Jan 26, 2010

The Big Stink is smelling worse

Maybe we should outsource Congress to India?

Something just ain't running right here

Cunning or insane? The GOP always keeps you guessing

The most interesting aspect of my frequent travels to NYC is the opportunity to casually talk with foreigners. Heck, anyone that's been to Manhattan lately knows that they seem to be the only ones down there nowadays.

Talk they do, especially about the current fortunes of the good old USA. The typical spin: we love you, we root for you, we're with you, but we think you're all fucked up right now and we're concerned--very concerned. Well, it's always nice to know that someone is worrying about you, that's for sure. The discourse that normally follows is more enlightened, passionate and informed than one usually has with homegrown, card carrying Americans themselves. Often times, a remote POV is the clearest.

Events of recent days certainly add ammo to that "you guys just ain't quite running on all eight cylinders" perspective. Namely:

Exhibit A: The Massachusetts thing:

Let me get this one straight. Thirty years of basically conservative rule -- complete with a laissez faire execution of deregulation, consolidation and loose money for favored industries --- has resulted in our current pickle of a disappearing middle class and manufacturing base, urban cores resembling war zones, a bankrupt treasury and a near apocalyptic money crisis resulting from a financial sector that was encouraged to take their B-School training at Las Vegas casinos. The last ten years alone has seen personal incomes fall greater than anytime in national history, the poverty rate rose by 17% and the uninsured increased 20 percent to an all-time high (including a 157% increase of those 65+).

But it's all the new guy's fault. Yeah, him and those other big spending liberals.

So what we get from this rational cause & effect logic is a Senate race where a somewhat efficient (yet boring) bureaucrat is defeated by an empty suit without a single original idea in his vest pocket, but filled with all the right slogans ("it's the people's seat!") and a campaign strategy of hitting the trail with Cliff the Mail Man by his side. All of this in the Bay State mind you: the Commonwealth with the perpetual bragging right of having voted against the Gipper in '84 and the home of MIT and Harvard.

Go figure that one out. You have my email when you do --- and please do.

Exhibit B: Campaign Finance

The current "we're not an activist court" version of the US Supreme Court sure decided to go activist at a convenient time, didn't it? Here, the robed ones lifted the heavy burden of campaign limits from the broad shoulders of corporations and labor unions. In essence, the Court deemed these entities as having the same standing as individuals (as in live human beings), therefore they are entitled to the same freedoms when tossing their time and efforts at the political world.

Yes, we have long extended this legal-standing aspect to corporations. But what seems to have been overlooked here is that we have also long made differentiations between the two classes, even after such an extension (example: taxation). The result of this ruling: the corporate checkbooks are now in play at a greater role than prior, if one can imagine such a world.

Exhibit C: Live Nation/TicketMaster OK'd

The proposed merger of these two behemoths --- 1/2 of the Evil Empire of the music world, along with Clear Channel and the RIAA --- now frees them to continue with the near monopolistic domination of the entertainment industry, after merger approval by the US Dept of Justice. This one gives me a real headache, so I think I will hold off on a full discussion in an upcoming slot.

Exhibit D: Deficit Reduction

This just in: "..the Senate rejected a plan by President Obama to create a bipartisan task force to tackle the federal deficit this year despite glaring new figures showing the enormity of the red-ink threat. The panel would have produced a plan combining tax cuts and spending curbs. The measure went down because anti-tax Republicans joined with Democrats who were wary of being railroaded into cutting Social Security and Medicare..."

Again, I could use some help here. The supposed 'anti-tax' (Tea Bagger) party is against the ONLY significant means of reducing federal spending (i.e., cutting entitlement programs). Now, I can at least understand the logic of the idiot Democrats wing that is against it for the stated reasons, but this certainly is a new strategy for the GOP: define budget cuts as tax hikes. Brilliant? Or just S-O-P from the Party of No?

Regardless, such sanity of entitlement-reduction will never fly. As soon as the idea of, let's say, raising the retirement age by a year is floated, the AARP will hire elderly actors to pose in landfills with a caption of "this will happen if Washington has its way" soon thereafer making the commercial airwaves during American Idol reruns.


Obama isn't viewed as blameless in this corner now, so don't anyone conclude me to be a pro-Democrat apologist: I consider myself to be much more fervent anti-Republican than a pro-Democrat. I just wish I had another real choice, that's all.

But the President has certainly booked a first year that, at best, rates a Gentleman's C -- with a special notation of "student seems at times to be unfocused and inconsistent in his approach to work assignments." The bad news here is that he's handed an opening to the not-so-loyal opposition; the good news is that all one needs to do is look at the Reagan and Clinton presidencies to see that they, too, were in similar troubled waters in Y1 of their terms.

But as any good boxing coach teaches, it's not how you start a round but how you finish a round. We'll see if Obama has found his legs by then.


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