Monthly Archives: January 2010

Apocalypse Now

This little nugget is astounding! I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

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Politics and The Situation

I read this piece written by Michael Cohen in Newsweek today and I thought it was a nice, albeit general, summation of the current state of American politics. Using the special election in Massachusetts as a starting point, Cohen writes that America has become “ungovernable” due to the ineptitude and nihilism of the Republicans, the cowardice of the Democrats, the ignorance of the populace, and the media’s complicity in all of it. The following passage sums it up nicely:

Making the situation worse is that political news coverage, rather than explaining the gulf between voter expectations and political reality, often panders to the electorate’s misguided notions. Partisans are allowed to spew talking points decrying government spending and rising deficits without being forced to explain how they would rein it in. Politicians call for bipartisan compromise without acknowledging their own role in exacerbating partisan tensions. Voters complain that Washington must do more to help the economy but in the same breath decry government’s expanding role or misstate basic facts about their government and are given a virtual free pass by reporters who take “customer is always right” attitude toward the electorate.

I credit this article for my sudden realization that politics has become nothing more than reality TV for nerds (like me). Those of us who follow the train-wreck toss out names like Pelosi, Reid, Nelson, and McConnell around the “water-cooler” or party like we would the names of the latest contestants on Survivor or American Idol. And I do not think we should pretend that it is different because we are dealing with our governance, and thus it is more “real” and serious. Politicians have become pseudo-celebrities themselves, much like many of their reality TV counterparts. It will not be long, I am sure, until we see some Congressman from New Jersey mixing it up with The Situation (in case you were wandering what this post’s title was referring to, there you go). And if they keep it up, politicians will soon rival celebrities in the lustrious sex tape arena.

The 24/7 news cycle exacerbates this. Whether it is on TV, radio or the internet, political junkies can get their fix anytime and anywhere. Reality TV has E!, Entertainment Tonight, and US Weekly; Politics has Fox News, The Situation Room and Newsweek. I bring this up, since it is probably fairly obvious to most, only to assert that politics, and governance as a whole I suppose, has become a game. It is treated as such by the media, and certainly by those in office.

And we are complicit, too. We’re like American Idol judges. Some of us are fairly informed and supportive of the government and some of our politicians (these people are played by Randy Jackson, maybe?), some of us are naively patriotic and/or think America and/or Obama can do no wrong (Tea Party folk, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and some Obama supporters as played by Paula – Yes, I know she is no longer on the show, but cut me some slack), and some are just abusive and/or offer nothing in the way of substance or solutions (Congressional Republicans, more Tea Party folk, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and some Obama supporters as played by Simon). Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list.

The point is that politicians only care about not getting voted off(obvious, I know). But it has reached a more critical stage. One party (GOP) has essentially decided not to do anything and have that be their platform for governance. Really? And even more remarkable, this resonates with many people in this country. People complain about jobs, about the debt (both national and their own), about health care even, and in the same breath denounce any attempt by our government to address these issues in any serious way. It is a joke. Actually, I should repeat that it is a game. The politicians know it and Fox News certainly knows it. The media (if their bottom line revolves around ratings and revenue, what incentive do they have not to sensationalize the news?) refuses to call out our political leaders on their various hypocrisies and doublespeak, and in turn helps breed lazy voters who do not care about being or who are not well-informed. This then helps create some of our lazy (intellectually, politically – do not know if they are actually lazy) politicians who have no incentive to change the status quo for fear of being voted off the island.

I am sure there are people in office, or seeking it, who are well-intentioned and unafraid to challenge the status quo. I thought Obama would be one of them. So far, he has disappointed to some degree in that regard. I think he deserves a lot of credit for even tackling an issue as serious as health care reform, especially given the results for previous presidents who did the same. But I think Obama’s tumultuous first year, culminating with the election in MA and the Citizens United ruling, will be just what he, and those of us not content with the status quo, need to get our asses in gear and stop taking “No” for an answer.

I am really looking forward to his SOTU on Wednesday to see if strikes a more resilient, defiant, and aggressive tone. I would love for him to call us all out on our bullshit and hold us responsible for helping create the mess he now has to preside over. Time to rally the troops, Mr. President.

Note:

I am not mad or nearly as cynical as this post might make me out to be. I intended it to be a funny post but I got carried away somewhere around the midway point. Apologies.


I Am Still Here

My apologies to my faithful five readers for the dearth of posts over the last few months, but things have been hectic for me.

To start, I am finally teaching, though today I am not because I have an upper-respiratory infection that finally sidelined me (I was very reluctant to have a substitute come in today because we are testing and I wanted to be there for that, but given my condition it seemed the safer play). I am teaching 2nd grade, by the way, and it is great. Challenging, but great.

As for why there were not too many posts before I started teaching, all I can say is the holidays, the job search, preparing for the move back to Marfa once I got the job, and other things kept me occupied.

Unfortunately, things are still kind of hectic and figure to be for awhile. Thus, you should not expect too many posts. But I will write when I can and I am even thinking about doing a podcast. You know, for shits and giggles. If I do ever do that, I will want guests, so keep an eye and an ear out for that. Peace.


Citizens United v. FEC

The SCOTUS ruled this week that corporations have the same rights as individuals, under the First Amendment, to spend freely on political campaigns for candidates they support.

What is striking to me about this ruling, and this is evident in the first couple of pages of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, is that the majority seemed to think that overruling long-standing precedent declaring corporations not to be individuals for this purpose, was necessary to protect corporations from government oppression (to paraphrase loosely). This strikes me as either a huge stretch or terribly naive.

The more accurate statement would be that we must protect our government from the increasing influence of corporatism – that the majority would phrase it in the other way seems absurd to me. The government is already largely run by corporate interests and now with this decision, the middle-person is essentially eliminated and the fat cats can have their milk and drink it, too (not sure what that means).

I doubt the justices are that naive about the nature of our politics, or the degradation of them to be more accurate, so I can only conclude this result was a case of judicial activism by a group that fiercely argues against that practice. The latest example of hypocrisy from a political movement that is willing to do whatever it takes (even if that means doing absolutely NOTHING) to regain its seat at the head of our national government.

Do not think for a second that this ruling will not help the GOP in this year’s mid-term elections, especially now that Obama has basically called out the financial sector and is ready to impose some new reforms. Even if those reforms prove to be mostly harmless, I think it is safe to assume “big-business” would prefer more elephants than asses in D.C. this time next year.


A Game To Be Proud Of

I admit that I thought Texas had no chance of winning last night’s BCS title game once Colt McCoy got hurt. And I was not surprised by what transpired the rest of the first half. What did surprise me was the way Texas played in the second half.

Even though they lost, I was extremely proud of how the team competed in the second half and for a second there, when it was 24-21, thought maybe they were about to pull off the unthinkable. Alas, it was not meant to be. And the final score was deceiving. Which brings me to Alabama. Am I just a homer here or was it kind of messed up that Alabama scored that second touchdown following the fumble to make it 37-21? It looked to me like UT was content to let Alabama take a knee and run out the clock, but apparently Saban wanted to make the score a little more lopsided.

Yes, UT has a responsibility to play and try to stop the opposing team, but it was already a done deal and that last touchdown seemed unnecessary. Seeing Greg McElroy flash the upside down Hook ‘Em Horns sign shortly thereafter was also classless, in my opinion. I honestly was not even upset about the loss but when ‘Bama scored and I saw McElroy do that, that is when I got kind of pissed. I hope UT meets them again next year.