You have to give those people credit; they are a hardy bunch. It was a mid-August day in Tucson. The temperature was hovering near 275 degrees, with 140 percent humidity. The simple act of breathing made you feel as though you were doing Bikram yoga in hell ... during the rainy season. But there they were, an obvious Tea Party crowd, standing at the curb in front of the McDonald's on Ina Road, waving their handmade posters and trying to get people to pull into the parking lot. It was like a cheerleaders' fundraising car wash at the old folks' home.
Smooth-talking right-wing radio Svengali Jon Justice had worked his magic on these people, who quite obviously believe that they are doing the Lord's work by circulating petitions that would deny federally funded health care to tens of thousands of lower-income Arizonans. They want to do everything they can to keep that dusky interloper in the White House from gaining a toehold in our fair state. They hate our president with a religious fervor and they're not really all that concerned that some of their fellow Arizonans might die needlessly if the petitioners get enough signatures. Instead, their mindset is, "If this can hurt Obama—even a little tiny bit—then I'd be willing to go down to the clinic and disconnect the dialysis machines myself."
It's just stunningly stupid. The federal government is going to foot the entire bill for three years and then pick up 90 percent of the cost after that. And it's not like if Arizona says no, that money will come to us anyway. The feds will just use it to pay some other state's medical bills. Yeah, we'll show them, right?
One woman's sign read, "Let the People Vote!" I wanted to stop and explain to her that the Republican Arizona House and Senate both passed the bill that expands the state's Medicaid program, and the Republican governor signed it into law. The way a democracy works, that pretty much meets the definition of letting the people vote. But I just drove on.
• On another topic, shame on the Tucson City Council for caving in to the whiners over the placement of cellphone towers. The council voted 6-1 against the placement of two towers, including one near Country Club and Fort Lowell roads. AT&T spokespeople say that, with the proliferation of smart phones and iPads, data usage has gone up 30,000 (!) percent and the need for new towers is crucial, especially in that area. The NIMBYs held their breath, stomped their feet and eventually got their way.
Here's how it should work: The only people who should complain about cellphone towers are people who don't own cellphones. The rest of y'all should shut the hell up, especially when you're driving. Cellphones are a fact of life, a modern convenience/annoyance that won't go away. They are simply radio receivers and transmitters that need towers to pass things along. Those towers have to go somewhere.
Some of the whiners suggested that there is a health risk in living near one of the towers. Do cellphone towers cause cancer? The people at the American Cancer Society say no. But, then again, what do they know?
Without going into a deep scientific discussion, it should be noted that the energy levels and wavelengths of radio frequency, or RF, waves are quite different from the types that are known to cause cancers (ultraviolet light, X-rays, etc.) The word "cancer" is always good for a scare, but it should be a nonstarter in this discussion.
However, even if there were a slight risk of cancer from the towers or the phones themselves, the ugly truth is that we are all thousands of times more likely to die from someone misusing a cell phone while behind the wheel of a vehicle than from the use of the phone itself. Why don't you show up at City Council meetings and scream about that?
• Finally, I don't know if you caught this, but, apparently, the former mistress of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was executed by a machine gun-wielding firing squad last week for allegedly having made a sex tape with members of her popular Unhasu Orchestra. (I checked several sources and am fairly convinced that this isn't The Onion's greatest gag ever.)
Hyon Song Wol dated Kim in the early 2000s, but he broke things off because his now-dead daddy didn't approve. There have been rumors that, even after marrying his current wife, Ri Sol-Ju, Kim was still creeping around with Hyon. (Ri had also been a member of the Unhasu Orchestra at one time, but it's not known if the two women knew each other.)
I shouldn't laugh, because the woman is dead, but Hyon's most famous hit song was titled "Excellent Horse-Like Lady." I really hope that something got lost in the translation.
Anyway, after the tape's existence became known to Kim, Hyon and 11 other members of the orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band were executed. Members of their families were forced to watch and then were shipped to prison camps because of North Korea's official policy of guilt by association.
After reading that, I hope that all Americans, including the screamers who hate our president for whatever reason, will stop and count their freakin' blessings.