Saturday, September 20, 2008

Alternate Universe

Careful readers of this blog, those attuned to subtlety, may have sensed an occasional tendency to dip a toe, if ever so carefully, into political waters. My opinions, shrouded as they have been in gentle deference, may not have even been recognizable as such. Generally shy, and of the belief that I have no right to impose my thoughts on others, it will surely be agreed that I've never said anything unkind or provocative about politicians with whom I disagree.

I may have to speak up.


Long have I admired politicians across the political spectrum for their ability to say one thing and do another, evidently free of embarrassment. It matters only which party is in power: complain about the other party's tactics until the power is reversed, then do exactly what it is you've been decrying. Without shame, without a second thought, without the need even to mumble something like, well, I realize I used to say "A" and now I'm saying "Z," but...

A pox on both parties. I'm partisan, but not above realizing that at the national level they're all a bunch of bullshitters. Still. It seems there must be some sort of line beyond which people couldn't cross without a grain of self-awareness pulling them back. Y'know: a point where it's so obvious they'd be unable to keep going, throat constricting involuntarily, words so ridiculous they'd be unutterable. Not so, evidently, with John McPOW.

So we have the spectacle, this week, of the economic meltdown. (Let's ignore the previously most obvious fact that everything he's been saying about Sarah Bush-in-Lipstick Palin has been proven false while he and she continue to say them). In response to the crisis, Barack Obama got together with several real heavyweight people -- past chairman of the Fed, previous Treasury Secretary, most successful investor on the planet, several others -- and calmly (okay not entirely without a political jab or two) presented a summary of reasons behind the crisis, and an approach to dealing with it. Called for bipartisan cooperation. John McNuts, on the other hand, got up and.... blamed the whole thing on Obama!!! He -- mister point man of the Keating Five -- claimed it was Obama who somehow represented everything that was wrong in Congress. His entire response was political attack, and at that, one entirely ungrounded in fact. Repeating, umpteenth, that Harold Raines is Obama's main economic advisor, among other demonstrably false notions. Disproven. No matter. John McCain, who's been in Congress since before the Constitution was written, whose actual economic advisor personally dismantled the regulations that were there to prevent such things as have happened, whose most visible (until a couple of days ago) surrogate on the economy was the CEO of HP who was fired after killing its market value but who nevertheless got a thirty million dollar severance package -- this guy actually stood up and said everything that has happened is entirely the fault of Barack Obama.

I mean, come ON!!!!

He didn't, of course, stop there. While choosing, rather than proposing anything serious, to spend the entire time blaming Obama, his campaign denounced Obama for "politicizing" the crisis. Complained about fundraising emails while sending out fundraising emails.

I know some conservatives. Even like some of them. Many are educated and thoughtful people: honest, generous (up to a point). So I'm quite sure that when the lights are off, bathed only in the holy light from their shrine to Ronald Reagan, some of them are cringing. He's lost it, they must think (in fact, before he was nominated, most of them thought he never had it.) Politicians distort, obfuscate, ignore facts. But really. McBush and Palin have crossed that line by so much that they're entirely untethered to Earth. Don't they even care? Evidently not. Nor, it seems, do their supporters, waving lipsticks in the air like lighters at a Dead concert.

I read a couple of articles recently that have helped me to understand. Here's one. It's touching. The other, if it's repeatable and accurate, really gets to the nub of the matter. Read it, and decide for yourself.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Bed In Which They Lie

Might there actually be justice? Could it be that McCain and his lipsticked liar have overplayed their hand to the point that even voters will notice? Is it possible that the dual deceivers have devolved in desperation, doubling down on duplicity? Might a campaign based on lies be rejected? Well, it's never happened, of course. But could it, finally? Would unsustainable deficits, lack of energy plans, an unfocused response to the threat of terrorism, health care failures, education devolution be enough to make a majority of voters think seriously enough to demand straight talk from their politicians? Not to mention their free press! Nope, nope. Probably not. But a guy can dream...

I've never bought the media-enabled persona of McCain as a man of integrity; but let's give him the benefit until now. Now. Finally, it's being asked: is there anything he and his campaign have been saying of late that's remotely true? Isn't it obvious that, whoever he might have been, he's happily and without any remorse lying about pretty much everything? Pigs, pork, sex-ed. Taxes. Travels, tallies.

And here's the thing: whereas it's clear that Sarah Palin and her fight against "earmarks" is a complete fabrication, even if it weren't, WTF??? I mean we're facing outrageous deficits and our debt is intolerable, with consequences so dire that practically no one is talking about them. (Want scary? Watch this.) So even if Slippery Sarah rides in on a white horse and eliminates all the earmarks that she ever asked for (lots), turns back all the money she kept from bridge to nowhere and other porcine programs (millions), and even if she wipes out all the acoustical aims of every other politician in Congress, it'd have virtually no effect on the budgetary problems we face. So it's a diversion, and a very cynical one at that. Talk all you want about Sarah Palin, says Juggling John. The more you do, the less time there'll be to look behind the curtain. 

What got me going this time? This. McCain's senior economic advisor, in a book to be released after the election, acknowledges that any president will have to raise taxes, that we simply can't sustain the current policies. And whereas McCain insists not only that he'll not raise taxes but lower them, and while he declaims against Obama for suggesting the need to raise them, the reality is that no one can or will speak about the fatuous folly. From the article, there's this:

"So why does tax-cutting mania persist among Republicans, I asked Holtz-Eakin, the McCain adviser--given...that, as Holtz-Eakin himself explain to me, taxes soon have to go up substantially in any event?
"It's the brand," he said, "and you don't dilute the brand." "

We are so screwed! I'm not so silly as to think that Obama and the Democrats will be lots better; but at least they're acknowledging the problem and saying unequivocally that the Bush tax cuts (which McCain has promised to make worse) can't be maintained. 

Patriotism. Love of country. Sacrifice. Country first. What empty words; how meaningless, as enunciated by John McCain and his apologists. In these dire times, what are called for are things no one wants to face: tighten our belts; use less oil; be willing to pay more taxes to save the country; address entitlements; stop useless military programs. Talk straight about oil, debt, terrorism. But that's the sort of straight talking that if McCain was ever for, he no longer is. Run on lies and innuendo and obfuscation; pick a veep willing to do the same, willing to say anything. Tabula rasa, like George was. Prestidigitation. It's obscene. At least they admit it:

“Every day not talking about the economy, the war and how to fix a broken system is a victory for McCain,” said John Weaver, a former top strategist to the nominee who left the campaign last year. “They’re going to ride it as long as they can and as long as the mainstream media puts up every ridiculous charge.”

The only way politicians would actually stand up on their hind legs and say and do what needs saying and doing, is if the electorate were to demand it; if they'd make it clear that the kind of sleaze, distractions, and phoniness that we're now seeing, mainly coming from the McCain side, will no longer cut it. Not now. Enough. Not in these times!

Might such a rejection actually happen? Well, so far it doesn't look like it. Fed a line of b.s. for the last eight years, told not to worry, everything's fine (well, not exactly not to worry: not to worry about anything but terrorism), voters expect not to be asked to think, nor to make demands. Prefer it, no doubt. So whereas it seems our pathetic media are finally waking up and seeing McCain and his campaign for the lies and sleaze that they are, I'm far from convinced -- the opposite, really -- that it'll make much difference. We're not about solutions in this country. We're about ignoring the facts, wishful thinking, scapegoating, and referring to anyone who points it out as part of the "hate America first crowd." Until that changes, nothing else will. And if it doesn't change in this election cycle, it'll be moot. The future will have slipped away irretrievably. Party on, dudes. Why not? They're playing the tune, and we're dancing. Party like there's no tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nation; Tubes; Down

Eight years ago, we elected as president the short-term governor of an oil state, unschooled and uninterested in foreign policy; a denier of evolution; a doubter of man's role in global warming; a believer that homosexuals are sinners who deserve unequal rights; a person who needed others to tell him what to think and do; a scoffer at opponents, a fomenter of cultural wars, a hater of freedom of the press, a stone-waller of investigations. That person misled us into and mismanaged a war, changed an economy of balanced budget and enormous job-creation into one of crushing debt and crashing markets. Eight years later, John McCain put lipstick on him and made him his vice-president.

Neither convention was a paragon. Bloviation abounded aplenty. But from only one did you hear a steady stream of mockery, derision, and hatred. Only one party paraded to the podium a panel of promulgators of profound and protracted putrefaction. Into the old pocket of political hypocrisy they reached, drawing out a hand dripping with the usual tropes of "elitism," media-bashing, demonizing of the other party. 

And it's working. 

The nation, evidently, is gaga over a person with absolutely no excuse to be President other than a story. And a phony one at that: no rejector of earmarks, she; no turner-away from vindictiveness, no believer in library books. But it doesn't matter. She's perfect, because... because.... why, exactly? 

John McCain is a war hero. Funny thing about war heroes. The ones I know don't talk about it. They don't say they don't talk about it while talking about it. In fact, most don't consider themselves heroes, even the ones that behaved heroically, by risking their lives to save others. Some that are called heroes did no more than survive, sometimes saying and doing things they now regret, in order to survive. Maybe some of those feel so bad about it they need to show themselves how really tough they are, for the rest of their lives. Guess what? They don't need to. Any of us would have done the same, if we'd made it through. 

Says John McCain's campaign manager: this election isn't about issues. Isn't about issues. When we are drowning in debt, might soon be drowning in sea water. When we need to find an alternative to fossil fuels; when we are fighting at least two wars and fomenting a return of the Cold War. As terrorism flames around the world, and our plan is to pour gas on the fire. When our nation is falling behind the rest of the world in education, invention, resolve. Isn't about issues. It is, he says, about stories. The war hero, the hockey mom. 

And it's working.

Political candidates who think deeply and broadly about complex issues are taunted for their "elitism." The ones that reduce problems to mindless black and white win the day. We simply can't accept that tough problems need cooperation, and careful thought. Too hard. Too demanding. Let's go shopping.

And it's working.

Nation, meet tubes. From the bottom, looking up. 



Moving this post to the head of the list, I present a recently expanded sampling of what this blog has been about. Occasional rant aside, i...