Stating (what should be) the obvious

October 19, 2011

See, this is why I (and thousands of other people my age) want to get into the political discourse, because the media are so jaded and they’re under such pressure to sound a certain way that they don’t bring up the obvious issues. I was just listening to pundits arguing over the jobs bill, which was not even brought up for debate, let alone voted upon. The Senate voted 50-47 to bring the bill to the floor, and now that it’s just a given that Republicans will filibuster anything, the majority who voted in favor of it abandoned it even though it won.

The liberal on the panel argued how outrageous that was, that our government is so dysfunctional that they can’t even bring something with majority support to the floor. (The 3 non-votes would not have been enough but were in favor of it.) Conservatives said that the Democrats should be happy it didn’t get onto the floor, because it didn’t have enough votes to pass—about 5 Democrats said they would vote against it, and it would have failed 47-53. So the fact that it didn’t go to the floor was a good thing, because it didn’t show the dissent within the Democratic Party.

Now, at this point I think to myself, how is that not absolute, irrefutable proof that the entire system is completely fucked up? Remember, it never even got to be debated on the floor, and they’re establishing as fact two things: 1) if 90% of Democrats favor a bill, it’s an embarrassment to the party because they lack cohesion; 2) they knew the exact vote count BEFORE IT WAS EVEN DEBATED.

So what that means is that there is absolutely zip, zero, NO interest on the part of government to even talk about politics anymore. They had no interest whatsoever in listening to anything anyone had to say. The whole “debate” part, the thing that Congress was specifically designed to do, is a complete sham so that politicians can have video of them saying something on C-SPAN. If you ever actually watch C-SPAN, you’ll see this confirmed by the fact that during “debate” the entire Senate chambers are completely empty. The only people who even bother to show up for work anymore are whoever is in front of the camera. The entire U.S. Congress is a publicity stunt.

Beyond that, it has become a given that nobody is expected to think for themselves. The fact that only 90% of Democrats agree on the jobs bill suggests that, according to the beltway media, “many” Democrats are against the bill. In other words, SO MANY Democrats are against the bill, that four of them are actually going to express their opinion.

So, again with the obvious, but shouldn’t ALL of our elected representatives be expressing their opinion? Is that why the Republican Party is so much more powerful, just because they’re so much better at getting their delegation to blindly agree with everything? Is that why the Constitution specifically built a body of 535 Congressmen from across the country, so that all of the power is given solely to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on one side and Eric Cantor and John Boehner on the other? Four people who, if they ever agreed on anything, would be more powerful than the President, Supreme Court, and all 50 states combined?

Maybe it’s a good thing, then, that they’re completely unwilling to talk about anything. Maybe it’s a nationwide conspiracy that, rather than taking that 1% risk that our country becomes a Communist State or Theocracy (depending on who wins), we’ll just have no government at all and just sit and watch as America bleeds to death.


About Not the Debt Ceiling

July 29, 2011

It was my fullest intention to write this week about the debt ceiling. I was going to answer all your questions about what it was, what it meant, what the stakes were. I had real-life anecdotes that put it into terms that non-politically savvy people could understand. I had an essay prepared on why liberals didn’t need to worry about the debt ceiling so much, and an essay to conservatives on why raising the debt ceiling was in their own best interests.

But instead I’m going to write an essay on why I’m not going to write about the debt ceiling.

As vogue as politics have become in the last few years, the population of people who actually care is still relatively small, and I accept that. There were segments on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the Late Late Show that exposed the fact that nobody really even knows what the debt ceiling is. It seemed to me that it was perfect fodder, then, for me, as my personal goal is to provide what I consider agenda-free education on current events and such. Could there be a more perfect topic than one that all of us are thinking about but nobody understood?

I started conducting research. What did people want to know about the debt ceiling? What were their misconceptions? What were they afraid of that the didn’t have to be? What weren’t they afraid of that they should be? What I learned over two weeks of discussions is that nobody really cared what the debt ceiling was.

http://a.abc.com/media/_global/swf/embed/2.6.9/SFP_Walt.swfOn some level, people seem to believe that the debt ceiling is a completely fabricated term. It seems to fall in the same category as Y2K, or the Clinton Impeachment, or the outrage over Janet Jackson’s nipple, or that weirdo in California who said the world was ending. The politicians spend all their resources making a big deal out of something, but the consensus among most people is that no matter what happens, whether the debt ceiling passes or whether it doesn’t, when August 3rd rolls around, life will just go on as if nothing had happened.

And that’s as good of a reason as any why we should stop thinking that just because we’re a democracy, the average person somehow has any clue what’s really going on. It’s not their fault, though. Just as Hollywood movies have to blow something up or spend millions of dollars in computer effects to keep an audience’s attention, news media and politicians have been ramping up the rhetoric for so long that we just assume that everything from Washington is just the latest overblown faux-crisis. Even the Washington insiders are exploiting this jaded view of themselves—this week, Republicans literally referred to Harry Reid’s proposal to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as “gimmicky.”

That’s not to say that people don’t have opinions about the debt ceiling. Boy, are there opinions. I even had this crazy idea of addressing those opinions, contributing to the discourse, dispelling some myths, but as I took a serious look at the substance of what people had to say about the debt ceiling, it was very clear that they still didn’t care about the actual issue of raising the debt ceiling. They care about the battle between liberals and conservatives, and the higher the stakes, the more intense the battle. But the opinions themselves are almost entirely just political mad libs, where they just pulled out their arguments about health care reform, or tax cuts for the rich, or the ACLU, and swapped out the nouns with “debt ceiling” and “default.”

I’m not saying they don’t care whether we raise the debt ceiling. They care. They really, really care. But very few people are willing to admit that they had never heard of the debt ceiling until earlier this year, and even now they don’t know what it is. Think back to when Clinton was impeached. Everybody made a really big deal about that. People took sides, and from how they put it, they saw the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal or the subsequent hearings (depending on which side you were on) as the bellwether of the end of our society. Then Clinton was impeached, and everybody was shocked and stunned that he got to keep on being President. Why? Because at no point did anybody really care what “impeachment” meant. They never made any effort to find out. It was just the latest noun in their word salad of political outrage.

It’s no wonder, then, that people don’t take the current debate over raising the debt ceiling seriously. Most people can’t differentiate between the current debate and the other 10 things a year that they’re told is the worst thing ever to happen in the history of America. They don’t care what the debt ceiling is, because they’ve got other things to care about, and it didn’t seem to hurt them any that they didn’t really understand Y2K or impeachment or so-called armageddon.

And so if I were to spend an entire week publishing online a survey of the debt ceiling and its history, who would read it? How would it prove to be a constructive use of my time?

I don’t have a problem, by the way, with people thinking they have better things to worry about. Ultimately, that’s the smartest stand to take, because if Speaker Boehner and President Obama are as powerless as they appear to be, there’s certainly nothing that any of us can do. However, there are also plenty of people who take one side or another and take it very, very seriously. They believe that nothing less than the permanent integrity of our nation rests in this decision, that the unprecedented move of defaulting on our debts would cause an irreversible, worldwide catastrophe, that if our government cannot raise the debt ceiling, they will officially be the worst government in the history of democracy. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not, but what’s important here is that they don’t care whether they’re right. They don’t even care what they’re talking about. And their reckless abuse of ignorance is patently obvious to everyone.

Their willing ignorance is what has led 65% of Americans (that figure is based on nothing) not to care, but more importantly, it is what has empowered politicians to have these fights at all. If politicians thought that nobody would care, they wouldn’t bother trying to earn political points on these issues and they’d just do their jobs, but if they thought that Americans would actually attempt to educate themselves and make rational decisions based on the facts they were presented, they wouldn’t take these hardline stances and they would govern with open minds and nuance, which would inevitably lead to agreement and compromise. But the Darwinian nature of a two-year political cycle has long sifted out the governors of nuance and they have been replaced by the politicians best able to exploit their willfully ignorant base, whether it’s the no-taxes moral majority of the right or the black man of hope versus the feminist icon of empowerment on the left.

If there is any one thing that Americans should truly be afraid of, one thing that ultimately does cause visible permanent damage to our national well-being, the willfully ignorant angry mobs who spit in the face of facts and reason are it.


No Need For Hyperbole

January 20, 2011
TAO

Image via Wikipedia

What’s that saying by that one guy? Something something “satire is dead?” Well, I’m going to have to ask that the haters out there come up with some new adjectives now, because we need ours back:
Congress is stupid.

We’ve lost meaning with that word, “stupid,” but it’s coming back now. There is no other word to describe what is unfolding before our eyes.

Take a hard, honest evaluation of the name of this bill: “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

Let’s understand something here. The bill is two pages long. The first page is a list of the people who signed it. The second page details two sections. One half of this bill—again, let me make it perfectly clear, I am NOT exaggerating—is the following statement:

“This Act may be cited as the ‘Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act’.”

Do you understand what this is? Let me take you back to 1983. I remember this clearly. The kids around the neighborhood got together under the Wilsons’ big oak tree and we pretended that we were politicians. One side made their case, and the other side took careful notes. Then, dramatically, one of the opposition stood up, paced back and forth, and in a sudden fury of activity, ate his notes. He then said, “that’s what I think of your case.”

I’m going to go ahead and put this next part in caps, so if someone stumbles across this page it will be the only thing they read.

MY FRIEND WHO ATE PAPER MADE A MORE REASONED POLITICAL STATEMENT THAN OUR CURRENT CONGRESS WHEN HE WAS FOUR.

Say what you will of his methodology, he got his point across. Now let’s turn back to our brainless droolers in Washington who got elected off of two campaign promises: 1. America needs more jobs. 2. We were the guys who opposed the health care bill.

Then, their idea to solve this crisis was to do the following. Again, not exaggerating. They wrote down “job-killing” and “health care” on a piece of paper and then said NO. That’s it. That’s all it does. One section says, and I quote: “Job-killing Health Care Law– such act is repealed.” The other section says “you can call this the ‘Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Act.’”

That’s all it fucking says.

It’s not hateful, it’s not corrupt, it’s not laden with pork. It doesn’t hurt minorities, it doesn’t restrict anyone’s rights, it doesn’t demonize liberals. They didn’t waste any time debating it. It can’t even make it to law in its current form, because Obama would have to sign it.

By the way, it’s got an amendment. It had to be added, because someone noticed it’s so vapid it doesn’t even count as an actual bill, so they amended it to say, and I quote, “add the language required.” It doesn’t even add the language required. It just has an attachment at the end which says, essentially, “…and stuff.”

Pay attention, tea partiers and fiscal conservatives: this is the batch you got into office. They can’t even do stupid right. You wanted jobs? This is their idea of getting you jobs. They wrote “not jobs” and then added “not that.” Let me say that again. Their idea of creating jobs is to pass a bill, with no content whatsoever, which says “tell people that we got them not not jobs.” They didn’t even get you not not jobs. They just wrote on a piece of paper to tell you so.

So, there you go. I just… I wish we had a word that still meant stupid, because they earned it today.


“Obama Should Be Impeached.”

October 28, 2010
Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

Roughly a third of self-declared Republicans agree with the statement “Obama should be impeached.” But what does that even mean?

First off, not all Republicans are equal. The third being referenced here are the ones composing the Tea Party, certainly the most baffling and misunderstood group in America today. I think the biggest confusion with them, though, is that they don’t speak literally. They speak emotionally. So when they say something like “Obama should be impeached,” they don’t mean that he has committed a criminal offense which is beyond his reach as President and should therefore be subject to inquiry. They don’t know what ‘impeached’ means. This was apparent when everyone was outraged that after Clinton was impeached, he still got to be President.

What they mean is this: “the emotion that we had towards Clinton, the emotion that the other side had towards Bush, we have that emotion towards Obama.” Clinton was impeached; liberals demanded that Bush be impeached; therefore, Obama should be impeached. The English language isn’t built for these folks to be able to express what they want to express, but they get pretty close when they say things like “I want my country back.” It’s not an attack on race, as many accuse it of being. It’s an expression of emotion.

But this idea that Tea Partiers are stupid or uneducated or don’t know the Constitution—it’s not true or false, it’s moot. They don’t work in a world of facts and semantics. They are happy when they’re euphoric and they’re angry when they’re not, and so long as Obama is in office, anything that gives them a bad feeling gets assigned negative words; they don’t care which negative words they use, so long as the degree of emotion is accurate, so they just use whatever words were used in that context before.


Senator Alan Simpson

September 1, 2010

I presume that you’ve followed the controversy with Senator Simpson sending rude letters to the Older Women’s League. I wouldn’t argue with their base claim that Senator Simpson is sexist, but give me a fucking break. They’re saying that Senator Simpson was being sexist for saying that people were sucking on the tits of Social Security. Because we all know that when people talk about suckling, we’re all referring to women’s breasts. No, you daffy bastard, he’s referring to a milk cow. He even said, and I quote, “a milk cow with 310 million tits.” Nobody refers to “sucking off of the tit” as sucking on a human breast.

The director of OWL, Ashley Carson, backs up her claim by saying that he made several references to her being too stupid to understand the data and that she doesn’t know how to read the graphs, which she says “plays on the stereotype that women are too stupid to do math.” I don’t buy it. Alan Simpson is a self-aggrandizing conservative asshole. He would have said the same thing to me if I had complained to him. He’s saying that ALL people who disagree with him are too stupid to do math. And when she was addressed on the actual meat of the Social Security issue (you now, the thing that they originally complained about), her only real constructive input was that Alan Simpson should be fired and replaced with a woman. No woman in particular– any woman will do. Way to fight that stereotype of understanding the issues.

Ordinarily, it wouldn’t bother me that they were complaining about such things. Sen. Simpson is a righteous asshole, and I’m pretty sure that he is a chauvinist just by virtue of his culture and background. And just as when people with race issues need to bite their lip when they’re talking to black people (Michael Richards) or religious bigots need to back off the zealot talk (Mel Gibson), Sen. Simpson should have watched his mouth when he was sending an official letter to a women’s rights group, and just generally try to stay away from gender-charged language.

HOWEVER, I also know that the one stereotype of women that has the most trouble getting dispelled is that they’re overly sensitive and take everything personally. Just listening to Director Ashley Carson feeds into every stereotype I’ve ever heard of the “uppity bitch.” And I think of every time that one of my female friends has tried to be respected or taken seriously by a man only to have that man dismiss her as a ‘chick with an opinion,’ and how men like that point to women like her as backing to their prejudice. I’m ashamed to be of the same gender as Alan Simpson. Women should be ashamed to be the same gender as Ashley Carson.


The Silly Season Begins

May 9, 2010

TVMI’m starting to enjoy the political season as much as college football season, if only because it’s the only competition more detached from reality and reason than the BCS. The mass exodus of incumbents is fucking fascinating. Not only Republicans– while the Democrats are resigning en masse out of disgust for what passes as a constituency these days, but all the Republicans being pushed out by Tea Party candidates.

Now, I am not one of those people who believe that Tea Partiers are stupid or racist. But they are ignorant, and this proves it for two reasons:

1. If you want someone representing you in Congress, regardless of ideology, buy off an incumbent. Not only do incumbents have a staggering re-election rate, but Congress is not a Democracy- seniority is everything. This concept of throwing out 20-year veterans and replacing them with random businessmen who promise to spend money on anything just doesn’t work. They go into the general election with no wind at their backs and the animosity of the huge contributors that had invested millions of dollars In the candidate that just got pushed out, and the few who win will accomplish nothing for two years and get voted out in 2012.

2. Polls only reflect the opinions of the people who were polled. A poll of 1000 people could produce unanimous results and still only prove that .0003% of Americans agree with something. There is one statistic that people tend to ignore, and it’s staggering: 80% of Americans don’t respond to polls. Add to this that many polls are done by phone, and you’re already limiting the demographic to people who still own a home phone. In 2010, that’s an overwhelmingly conservative and denialist group. But all those people who don’t give the time of day to questions like “does Obama’s Muslim heritage lead you to believe that American churches are at risk?” will still vote. In huge numbers. Especially if the leading candidate has ads on TV promising to cut funding for schools, infrastructure, and police. People do vote out of fear, but they’re far more scared of Anarchy than they are of Socialism.