Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Troubling Story

"It's hard being a member of the mean party," says Bob Borochoff, a lifelong Republican who was on Capitol Hill this week asking legislators to support bills that will benefit disabled people like his son, Bradley, and returning veterans suffering from mental illness. There's no shortage of horror stories when it comes to health insurance, but Borochoff's tale on behalf of his son took him on a political journey, as well, and his disillusionment is emblematic of the uphill climb the Republicans face in November.

Borochoff's tidy life as a restauranteur and happily married father of three, including newborn twins, was shattered in 1988 when his 3-year-old son Bradley was bitten by a mosquito, which triggered encephalitis, a swelling of the brain and then uncontrollable seizures, leaving him disabled. The family's insurance premiums jumped from $300 a month to $2,500 a month. Borochoff hired a lawyer to fight the increase but was told he had no choice, so he paid the premiums. A year later, a notice arrived in the mail that the insurance company was canceling his policy along with coverage for his 100 employees.

Well known in the restaurant business in Houston, Borochoff had political connections, and he worked every one of them, even securing an audience, along with other small-business owners, in the White House with President George H.W. Bush, all to no avail. In desperation, he contacted Sen. Ted Kennedy, telling a Houston Post reporter at the time, "I can't stand Ted Kennedy," but he hoped he would help. Kennedy intervened and the next day Borochoff got a call saying the insurance for him and his employees would be reinstated. It would be nice if the story ended there, but Bradley's care became more expensive. Medicine not covered by insurance was $2,800 a month. Borochoff's wife divorced him and in 2003, a single father with three teenagers, he filed for personal bankruptcy and received food stamps for six months.

Kennedy's office contacted him several times over the years asking him to testify, which he did only rarely because he didn't always agree with Kennedy's approach. He was once a strong backer of Tom DeLay, and he counts himself a personal friend of DeLay's successor and the two other Republican congressmen representing the Houston area. But he's angry with them and his party over health care and immigration, and that's what brings him to Washington. He's rebuilt his life and now manages four Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston. He serves on the board of a local agency that provides mental-health services to the poor, and the tug he feels is reflected in his political donations; once almost exclusively to Republicans, now he estimates 40 percent goes to Democrats.

This is one man's story but in a sense he is everyman.

That's from Eleanor Clift's latest column. (HT:

I'm old-fashioned. I'm used to my leftist tales of American despair to be about dead children and bosses reduced to living under bridges.

Here's a guy, who gets hit with a tragic illness in his child. Bills mount up. His child gets the treatment. He gets divorced. His business collapes. He files for bankruptcy and wipes out the medical debt. He resumes his career as an entrepreneur. The boy lives.

He's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.

The traditional notion of America the Land of Promise, where a hard-worker can fulfill his obligations in life without some despot on his back, is pretty much dead to half (or more) of the country. Somebody Else ought to be helping, probably the State. It's not fair that a Borochoff should pay his own way, or, stumbling, be forced into bankruptcy. It should have been taken care off. All the other Borochoff's ought to have been bled a little to handle it.

Who's opposing this sort of thinking these days? Even Mitt Romney, the Businessman's Republican, had the bright idea of forcing everybody in Massachusetts to buy insurance they didn't need so there was sufficient profits in the kitty to pay out everybody.

That kind of robbery isn't sustainable. TAANSTAFL, and we forget that at our peril.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I Miss My Blog Anniversary Again

5/12/08. Again too busy and forgetful to honor THE day.

I've been browsing past blogging, the stuff from summer '06 about the failure of the GOP majority seems painfully prescient. I began this blog as an unemployed goober in a joint apartment with my pal, Vinse, looking to boost some skills and vent about the anti-war movement. Four years later and Vinse is nearly two years gone to rest, I've been standing guard through the late watches of the night for over three years, and it looks like my steadfast faith in the Iraq war project is going to be vindicated. Sometime during this summer I'll step out from behind the hotel counter and start work as a paralegal, most likely in some other city, and perhaps move the whole shebang yet again.

So here's to another four years of blogging, maybe... because this whole Internet thing is getting dated, by the hyperactive standards of the Computer Age.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Me, In Passing

Garrison Keillor can't stand Rolling Thunder.

I can't stand Garrison Keillor, really.

Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push.
You don’t quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys.

That is odd, because people rode Harleys on WW2 battlefields but there were darn few French Impressionists.

It took 20 minutes until a gap appeared and then a mob of us pedestrians flooded across the street and the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by looking at exhibits at the Smithsonian or, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you’ve watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization...A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won’t get off.

For 20 minutes you were exposed to some of the best industrial design on the planet, and felt nothing but annoyance. Sculpture in steel and leather and chrome, a centenarian design improved with computers and increasingly complex and ornate gearing and pipework that increases function without sacrificing elegance. A modern Harley is about the same dimensions as the first to roll out of the factory, but is so much more capable. You can sit on one and cross a continent. You could ponder that, too, that our culture and civilization puts these resources and wealth not into a giant pipe organ or a series of fountains for priests or princes to possess and flaunt, but in a practical machine to carry an average person around the country. But instead your thoughts were on the level of a three-year-old waiting in line for a frogurt. A very ill-mannered and impatient three-year-old.

If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War or Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945 or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.

Or you might talk to the fat men in ponytails. They were in the jungle, many against their will, and had friends who died alongside them there. Being American teens in the 1960s, perhaps they and their friends enjoyed tinkering with bikes before they went to Nam. Now the survivors are old and have the leisure and wealth to take 10 days to ride across this country as their friends can never do again, to honor them.

I am the boatman and maybe you are, too — it is quiet on the water, we lean on the oars, and we are suspended in time, united with every other man, woman and child who ever voyaged afar.

Unless they voyaged on two wheels, apparently.