Friday, October 24, 2014

The Devil You Know

If you want a detailed description of everything wrong with America’s government, you need look no further than Alaska’s only Congressional Representative, Don Young.

Last Tuesday, speaking in front of students at Wasilla High, five days after another student committed suicide, Representative Young told the assembled teenagers that the death of their classmate was, well, essentially their fault.

No recording was made, but witnesses agree Young told the students that while alcohol and depression can contribute to suicide, it was specifically the lack of support from them and from family that was the real cause behind their friend’s death.

Amy Spargo, the school's principal was appalled, "When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room. But I gasped as well. It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." 

Young is nothing if not consistently oblivious to the impact of his tone deafness. He then went on to describe the evils of big government – conveniently forgetting, as usual, that he’s been bringing home truckloads of bacon to Alaska for more than four decades.

Don Young is Big Government. 

He’s been big government for more than forty-one years.

Continuing on in his profanity laced rant, Young also explained to the students how socialism and gay people are ruining America, a message that reportedly wasn't received very well by young people still reeling from the discovery that their congressional representative blames them for the death of their fellows.

Young is also apparently oblivious to the fact that some of his audience might be gay. And the kind of gender-identity shaming Young was engaged in, that from authority figures, is a significant contributing factor in depression and suicide among young people already struggling to figure out their identity.  But, yeah, Don, way to support your community.

Not content with blaming suicide on the students of Wasilla High, Young swung by the Mat-Su Senior Center here in Palmer the next day and blamed suicide on Obama and a liberal society that “coddles” people.

"This suicide problem didn't exist until we got largesse from the government. When people had to work, and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting the wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn't have the suicide problem. It comes from the largesse of saying you're not worth anything but you're going to get something for nothing."

As always, Young ignores actual facts. 

Since the federal and state government began suicide prevention programs, and coincidently social welfare programs as well, the national suicide rate has steadily declined from 13.2 persons per 100,000 in 1950 to an average of 10 per 100,000 since the year 2000. The suicide rate has climbed in recent years, back to an average of 12 per 100,000 with the increase being largely attributed to the unusually high suicide rate among combat veterans after a decade of war.  And I suppose this is as good of place as any to mention the part where Don Young and his political party consistently block attempts to increase funding for veterans mental health care.

Let’s pull the thread on Young’s assertion: If the suicide of a high school student can be blamed on a lack of compassion and caring by his schoolmates, what exactly does the suicide rate among veterans say about politicians such as Don Young?

And what does it say about America herself?

Give that some thought, won’t you?

While at the senior center, Young was asked about the previous day’s incident at Wasilla High – which was the lead story Wednesday in the local media.  In classic Don Young fashion, forgetting that just minutes before he was ranting on about personal responsibility, the Congressman waved away any culpability on his part and instead blamed the school.

"I'm very upset with the school system that would take the side of individuals that are being disrespectful to their fellow students.”

Well, Okay then.

Whatever they’re paying Matthew Shuckerow, Don Young’s spokesman, it’s not enough. By Thursday afternoon, Shuckerow was in full damage control mode.

"Congressman Young was very serious and forthright when discussing the issue of suicide, in part because of the high number of tragedies that affect Alaskan youth. In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message. In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach."

Heh heh. Nice one, Matt. Just one problem: Don Young doesn’t do sensitive – not unless he’s sucking up to  Exxon and British Petroleum. But I digress.

And once again, Alaskans are shocked and embarrassed by Don Young’s churlish behavior.

Listen, if you're surprised in any way whatsoever by any of the outrageous nonsense that falls from Don Young’s mouth like nuggets from the back end of a moose, you just haven't been paying attention.

This isn't the exception, this is Don Young.

Don Young can't go a day without dropping another steaming load.

The simple truth of the matter is that Don Young just doesn't care.  He doesn’t care what you think. He doesn't care what Alaskans think. 

And why should he?

For more than forty years he’s been Alaska's only Representative.  He’s a blatant racist and an outspoken misogynist, who openly waxes nostalgic for the good old days when white men didn't have to share power with anybody else. He uses racial slurs openly, in public conversation with constituents, in interviews, and does not understand or care why it’s wrong.  He’s loudly, obnoxiously homophobic.  He’s a jingoist.  He’s anti-science in a state that depends for its very existence on science and engineering. He's anti-science in the state that is most directly affected by the terrible results of ignoring science. During what was arguably the single most important vote in the House in the last forty years, Don Young went on Safari to Africa.

Don Young is an outdated Neanderthal who long ago lost touch with the modern world.

He’s 81 years old and he’s not going to change and he’s made that goddamned clear. And he doesn't have to.  He’s going to go right on being Don Young.

But you know what? The simple bald truth of the matter is this: Don Young isn't the problem.

Don Young barely even bothers to campaign for reelection. And he doesn't have to. Don Young is entitled to his office.

And why shouldn't he think exactly that?

Why shouldn’t Don Young and those like him believe they are nobility? Why shouldn't they believe they are better than us? Why shouldn’t they believe that they are entitled to their office? Why shouldn’t they do and say exactly as they please?

For more than forty years Don Young has behaved exactly the same.

If there is one thing you can count on, it’s Don Young’s arrogant self assurance.  He’s a bull in a china shop and he revels in it, and he gleefully makes others pick up the pieces - just ask Shuckerow.

For forty years he’s taken money from out of state Big Oil and Big Mining and his political party and his rich cronies and he represents their interests while utterly ignoring everybody else.

To call Don Young representative of his Alaskan constituency is laughable. I’m his constituency, and he sure as shit doesn’t represent me. Nor does he represent that new generation of voters graduating from Wasilla High, the ones he just insulted.

Don Young represents the interests of one Alaskan and one Alaskan only: Don Young.

And yet – and yet – he is reelected over and over and over.  He cannot lose. No matter what idiotic thing he says, no matter his blatant bigotry and his consistent misogyny, no matter his contempt and dismissal of half his own state, Don Young gets reelected.

And that, that right there, is the problem.

We rail against politicians like Don Young, but we almost never hold them to account when it matters.

We go to the polls, if we go to the polls, and it’s just easier to reelect the bastard we know than to deal with somebody new.

In America, our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

That is its greatest strength.

And that is its greatest weakness.

In a republic, in a representative democracy like ours, the government you get is the one you deserve.

If you want a better government, then you have to be better citizens.


  1. Some people will say this is harsh, but we need to stop coddling him.


  2. As always, totally spot on! I am more and more convinced that the only way to fix the evils that career politicians have been allowed to perpetrate is to implement strict term limits (2 terms max) for everything from town dog catcher all the way up to President. And, for good measure, I'd like to see it made illegal for any politician to become a lobbyist for at least 10 years after leaving office.

    1. We have term limits -- they are called voters.

  3. Should read "Young is also apparently oblivious to the fact"...

  4. You wrote: "Young is also apparently obvious to the fact that some of his audience might be gay". Should that be "oblivious"?

    As always, your analysis is spot on. Thank you for sharing what is on your mind, reminds me that there are reasonable people who still live here in America.

    1. Already fixed. Thanks, I appreciate the assist // Jim

  5. Send him a copy of "Lord of the Flies"

  6. Don is famous for his "Youngisms" such as "I serve the constituents who voted for me."

    The man is a disgusting piece of humanity. If he wins this year again, it will really be a sad, sad day for Alaska. Especially considering the fine, smart, respectful, and educated man running against him: Forest Dunbar who I voted for this week by absentee ballot.

    BTW Jim - My Pixel cat says I need hex your neighbor for you on behalf of ShopKat. Working on it.

  7. Jim: you should run against him 2016.

    1. I swear more than he does. And I don't meet the religious requirement. I'm basically unelectable.

    2. Ditto. I talk funny, I don't pander, I fail to meet the religious requirement...how many strikes is that?

    3. Aim higher. Your state hasn't had much luck with VP candidates, and I'm afraid you probably don't have the public recognition you'd need to head a ticket, but I think you should look into possible routes to run for national office. It's the only way I could vote for you from North Carolina.

    4. You'll never know until you try. I've been following you for just a month and can say You're the sanest commentator I've run across, yet. I'm not Alaskan but I'd donate to the cause if you did.

    5. Bill Stoltz swears too much plus is infamous for baking cookies in the nude, and he'll probably get elected to state senate in your district Jim. Of course, Bill has that (R) behind his name...

    6. Look at the upside Jim: ShopKat would have plenty of rats to hunt in DC!

  8. If coddling suckers and losers and giving people what they don't deserve causes suicide, someone in this gun-happy state should give this idiot a loaded handgun with and invitation and instructions on how to make his exit.

  9. Fossilization at Young's level SHOULD start at the mouth instead of the brain...

  10. Religious requirement...that angers me more than Young does. Texas has the same bullshit in its laws, but no one's really checked for some time. Blatantly unconstitutional.

    1. If I recall correctly, several states still have laws on the books that say that while you're allowed to adhere to whatever faith you like, you do need to acknowledge a "Creator". If you're atheist, Buddhist, Scientologist or Discordian, you're legally ineligible.

      ... Of course, if you're muslim, Hindu, Viking-pagan or a FSM adherent you're legally eligible, but your chances of being elected are still going to be slim...

  11. Why not promote the alternative?


  12. I think my comment got zapped, so forgive me if this is a repeat.

    I used to be against term limits. Why should someone who is doing a good job in Congress be kicked out after some arbitrary period of time? But I am rethinking my position. I think that the term limit should be reasonably long, say 20 years (10 elections) for the House and 18 years (3 elections) for the Senate. This way they are in there long enough to know how things run, but there is a point when they have to make way for new blood.

    Part of the problem with the House is gerrymandering. There are now ridiculously shaped Congressional districts that are created strictly to ensure that one party will virtually always win the seat and voters in the other party are segregated into one or two districts. (I think you can all guess to which party I am referring.)

    I am doing my part. I have been telephoning and going door to door in support of my congressman who is running against the Tea Party do-nothing woman that he unseated two years ago. He actually works with the other party to get things done, mirabile dictu.

  13. Is there an actual religious requirement or just the fact that someone openly secular couldn't get elected? I'm from Texas and I've never heard of that. If true, it is quite clearly unconstitutional although anyone who would fight it couldn't get elected anyway.

    1. US Constitution says: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

      I've heard that there are some state laws and perhaps still on the books requiring some sort of religious conviction for elected officials on the reasoning that otherwise the oaths of office wouldn't be effective. But I have my doubts such laws meet constitutional muster.

      No, the only religious tests applied are those by individual voters when they evaluate for whom to cast their ballot. And most voters do look at that religious faith characteristic a the first general marker of moral character. Many of them seem to stop looking for signs of moral trustworthiness after they find out which church the candidate attends.

  14. Slugs like Don Young would be nothing without the Republican Party which will lie, cheat, and steal to win.

    Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.

    GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Timothy Pickering, Jul. 27, 1795

    Chris in South Jersey

  15. The U.S. Constitution states: "...the “No Religious Test Clause” of the United States Constitution, which is found in Article VI, paragraph 3, and states that: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    And yet, seven states ban atheists from political offices, in spite of the U.S. Constitution.

    Here's the version requiring officeholders in Texas to "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being" --- Texas State Constitution, Article 1, Section 4:

    "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

    On more thing.... I love this Ricky Gervais quote:
    "It's a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It's the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for." http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/ricky-gervais-atheism/


  16. 81 years old. I wonder if he has dementia, or if he's always been this clueless.

  17. As an unfortunate example of why we get some of the government we do, I just got a look at Oregon Public Broadcasting's recent poll of 500-odd registered voters.

    The two major races in the State this year are Governor and Senate (junior). Fewer than half of those polled could accurately name the Republican or Democratic candidates for Senator; nearly two-thirds could not name the Republican candidate for Governor. (As the Democratic candidate is the incumbent, he had somewhat higher recognition...a bit over 60%.)

  18. hard to have better citizens when we refuse to educate them. $5 billion has been defunded from the public school system in Texas over the past 14 years since the Republicans got in office.

  19. Has anyone ever challenged those "must believe in a Creator" provisions? At least for Federal offices they appear to be prima facie unconstitutional.

  20. He's not going to get re-elected, is he?

    I'm going to start campaigning for a wall between Alaska and Canada if he does. :) (kidding!)

  21. Henry Stilmack - The various "religious test" State laws have been held as unConstitutional and therefore unenforceable for decades; it's just that those States won't bother removing them from their laws, whether out of neglect or timidity.

    (For a prime example of the latter, the last state to repeal its 'anti-miscegenation' law did so some 40 years after the Supreme Court's ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Similarly, many States still have laws against consensual sodomy - unenforceable since Lawrence v. Texas was decided over a decade ago, but nobody's rushing to strip them from the books.)

  22. Not only that, Jim, but his remark to Dunbar backstage at the Kodiak debate, "Don’t you ever touch me. Don’t ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead." He's a real piece of work all right.

  23. The school system was surprised to find that after inviting an asshole to come to their school-an asshole showed up?

  24. Unless I misunderstood your point, I think you're suggesting that the voters who keep reelecting these idiots are batshitcrazy. If they are not batshitcrazy then WHY do they keep reelecting these idiots?

    1. IMO, I think there is certainly a contingent that is batshitcrazy, but I think the bigger reason is people simply aren't paying attention. They vote Republican because they've always voted Republican, and they don't follow politics closely enough to understand that today's Republican Party isn't their father's Republican Party. Anything they hear to the contrary they dismiss as political mudslinging.

      Hell, most people have no idea how their government even works, or how it's organized. They certainly don't understand the parliamentary procedures by which Congress operates. They don't understand that their state government is an entirely separate entity from the federal government. In their minds, it's all the same thing.

      So, I think the underlying problem is a woefully uneducated, uninformed (or misinformed) electorate, ill-served by a media that is more intent on scaring them to beef up ratings than educating them.

  25. A lack of compassion is at the heart of the problem of bullying, among many other social ills. The inability or refusal, willfull ignorance being the conservative way, to see oneself in others results in bigotry, racism, misogyny, gender discrimination, and the overarching class war. That small kernal of truth does not forgive victim blaming.

  26. I firmly believe that no one who WANTS to be a politician should be allowed to be one. We should choose our representatives like we choose people for jury duty- everyone's name should be in the pool and if you're selected, you get trained, you serve anonymously for two years then go back to your life. We could work this out and toss the professional "representatives" in the trash.

  27. This was published today and I knew I had seen that politician's name before. http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/don-young-raises-money-in-puerto-rico-then-holds-hearing-119183.html
    I find it funny that your most despicable politician, goes to my little island grabs a bunch of cash ("fundraiser") and then has no problem with deciding the island's fate as a colony of the US. Which at the moment is in extreme economic and political turmoil.

    BTW... I love your essays, FB posts and whenever you put a crackpot loon on the spot. ;)


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