Thursday, October 31, 2013

So, NaNoWriMo is a thing...

I've been aware of the even of National Novel-Writing Month for a while now. It's always struck me as somewhat amusing, but I've never participated. Until now. It's with equal measures of apprehension and trepidation (yeah, I know) that I bit the bullet and created myself an account there. My username is jblaschke for those of you out there interested in such things.

In the past, I've not participated in NaNoWriMo for several reasons: 1) I usually had another project in the works and 2) I'm not a fast writer. Seriously. No way I could write a novel in a month, so why bother? I had a gut feeling that the emphasis of quantity over quality was missing the point somehow. I still do, to a certain extent. But there are some very specific reasons why I'm choosing to throw my hat into the ring this time around.

First and foremost is this post. Check out the date: 2005. I've been researching this book, in some form or another, for the better part of a decade. And it's no closer to being written now than it was back then. That is utterly and completely unacceptable. The procrastination ends now.

The next reasons are my children: Monkey Girl prods me every so often, as does Fairy Girl, reminding me that I've long promised to write something for them to read and enjoy... preferably before she graduates high school. And she's a freshman this year. She's also done NaNoWriMo these past two years, and has unsubtly hinted that I should join up and compete with her for daily wordcounts.

Finally, this baptism of fire that NaNoWriMo offers will serve as a sharp break from the whole Chicken Ranch book. I finished that book more than a year ago, but revisions, new interviews, agent hunting and the like have conspired to keep me mired in the project and the mindset that goes with it. Whilst writing fiction and non-fiction do indeed use the same set of writing tools an author develops over the course of a career, they use entirely different sets of writing muscles, if that makes any sense. My fiction muscles have atrophied a great deal. I've tried to limber them up by working on a couple of incomplete short stories, and while that helped some, more short fiction isn't going to jump-start my career at this point. To a great extent, short fiction has become an avoidance strategy keeping me from the (intimidating) commitment novels demand.

So, in that context, I'm using NaNoWriMo as leverage to jump-start Sailing Venus. I have no intent to produce 50,000 words by the end of the month. I don't think that's a remotely attainable goal for me. But I am setting myself a goal of 30,000 words. That's right at four pages a day--some days I'll write more, others, none at all (I'm cognizant of the demands on my life). Producing 30,000 words is reasonable, but by no means easy. Or a given. Even getting close to that mark will put me about a third of the way through the novel, which is a win any way you look at it.

I'll be sharing more thoughts about this process, which will be substantially different from any other writing project I've undertaken in the past. Stay tuned.

Now Playing: Boiled in Lead Old Lead
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Night Videos

Wow, this week has been utterly exhausting! I had a number of blogs planned, but lo and behold, it's Friday already and time for a video. Since Halloween is next week I'll keep it pretty straightforward and go with Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters"--one of those rare songwriting plagiarism cases where the plaintiff wins. In this case, it was Huey Lewis. Huey probably wouldn't have won his case had ho not had documented meetings with the movie's producers stating they wanted him to write and perform a theme song similar to "I Want A New Drug." When Huey turned them down, they apparently said the same thing to Ray. Oops.

This is one of those movie tie-in videos that exists mainly as an advertisement of the film. Note how about half the video it taken up with clips. Not that it mattered--folks were nuts for Ghostbusters back in the day, and the silly cameos--not to mention the Ghostbusters themselves making an appearance and breakdancing (!)--made this one a cut above the type. Amusing fact--Chevy Chase actually burned the inside of his mouth with that cigarette trick.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Matt Nathanson.

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5: Messages from Earth
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Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Night Videos

Why have I not heard of Matt Nathanson before now? His "Kinks Shirt" single has become my earworm of choice of late, for obvious reasons. The video, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, that Bobcat Goldthwait) is quite amusing in its own right. While I, as a writer, have some problems with the narrative structure that doesn't really play fair with the viewing audience, pretty much anyone who is at all familiar with the Kinks' biggest hits know where this is going from the opening frame. Kudos for Nathanson for playing along with the joke.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Cult.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Great Lost Kinks Album
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Jayme dinking?

Le Terrible Beer Unibroue
Today was one of those very much not good days. Suffice to say, once I got home I wanted something to drink to help me relax and chase away the tension currently grinding the bones of my back and shoulders into powder. In my mind, there was no debate: Time to pull out the big gun. Where beer is concerned, the "Big Gun" is Le Terrible, a dark Belgian from the Quebec brewery Unibroue. Now, I'm not going to lie--most of the time I plan on using this "What's Jayme drinking" feature to share my first impressions when sampling a new brew, but in this case, Terrible is far and away my favorite beer/ale of all time. I have a waitress from the Flying Saucer in Austin to thank for this discovery. When she asked what I wanted, I told her to surprise me. After ascertaining I wasn't a hop-head and that IPAs were right out, she came back with this wonder. With most beers, I have to consider them for a while before I know what my long-term feelings are. Not this time. Love at first sip? Pretty much.

A word of warning, if you're only used to drinking watered-down horse piss like Budweiser, Coors and the like, this ale will knock you on your ass. It's alcohol content is 10.5 percent, which is higher than some wines. What's more, you can't really taste it. Tread carefully.

It pours a rich coffee umber, and is so dark in the glass as to be nearly opaque. The head is creamy and short-lived. The scent is spicy and decidedly un-beerlike, with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, dark fruits and a suggestion of citrus. It does, in fact, smell more like a mulled wine than a beer. So going in for that first sip, you know this is going to be a little different than your normal brew, but wow, not even the nose can prepare you. This is a big, malty brew, sweet as you'd expect, with a muscular, creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation struggles to be felt through the dense liquid. The flavor is fruity, yes, with plum and cherry notes, but there's a equal amount of bitter dark chocolate and coffee. Spicy undertones include nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, along with some oak.

Simply put, this is a stunning beer. Bottle-fermented, it has all the complexity you'd want in a powerhouse Belgian and then some. Every time I come back to it, I remember how much I like it, but my memory of the rich tapestry of flavor exposed as but a poor after-image with every sip. Make no mistake, this is a sipping beer. It's weight and spice make it an ideal brew for cold winter nights, but the sweet frutiness is appropriate for summer sipping as well. In either case, this ale is at its best (in my opinion) when drunk at about 10-15 degrees below ambient temperature. It's fine straight out of the refrigerator, but as with most complex dark beers, the flavors unlock as it warms. Room temperature does nothing for the flavor, so slightly chilled works best. This ale is also a good option to spring on wine snob friends who dismiss beers as hopelessly unsophisticated. Especially if they like "complex" sweeter wines. I love a good Riesling, but unfortunately, most affordable Rieslings are pretty crappy affairs. And Moscatos, in my experience, are little more than alcoholic Kool-Aid. Hit 'em up with Terrible and they'll never quite look at beer the same way ever again.

So yeah, this is a good one. You can thank me later.

Now Playing: The Kinks Something Else
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken Ranch report no. 43: Columbus in the rear-view mirror

La Grange Chicken Ranch brass token (fake)Well, my speaking engagement at the Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus turned into a nice event. With the cold front threatening to turn the evening into a wet, sloppy mess, I was afraid everybody would stay home and my drive back to New Braunfels would be a trying one. Fortunately, things stayed dry. There was a nice turnout, the audience was curious and engaged, and everyone seemed to like what I had to share. Heck, I even sold a few books--including a couple copies of Voices of Vision, despite the insanely creepy cover. How cool is that?

All in all, yesterday was a good day for me. On top of the presentation, I received an encouraging response from a well-established agent. I've been down this road before, and know a simple "no" can dash my hopes within sight of the finish line, but still, it's encouraging. That, coupled with the response of the audience at the library, reenforces my confidence that a market does indeed exist for my Chicken Ranch history. The readers might not know they're waiting for the book, but they are. Universal disappointment came when I explained my history wasn't available, and that I couldn't even give them a publication date. Folks want this story. They want to know what really happened with the Chicken Ranch. That's enough to make me keep plugging away. I learned some other things as well:

  • Trim back some of my reading materials. I was so worried about not having enough content to fill my allotted time that I didn't leave room for much of a Q&A session.
  • The East Texas Historical Association paper I presented last year in Nacogdoches works well as reading material. The intro is a little too academic, but the meat of the paper is gripping, even outside of an academic setting. This is good to know.
  • Scale back the number of Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch images. Specifically, multiple shots/angles of the same thing. What works well in book form can get repetitive quickly on screen.
  • People really liked seeing the ruins and getting a virtual tour of the place. The years of neglect and vandalism sickened them as much as it does me.
  • People really, really liked seeing my historical photos, including the Chicken Ranch restaurant in Dallas and Miss Edna standing in the oh-so-tastefully-decorated parlor.
  • Keep a checklist so I don't forget anything. I was baffled as to how I end my presentation early (15 minutes ahead of time, to be precise). It wasn't until after the throngs had departed that I realized I'd completely forgotten about the 11 minute video I'd brought along. I screened it for the library staff, so it wasn't a total waste, but I'm kicking myself.
  • Bring multiple titles to a signing. I almost didn't bring Voices of Vision along, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Chicken Ranch. But the $45 price of Ghosts was too steep for some (understandably enough) so they opted for the $15 interview collection instead. Ghosts will make a very good companion volume to take along when I'm touring for the history book (whenever that may be). Lots of potential here, yes indeed.
  • At its core, I have a very good Chicken Ranch presentation. This will play very well to audiences across the state, and can be tailored to specific audiences with minimal effort. Once I get the big history book published, I'm loaded for bear.
Jacob Truchard from the Colorado County Citizen stayed for the duration, taking photos and copious notes. The paper comes out on Tuesdays, so I'll need someone to snag a copy for me next week.

The last thing I learned is that driving from San Marcos to Columbus and back to New Braunfels when the lower back is throbbing does little to reduce said throbbing in said lower back. If anything, it makes the discomfort worse. I know I'm an old man now, because I'm always complaining about back aches. Such is life.

Now Playing: Istanpitta Chevrefoil
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chicken Ranch report no. 42: Tonight! Tonight! Tonight!

Okay, gang, in case you didn't catch the word the first couple times around, here it is again: I'm speaking at the Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus tonight! I'll be speaking from 7 p.m. until 8:30 or so. I've got a cool slide show ready to share, complete with some rare photos that have never been seen in public. Plus, I've got a nifty video as well. A true multimedia spectacular! Books will be available for purchase, but the presentation, discussion, Q&A is all free. So you folks from Columbus, La Grange, Weimar, Schulenburg, Sealy and Eagle Lake who've been sending me questions about the Chicken Ranch for the past few years, here's your chance to learn a lot of cool history. I'll see you there!

Jayme Blaschke to give a presentation of the Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange Texas at the Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus

Now Playing: Various artists From Byzantium to Andalusia: Medieval Music and Poetry
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Night Videos

I have to admit that until a short while ago, I'd forgotten all about The Cult. This is hard to fathom, as their music comprised a significant portion of my college years soundtrack. After skimming through their videos online, I find it hard to believe that I own none of their albums, because I like pretty much everything they put out. I suspect I appreciate their music more now, 20 years removed, than I did when it was fresh and new. In any event, here's their classic hit, "She Sells Sanctuary".

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Taco.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Bug
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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Chicken Ranch report no. 41: Public speaking!

Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus, Texas, will host Jayme Lynn Blaschke reading and signing on the infamous La Grange Chicken Ranch
Who says you can't go home again? Next week, on Tuesday, October 15, I'll be returning to my home town of Columbus. No, I'm not going to marvel at the new Tesla Supercharging Station there (although that's pretty cool in its own right). Instead, I will be at the Nesbitt Memorial Library, giving a reading and book signing for Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch. The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available to purchase for anyone who is interested in such things.

For anyone who hasn't been paying attention, I spent most of 2009-2012 researching and writing the definitive history of the Chicken Ranch brothel in nearby La Grange. This history goes way beyond the trite song and dance most people know from the motion picture version of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." It's far more complex and fascinating a history than most people--even those who lived through it--realize. 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the closure of the brothel, and my wife, professional photographer Lisa Elliott Blaschke, along with myself, edited and published a fine art book titled Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch in observance of the anniversary. I will present a slideshow of images of the modern ruins from Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch as well as other, previously unpublished photos which will be included in the more exhaustive history book. I'll read, "The Last Madam: The Unexpected Life of Edna Milton (1928-2012)" which I originally presented at the East Texas Historical Association fall conference in 2012. I'll also read some selected excerpts from the unpublished book, and engage in as much discussion as I'm able.

I'm pretty jazzed about returning to the Nesbitt Library for this. This was my library growing up. I'm old enough to remember the cold dampness of the old Mansfield Library's concrete floors that predated the Nesbitt, but it was the Nesbitt where I learned to use the card catalog and where I discovered my first science fiction novels that started my lifelong love of genre. Wandering the stacks 30 years ago, I certainly never expected to return to speak about the Chicken Ranch, of all things, but life's funny that way. I hope to see you there.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer Return of the Manticore
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Monday, October 07, 2013

Cute chicks

I have gone and done a foolish thing. Rather than waste a lot of time and space typing it all out, I'll let the photo fill you in:

barred rock pullets, chicks, chickens, Plymouth Rock

Yeah, that's a baby chicken. A barred rock pullet, which will, in theory at least, grow up to become a barred rock hen. See, I grew up with chickens. At various times we had Rhode Island reds and white leghorns and such. And like most kids I thought they were neat for a while but got tired of the chores associated with them. In any event, during the recent Comal County Fair, the chick hatchery/petting zoo area was the most popular attraction for my kids. They all oohed and aahed over the baby chicks hopping around their little pen area, naturally wanting to take them home.

Now, for some surprising reasons I can't quite fathom, the New Branufels city council passed an ordinance earlier this year allowing urban chickens (with some restrictions). As we have a large, currently unused rabbit hutch I'd built in the back yard, it struck me that it could be repurposed with minimal effort on my part. So I checked around, and discovered New Braunfels Feed and Supply had some new chicks in. Barred rocks--a subset of the Plymouth Rock breed--happened to be one of the types available. This is reputed to be a good small farm/yard chicken, because it's a good layer of brown eggs, hardly and disease-resistant, but mostly because they're reputed to be docile (ie not terribly noisy).

barred rock pullets, chicks, chickens, Plymouth Rock

So we've now got chicks, less than a week old, running around in an indoor rabbit cage, scratching and pecking in the wood shaving bedding like nobody's business. In six weeks or so, we'll start taking them outside to begin the transition to yard birds, depending on the weather. Clipping their flight feathers will pretty much keep them in our back yard, and the beagles will either learn to play nice or be relegated to the dog run. Homegrown eggs taste so much better than store-bought, industrial eggs, and are far more healthier as well. These barred rocks are pretty much like chickens as I remember, funny and flighty and not anywhere close to being smart, but that's okay. The kids are fascinated by them, as are the cats. If this keeps up, we might be able to save on the Netflix bill!

Now Playing: Derek and the Dominoes The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition
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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fruit on the vine

Forgive me if I seem unseemly exited right now, but I've been holding my breath for a while and am finally confident enough to exhale. Why, you ask? Because of these, fruit on my passiflora tenuiloba vines:

passiflora tenuiloba fruit

Passiflora tenuiloba is a native Texas passion flower. It is very tiny, and thus not available in cultivation. That's a fancy way of saying you can't buy it at nurseries. Once I got into passion flowers in a big way 7 years ago or so, I decided to try growing all the native Texas species. This is one of the first I got--and promptly killed it by over-watering. Over the years, I acquired more through trades and even going out and digging some up (with the property owner's permission, of course). Maddeningly enough, most of those died from drought or being eaten by caterpillars or other such. The few times I coaxed blooms out of them, I only had one plant, and this species isn't self-fertile. So this summer, the one remaining tenuiloba I had in the ground beneath my big century plant seemed to be growing very well, and I was fortunate enough to acquire a couple new plants of unrelated parentage. Then disaster struck, when the neighbor's yard crew removed the trellis I had protecting the in-ground plant, and promptly mowed it down. I was, to put it kindly, not happy.

passiflora tenuiloba fruit

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to all this. The in-ground tenuiloba bounced back with surprising vigor, and began setting flower buds. Then, much to my surprise and delight, one of the potted tenuilobas set a few buds as well. Fast forward a few weeks, and I've got flowers opening at the same time. Hand-pollinating the flowers is no easy feat--they're barely a centimeter across--and juggling the tweezers and magnifying glass is a challenge. But my patience and perseverance is being rewarded with 11 tenuiloba passion fruit! Hopefully, I'll be able to coax some more out of the plants this fall, before all is said and done. And once they're ripe, I intend to contribute the bulk of the seeds to the Passiflora Society International seed bank, to make this interesting species available hither and yon.

Now Playing: The Art of Noise The Ambient Collection
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Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Night Videos

I've been thinking of strange, early 80s videos lately, and for outright weirdness nothing beats Taco's version of "Puttin' on the Ritz." Whenever I hear that song, I always flash back to Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein, which is pretty gonzo in its own right. But still, Taco is just nuts.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... ReFlex.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Credit where credit's due

The super-charged political atmosphere online has put me in an ornery mood. I don't normally go off on political stuff (unless it involves Rick Perry) but damn, too much crap's been flying around today to put up with it. If you're going to criticize, criticize FACTS not bullshit. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, you don't see George Will running around screaming that Obama and Congress exempted themselves from the Affordable Care Act. That's patently untrue, but it's easier for Teabaggers to cut and past these email forwards than actually, you know, do objective research. Instead of basing their arguments and criticisms on fact (and there's plenty there worth criticism), they choose instead to fixate on the fictitious. I've had several TeaOP folks in recent days confront me aggressively online, demanding I justify (wink wink) and defend any number of easily disproved falsehoods related to President Obama, Obamacare and Democrats in general. When I've pointed out the falsehoods--going so far as to provide multiple links--they dismiss my efforts as propaganda and dance a jig because I "dodged the question."

So yeah, I'm cranky. If they want to point fingers for today's bitter partisan environment, today's government shutdown and the damage done to the U.S. credit rating come Oct. 17 when we default on our debts because of the right wing obstructionists in Congress, okay. I'm game.

I place the blame squarely on the GOP for this mess we're in.

But I place said blame retroactively, dating all the way back to the summer of '09 when health care legislation was still a fluid thing. Single-payer wouldn't fly, that much was clear. The pipe dream of the left, hard-core liberals fixated on single-payer (and still comprise a significant portion of the population polling data shows disapprove of Obamacare). But from a realistic point of view, single-player was never going to pass Congress. Maybe, back in the late 1970s, had Iran not fallen into revolution and the oil crunch not thrown the U.S. economy into recession, a Democratic-controlled Congress with a Carter Presidency might have passed such an animal, and that's a stretch. There has never been a moment in U.S. post-LBJ political history where single payer could've passed. Hell, Nixon couldn't pass his modest health care plan in that era, which is clearly a direct ancestor of Obamacare. There are inherent inefficiencies in the single payer model, and opponents focus on those. Which is legit. But there are other inefficiencies in the individual mandate, cooperatives, and the Clinton's Health Security Act (which adopted an employer mandate, manifesting pretty much as a political trainwreck). Each approach boasts benefits, and each have drawbacks--not necessarily equal in scope, either. And of course, without any health care model in place other than "Them that gots," inefficiency manifests itself as bankruptcy and death for the patient who isn't well off or fortunate enough to work for an employer who provides coverage. So, pick your poison.

But getting back to 2009, President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress brought the health care industry into the inner circle, to preempt the fierce opposition from those quarters that played a huge role in scuttling the Clinton plan two decades prior. What came out of these meetings was a plan based upon ideas put for by the conservative Heritage Foundation and later implemented fairly effectively by Mitt Romney during his term as governor of Massachusetts, aka "Romneycare." Despite the plan being conceived by a conservative, Republican-allied think tank, and implemented successfully by a Republican governor, the GOP immediately lined up in opposition. The cynic inside me says this was solely for political gain--in 1994, Newt Gingrich's "Contract with American" Republicans swept to control of the House of Representatives based in no small part on the Democratic-controlled Congress' inability to pass any type of health care reform despite working on it for nearly two years. The label of a do-nothing Congress, coupled with a series of (non-Clinton) scandals doomed the Democrats. The idea of repeating this pattern was like catnip to the GOP, which had suffered serious election losses in '08. Plenty of political pundits and strategists from both parties openly identified this strategy early on--delay, oppose and obstruct until the next election, then ride to victory by labeling the Democrats a "do-nothing" party. President Obama, naive and idealistic, never quite believed this strategy was real. But it all fell apart in August. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the GOP's lead negotiator with the White House and Congressional Democrats, made an uncharacteristically honest assessment of the chances of a bipartisan compromise, essentially saying, "Even if Democrats agree to every single Republican demand on the health care bill, we won't guarantee even a single Republican vote for it." Grassley himself said he wouldn't vote for anything to come out of the negotiations--stop and think on that. Even if the other side capitulates entirely, and lets you rewrite the legislation to your heart's desire, you still won't support it because it would count as a "win" for your opponents.

Around this time, there was an opening for a much less painless alternative in health care reform that avoided single payer and individual mandates entirely. Plenty of Blue Dog Democrats didn't like the individual mandate idea. Being of a more conservative bent (which in the olden days was known as "moderate") they had reservations about a major health care intervention at the Federal level. The Blue Dogs didn't wholly support individual mandates, and neither did more liberal Democrats who tenaciously clung to the idea of single payer. But the Blue Dogs were critical to the passage of health care reform. The Blue Dogs realized the GOP's "do-nothing" strategy targeted them specifically, so they were locked into to passing something. So the Blue Dogs got innovative, and floated the idea of state and national health care cooperatives. The Democratic left howled in protest--cooperatives would effectively scuttle any chance at single payer--but if the Blue Dogs could bring in Republican supporters, the support of the Democratic left was superfluous. Cooperatives addressed pretty much every objection the Republicans had about a federal health care plan. That's not to say cooperatives would be a panacea (see what I did there?) but they'd be a solid starting place toward addressing the inequities in U.S. health care. First and foremost, cooperatives are "owned" by the members, and by definition, keep control locally. Of the handful large, non-profit health cooperatives that exist in this country, two interesting facts emerged during the debate that weren't widely reported at the time: 1) cooperatives did little to rein in health care costs (which was a big reason for the whole health care reform initiative in the first place). This, obviously, is a concern. But to be fair, the sample size was limited and the extant cooperatives weren't really established with cost containment as a primary goal, so there was room for experimentation. And cooperatives weren't more costly than average health care, either. Just not less so; 2) Significantly, although costs rose on par with non-cooperative health care, the quality of the health care services rendered--both as measured by outcomes and patient satisfaction surveys--increased significantly. So, worst-case scenario, Americans would've paid the same as ever, but gotten more direct control and voice in their care while at the same time getting much better care overall. Yeah, I'd say that would be a very good starting point.

The biggest knock on cooperatives (the fiercest opposition came, obviously, from the Democratic left) was that they had never been attempted on this scale before. Well, duh. That's where innovation comes from--trying new things.

The idea was to get a truly bipartisan bill passed and put and end to the divisiveness of the endless health care debates in Washington (ha!). Unfortunately, the GOP withheld support for even this, sticking with their "do-nothing" gamble. The GOP did not believe the Democrats had the nerve or stomach or whatever metaphor you choose to go ahead and ram through health care legislation on their own. Following Grassley's inflammatory comments, negotiations broke down. But then, unexpectedly, Democrats made a choice--faced with getting voted out of office for doing nothing, or getting voted out of office for doing something they generally believed in, they chose to do something. They pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress for the president's signature. It took a while for the GOP to realize this was really a thing that was happening, and suddenly Grassley, Boehner and others started calling for more negotiations, that maybe it'd be better if the whole thing be punted down the road to the next Congress, after the next elections. Remembering Grassley's comments, the Democrats didn't take them up on the offer--a year of bad-faith negotiations apparently taught them that much, at least. The moral of this story: Don't double-dog-dare someone if you're not prepared for them to call your bluff.

The GOP made a political calculation and gambled. The won half of it--the Democrats were indeed weakened for the 2010 election, and the GOP did sweep to historic gains in the House--but lost the other half, in that Obamacare did pass. And the GOP allowed itself to be overtaken from within by Libertarians and ideologues in the Tea Party, who'd rather burn down a house than spend the money to repaint it. The TeaOP is now probably the most dysfunctional political organization in living memory, with John Boenher the weakest Speaker of the House in U.S. history. They at the point where GOP-sponsored legislation does on the floor because too many TeaPublicans oppose it. If the GOP can't even agree internally, how can it work with Democrats to actually run the country? Republicans sold their soul for an easy win in 2010, but the fallout's been long and ugly.

I am not now and never have been a big fan of Obamacare, but you know what? The Republicans gambled and forced the hand of the Democrats. They could've engaged. They could've influenced the legislation in profound ways. They could've taken "half a loaf," which was once an honorable strategy in America. Instead, they took their ball and went home. Because of that, they own Obamacare and all its flaws as much as any Democrat. Stick that in your tea bag and steep it.

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