An Arkansas politician is expected to eat the coon just as a follower of Jim Jones was expected to drink the Kool-Aid — no hesitation, no excuses. Understanding the rules, Governor Beebe declined to turn vegetarian when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked. He's looking at another term as governor, and maybe higher office after that. And if he won't eat the coon at the Gillett Coon Supper, there are others who will. Bill Halter will eat it live, if necessary.
But we think the people of Arkansas know Mike Beebe well enough now that they're not going to vote against him because of his diet. A prominent Republican told us privately, “He's unbeatable. He'll be re-elected if he never eats another coon in his life. Who are we gonna run against him? Asa Hutchinson? Asa's lucky when the coon doesn't eat him.”
A vegetarian chief executive might more easily gain support for the animal-cruelty bill Arkansas needs. If it's nutrition the governor is worried about, let us remind him of the Watermelon Festival at Hope, the Pink Tomato Festival at Warren, the Fried Pickles of Atkins. He won't starve.
Defining the term
The scare phrase “socialized medicine” is flung about loosely by those who oppose reform of the American health-care system. The pro-consumer Public Citizen Health Research Group explains what socialized medicine really is:
“This refers to a health-care system in which the government funds and manages health care directly, employing providers and owning hospitals and other facilities. At least parts of the British National Health System (NHS) and the health care systems of Spain and Finland can be called ‘socialized medicine.' Even in the NHS, which is often seen as the prototypical example of socialized medicine, general practitioners are independent contractors rather than government employees. In the United States, the term is often used incorrectly to describe all publicly-funded health care with universal coverage. Most systems that meet these two criteria do not have socialized medicine, as defined above; instead, the government pays, regulates and monitors health services but does not operate the production of health care.” Medicare is not socialized medicine; the Veterans Health Administration is, though available to only a small segment of the population.
Considering the state of American health care, it's encouraging to learn that “socialized medicine” doesn't spook people as badly as it once did (like 60 years ago, when Harry Truman was promoting universal health care). A recent Harvard poll showed that among those who said they understood the term, 45 percent believed the U.S. would be better off with socialized medicine; 39 percent said it would be worse.