Let us not worry about too much about being “politically correct.” Politicians, including that great Republican intellect, the very conscious of his party, the Honorable Paul Ryan has struggled with this issue, yet even he has endeavored to use the utmost tact when explaining to the public that Obamacare is in a “death spiral” because it burdens the healthy with paying insurance premiums that would benefit the sick.

Critics have disingenuously stated that Congressman Ryan misunderstands the entire concept of insurance, yet a driver prone to accidents would expect to pay more for insurance, and so the elderly, who are most prone to illness, should have no complaint if they too must pay more for coverage. It’s perfectly logical, is it not? Of course, one might argue, that all of us are healthy until we are sick, and illness or accident can strike at any age, but even if this happens, frankly cancer moves more quickly when it strikes the young. They are like to die sooner, and if they recover from some unfortunate event, they will have many years ahead to contribute to the economy and their society.

That family man of moral rectitude, Congressman Ryan cannot say out loud, just yet, what some of his party have hinted at. (After all old people vote.) Nor would someone of such a kindly disposition suggest taking away all the income of people as they age. Even he understands that if every penny needed to go toward insurance and healthcare, other facets of the economy might suffer. The elderly might no longer be able to afford to house themselves, and would need to move in with their adult children. Once upon this was the norm, and some of us film buffs may even recall the depression era classic, Make Way for Tomorrow, which dealt honestly with the problem this presented for families, and ends with an elderly couple parting forever to live with different households in different part of the countries. The cruelty of the separation leaves “not a dry eye in the house.” Would the sweet mercy of death not be a better alternative?

Instead, what the United States got was more New Deal socialism – a guaranteed income for those no longer able to contribute called social security, and then the slavery of medicare. While workers do pay in to the social security system, it is in effect a tax, holding our money hostage. Imagine what each of us could do with that money, now, if we weren’t burdened with forcibly saving it in a system which we are constantly reminded by the Republican party could go broke any day now. As for medicare — another burden for those of us who might never even live to see its benefits —  sure having insurance and income allows older people to shop at our stores and buy services from our businesses, but in the end we are paying for the privilege of their participation, and that can’t be right. Can it? What happened, after all, to personal responsibility?

Let us dare to ask what it would look like for a middle-class couple to truly save for retirement and the infirmities of age, without as former-Senator Alan Simpson might put it “sucking on the public tit..” If they need to be prepared to pay their own way medically, it’s unlikely they would be able to afford to send their children to college, or even high school once Betsy De Vos enforces some personal re responsibility and guts the public system. But if they do decide that the best way to insure their future is to raise their children to be fiscally responsible adults who will keep them housed and make sure they have an ample supply of adult diapers when the time comes, they are effect, mortgaging the future of their children. While their children might still became successful job creators, they would not be able to spend freely, which will all know is the best way to end poverty because trickle down raises all boats.

What parent would want to be in such a position?

There is an alternative, though we hardly dare to speak of it for fear of offending the AARP, and other “special interest” organizations that make up what we might call “Big Senior.The solution is simple as it is elegant, and truly fits in with the American ethos of self-reliance and personal responsibility.

Imagine for a moment, a society with the promise of truly lower taxes and more disposable income for all? Imagine a life free of worry about “savings” and “future.” Imagine not to be burdened by paying for “somebody else’s” healthcare? Imagine an economy with full employment where people do not continue working into their seventies and eighties because they “have to.” Imagine lower private insurance premiums for families because those “over users” of the system have been eliminated.

Such a future is possible, and has already been imagined. On the episode Half a Life, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we are introduced to the Kaolens, of Kaelen II. At the age of 60, Kaelens experience a ritual called “resolution” – a form of ritual suicide.

Yes, suicide. Many Americans will find the concept shocking. Some will argue it’s “not Christian” but given the gospel of personal responsibility touted in so many churches, they might reconsider. Is suicide when it is for the greater good of all, really a sin? Is martyrdom a sin? Is making the ultimate sacrifice for future generations a sin? Imagine a society in which every elderly person has the right to die with dignity, before his or her powers are completely diminished, and to do so that all of us may live more comfortably, so that his or her own children will not be bankrupted paying for care, and above all, so that the economy and the American way of life will go on. Surely, with modern technology we can make the process painless, and even develop an entire industry around celebrating this momentous milestone.

Think of the freedom of not spending your thirties and forties – the true “golden years” burdened by worry about “what will happen.” With more disposable income – since social security and medicare will be eliminated, one could live in a better home, and then cash out to enjoy at least a couple of happy years of retirement, which is more than many of us get now!

Imagine life for someone in their twenties or thirties – the ability to keep more of your pay check! No more wondering where it all goes! It will go to you, and you are free to spend every penny of it!

Some may argue that the elderly have much to contribute, and that might be true. They will tell you that the elderly spend their money, and that more people are moving in with their parents for economic reasons than are moving their parents in.  There might even be ways, through strengthening programs like social security, medicare, and services aimed at keeping people healthy and independent, for even more of our senior citizens to be productive members of society for an even longer time – but that would be “socialism” and as Americans we cannot support such an immoral and unfair system. That would be wrong!

Yes, some industries that cater to the elderly would suffer if the population were reduced, but with no more over sixty-grandmothers and grandfathers, more families would need to hire people to care for their children. Caterers could clean up during the holidays. Some nursing homes and other facilities could even be converted to luxury spas so those retirees in their fifties could truly enjoy their final days. And what of the robotics industry? Soon a mechanical grandma who never complains about her aching back will be your child’s best friend and babysitter, and when she arrives you can bet she’ll be made in the USA!

Lets face it, this is the future the Republican party envisions, the logical next step. Of course, not every citizen would be obligated to ritually “resolve” his or her existence at age sixty – only those whose medical care would be a burden to their families, or society. Successful, responsible Americans with sufficient means to buy unregulated free market insurance or pay for their own medical care out of pocket might choose to extend their lives. And every American would be free to dream of joining those who through great sacrifice, plus elimination of the death-tax, and capital gains, in addition to hard work and pluck have achieved this goal – the American Way!

Our beloved President for example, probably doesn’t even bother with medicare since he could personally buy a hospital and certainly any organs he might someday need replaced. Many of our senators and congressional representatives are also multi-millionaires, who would be happy to enjoy paying lower taxes, even if they did need to make some sacrifices towards the end of life to pay their medical bills! All of them could continue to live, and you Republican voters of a certain age, have no doubt saved enough to afford to go on in the style to which you’ve become accustomed, haven’t you?

(This may be a draft that I’ll continue to work on, so your comments are most welcome. If you enjoyed it as is, I’d love to hear that too. If you want to thank me, just clicking on my books at Amazon helps. Buying one would be awesome!)

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Marion on March 14, 2017

homeland 6 e8 astrid shooting featureyWe can all agree that Dar Adal has to go, right? And it’s going to be very satisfying when it happens. But who’s going to be the one to take him out? For speculation on these and other great issues of the day, such as how did Peter Quinn learn to hold his breath underwater while not freezing to death, check out my Homeland recaps at The Agony Booth — which is full of great stuff by me and lots of other people.

Bonus points if you know how The Agony Booth got its name. Comments and discussion are welcome on those pages!




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What we learned from Drumpf’s reaction to “friendly” Hasidic reporter who asked for comment re anti-Semitic incidents: SCROTUS cannot read a room. He was hoping for a softball question. The question asked should have been an easy one, but he perceived a threat. Being an out-of-his-depth grifter in fight mode, he lashed out like a wild animal. Given the improvisational nature of his performances, this seems the most likely explanation

However, a darker possibility is that he knew what he was doing, understood the question, but chose to fight with the reporter, as an offering of red-meat for his base. By going after the easy target most Jewish looking of Jews, he proved to white supremacists he could be trusted not to cave in to “elites” while reminding others that of course he’s no anti-Semite and loves his Jewish daughter. His base believes these attacks are non-existent “fake” media creations OR the work of Jews themselves. Therefore, addressing the reality of a rise in anti-Semitism opens a can of worms. Asking the DOJ or FBI to investigate claims of victimhood by any group other than white Christians would sound too much like a return to the “identity politics” his base rejects – unless the protected identity is “white.”

A third possibility is the idea of “programmed Trump.” With Bannon and others feeding him information, if the attacks came up in any sort of discussion prior to the press conference, he might already have been told they were a false flag scam, designed to throw him off course or imply he or his followers are anti-Semites. Therefore, his reaction to the question was authentic,T but his perception was shaped by his handlers.

Which scenario is worse? Incompetence and bad judgment, planned malevolence and racism, or a despotic narcissist whose grandiosity and paranoia are being fed by masters of manipulation?

(There are no donation buttons here, but if you like what you see, you can support this blog by going over to the Amazon and checking out my books — available in print and on Kindle.)

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kellyanne and chuck

The Once Free Press: Excuse me sir, uh madam, I’m here to ask about the statement the Press Secretary made about the crowd size at the inauguration….

KellyAnne Conway: Ah yes! The one and half million people who showed up for our Great Leader, the largest crowd ever. It was …

The Once Free Press: 250,000 according to the Parks Department Estimate.

KellyAnne: No, it wasn’t. It was one and half-million.

The Once Free Press: Look, I brought a photograph of the mall. You can see the empty white space …

trump inaug crowd

KellyAnne:  Empty white space? I don’t see it.

The Once Free Press (astonished, points to something in the photo) What is this then? An army of the Ku Klux Klanners photographed from on high? A circus of albino elephants symbolizing the Republican party?

Kelly Anne: It’s a trick of the light.

The Once Free Press (incredulous): A trick of the light?

KellyAnne (examining the photo): See, over here. You can make out the people. It was the snow made them seem invisible, that’s all.

The Once Free Press: The snow? There wasn’t any snow.

KellyAnne: Please don’t start on global warming again! That’s been repealed and replaced on all official pages by ‘over-regulation of the vital energy industry.’

The Once Free Press: I’m not talking about global warming. The question was why on earth would Sean Spicer tell an obvious falsehood about the crowd size at his very first press conference?

KellyAnne: It wasn’t a lie.

The Once Free Press: Look, Ms Conway, I know a lie when I see one. That wasn’t a million and half people. That was…..

KellyAnne (waxing poetic): The Trump Inauguration – beautiful transition of power. Lovely ceremony!

The Once Free Press: The loveliness of the ceremony don’t enter into it! The crowd was not present. Take a look at the bleachers. There’s enough empty space to shelter all the refugees from Aleppo …

KellyAnne: Aleppo? Which happened on Obama’s watch …

Once Free Press: Fair enough, but what about the people who aren’t there?

KellyAnne: Parts of the mall were covered over so no one could stand there.

The Once Free Press: But people are standing on the covering. There just aren’t a lot of them, or on the grass either.

KellyAnne: (looking at the photo again) They were just taking a bathroom break when the photo was taken.

The Once Free Press: A what? Are you suggesting that a million and a quarter people just happened to be taking a piss simultaneously?

KellyAnne: They’re regular folks. They drink a lot of beer, our supporters do.

The Once Free Press: On a Friday morning?

KellyAnne: They were celebrating!

The Once Free Press (exasperated): They weren’t celebrating. I’m telling you they were non-existent, imaginary, a fairy tale. It was unreality television. A proven falsehood, a big fib, a fraud, a fake, a fabrication, a visit to Fantasy Island, a …

KellyAnne (grabbing the photo and marking it up): You’re mistaken. See there’s no white space. Look at all those figures. It’s filled up to the brim! From the White House all the way to the Washington Monument …

The Once Free Press: That was you. You just took a pen and filled it all in.

KellyAnne: No I didn’t.

The Once Free Press: Yes, you did. We’ve got the whole thing on tape.

KellyAnne: I don’t think so.

The Once Free Press: Could you please answer my question?

KellyAnne: I already did.

The Once Free Press: No you didn’t.

KellyAnne: Did too!

The Once Free Press: Once more – Ms Conway why would Sean Spicer attack the media for false reporting about the size of the crowd while he lied about the size of the crowd?

KellyAnne: He wasn’t lying.

The Once Free Press: What would you call it then?

KellyAnne: It was an alternative fact.

The Once Free Press: An alternative fact is a lie.

KellyAnne: Well, that’s a matter of opinion isn’t it? Who can really tell with numbers? You know what numbers I care about? The number of women in poverty at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency …

The Once Free Press: But that has nothing to do with my question. I’m asking you why would …

KellyAnne: You’re a very disagreeable person. Did anyone ever tell you that?

The Once Free Press: That’s not even, look, if from day one, you are going to lie about every little thing then what is the point of any of this? How can we even cover the White House?

KellyAnne: Don’t be so overly dramatic! If you’re going to be so negative, I’m really going to have to rethink our relationship.

President Trump: Kelly Anne, let me take over from here.

KellyAnne: Yes, Mr. President.

President Trump (to The Once Free Press): You’re fired.

The Once Free Press: Mr. President. I don’t work for you. You can’t fire me.

President Trump: When you’re President you can do anything.

The Once Free Press: But what about the Constitution? The first amendment!

KellyAnne: From now on we’ll be using an alternative version!

(Marion Stein writes television recaps and reviews for The Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon. There’s no donate button on this blog, but you can thank her by buying a cheap ebook, and then raving about it to your friends.)

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Marion on January 19, 2017

Tromeo playbillhis idiot apologizes for there being gap of over a year since her last opera review. Why the long pause?

The problem started when we saw Lulu, which just about killed opera for us. We enjoyed William Kentridge’s production of The Nose, so we thought, “Why not go to see another off-beat well-reviewed production of a modern opera?” Besides I’m a fan of Pandora’s Box. (I even managed a reference or two to Louise Brooks in my novel Blood Diva, the erotic-satiric-vampire extravaganza based on the life of Marie Duplessis the inspiration for La Traviata.)

I expected some campy-fun from Kentridge, with nods towards Brooks’ iconic performance, but his Lulu was one of the most somber earnest productions imaginable, and the music was god-awful. I’m a philistine and probably just didn’t understand it, but it was so unpleasant the better-half left at intermission. I stayed for you dear readers, or reader, as the case may be, but then I couldn’t bear to relive it even as a post.

Prior to that in the 2015-2016 season, we’d seen Il Trovotore, which I posted about. After that we only made it to the Met two other times. Once to see Swedish soprano Nina Stemme as Turandot, in the Zefferelli production. We’d seen the production before, but we wanted to see Stemme and we figured the Met would probably replace Zefferelli’s sets with something terrible. We saw Le Percheurs de Perles  but that almost doesn’t count because we were in Edgewater, NJ at the live in HD. Why did we go to New Jersey given that we are able-bodied and live about three miles from Lincoln Center? Long story, but maybe worth a post someday. We also saw Otello, with a notable cast including Željko Lu?i? as Iago, and Hibla Gerzmava as Desdemona.

We finally made it to the Met again on Tuesday to see Gonaud’s Romeo et Juliette. The lovers were sung by tenor Vittorio Grigolo and soprano Diana Damrau. We’d seen them together a couple of seasons ago in Manon where I’d written that they “sizzled”. I didn’t get that lusty vibe this time strangely enough although they sold the idea of themselves as teenagers in love and lust at first sight. I’d describe their chemistry as easy. They sang together as though they’d always sung together. They seemed to be having fun. Opera is sometimes a competitive sport, but Tuesday night it sounded as though the leads, the orchestra, and everyone else were all on the same team.

This passes my test of operas you could go to your first time at the opera. You’ve probably heard bits of the music used in various soundtracks. It’s by turns melodic, emotional, and as grand as grand opera should be, but it’s also a pleasure to listen to and it’s easy to follow the story, since we all know it. Plus it’s fun to watch. The fight scenes were especially well choreographed, and it doesn’t hurt that Grigolo is pretty enough to be a movie star-leading man. The Met chorus did their usual stellar job as well.

Romeo y Juliette  has performances through March, but it looks like there’s only a couple more with Damrau.  They’ll both be in the “live in HD” on Saturday, so if you can’t get to the Met, you can always go to  your local cinema.

We were sitting, by the way, in the back of the balcony. We’d gotten the tickets only a few days before, and would’ve splurged for the front of that section if anything had been available.  I love the way you can see the musicians and the conductor from the balcony. The sound is clearer then anyway else in the house. (For the skinny on scoring last minute cheap tickets, see this old post.) At intermission, I noticed the usual ridiculously long line for the ladies room. I tried to tell a couple of the more able-bodied women on the line about the secret women’s bathroom at the top of the family circle on the right-hand side, but nobody believed me. They probably thought I was some kind of grifter trying to cut the line. But honestly, there really is a secret women’s room up there. It’s the best kept secret in town, so don’t tell anyone!

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