Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God willing, it'll never happen

Everyone knows Sarah Palin wants to be President.  It's no secret, even though she thinks she's being coy about it.  The fact is, she's not clever enough to fool us, even though she thinks she is.

And here's a link to a Huffington Post story that talks about a lot of the things that bug me about her, brought to light by her slip of the tongue on that bastard Glen Beck's show:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mitchell-bard/why-sarah-palins-north-ko_b_788647.html

The way I see it, if a candidate is no expert on every issue there isn't really a problem.  The President has teams of people on problems who give him briefings and if a decision is made he either confirms it or tells them to think about it more before confirming it.  And, of course, there are broad policy decisions that the President will steer.  But I am under no illusions that when a missile has detached from its anchors, it's the President who gave the authorization release that munition--unless it's nuclear tipped.

So, I'm not really that concerned that Sarah Palin has no clue about the very, very sensitive issues surrounding the Koreas.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that most people--including the President--don't have a very specific knowledge of the historical background beyond there was a war, the North is communist (and crazy as bat shit), and there have been dustups over the last several years because the North is crazy as bat shit.  The President, however, does have a team of policy experts who ARE well versed in that information.

And, to be perfectly clear, I like the idea that anybody--and I mean ANYBODY--can be President of the United States of America.  From the lowliest nobody in Nowheresville to the bluest of blue blooded elite, a President can rise to lead this nation.  That doesn't mean, however, than anybody SHOULD be President.  A job of that magnitude requires nuanced skills of patience and perseverance and even introspection and reflection because the decisions made in that sort of job cannot easily be unmade.  And the biggest decisions of them all can cost lives--tens of thousands of lives.

And that's what bugs me about Ms. Palin, more than anything else.

You can be ignorant, inexperienced, and thoroughly untested to be President.  Hell, the current President managed to get the job while having those qualities.  But what you can't be is unpolished, impatient, and mentally shallow (I don't want to say "stupid" here, because I don't really think that applies in this situation).  The current President shows himself to be exceptionally polished and patient, and when it comes to serious issues he seems to consider most, if not all, of the facets from several different angles.  Ms. Palin, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have that capacity.  She's got her talking points, she's got her single, partisan (or self serving) angle, and she's got a megaphone.  And there's not a light on behind those eyes.

And that's what bugs me about Sarah Palin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The fallacy of modern self sufficiency

The notion of self sufficiency is a fairly charming one.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a little unrealistic amid the systems that we've created to live within today.

Sure, we can produce our own electricity and then call ourselves "off the grid".  

But what about plumbing?  And sewerage?  And cable TV?  And the phone?  And the road you drive on to get the food that you shove into your eat hole?

Yea, modern self-sufficiency is a tough nut to crack.  Eventually you're going to have to wander out of your compound and collect something--unless your compound is sufficiently large enough to house you and your resources.  The problem is that a compound that is that large tends to be remarkably inefficient for a single family to live within.

So, to increase efficiency, we reduce self sufficiency and increase collectivism.

The trick is finding that balance between self sufficiency and collectivism, while ensuring that those allowed into the collective act in a responsible manner to the collective.

The ironic thing today is that people who crow about self sufficiency really live within a rather large collective.  They fully rely on Krogers, or HEB, or some other faceless partner to feed them their entire diet of food.  They fully rely on the local utility to provide power.  They fully rely on the local cable company (or some modern version) to provide entertainment.  They fully rely on the local telecommunications company to provide communication with the outside world.  They fully rely on the government to ensure the quality (and existence) of their drinking water.  And each one of these partners in the collective are not even PEOPLE.  Some of the pieces of this puzzle may be provided at home, by people.  But, for the most part, a 3 or 4 person family cannot, and does not, provide for themselves.  They go to work--for someone else--and make money that they use to pay someone else to provide basic services.  

That's not a model of self sufficiency.

Friday, November 05, 2010


I'm really tempted to say "I told you so" once again, because 2 years ago I did.  But I won't.  Even though I could.

Man, was that a big swing, though!  And at all levels of government, from the feds down to the local dog catcher.  680 seats in all, nation wide, at all levels, were won by Rs over Ds.  That's a lot.  It's unprecedented, even.

That's what happens when people who were sold "hope and change" realize that it was all just smoke and mirrors.  Yup, that guy with all the high rhetoric was inexperienced, unproven, untested, and, even worse, unable.  It didn't take him long to go from "we" meaning everyone, a vast and broad coalition that included the vast middle ground of the electorate to "we", meaning just the left and especially the very left of the left.

But the good news is that all is not lost.  The President still has a chance to reclaim the visionary mantle he used to pull the wool over everyone's eyes 7 years ago at the DNC and 3 years ago during the presidential campaign.  There's still a chance, and if he can reclaim that mantle he'll win a second term with a resounding landslide victory over whatever sacrificial goat is tossed up to lose to him.

But for the first time in 2 years I'm skeptical of whether or not he CAN pull off the victory in 2012 in the same way he did it in 2008.  And I say that only because for the last 2 years he's been governing as a bitterly partisan polarizing leftist.  He's replaced the "there is no blue state America and red state America, but only America" with "us versus them" rhetoric.  Sure, there were hints of it before, but it could be dismissed as just random misspeaking and not indicative of his true ideology.  But now?  I'm not so sure the "they cling to their guns and bibles" blast can be dismissed so easily, now that we see how he's actually prone to govern.

It'll be interesting to see how the next campaign goes.  It'll be interesting to see if he can regain the visionary spark that convinced a vast swath of the electorate that "We are the ones we've been waiting for!"  It would be nice if he could.  It would be nice if, for the next 2 years at least, he actually governed like he campaigned.  It would be nice...  but I'm skeptical.  But, then again, I've been skeptical since the beginning.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hooray for Sanity!

I don't generally agree with much of what Jon Stewart says.  He is funny, though, and I do generally agree with his underlying principals--the false dichotomy established by the media and political classes is damaging to the overall political discourse and hampers our abilities to solve real problems at the governmental levels.  I've said repeatedly--even to some of the more obvious extremists who have chosen to populate the comments section--that the answer will usually neither be found on the right or the left, but rather somewhere in the middle, and if they'd just their stupid mouths and turn on their rarely used brains to search the middle, the answer might just be found.
Needless to say, Jon Steward is no news man.  I've said, repeatedly, that Jon Stewart is to news what Ed Murrow is to comedy.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't have anything important to say.  In fact, BECAUSE he is no news man, the slant he puts on his commentary has a little more credibility because he's not presenting himself to be something he isn't.  It's no secret that the media is far from neutral.  There is clearly a bias to all media outlets--even the publicly funded NPR--and the only question is what direction and how much.  It's humorous that FOX gets excoriated for being biased, but MSNBC receives the blind eye.  Granted, Stewart occasionally points his lens at MSNBC, but only occasionally.  FOX doesn't own the monopoly on unwatchable content.  Maddow, Matthews, and Olbermann are three dudes that are redeemable only in that they are comically (and transparently) in the tank for the left and President Obama, thus their idiocy can be clearly seen in the same context as the buffoons on FOX.
But alas, the observation shouldn't simply be that people do not watch the news in droves.  The observation should be made, then the question asked:  WHY are people not watching the news in droves?  Is it because there is a lack of interest due to immediacy of alternative news sources?  Maybe.  Is it because the news has largely been replaced with commentary?  Probably.  Why watch the news when all you get is a poll and a panel screaming about what they think we think?  Why not a poll and some actual investigation of what the poll means?  Ah, right, because that would be work, and nobody pays for insight, only a panel of jackals screaming about what they think we think.
So, we watch fake news in far greater concentrations than we watch real news.  Maybe because fake news at least doesn't make the primary assumption that we're idiots.  Maybe because fake news actually has interesting interviews.  Maybe because fake news reveals the absurd more clearly than the toadies in the real newsrooms and doesn't take itself so seriously that it cannot ask real questions such as "why did the mortgage association default on its mortgage while telling homeowners not to do the same, then go off and lease space a few blocks away?".  THAT was a story that was never reported on the real news.

So, the fake newsman actually, occasionally, has something decent to say.  And because of that, I respectfully offer the text of his keynote speech from this Saturday's rally:

I can’t control what people think this was.  I can only tell you my intentions.   This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies. 
But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.  The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. 
If we amplify everything we hear nothing.  There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned.  You must have the resume.  Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more.  The press is our immune system.  If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema. 
And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good.  Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.  It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster?  If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day!
The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.  But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.  Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.  Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make. 
Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are.  (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel).  These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high.  He’s going to work.  There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now.  There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah.  There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah.  Another car’s a Latino carpenter.  Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman.  Atheist obstetrician.  Mormon Jay-Z fan.  But this is us.  Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers. 
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river.  Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences.  And they do it.  Concession by conscession.  You go.  Then I’ll go.  You go. Then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?  Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst. 
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.
If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  Your presence was what I wanted. 
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you.