An Open Letter to Governor-Elect Paul LePage

The election is over, finally. Like most people I know, I found the campaign disappointing and profoundly upsetting, although “dirty campaigning” is relative. Here in Maine, we had five candidates for Governor. The winner, put forward by the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, is Paul LePage, the darling of the state’s Tea Partiers. He won with 38% of the vote. His campaign strategy was to throw raw meat to angry extremists. And it worked.

I spent several days pondering a question I found posted on my Facebook home page: “Do we still have to set the clocks back on Sunday, since we set the whole country back on Tuesday?”

Sunday is here, and answer is yes. Out of my concern that we’ve set the State of Maine back as well, I’ve written an open letter to our new Governor:

Dear Governor-Elect LePage,

    Congratulations on your Election Day victory. Although I was not one of your supporters during the long campaign and did not vote for you, I do understand that all Mainers are better off if your administration is successful. For this reason, I wish you the best. With this in mind, however, I want to share a few thoughts with you.

    You won the election because our electoral system doesn’t require a majority vote. Victory goes to the candidate who got the most votes. This was a five-way race. You won because three out of every eight voters chose you. If it had been a ten-way race, you might have won with only one or two votes out of every eight. The point is that you have a victory but not a mandate. Sixty-two percent of voters chose someone else. Nevertheless, you are their Governor, too. Your desire to put the people first should include those people who did not support you. You should also be prepared to meet with skepticism from the majority of the electorate.

    You are a Governor, not a CEO. Although your position is one of considerable power, you will accomplish more through persuasion than by merely giving orders. In government, opposition is not insubordination. You cannot fire either the people of Maine or their elected representatives, some of whom, even in this year of seismic shifts, are still Democrats!

    Surely you know at some level that the state budget numbers you used during the campaign don’t really add up. Many of the hard choices you will have to make as Governor will burden even your most ardent supporters because every budget cut will hurt someone. Please remember that statesmanship requires that factors besides loyalty to you be taken into account in the decisions you will be asked to make.

    You must be available to the media. The days when you can storm out of a press conference because you don’t like the questions are over. Every aspect of your life—public, private and professional—is now fair game. The lives of the members of your immediate family are also now open to 24/7 media scrutiny. You cannot argue otherwise unless, for example, you happen to believe that college antics of George W. Bush’s daughters or the events leading to Bill Clinton’s impeachment were family business only and should have been kept out of national media.

    You must respect your own high office and the high offices held by others, including those whom you may not support. If you are going to call yourself Governor LePage, you must learn to say President Obama. When you speak as Governor of Maine, you speak for the entire State of Maine. You are now the public face of the State of Maine. I hope it goes without saying that telling President Obama or President Anybody Else to go to hell is not to be considered under any circumstances. That is one campaign promise I’m hoping you’re smart enough to abandon.

    As a resident of Maine, I am mindful that you have taken on responsibilities that most of us don’t want. I thank you for your willingness to serve. I also suspect that I’m like most of the 62% of voters I mentioned above when I say I would rather be happy than right. Nothing would make me happier than to find over the next four years that I was wrong about you.

Writing the letter has made me feel a little better, although I have no illusions about its chances of making a difference. I’ve really taken more comfort from something I saw in church just this morning. A Republican friend of mine was speaking about what the congregation has meant to him through the years. When he started talking about the support he and his wife had gotten while their son served two tours in Iraq, he became emotional and his voice broke.

After church, I spoke to our minister and said, “Any time I see a Republican moved to tears, I feel a surge of hope for our nation. Conservatives try so hard to be heartless, and I’m glad when I see them fail at it.”

The Fifth Commandment and the Bottom Line

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

—Deuteronomy 5:16

In a better world, the CNN story would have a better headline. In a perfect world, the story wouldn’t even be news. Get your parents to stop spending your inheritance, says the page title. Stop Squandering My Inheritance says the headline. The story itself concerns elders’ tiresome habit of living on and on instead of buggering off to the cemetery so the next generation can get their hands on the money.

Something about this raises my blood pressure so much that I barely know where to begin in explaining why I find it so offensive. I have to begin somewhere, however, so I’ll start with the headline and its use of the term “my inheritance.”

Last Will and TestamentReaders of this CNN article are invited to believe that the terms “my inheritance” and “my parents’ money” are synonymous. They are not. I may hold a minority view here, but I believe the words “my inheritance” mean absolutely nothing until and unless someone decides to bequeath something to me.

Try to stay with me here, gentle readers of Your parents are under absolutely no obligation—legal, moral or financial—to leave you a dime. Their money is theirs. Period. Your inheritance doesn’t exist until and unless your parents decide otherwise. You have no claim against them and no inherent right to their money. Why would you ever doubt this?

At this point, readers may point out that parents generally have the children they deserve. But this changes nothing. Anyway, I know from personal experience that it isn’t always true.

One day about 20 years ago, a man brought his aged mother into my law office and said, “Mom wants to deed her house over to me.” His manner was brusque, and he was in a hurry.

I explained that I would have to talk to Mom privately. If I were to draft a deed for her to sign, she would be my client. I had a duty to her to ascertain her intentions before I advised her to do anything. The son looked unhappy about this and protested a bit, but he finally headed off to get a cup of coffee while I had a little chat with his mother.

“Who’s idea was this to begin with?” I asked.

She explained that her son had suggested it as a way to prevent her losing the house to pay medical bills in the event of catastrophic illness.

“OK,” I said, “so what about these bills like that? Would your son pay them if you couldn’t?”

She didn’t think so.

“Do you have other assets in addition to the house?” I asked.

She did not.

“So, the question comes down to this,” I said. “Are you willing to die bankrupt in order for your son to be able to have your house?”

She pursed her lips and was silent. She hadn’t thought about it that way. When she did think about it that way, however, she didn’t like it.

“I want to be able to pay my bills,” she said. “I’ve always paid my bills. I don’t want to end up as a welfare case.”

About this time Sonny Jim came back from the coffee shop. When I told him his mother in fact did not want to deed away her only asset, he was furious. He got Mom on her feet and practically pushed her out the door. I assume his next move was to take her to another lawyer to see if he could get a different result.

My hope has always been that Mom was able to fend off her son’s rapacious bullying. She seemed like a nice lady, and she clearly didn’t have the son she deserved.

The point here is that inheritances and other transfers of property from parents are things that must be earned. It seems obvious to me, but not everyone thinks so. A big chunk of the so-called Elder Law business consists of “asset preservation” strategies that work basically by impoverishing parents by placing their assets beyond the reach of their creditors. That typically means maneuvers like getting Mom to deed over her house, and it overlooks a couple of points that ought to be obvious:

  • People who have led responsible lives want to be able to meet their obligations right to the end
  • Parents want the love and attention of their children right to the end

In our time, however, the obvious sometimes isn’t even discernible unless an expert calls it to our attention. A great deal of effort has therefore been expended in some quarters in order to understand why aging parents don’t naturally welcome penury and isolation in order to enrich their children, no matter what. Among the helpful hints in the CNN story is this little gem: “…studies show that children who frequently call and visit their elderly parents tend to inherit larger amounts than those who don’t.”

No kidding. Hard as it may be for some folks to accept, parents can in fact tell the difference between when their children visit and when they don’t. Parents may not say anything about it, but they know. And it matters. Parents need and usually deserve the attention of their children.

This isn’t a new idea. It dates from ancient times and has been a central tenet of our culture from the beginning. Everything anybody needs to know about it is right there in the 5th commandment.

Would a Coyote Lie?


by Mark Jarman

Is this world truly fallen? They say no.
For there’s the new moon, there’s the Milky Way,
There’s the rattler with a wren’s egg in its mouth,
And there’s the panting rabbit they will eat.
They sing their wild hymn on the dark slope,
Reading the stars like notes of hilarious music.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?


And yet we’re crying over the stars again,
And over the uncertainty of death,
Which we suspect will divide us all forever.
I’m tired of those who broadcast their certainties,
Constantly on their cell phones to their redeemer.
Is this a fallen world? For them it is.
But there’s that starlit burst of animal laughter.


The day has sent its fires scattering.
The night has risen from its burning bed.
Our tears are proof that love is meant for life
And for the living. And this chorus of praise,
Which the pet dogs of the neighborhood are answering
Nostalgically, invites our answer, too.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?

I thought of this poem last night when a dog barked outside. It’s unusual in this neighborhood. The dogs here are well-cared for and well-trained. They seldom find much to bark about. Listening to the dog, I began to wonder if the coyote I saw in the street a few years ago was making his rounds again. Probably it was just wishful thinking. It is mid-winter, and much of the time I feel trapped indoors.

We live in a time of shrillness, and too many of the voices in what currently passes for public discourse have taken to howling and barking. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity,” wrote Yeats. The problem is not new, and we find it everywhere.

In the current issue of Newsweek, a reader from California pronounces that “The president is a socialist ideologue…” In response to the same article, a reader in Connecticut insists that the president “has done nothing but capitulate to the right and to Wall Street.” The howl and the bark. Mr. California and Ms. Connecticut cannot both be right, and in this instance actually manage both to be wrong. They howl and bark to make stupid sound smart and scared sound strong.

The coyote doesn’t howl for emphasis because the howl is the message: “I am a coyote, and right now I am in this exact spot.” The dog barks in reply, “I am a dog, and right now I am in this exact spot.” It’s all true, and they are both right.

As always, the time is right now. As always, politics and punditry don’t have much to do with actual living. Knowing this, couldn’t we as human beings just try a little harder not to be stupid and scared and not to take it out on each other? Couldn’t we leave the howling and barking to the coyotes and dogs?

They’re really good at it after all, and we aren’t.

A Few Thoughts for an Anonymous Progressive

I’d be happier if this could be an actual conversation, my anonymous progressive friend, but my experience has been that you do not listen. Even when you are willing to give your name, you only show up to talk–specifically to bestow upon those of us whom you see as sitting in darkness the superior wisdom of your orthodoxies. You are insufferable when you do this, but you don’t seem to know that. Perhaps you would if you were better at listening.

For most of my adult life I’ve done my best to maintain my equanimity in the face of patronizing insults, but now you seem to have crossed a line. Today, the day after President Obama’s first State of the Union Address, you left this anonymous comment on the Who is IOZ? blog: “I didn’t watch the Address. What did el presidente say? Wait. Nevermind (sic). It doesn’t matter what he said. At all.”

Really, Mr/Ms Anonymous? The remarks of the single most powerful and influential person on earth don’t matter? At all? Not to anybody, do you think, or just not to you?

But have I missed something crucial here? Perhaps you are the most powerful and influential person on the planet so what Obama said really doesn’t matter if you say it doesn’t.

If that’s the case, I wish you had taken the time to call him and let him know he didn’t need to go to all the trouble of writing and delivering that speech. Noblesse oblige and all. It would have been a nice gesture on your part. I mean, if it didn’t matter what he said, Obama could have stayed home last night with Michelle and the kids–maybe played fetch with Bo or something.

The truth, of course, is that you missed the speech last night because you and your ilk have written off Obama. You gave him about 90 days to remake the world in your image, and when that didn’t happen (how could it possibly have happened?) you wrote him off. That’s your prerogative under the Constitution you rely upon Obama to defend, but there are a few things you and those like you should consider:

  • When you write off the President unless he agrees with you 100%, you are doing your very best to hand the keys back to the GOP. If you are so amnesiac or willfully blind that you can’t tell the difference between Obama and Dubya, then you deserve Dubya and are helping to bring him or someone like him back to the White House.
  • When you only listen to people you already agree with, you get so you don’t even notice when you say things that are really, really stupid. The Who is IOZ? comment is just one tiny example of this.
  • When you indulge in supercilious brat attacks, you become profoundly unattractive. Perhaps you don’t care, but I would suggest that if you don’t admire Rush Limbaugh you should stop acting like him.

Same Old Same Old from the Homophobic Right

Here in Maine, we’ve been through months and months of hysteria, misinformation and outright nastiness from self-styled defenders of marriage who have mounted a referendum effort to repeal a measure passed last May by the Legislature and signed by the Governor that legalizes same-sex civil marriage.

I’ve done my best to stay positive while doing my part for the campaign working to defeat this referendum. This afternoon, however, I happened to get a look at one of the websites promoting passage of the referendum. This is what I found.

If that link doesn’t seem to work, by the way, please enable popups in your browser. I’ve put up a picture of the page rather than an actual link because, well, because I’m damned if I’m going to give that site a link! If all else fails, you can go directly to the picture by clicking here.

Please take a moment to read the copy on that page and to study the picture that accompanies it. I’m asking a lot here because I’m about to start a rant, and I really, really want you to know what I’m talking about.

Let’s start with the headline which suggests that Question 1 is the only thing protecting schoolchildren from an onslaught of homosexual propaganda. No matter that Maine’s Attorney General has rendered a formal opinion that states that the law as enacted has no impact at all on what is or is not taught in Maine’s schools. The Stand for Marriage Maine (SAMM) folks must know this, unless they are as obtuse as they seem to hope Maine voters are, but they continue to beat the same drum. It’s hard to imagine they have any other purpose in mind than to sway through fear voters who don’t know about the AG’s opinion or who don’t know enough to believe it.

Next they talk about “national organizations” bringing a fight to Maine. If this doesn’t qualify as an attempt to manipulate through distortion, I don’t know what would. The facts are these: The referendum is to repeal an act of the legislature, not to enact anything. The truth about this claim appears when we “follow the money.” According to campaign finance reports, the bulk of the money funding SAMM and the referendum itself comes from out of state. It’s the effort to preserve the existing law that is funded overwhelmingly by contributions from people here in Maine.

The rest of the text is speculation and innuendo about Massachusetts, but it drops a nasty little zinger about attempts to limit parents’ rights to control what their kids learn in school. I suspect that this is an attempt to connect SAMM’s agenda with the same parental anxieties that only a few weeks ago launched that brainless resistance to President Obama’s speech to school children.

My suspicion is strengthened by the photo. According to the 2000 census, Maine is the whitest state in the nation. Nevertheless, SAMM offers an image that features an African-American teacher, black like Obama. Perhaps this is something besides a blatant appeal to racism, but given the content of the text on the page I have serious doubts.

In the photo the blue-eyed blond in the back looks as if she is hearing something that she doesn’t believe. The other kids, however, merely look troubled and confused. The narrative of the photo is therefore this: a teacher who is an alien influence, like Obama, is filling the minds of our innocent children with poisonous ideas from an out of state conspiracy of homosexuals. Some children (e.g., the blond symbol of white America) will be able to resist these lies, but what of the rest? What will they do, the picture asks, if we don’t beat back these invaders by undoing the law our own elected representatives enacted six months ago? The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Vote Yes!

There are certainly poisonous lies coming from out of state, but they appear on the SAMM page and do not come from existing law or the campaign to preserve it. A responsible and legitimate political organization would offer actual information upon which a voter might base a reasoned decision. SAMM, however, offers a skewed and paranoid vision of our schools and state government based on half-truths, innuendo, racism and homophobia.

This is simply more than I can keep silent about.

Is it Torture if Americans Do it?

Last fall I nearly got into a shouting match with some conservative friends of mine when I suggested that the Bush Administration’s handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involved criminal acts at the highest levels. Specifically, I expressed my concern that the then Vice President had become a war criminal in the service of what he perceived to be leadership and patriotism. In recent months, I haven’t revisited the subject with my friends, but apparently more than a few thoughtful conservatives have begun to worry about some of the same issues.

The October 2009 issue of The Atlantic, for example, has as its cover story an examination of systematic torture in detention centers operated by the CIA and by American military personnel. The article, by Andrew Sullivan, is hard to read both because of its anguished tone (Sullivan was a Bush supporter in 2000) and because of the clarity with which it documents the descent of what were probably good people into the fear, rage and self-delusion that allowed them first to justify torture and then to conduct it with enthusiasm.

Like Sullivan, I find it hard to imagine anything more fundamentally un-American and anti-American than torture. As more becomes known about what went on in the prisons operated in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention the CIA’s so-called “black sites”) it becomes harder and harder to believe that any of it happened by accident. Worse, our national conversation continues to include those who insist that anything Americans do is justified and that the face America should present to the world is one of implacable authoritarianism.

This bombastic and imperious drivel from arch right-winger Cal Thomas, for example, seems to be saying that Obama can’t protect us from “them” because he doesn’t make the rest of the world sufficiently afraid of America. Cal assumes that we know (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that the only thing “they” understand is fear and that “they” are everyone in the world who isn’t a white American who shares Cal’s religion of condemnation and politics of hatred.

No matter how strident the Cals of the world become, however, the truth of the matter remains: torture by any name is horrible and wrong. Torture never rests on the side of the angels, no matter who does it.

But is that even the worst of it? Well, not from where I sit. To my mind, when America becomes a country that tortures prisoners, we cease to be America.

Deciding to End a Life

Mom and I sat side by side in a small conference room in Maine Medical Center. We were listening to a doctor explain, as gently as he could, that the time had come for us to make decisions about my father.

A few weeks earlier, Dad had undergone quadruple bypass surgery. He had recovered from it fairly well, but during his first night home from the hospital he suffered a massive stroke. After a few days back in the hospital, he slipped into a coma. Now we were facing the reality that he wouldn’t be coming back to us.

Dad’s condition, in the doctor’s opinion, was irreversible, yet with the feeding tube and ventilator in place, he could be kept alive indefinitely. The doctor asked if Dad had ever prepared an advance directive. The answer was no. As far as I knew, Dad had never said anything at all about what he would want in the circumstances we now faced.

Mom turned to me and said, “What do you think?”

“I think it’s your call, Mom.”

She was silent.

Finally I said, “If you don’t want to decide or if you can’t decide, Mom, I will.”

“I think you’d better,” she said.

I looked at the doctor. “Are you saying he can’t get well?”

It’s the kind of question doctors usually hate, but this doctor didn’t hesitate. “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

“We have to let him go,” I said. Then I was in tears and couldn’t talk anymore.

“We’ll keep him comfortable,” the doctor said.

Dad hung on for three more days.

All of this happened 15 years ago, and I still sometimes find myself wondering if I did the right thing. Should I have pushed Mom harder to make the decision herself? Should I have waited a few more days to decide? Should I have asked to talk to another doctor? Should I have just said we were going to wait for a miracle?

These are the hardest questions anyone can face. I did the best I could without much time to prepare or to think.

The kind of counseling that would have helped Mom and me, that perhaps would have led Dad to tell us what he wanted in advance may or may not have been widely available in 1994. But it’s available now.

Sarah Palin and her ilk, however, want to make sure health insurance won’t cover it. With her gift for twisting the truth beyond recognition, she calls such counseling “hav[ing] to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel‘ so his bureaucrats can decide” whether someone lives or dies.

It’s hard for me not to take that personally. I had to pull the plug on my own father. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in 63 years of living. I could have used some help.

That’s why I wrote to every member of my state’s Congressional delegation urging them to stand up to Sarah Palin and all the rest who want to derail healthcare reform. The story of my father’s last days is old news now, but families everywhere face the same heartbreaking dilemma every day.

Many opponents of healthcare reform don’t seem to care. If you’re someone who does care, however, it’s time for you to speak up.

A Healthcare Letter to Maine’s Congressional Delegation

Here in summary form is the letter I sent today to Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree:

Americans of all persuasions are being subjected to a blizzard of disinformation from well-funded interests devoted to preserving the status quo in the area of healthcare. These advocates are NEVER off message, and they never seem to run out of money.

A single-payer system won’t work, they say. “Socialized” medicine is doomed to failure, they say. Significant changes to our current healthcare system will compromise our freedom, they say.

These claims, simply put, are self-serving lies on the part of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Perhaps it is coincidence, for example, that Big Pharma now spends more on marketing prescription medications directly to consumers than it does on research and development, but the history of American healthcare over the last 30 years suggests otherwise.

The question now is whether leaving millions and millions of Americans without the ability to pay for healthcare is really an acceptable cost of doing business in order to protect record profits in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. These industries clearly believe so.

I’m asking you to consider whether this thinking represents an America whose government you want to serve. What will America have become when, in the eyes of its elected representatives, corporate profits trump the right to life itself for millions of its citizens?

Here are some simple truths that special interests attempt to stifle again and again:

  1. Single-payer healthcare in Canada, Great Britain and France is a genuine success. Citizens of those nations pay less and receive better care than Americans.
  2. Americans now pay more than ever before for healthcare, yet the health of Americans does NOT improve. America’s infant mortality rates, for example, are shockingly high for the developed world. Americans’ life expectancy lags behind much of the developed world.
  3. One American in six under the age of 65, about 46 million people, now live without health insurance of any kind. The reality for these people is that hospitals turn them away if they cannot pay. For such people, American “freedom” means the freedom to die for the sake of the status quo.
  4. It shouldn’t have to be said that these 46 million American lives matter, but it does have to said. Repeatedly. The current healthcare system condemns many of the uninsured to death every single day in order to protect profits.

America’s healthcare actuaries have the data at their fingertips to say exactly how much profits increase with each American condemned to such a death. Perhaps during the current debate you will have the opportunity to ask what this number is. I think the number would do a lot to clarify the priorities of those who defend the current system.

As a resident of Maine and a voter in every single election since 1968, I am counting on you to do your part to ensure that 2009 is the year that America finally begins to find its way out of the national disgrace of our current healthcare system.

By the reckoning of some, I’m just another malcontent. Maybe writing and sending this letter was just a waste of time, but I have to believe that at some point people will decide that letting people die just to increase profits is just plain un-American.

OK, Maybe Now It’s Time to Change Carriers

Just when I think it’s safe to stop hating cellphone carriers, a story like this one comes along.

Seems a guy in Ohio had a sort of breakdown, perhaps including attempted suicide, and took off after swallowing a whole lot of pills. Responding to an emergency call, the local sheriff figured he could use the GPS feature of the guy’s cellphone to locate him.

But no. Verizon’s customer service rep said no dice because the guy was behind in his cellphone payments! The sheriff had to agree to pay $20 of the back balance to get Verizon to cooperate! By this time, the guy was almost dead. Fortunately for him, he was located in time by other searchers.

Now, in fairness to all concerned, there is probably more than this to the story. But here’s the statement from Verizon Wireless:

Verizon Wireless apologizes for our mistake. This particular issue has now been resolved. We will work to ensure our exemplary service to our nations first responders is on track, and we remind law enforcement to use our 24-7 hotline for public safety needs.

I’ve written enough press releases in my life to offer this rough translation of the above:

We did absolutely nothing wrong, but if a meaninglessly generalized apology will keep us from getting sued, then we’re willing to say we’re sorry.


“This particular issue” means cases involving guys in Carroll County, Ohio who have the exact plan this guy had and who need rescuing because they are nut cases.


“We will work to ensure” means that the next time we’re caught in a sh*t storm like this one, we really don’t want to hear about it from anyone. We’re on this, OK?


We say we offer “exemplary service” whether you think so or not. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. This episode gives us the chance to make that claim, and we aren’t about to pass it up.


Here’s the take-home: if the cop had called the right department, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened. Why isn’t the cop’s ass on fire here instead of ours?

Part of the problem is that there really aren’t enough standards in the cellphone industry. Every cellphone is its own universe. Imagine having to learn to drive all over again every time you bought a new car! In addition, every carrier offers a smorgasbord of plans carefully designed so as to be impossible to compare with plans offered by other carriers. The plans also bundle features you want with those you don’t want.

Our Verizon Wireless plan, for example, gives me 250 text messages per month (I use maybe 6). We have to pay for the 250 in order to get the family plan that will include my mother-in-law, who lives with us.

But maybe I’ve talked myself out of changing carriers here. I used to be an AT&T customer. I got over that when we were caught in a power blackout in NYC a few summers ago. The AT&T cell network went down. Verizon Wireless customers kept talking.

Anyway, here’s my suggestion for their next advertising campaign: “Verizon Wireless. Probably less inadequate than the competition.”

Clouding the Issue with Facts

As of today, I’m making a real effort to revive this blog.

I know, I know. I’ve said the same thing a dozen times before, but maybe this time is different. Here’s the deal:

  • My caregiver responsibilities are mostly met, and Marge has gone back to work.
  • The longest damn winter I remember is finally over.
  • I’ve filed for Social Security and am now officially retired.

Among the things I’ve been doing is spending more time with the news. As I expected, however, this is a mixed blessing. For one thing, there is the vicious, nonstop logorrhea of the Cheneys. Today, for example, reports daughter Liz Cheney making the brainless claim that theThe Ever-Smiling Dick Cheney Obama administration is “siding with the terrorists” by releasing some details about “enhanced interrogation” during the Bush years. She says it doesn’t tell “the whole story.”

While it may be true that we still don’t have the whole story, the material being released will tell a whole lot more of the story than the Bushies ever did. Liz, like her Dad, seems to be much, much more concerned about appearances than about reality. So, now that some of the story is coming out, Cheney fille starts complaining about incomplete disclosure.

Not, you understand, that she would like complete disclosure either. Like her father, she doesn’t want any disclosure at all! None. Zero. The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.

By virtue of what I’ve written here, of course, I open myself to the Bush/Cheney Right’s usual hectoring condescension. In their view I somehow hate America and, worse, am “naive.” The implication is that it’s asking too much to expect POTUS (and VPOTUS) actually to live up to those cherished American ideals we hear so much about.

I beg to differ. Even Dick Nixon didn’t try to justify torturing people!

On the other hand, maybe I have been naive. So I’m done trying to be open-minded about the Cheneys. Cheney père says he prefers Rush Limbaugh (a talk radio gasbag with a drug conviction) to Colin Powell (a decorated military hero with a decades-long record of public service) as a Republican leader.

And there you have it. You are known, Mr. Cheney, by the company you keep.