Thursday, November 20, 2014


   New life is being built into the iconic Cayucos Pier with its bay view of Morro Rock.
   It was built in 1872 but a Pacific storm last year did damage that forced it closed.  
   People have raised $500 thousand to repair the Cayucos pier that includes putting in 14 new pilings. The original pilings were pine from Cambria, just up the coast.  
   Cayucos was the maritime capitol of the north coast as steamships made almost daily trips to and from San Francisco and Los Angeles. For years it was also the starting point of commercial fishing. It has been a recreational pier since the 1920's.

   Under gray velvet skies workers are installing new life to the popular tourist and recreational icon.
   It's the 1974 Indiana Democratic State Convention and there was a helluva credentials fight underway. This is the closed meeting of the credentials committee. It was closed until an Indianapolis Star photographer and I crashed the party.
    The African American man in the patterned jacket in the left of the frame was a certified delegate, one of many, who was being denied voting privileges on the convention floor. I was reporting live on the flap and decided that while the fate of many votes was being decided in a closed door room, I'd take my live microphone, giant headphones and the public's interest right to the spot. The Star photographer followed. I suspect he thought he'd get a shot of a journalist getting tossed out.
    The big man, third from the right, is the credentials chair, Tiny Hunt and he was cross checking lists and signatures. Earlier I had reported about dead phone banks, lack of access and other political chicanery that a well connected political machine had orchestrated against an opposition candidate. Ah, the good old days.
    By the way, the man was certified and so were several others. From my vantage it was obvious. I don't know how it might have turned out had there not been a pushy and nosy reporter looking over their shoulders.

   Jonathan Gruber, an economist from MIT has evoked a hue and cry from some for a comment he made in 2013. He was quoted as saying the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obama Care, was passed because of the stupidity of the  American people and because of a lack of transparency by the Obama administration.
   A few facts-Gruber was not on the staff of the White House or Health and Human Services or the Democratic Party. He was a consultant paid to measure and analyze the impact of something called the "adjusted community rating"--in essence it is the affect on prices based on pooling clusters of insured patients.
    Gruber is reported to have said the health care act was written in such a way as to hide these price variances.
     A couple of more facts. The President talked about that price variable in February of 2010.  The Congressional Budget Office wrote a letter to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh in November 2009 saying that the result could be increased premiums for younger and healthier workers. In fact there are several other instances where the price and premium variances were discussed openly by Democrats and Republicans.
     Gruber is probably not a stupid man, but he certainly acted like one with his own "stupidity" comment.  He was very well paid to perform his analysis.  He's entitled to his view, but it was stupid to say what he did because he was incorrect. There had been plenty of transparency even if many American voters were not paying attention.
     Now this will not go over well with some, but in fact many Americans display behavior that would indicate stupidity. Even with all of the news and information services available fewer people are spending time reading or consuming news. The majority of those who do choose their network or news outlet based on political or ideological leaning. Does preaching to the choir resonate here?  Americans are however very well entertained. 
     The streaming networks, premium cable, basic cable and the old fashioned broadcast networks do well in harvesting millions of viewers for a variety of entertainment programs. Gaming is reaching staggering new levels of popularity, but news programming continues to decline. Newspaper readership is also precarious. 
       Let me just drop these comparisons.  Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty or Frontline and Charlie Rose. 
     Perhaps the drop in circulation and viewership reflects dissatisfaction with the quality of the product. Perhaps not! A friend who is a former newspaper syndication executive and who has a particular political preference will still consume a broad spectrum of national and international news sources. She comes to her views from a studied perspective and she, like people with intelligence, holds a variety of perspectives. Conservative on some, liberal on others. Sadly most people are not so discerning.
    A good case can be made that many Americans display signs of stupidity on issues of health, fitness, diet, public safety, diversity, cultural understanding, civility, standards, manners, understanding of history, distracted driving and etc. Now, when this pool is adjusted to political participation you are bound to get manipulation, exploitation, low information voters and stupidity.  Frankly I've heard comments from sitting members of the US Congress who convince me they are what I call "mouth breathers." And isn't it stupid to vote on a piece of legislation that you have not read?
     Back when Izzy Stone was alive and publishing I.F. Stone's Weekly, American Journalists would have known and read the full legislative package and would have raised hell if members of congress had not. Sadly American journalism misses that kind of determination, drive, attention to detail, even boring detail.  
    Tons of information and data are available now, but you have to go get it. Fortunately it's at the end of your finger tips thanks to the same digital age that is robbing us of privacy. I guess it's a trade off.
     So yes Mr Gruber and Mr and Mrs America, some of you are stupid. Maybe we are all stupid in our own way-but just not the way you think we are. Eh?
      By the way, the now notorious Jonathan Gruber had a 
previous client before he worked on Obamacare.  He 
performed the same role for Massachusetts. There its been called Romneycare.

    I understand why Rosewater is collecting so much acclaim. The story is important and compelling and Stewart has done a superb job of converting Maziar Bahari's book (and life changing event) into a screenplay and film. Gael Garcia Bernal is brilliant as Bahari and Kim Bodina is masterful as Rosewater, the interrogator. So much of the orbit of the film is around the interaction of these two and they deliver extraordinary performances.
   I had some of the same feelings in seeing Rosewater that I had in seeing Costa Gavras' 1969 classic Z, that dealt with repression in Greece. Heavy handed government thuggery still exists and the challenge of journalism, even in the 21st century, sometimes is to simply endure repression by idiots and zealots.
    Jon Stewart has moved into directing with talent, finesse and great chops.  

      See you down the trail.


  1. Thank you for explaining this Gruber dust up. I keep hearing his name but hadn't focused on it yet. It's possible I'm one of those stupid Americans he was talking about.

  2. Mark Twain once remarked that when he was 16 years old, " old man was so stupid, I could hardly stand to have him around. By the time I reached 21, it was amazing how much smarter the old man had become in five years." People are not particularly stupid. They choose to be less informed. In the case of Mark Twain, who was stupid, the boy or his father?

    The American attention span is part of the problem. NBC News recently documented it to be less than :10 seconds. If congress - or whomever - writes a 1,200 page document, few have the time or inclination to read it. Those crafting legislation know this and use it to their advantage.

    Compare the length of two of the most important documents in human history - The Ten Commandments and The Bill of Rights - to any piece of Congressional legislation. Bigger is not better and certainly is far less profound.

  3. One of my correspondents and blog readers was unable to get her post entered, for some technical reason, so I publish it here.

    To quote Obama in his attempt to sell ACA to the American public..."I have stolen ideas from ...John Gruber." Pelosi referred to Gerber's "genius" on her website so why either of them are pretending he had little influence in the ACA's design is befuddling. Or is it?

    That Gruber's elitist contempt for the American public earned him millions ($400,000 from the WH and the rest from the States) is repugnant. That his eagerness to help deceive the public was exposed by an ordinary American citizen and not the press is disheartening. A responsible and unbiased press could go a long way in reducing the 'stupidity' of the American voter.