Robots of destruction

Have you seen the reports about the newly created “Bionic Man,” actually a robot assembled with a variety of state-of-the-art artificial organs? They include mechanical kidneys and a heart, as well as ear and eye parts. Of course, there is no brain, which makes the story fascinating because they have re-created a member of the United States Congress (except, the machine has a heart).

The human cyborg’s name might be Rep. Gerry Mander, elected from a district newly created by a GOP state legislature to provide a safe haven for the party by lumping together a population that reflects far-right thinking. Voters choose the candidate who they believe will go to Washington and do whatever it takes to stand up against abortion and for guns (will someone please explain why those who call themselves “pro life” also are rabidly pro deadly weapons?). What really unites this electorate is their divisive loathing of Barack Obama. He’s just ... well ... different.

So the congressman doesn’t have to worry about the nationwide scorn heaped upon him because he refuses to budge on positions that threaten the country’s strength and standing in the world. All he has to concern himself with is the rigid hatred in his own “Mander” precinct back home. In fact, the only thing he has to be nervous about is being perceived as a traitor to the cause if he succumbs to the pressure to be reasonable. If that happened, the tea party and other zealots would turn on him. What the hard-liners giveth, the hard-liners taketh away.

So Gerry is one of a gang of militants who are unmovable, unswayed by the evidence that their positions could be ruinous. Their priority is sticking it to President Obama and, of course, getting re-elected.

When the Founding Fathers designed our setup, they relied on the assumption that those who operated it would be motivated by the best instincts of humanity. These days, their vision is darkened by the worst: Selfishness, ambition and intellectual laziness have taken over. The dull are being manipulated by the sharpies who want nothing more than to satisfy their greed for wealth and power. They are turning the democratic dream into a nightmare, paralyzing the government; in this case, literally causing it to shut down.

They couldn’t care less about the suffering they cause. If children go hungry, that’s just tough. If the sick cannot get treatment, they’re on their own. The manipulators are not willing to allow their puppets, like Congressman Mander, to pass laws that would regulate their most egregious behavior or require them to pay their fair share in taxes.

Suddenly, though, they realize that they might have created a monster. Mander and his other marauders have gotten uppity and refuse to listen as the big-money people who paid for their election tell them to back off. This paralysis is bad for business, so the wealthy actually are talking about looking for new patsies. If that happens, maybe those safe districts might not be so safe for the Manders anymore. The voters would have to choose between narrow economic interests and narrow-mindedness.

How sad this all is. The beautiful concepts outlined in our Constitution have been distorted. Remember that most of them were the product of compromise, which has been twisted into a pejorative. James Madison wrote: “You must enable the government to control the governed and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Unfortunately, things are out of control. We’ve turned things over to those select mindless automatons whose programming is limited. Push a button, and they utter a sound bite. Another one will get them to try to destroy Obamacare. Consequences don’t compute. Congressman Gerry Mander’s robotic adherence to the passions back home might make him safe in his district, but his actions make him a danger to America.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.


Op-ed: Trump won the news conference

Donald Trump should do press conferences more often. Not for the country’s sake, certainly not for the media’s sake, but for his. He really shouldn’t have waited 167-plus days to hold one, because the man gives great sound bite. Although I’ve participated in probably thousands of these staged encounters as a reporter, they’re not my favorite way of getting news — you almost never get any. The guy at the podium controls the proceeding. He can get his message out with little challenge from the assembled journalists who are limited to a question and a follow-up, maybe. Politicians can bob and weave through that without any of us landing a blow. And that’s our job: to penetrate the canned responses to their version of the controversy du jour and get at whatever truth they are hiding. Besides, Trump — who uses contempt for the media as a weapon, his preferred way to discredit reporting that displeases him —has a wonderful forum to do that. At the very least he should hold these confrontations as a supplement to his Twitter tirades. And frequently. It’s his opportunity to hold the media hostage as they cover live his rain of abuse on them.

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Good luck in Juneau

The 30th Alaska Legislature gavels in on Tuesday, and we’d like to take a moment to wish our Kenai Peninsula legislators good luck over the coming months in Juneau.

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Ready to weather the storm

If there’s a bright spot in the recent headlines regarding Alaska’s economy, it’s this: on the Kenai Peninsula, the bad news isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.

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Letters to the editor

Chuitna mine threatens Alaska way of life

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