Thursday, September 23, 2010

Groundhog Day and the Doobie Brothers

I spent most of the last four months without cable TV or internet, and no regular newspaper. I’d like to tell you it made life perfect, but in truth, I missed all of them and was looking forward to returning to Florida to get a media fix.

Now that I’ve had it for the last ten days I wish I was Punxsutawney Phil and could crawl back into my burrow for another six weeks. Nothing has changed. I had forgotten how bombastic and pointless our national political dialog has become. We are a nation of Nero’s, fiddling away as the country burns down around us.

There is only one reason to have a government, and that is to solve problems. Does anyone think that is what our political class is doing for us – solving problems? I honestly don’t think I know a single person – either on the left or the right - who feels that way. Everyone is frustrated.

I have more sympathy for the Tea Party-types than any other segment of the chattering classes. At least they seem sincere in their belief that the government has to be smaller. And does anyone actually believe we’d be worse off without Departments of Education, or Energy? Can you name one thing they’ve done for us? You have to at least give them credit for making Mitch McConnell’s life miserable.

As for the Republicans, well they are what they are. At least they are transparently in the pocket of big money and the closest they come to making a secret of it is to say it is because the economic benefits will trickle down to working class people. It’s a lie, but it is consistently told.

The Democrats are the worst because they so often disappoint. Like their hero Bill Clinton, they fall so far short of their potential it breaks your heart. You know the biggest political lie of the last couple of elections? It was “you should vote Democratic because Republicans don’t believe that government can do any good, and so they govern poorly. Democrats believe in good government and govern well.” Now there is some world class bullshit, as George Carlin might have said.

With their man in the Oval Office and an unbeatable majority in both houses they had two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to show us what good government looks like. The first was the stimulus bill, which could have put hundreds of thousands of people to work rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, but instead, became a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stick American taxpayers with the bill for every two-bit Congressman’s pet porker project, Harry Reid’s monorail from LA to Las Vegas, for example.

A now, with our bridges still falling down, and millions of people in need of jobs, there is zero chance of another stimulus bill because no one – Republican, Tea Bagger or Democrat – believes Congress would spend the money wisely. What is their latest approval rating – like 16%?

The Dem’s second great opportunity to show what great government could look like came with health care reform. After wasting months trying to look like they were good guys, willing to compromise with the GOP (which I doubt they really were, but it’s moot now), they ended up cramming a bill down the Republican’s throats anyway. But instead of a well considered, rational plan that any American could understand, we got yet another 1000-page plus monstrosity of a bill that most of them never read and none of them understood, pushed through at the last minute. And now they’re crying in their Chardonnay that the plan is being misrepresented by their opponents. Boo-hoo. You should have done it right. Then the voters would have understood. Instead you’ve got to send President Obama out again on one of those inane “backyard real-folks” tours selling health care reform months after the fact. Jesus – what losers.

And then there’s the Faux Financial Reform Act, the legion of Goldman advisors surrounding the President, and his misguided Afghanistan plan. If this is good government we might as well elect Sarah now and get it over with.

We don’t even talk about the really important issues in the public debate. (When was the last time you heard a serious discussion of the defense budget?) In fact it’s not a debate; it’s just one interest group shouting at another. This is good for cable TV and the internet; it provides very cheap programming and builds audiences, because we don’t really want to listen to ideas that conflict with our own version of reality. There’s no other way to explain Fox News, MSNBC or about a hundred thousand political web sites and blogs. As the Doobie Brothers told us many years ago:

“But what a fool believes…he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems…to be
Is always better than nothing”

We don’t discuss issues we wrap lies in a thin veneer of half truths; we don’t solve problems we build Potemkin solutions that are politically mollifying but substantively meaningless. What’s it going to take to change things? The financial crash didn’t do it. Two failed wars didn’t do it. Katrina didn’t do it. How bad do the schools have to become? How much more dependent on imported oil do we have to be?

Just talking about it, knowing nothing will be done is degrading in its own way. I long to do something real and tangible, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. I’m going back into my burrow.


RSB said...


Hankster said...

When I saw the Yankees completely fall apart to the Rays last night, I did not miss the analogy to the country which won WWII and our current condition.

What was the quote about answered prayers? That more tears are shed over answered prayers than those unanswered.

The gestalt of our best and brightest amount to an Edsel.

All you said is true. Plus, some other horrors just beneath the sheets. It isn't just the Tea Party's revolt against ineptitude, but so many have other provincial agendas to add to the caldron. Each mutt wants to set standards to a national pedigree of their own.

Naively, I assumed our military was untouched by the national discord. There was a report on NPR yesterday about a shift towards Evangelical leadership in our military leadership. I'm a bit more than mildly concerned about Christian soldiers who outwardly dislike Darwin and all that is not written in the Bible, commanding the world's greatest military force. Between the potential of fulfilling biblical prophesy and staging a coup, We are talking about conspiracies the likes of the Pretorian Guard and standard blockbuster plots.

Another "in my face" issue, which shocks me because it is not on the national agenda is our food and water standards. Do you know that commercial agriculture is exempt from EPA regulation? So much for the EPA. Yes, all that runoff of waste and fertilizer from big agriculture is destroying our rivers, bays, estuaries, aquifers. Our food and water systems are unsafe. And unfettered use of antibiotics worldwide, as in agriculture here, has contributed to fully resistant pathogens. Where is the FDA?

As you and yours lay dying, contemplate our leadership.

Between the morality of how we treat our livestock, our abysmally low standards of food safety, how we allow industry to pollute our country, I have to question this populist revolt as writ by the Tea Party in calling for less regulation, as well as the effectiveness of out leadership to date. The fox has been in the hen house and now is considering moving directly into your house.

The audacity of those who claim deficit spending is the alpha male taking away the birthright of America. If only it was just a matter of money!

Birdman said...

Let us not get to dewey-eyed about the "tea party". I don't think it's any coincidence that they popped up right after Obama's election. They are bought, directed and controlled by the Koch brothers (tied for 5th as the richest people in America) in Wichita, KS. They are dangerous right wing ideologues who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the keys of the ship of state.

That said, I think the democrats are more responsible for our situation that anybody.

You're right about the Repbubicans. They are who they are. They aren't interested in governing -- they don't want to do it and do it poorly when they try.

Democrats, on the other hand, are just a bunch of feckless cowards who run away from themselves at the first sign of opposition. They are so afraid of being called soft on... well, whatever.. that they fall all over themselves trying appease people who don't want to be appease. You'd think they learn by now that the republicans have no intention of working with them.

We're in big trouble.

carolina said...

More interested in the burrow.

I haven't watched TV since 1990, and that was restricted to two Sunday shows: 60 minutes and "murder she wrote." better to read, write, cook, garden, dream, exercise, do....
We are a country of voyeuers.."reality tv," endless television, grown up video games/"apps."
Re: politics. I used to be a Republican. Have long been an independent. It's time to go back to voting for the person, not the party. If we can get a majority of good people with sincere interests in improving the lives of Americans and working across party lines in congress...then the parties won't matter. In the meantime. I'm glad I don't have cable or satellite and therefore avoided seeing Bristol Palin dance with the stars!

d'blank said...

@ Hank: yes, the list is endless.
@ Bird: I'm not dewy-eyed about the tea baggers, but someone can be a racist and still sincerely believe that both the government and the deficit are too big.
@ Carolina: I commend you. I really do. But I am weak and once college football season begins, I need a TV, and ESPN, which means cable, and the next thing you know I'm watching Morning Joe. I feel like Ray Milland in Lost Weekend.

d'blank said...

@ Carolina again: of course it would be great to vote for the best people, but who are they? There are almost 700,000 people for each member of the House. i've never met my Congressman or his opponent. every ad is the same:
"I'm a regular guy - not like those politicians in Washington. My opponent will raise your taxes and is, in all likelihood a latent homosexual communist who wants to take your children."

BB said...

DB, glad you are back in business, and its too bad that things haven't improved since you went off the grid. Maybe we've got to hit rock bottom before we can begin to get things moving in the right direction? We're not there yet, but those hordes of the unemployed who have given up even looking for work are pretty damn close to the breaking point.

d'blank said...

@ BB - you may be right brother. something even more dramatic than the above-mentioned may be necessary, but God help us all when it comes.

kgwhit said...

Americans believe in truthiness as Stephen Colbert would say. We believe we can cut taxes but increase government revenues. We believe we can cut government spending by simply eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. We know it in our hearts even if facts don't back it up.
The real truth is most of us baby boomers are spoiled fat and incapable of sacrifice. So we elect any dumb sob who will cut our taxes and tell us we are the greatest.
Our last President even told us that our sacrifice to protect our country from terrorism was paying our taxes and we re-elected him.
We all know that if tomorrow anyone runs for office and says that we are cutting medicare, putting social security in a means testing environment and plans on an across the board 10% cut in defense that person will be completely unelectable.
The day the Tea Party moves from huge generalities to an actual platform is the day its popularity will begin to wane.
In the meantime, let's cut government spending to all programs that I don't care about and howsa about a tax cut, I don't want to pay for no stinking ferriners.

gaga said...

I still believe that government can solve problems. It's just that we allow the government to speak for us rather than listen & do. I only want the government to: protect our shores @ our shore line & enable healthcare,education,housing & food to everyone in need. Period.
All of our other problems are business decisions that can be solved by the people dealing directly with Wall St. No government offical sent car making to Mexico. But not buying a Chevy til the job comes back stateside gets GM's attention quick. Not buying "made in China" is another way. Dont buy TVs made outside of the USA & see how quickly they get made here. Outlaw the gasoline engine by 2020 & see how much foreign oil we need.

Youmayberight said...

After reading your post, Dennis, (and welcome back) I was wide eyed to see that you and your small group of dedicated followers sound like nothing so much as a bunch of proto tea baggers. (I really liked "The gestalt of our best and brightest amount to an Edsel." - wish I had said that.) Stick around. I predict it all gets (way) worse before it gets better.

A vacuous and brain dead local, who is now (!)in the legislature advised me once that in any election contest where it was "their piece of shit vs. our piece of shit" it was imperative to vote for theirs - as a matter of "party building." I guess a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I second that advice to each of you as you approach your own ballots this fall.