25 September, 2011

Mr. Keillor: Really? Are You Serious? Please Tell Me it was Mere Hyperbole

In doing the simple 24x7 arithmetic, there are 168 hours per week.  Usually, a quarter of this time (at least) is spent by most sleeping (42).  Ideally this is more like 56 hours.  The vast majority of TV programs are only an hour, and a lot of them only a half hour.  So to block out a solid 2 hours each and every week would seem to take a bit of commitment to become a fan.  Ever since I've heard "A Prairie Home Companion" many years ago (probably a couple of decades) on WBFO, I have mostly enjoyed the show.  It's generally my type of humor, and I like to hear off-the-beaten-path artists every now and again, such as Jack Knife and the Sharps.  But for the last couple of years, it's been more and more difficult to maintain my allegiance to the program.

I can remember making a donation to WNED (which ordinarily I would not be inclined to do at the time, due to limited income) just so that I would have a much better chance at being able to buy a ticket to the first Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater performance in late spring of 1994.  Around that time the coolant pump on my Tempo gave way, and would not have survived a drive there, so I had to beg my parents to borrow their Tempo to go there, lest I miss the show.  I did not have my career job at the time, and could barely afford the ticket.  A few years later, I likewise didn't like the coercion, but ponied up some more money to WNED so that I could attend the Shea's Performing Arts Center 22-Dec-2001 performance.

But I tell ya...because of Mr. Keillor's insistence on bringing more and more political statement to his show, my fandom has faded a lot.  The subsequent Shea's performance I decided was just not worth the money.  And his recent Rhubarb tours and such at Artpark...well, honestly, I just couldn't see giving that kind of person any more of my hard-earned money.  This is much like the only Michael Moore movie I ever saw was "Roger and Me," and that was on broadcast (or maybe cable) TV.  I think the turning point was around the time he started singing his song about "we're all Republicans now."

This past Saturday, 24-Sep-2011, I just about couldn't believe my ears.  Lest I be accused of hearing something inaccurately, I abstained from posting immediately on Google+ about my disgust, and instead waited until today when the audio archives were updated with the soundtrack of the show.  The relevant segment of the show is a short oral introductory missive by Mr. Keillor to his rewriting of the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  (Hopefully public radio, this archive of the show, and the means to access it, especially by time index, will remain in place by the time you stumble across this.)  If you find the audio somewhere other than the site, it is from approximately 0:56:30 to just over the hour mark of the show (so presumably from 22:56:30 UTC to 23:01:00 UTC).  I took painstaking care to listen to this many times and transcribe it.

I just want to take a sec. here to acknowledge the following quotes are very likely copyrighted material, not sure of the holder, but likely American Public Media, Prairie Home Productions, or Garrison Keillor.  But I firmly believe this blog entry falls under fair use provisions of US copyright law, as it is a commentary on his performance.

Mr. Keillor begins:
Now I don't want to get us onto the subject of politics...
Can you see that freight train coming?  I started cringing.  You know you're "in trouble" with an opening like that.  Do you think perhaps you should have taken your own advice (sort of) and just omit this?  He continued:

 ...and get everybody all fussed up about this, but...

This really has more to do with language than--politics. The word "socialism" is being used out there in a little different way from what I had assumed it meant; I thought it referred to "Marxism."
I could be misinformed, but I would say Marxism is socialist, but not all socialism is necessarily Marxism.  US (and NY) citizens are taxed, and part of that money is given to people whom the government thinks are poor (so-called welfare).  I was fairly certain that's socialist, but not really Marxist.
And now it's being used out there just to refer to any kind of governemnt or any kind of--taxation. There are people running for President who seem not to believe in any form of taxation... 
It's at this point I started thinking of the parable of the blind men and an elephant.  Do I even live in the same country as Garrison?  Just which candidates did you hear propose a policy of anarchy and total lack of taxes?  Now, I admit I'm pretty dumb at times, and don't pay attention to everything, but that candidate has been totally off my "radar."
...and who believe every dollar that you earn ought to belong to you.
Why shouldn't it be mine?  What would be the use of money if it weren't mine?  Please do not misunderstand, I do believe we all have to be taxed somehow to compensate government employees and to acquire all the things a government needs (notice I didn't write "wants").  There's no question we need a government, and that goverment needs buildings, supplies, maintenance, trucks, and many other such things, and the workforce to make it all work.  Libertarians like me and our country's founders believe this needs to be kept to some reasonable minimum though.  And we can debate all day just what is that reasonable level; I welcome the discussion.
Well...there are schools, there are highways; there's the Army, there's the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and so forth. And "class warfare" is a term that's being tossed around to refer to any kind of progressive...uhh...taxation, of the income tax, the progressive income tax, which has been around in this country a long, long time; the idea that people who earn more should pay more.
 Well, duh.  Of course we need to fund armed forces, build roads, and do many other such things which would be impossible or nearly so for any private entities to accomplish.  And we are very arguably far better off having a public school system rather than none at all (although its present form is only minimally better than none at all...but that's a topic for another post/day).  But here's the thing: I have yet to have it demonstrated to me how it is justified taxing people based on earning level.

Until the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, it had been, what, 124 years of our nation's existence before an income tax was codified?  And some States to this day do not have an income tax.  Yet somehow this country managed not  only to survive, but to thrive without an income tax!  Likewise, didn't it do fairly well until The Great Society where the government decided to get into the charity biz?  Seems to me there is charity if one truly needs it (Catholic, Episcopalian, United Way, Salvation Army, and on and on).

At the heart of the usual liberal/progressive argument is, "well, the rich can afford it more!"  Bunk.  Balderdash.  What constitutes "enough" for someone to live their life?  It's simply  impractical for a goverment to determine that (accurately).  The variation of humans is just way too great.  As one small example, someone with a drug dependency (let's say insulin)  has a "more expensive" life than most.

It's massively dragging everyone down to some subsistence level, where there is little or no incentive to do well.  If income is going to be taxed at all, I know of no rationalization for increasing the percentage owed based on level of earnings.  Either make it a flat percentage for everyone, possbily with a single offset (standard deduction if you will) indexed to inflation to make an accommodation for the really, really destitute, or have no income tax at all.  Try a sales tax for example.

And so...are you seriously arguing that just because something's been practice for a long, long time, it's good?  How about pre-Abolition?  How about pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964?  I just don't know, again at times I can be really dumb.
Class warfare...so as long as they're accusing us of class warfare, we might as well just engage in class warfare, I say. Here's a song about class warfare; feel free to join in on the chorus.
So the rationalization for doing something is that if you're accused of doing it,  you're somehow unable to defend your position so do it anyway?  That's a nifty rationalization to do just about anything...except I can't quite subscribe to it.

It's time for working people to rise up and defeat
The brokers and the bankers and the media elite
And all the educated bums in panelled office suites
And throw them in the street

== Chorus ==

Glory, glory what's it to ya?
Glory, glory what's it to ya?
Glory, glory what's it to ya?
The truth is marching on

== End chorus ==

Down with all the east cost liberal aristocracy
Down with all the lawyers who live in luxury
Down with all the lobyists in Washington, D.C.
We'll run them up a tree

Let's reverse the social order
Oh, wouldn't it be cool?
Down with management and let the secretaries rule
Let the cleaning ladies sit around the swimming pool
Send the bosses back to school


We'll take them from their country clubs and luxury resorts
We'll take them from the golf course and from the tennis courts
We'll take them out of first class and with a mighty cheer
We'll send them to the rear

And then we'll get the media, those mighty millionaires
Who weave their little fictions sitting on their derrieres
We'll grab them by thier flabby hands and make them say their prayers
And kick them down the stairs


When the umpires come out, everybody boos
The high and the mighty, we kick dirt on their shoes
And won't it be great when the New York Yankees lose
We will all cheer the news


Where do I even begin?  So you'd like to form a mob and just tear down all success merely because you can't seem to achieve it yourself?  You're moderately successful now, Mr. Keillor; I'd just like to know if you swapped places with, say, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Jon Huntsman, Sr., or Terry Pegula you'd feel the same way about having your wealth forcibly taken from you.  Better still, by implication, you'd like the government to be your strongman, your bouncer, and do it for you?  Yikes!!  Again, I'm not quite sure I live in the same country as him.  This sounds quite Marxist to me, a full-fledged Bolshevik Revolt.  I'd really rather you tried that somewhere else, not here.   just sayin'

As so many of the audio clips I hear and stories that I read, I don't know quite which is more disturbing, the individual statements made, or the crowd's reaction to it.  It sounded like the vast majority of the theatre was cheering the sentiment.  One Web page which also transcribed the song had the following:

Yes, FINALLY, someone who people trust and listen to is speaking out. The saddest thing is that now it is considered "brave" to speak up for justice. 
Justice?  For where, the USSR?  Again, yikes!!  Whiskey tango foxtrot!  Where the heck am I???

English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when the speaker or writer chooses not to follow those rules.

"Jeopardy!" replies and randomcaps really suck!

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