even today – all these years later – the fear I felt watching my Japanese-American friends being hauled out of Mrs’ Kirk’s first-grade class by large men with guns in 1942. It’s still with me. So are their screams as they disappeared forever down hallways of East Wenatchee Grade School. To internment camps. To prisons. To our everlasting national disgrace.

An adult now, I don’t believe in racism in any form. But, during two simultaneous wars affecting everything in our daily lives, we accepted depictions of it then because it drew a clear, easy-to-understand line between what was “right” and what was “wrong.” We, of course, were right. They, of course, were wrong and deserved national condemnation. But – even to a kid of six – those screams erased some of that national pride we were supposed to feel. Even then, it somehow didn’t fit with us being the “good guys.”

Now, we’re doing it again.

Since 9-11, we’ve experienced a growing anti-Muslim movement based largely on ignorance. We see it in anonymous hate-emails and hear it on hate talk shows. Muslims are the butt of nightclub “humor.” A dozen years later, many TV shows – top rated “NCIS,” the other night for one – and movies are about swarthy people “tied” to various Muslim terrorist organizations. Often, you don’t hear the word “:Muslim” but the villain has a Mideast-sounding name or appearance. Some made-up organization sounding terrorist-like is attached to a murder or a bombing or some other destructive act. So, of course, it’s them bad ol’ “Muslims.”

I got a hate-email the other day intimating our President was a (gasp/choke) “Muslim!” He was photographed “trying to hide” a book in his hand – “The Post American World” – written by a (gasp/choke) “Muslim.” Just two sentences there. But (1) the President is NOT a Muslim – (2) he had chosen to read the book on a flight and was not trying to hide it in any way and (3) the book was written by the highly regarded Fareed Zacharia, a Hindu. Not a Muslim. EDITOR’S NOTE: Damned good book.

The anonymous email originator set out to put Muslims in the worst possible light and tie the President to these “unsavory” people by lying about both him and Zacharia. Send it to 10 people – they send it to 100 – they send it to 1,000 – then 10,000 and, within hours, this piece of racist B.S. is around the world.

In the late ‘30′s and early ‘40′s, Oriental actors made big money in Hollywood playing murderous Japanese soldiers and pilots. A Japanese comic named Richard Loo – born in Seattle – made a lot of money adopting a funny, Japanese accent. (“Die, Yankee Dog!”) Many had never been out of the United States but they looked the part so they were in casting demand. Now, it’s Muslims. Or anyone dark-skinned who can pull of an accent that sounds Muslim-ish. Even if they were born in New Jersey.

Today’s comic books and video games are full of villainous characters who look and sound Mideastern, are given foreign-sounding names or are actually labeled “Muslims.” Like my generation 70 years ago, our kids are being fed negative stereotypes to create negative impressions. “Bad guys” and “good guys.”

We’re doing it again. It’s as wrong in 2013 and it was wrong in 1942. Except now – much more than then – we’re inundated with mass communications assaulting us with this racist effluent. We have people paid to stoke racist fires – scorn those who look or talk differently – heap suspicion and hate on the innocent – influence already narrow minds to be even more afraid.

Our nation is fearful and angry. Our financial institutions have ridden roughshod over us. Our government is unresponsive. Politicians have turned their back on what we’ve told them we want done. Too many of them – and too many of wealth with private agendas – are disconnected from the citizenry and acting in self-interest and greed. Security has been replaced with insecurity. Familiarity replaced with unfamiliar social and convoluted economic conditions. Societal civility has been replaced with societal incivility. Peace and calm in our neighborhoods have been too often replaced with gunfire and terrorism.

At a time when we need more understanding – more civility – more patience – an increased ability to adjust to swift changes all around us – especially in these times, we must not fall back into characterizing a religion or a group of people different from ourselves as we did all those years ago.

Have there been Muslim terrorists among us? Yes. Have they done damage in our country? Yes. A few. But, before condemning a way of life – a religion – here’s something to remember. The Sunday before he bombed the Murrah Office Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, Tim McVey was in church. The Baptist Church where he grew up.

Damned Christians. Like most of us in America.

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