Thursday, October 17, 2013

Straw constituents

red white and blue …
That was it?! One humongous, bloody, pustular, rancid, scabrous, infectious, horrid WTF?

One titanic time-wasting, money-wasting, attention-wasting exercise in venal, vain futility?

One mass demonstration to the world that we're a joke, and to ourselves that perhaps we are no longer equipped to handle this experiment in government.

Sixteen days of the federal government shutdown …
  • … millions and millions of dollars squandered (check your portfolio if you have one. That oughta be fun!)
  •  … have-not families wasting precious energy to find costly alternatives to Head Start (good for Laura and John Arnold, the billionaire couple who gave $10 million to keep the program going for 7,000 children! Shame on us they felt need to do so!) …
  • … medical research potentially set back for years … some of it gone for good …
  • … federally funded earth and climate science, like those shuttered in Antarctica, similarly damaged …
  • … startup small businesses on hold, awaiting federal OK …
  • … national parks and monuments closed, foods going uninspected, businesses in a teetering economy delaying hiring, all uncertain for the future …
  • … and much more besides, not to mention thousands of federal employees laid off, crippling their neighborhood economies.
What for? All because tea party-led Republicans maneuvered to drain funding from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare!) and bleed it dead, holding the entire government hostage over this one demand.

Which they didn't get! That's right, the congressional agreement, on the eve of sending the country into unprecedented default, essentially leaves alone the Affordable Care Act! After 16 days of stalemate, the issue was all piss and piffle. All over us!

Now it's over. We're back to where we started, poorer in almost every way possible. Except poor in spirit. We're dispirited.
Others lead, and we follow, on words anymore, not on deeds. And those words are an awful variation of the already awful Big Lie, attributed to Nazi propaganda that if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.

Instead, our leaders tell themselves the Big Lies early and often, then govern based on reactions to their own lies. And we put up with it.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, a chief engineer of the shutdown — and I'm not the first to say he looks, sounds and behaves unctuously like good ol' Sen. Joseph McCarthy — said yesterday: "It appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people. The deal that has been cut provides no relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of Obamacare."

Which American people? The ones who said the tea party should stand its ground, work its whiles and grind the country into the staggering irreparable effects of default? Those people? I'm confident those people are, as they say, few and far between. Too few and far between to merit closing the government and threatening default.

All of this — all of this — pivots on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act is a terrible law. Is it really? A major plank in the Obama presidency, aimed at making health care affordable overall and extending health insurance to people who had no access — is this law really so bad?

Rep. Todd Rokita, Republican of Indianapolis, called the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man." Secret boards that will condemn old people to early death! Forcibly implanted tracking microchips! Fabrications manufactured before the act was even presented. Rokita's characterization is just the latest in an unbroken chain of hyperbolic condemnations of the law.

Ben Carson, a celebrated neurosurgeon who is rising in right wing Republican circles as a possible political candidate, said, "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

Since slavery.

Hyperbole damns their own argument. Or should anyway, but we elect these people to office, and will likely send Dr. Carson into office somewhere, where he can enact his off-kilter ideas.

President Obama yesterday said: "There are things we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill, and with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hard working people all across this country."

Do you really believe that? Do you have any hope that will really happen — or that words and lies will continue to lead us? Is President Obama by definition lying?

Just a political generation ago — in what I thought were the dark days of the Reagan administration, now suddenly gleaming — foes negotiated, crafted, compromised, hammered out laws that worked.
The Affordable Care Act staggers under immense ineptitude and failures, the most recent being the glitchy online health care insurance exchanges. Some is the result of political sabotage and neglect. But it is hardly "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man." President Reagan and his clobbering foe, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, would have forged that law into something both sides of the aisle, and their constituents, could have lived and thrived with.

Not these folks. In a time when technology accelerates and we get the opportunity to know more and more about ourselves and the world, we seem to be getting stupider, retreating to the dark condemned ideas of the past. Maybe it's more comforting in the past. Maybe we want our mommies.

This reminds me of driving home from the grocery store a couple of nights back. I couldn't catch the playoff game on the car radio (yes, I'm paying attention, even though I said I wouldn't) for all the football going on, so I set the radio to scan. Soon I snagged a religious station.

The host of the show was explaining why "creation science" makes sense, and creating straw arguments for its enemies, the "evolutionists." The host spoke from the view that the Bible is literally true, the world is 4,500 years old, and Noah really did have an ark large enough to preserve the world's species from a great flood God unleashed upon the earth to destroy the wicked.

Straw argument example, "What about the dinosaurs?" The host explained that most of the dinosaurs were small, the size of goats, and that we are misled into believing that dinosaurs were gigantic because no one would pay to see a goat-sized dinosaur skeleton in a museum.

I had to drive around my block to listen more, stunned by incredulity.

Further, the host said, logic follows that Noah knew better than to risk havoc on the ark, so he made sure that the Tyrannosaurus Rexes that he ushered aboard were babies, easier to handle, and that they'd leave the boat as the floodwaters receded, before they got too big to handle.

The last of the dinosaurs, he said, died out about 700 years ago. No basis in fact, except that the Bible tells him so, or he infers it from the biblical timetable of so much begetting.

I respect people to follow their beliefs, no matter the intensity or variety — as long as interpretation of those beliefs don't harm or deprive others — but …

Is he serious? Are we serious?! Are we ready, now, to get serious?

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them," said Bill Nye, science educator and TV personality, responding to the argument for creationism. "We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future."

Will we get them, or will we continue to allow stupid people, lying in their mirrors, to lead us?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shawn:

    Wish I had the inclination, energy and talent to muse so incisively. Hats off. Yours is a valuable volume of stuff that casts you as a consistently keen, colorful observer of our world. And the cartoons! I knew you were good, but I'm proud of ya, bud. I wish I had your sketches in my daily newspaper; they'd be a big improvement. You struck a raw chord by invoking Ron, Tip and their penchant for detente in the best interests of viable policymaking. Hopefully, gerrymandering and other catalysts for political polarization will go the way of Jim Crow laws.. Seems we're off to a good start in California on that count. Citizens United? Fooey! More like Citizens Undercut. As for creationism vs. evolution, Bill Nye is guilty of the same sort of hyperbole you correctly pegged to Dr. Ben Carson. Implying that the heavens harbor no earmark of creation or design is disingenuous -- or maybe just plain blind. That by no means excuses creationist hucksters who commandeer a pulpit and misappropriate divine revelation by extrapolating to the absurd. Another argument damned, as you noted. But Nye must specify which evolution he's talking about: Micro-evolution? I'm sold! Macro-evolution? Don't canonize it until you prove it. Hey, I'd love to catch up with you and talk about trout fishing, cold-water swims, bygone baseball glory and, yes, pint-size dinosaurs, which is where it all began for you and me. So hey, call me at 951-294-3057 or shoot me an e-mail. Meantime, thanks for purveying high-quality journalism. Your pal, Brian L. (