Friday, January 28, 2011

Time Marches On

Tuesday Jan. 25, 2011 may be remembered as the date of Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. But it also marked the ascendance of a new Queen of Bufoonery. Sarah Palin has been dethroned. I view this with mixed emotions. But then nothing lasts forever.

The new Queen is Michelle Bachman who arrived on the scene about the same time. Sarah, as a relatively unknown Vice Presidential nominee and potential president, had to demonstrate her qualifications by answering questions. This set the stage for her greatest laugh lines, some of which might have made Gracie Allen envious. Among her most notable quotations are “I’ll get back to ya,” “I can see Russia (Siberia) from my house” and “all of them” (twice). Her reference during the campaign to the “Palin McCain ticket” was a nice touch.

At this point she had peaked, but held the throne for two more years. Her decline began with her resignation after a half term as Alaska’s governor. By leaving elective office she shed any obligation to answer questions, the fountainhead of her previous gems.  The “dialogue” evolved into a monologue consisting of right wing clich├ęs which had long ceased being funny. No questions please, only answers.

Michelle Bachman on the other hand started slowly. She was just another obscure right wing kook until Chris Mathews had her on his show, after which she became a well known right wing kook. While Sarah cleaned up her act a bit, possibly on the advice of cooler heads with visions of a presidential nomination, Michelle slowly but surely picked up steam. Her verbal slapstick is more rambling than Sarah’s and not as conducive to one liners. But in the last month she has refined her act and added some real zingers. Her call for the “repeal” of the President and the Senate is an interesting new concept.

Michelle’s most recent display, which I feel this puts her over the top, is her claim that the Founding Fathers eliminated slavery when they wrote the Constitution. This means that all those Civil War documentaries are fiction rather than history. If she has advisors, which isn’t a foregone conclusion, they have to be as removed from reality as she.

If there were any remaining doubts as to Michelle’s new sovereignty they should have been ended by her response, as a self appointed spokesperson for the Tea Party, to Obama’s State of the Union speech. It was aired after the Republican response and obligingly televised live by CNN, the only network to do so. Even Fox limited its coverage to a running written transcript, so we now have a new Fox in our hen house. The high point was her looking at the Tea Party camera rather than CNN’s as though she were addressing someone in the balcony. Maybe the teleprompter had been misplaced.

I consider myself a fan of humor that includes writers such as Robert Benchley and S.J. Perelman. Not all humor is intentional like theirs. In its accidental context I admit to having experienced more pleasure than pain from Sarah Palin, at least until now. So it is with some sadness that I figuratively paraphrase a medieval expression. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!   













Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Many of us have experienced the “trauma” of having our favorite TV shows cancelled. But the significance of much ballyhooed final shows like MASH pales in comparison to that of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Both shows provided entertainment. But the departure of Countdown leaves an additional and altogether different kind of void

The most obvious conclusion is that the show’s termination was primarily a consequence of the host’s presentation of his political views. Several unattributed alternatives have been presented. He wanted more money; he changed agents; there was a rivalry with other MSNBC hosts. I see them as an attempt to distract us from the degree to which our sources of information are directed and controlled by corporate interests. To me these rumors are symptoms of the Republican penchant for spreading germs of deception with the expectation that some people will be infected. My guess is that the event was primarily political and possibly, to a lesser degree, personal.

Certainly Mr. Olbermann is opinionated, but no more so than the roster of hosts at Fox. In contrast with these people, his opinions, whatever their merits, are argued with facts. His show didn’t hurt MSNBC’s bottom line, quite the opposite. But it worked contrary to the interests of the Wall Street honchos and like minds, in this case the executives of the NBC complex and the owner to be, Comcast.

The political left, unappreciated by many of its beneficiaries, has historically worked for the interests of middle income and less wealthy Americans who have endured three bad decades. During that time a major portion of our existing total wealth has been transferred to the hands of the richest one percent. Recently rules have been changed to accelerate this process.  In the past year the First Amendment right of free speech has been extended to financial entities endowed by anonymous donors, the bigger the endowments the bigger the megaphone. The left is the clear loser in this turn of events. But look at who’s brandishing the guns as a threat to what they perceive as our national inequities.

Our oligarchy may continue to burgeon during the lives of many, if not most of us, but not forever. Any action to level the playing field has to come initially from the left. It might be carried out as it was in what became the Soviet Union or through America’s constitutional process, as it was in the 1930’s. The latter is obviously preferable. But the longer the process it is delayed the harder and less likely it becomes to get there.   






Saturday, January 15, 2011


I’ve been away from home and my computer since the day of the shootings and the commentary I’ve heard has pretty well covered the territory. Here are a few offhand thoughts, many of which are by now second hand. One concerns the Fat Man’s claim that Democrats and liberals are “overjoyed.” Whatever this says about people he dislikes, it says a lot about him and about the way he would feel if the situations were reversed.

This saga has not been a bright spot for the radical right, particularly its pop star, considered by some a potential presidential candidate, whose prospects I had previously considered nil.  “Less than nil” is an admitted oxymoron, but it’ll have to do for now.

Like most Americans I disapprove of the general public’s right to own guns that can be fired 33 times without reloading. The need to fire so many consecutive rounds for self protection could apply only to a blind person. Since such lethal weaponry is available, its dispensation should not be treated in the manner of a criminal case in which the state must prove its precautions beyond a reasonable doubt. Quite the opposite! Here the burden should be on the purchaser to prove beyond any known reasonable doubt the safety of his owning of such a weapon. Unfortunately any conceived tightening of gun laws at this time would be DOA because of intimidation by a vocal minority that speaks with equal reverence of God and handguns.

The main issue raised by this event concerns limitations of free speech, specifically the type of rhetoric symbolized by a map with cross hairs of gun sites on locations of coveted Congressional seats. While I’ve yet to hear any commentator claim that this caused the shootings, there’s no question that it could have. The motive for the shooting was apparently political.

I’ve yet to hear mention of existing restrictions on First Amendment rights of people about to board an airplane. Anyone making a comment with any hint at the implications of the aforementioned map, if overheard by someone of authority, would learn the limitations of free speech in a hurry. Many of us have had situations in which we considered ourselves unfairly treated by an airline. But we knew enough to withhold any vituperative verbiage till we’d left the airport. We’ve seen pictures of people sleeping on airport floors during major airline snafus. I suspect some harbored thoughts which, if spoken, would have led to their doing their sleeping elsewhere.

Of the silly “solutions” which come primarily from the right, my prize goes to those that favor more people, from elected officials to school children, carry guns for “defense.” The result of more guns and bullets in the possession of more people is inevitably more accidental shootings. Not everybody has as good an aim as the former governor of Alaska.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Hand Clapping

A few nights ago I listened to one of those TV mini debates engaged in by a Congressman from each party. As this sort of thing goes, it was a courteous exchange without the usual interruptions, so I had a chance to hear both arguments on the subject in question which was repealing the recently passed health care reform.

The Democrat made his case by presenting facts , which are true by definition, although I have heard the phrase “false facts,” a particularly interesting oxymoron. A body of factual evidence may fall short of proving a point if outweighed by that supporting the opposing position. In making his case the response of the Republican was based entirely on the premise that we have too much government. He supported this claim at length with laissez faire talking points which are probably available on the web. A Mantra is not evidence. To present it as such in a debate is the metaphoric equivalent of one hand clapping. Whether we have too much or too little government is beside the point, this point, which is specifically whether our health care system justifies this particular expansion of government at this time.

As an admittedly biased Democrat, it seems to me that the simplistic idea of one ideological size fitting every situation is more a Republican tactic. It has great appeal to the party base, but sheds no light on most issues. I’ve yet to hear Democrats claim that more government control is a solution common to all, or even most issues. They may adhere to this position more often, but with a distinct degree of selectivity.

“When it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change” is a statement I heard attributed to John Kennedy. This is a generic conservative view. But it’s one with which most liberal/progressives would agree. Differences of opinion lie in what is considered necessary. 

The world in which we live, particularly our knowledge of it, changes faster than the philosophies of our major political parties, which are etched in stone. To decide what changes are necessary on the basis of immovable objects rather than changing circumstances in the real world makes no sense.