mardi, septembre 30, 2008

Last Political Blog (jumble)

With the NFP up and rolling, and the Party Platform out there for all to see, we have decided that we just can't stand the thought of going on about subjects political any further. The people who need to read it aren't going to read it. And won't be swayed at any rate. Hence, some final thoughts, in the form of an exciting Jumble!

*THE FINANCIAL CRISIS! If you are still attached to the idea that one party is responsible, then you really are either too stupid or too uninformed to participate in the election, and I mean that sincerely. This is one of the reasons political blogging has become so tiresome. There are actually people, (and that term is not used here in the intellectual sense) who actually believe that one party or the other is to blame. Given that these people are truly not smart enough to vote, and should rescind their registration on the grounds that their IQ is not high enough to comprehend the process, it doesn't do any good to mention that in 1999, a bill sponsored by a republicrat senator was then signed by a democrublican president (who bragged about it like he had just saved the economy). This bill paved the way for the current mess by eliminating the line between investment banks and traditional lending institutions. But because you can't use that fact to nail the opposition, few people want to hear about it. Moreover, it only serves to frustrate the poor messenger who tries to inform Obamaniacs that three years ago John McCain tried to introduce legislation intended to reign in Fanny May and Freddy Mac and hold them responsible for corrupt practices. This legislation was shot down by senators like Schumer, and Dodd, and OBAMA, who happened to all be receiving large sums of money from the companies just mentioned, the fat cat executives of which happened to be liberal democrats. It only leaves one forlorn to mention to McCainiacs that the only reason their man doesn't shout this fact from the housetops is that he was implicated in the last big banking scandal that shook the governing bodies lo these many years ago. People starry-eyed enough to vote for something as nebulous as "hope" will not be influenced by footage of democrats shrieking that the financial institutions that started the meltdown are fine and should be left alone, or treatises by community activists who pushed said companies to make bad loans. People opposed to the hopesters don't want to hear that they had had both houses and the presidency for long enough to see this coming and do something about it.

So screw all of you. If you ever wake up and realize that you replaced your brain with the panties you had in a convenient wad, we'll welcome you with open arms into the Arena of Ideas. Until then you are dismissed sans further comment.

*THE DEBATES! Never mind McCain's pretty smart attempt to make Obama look out of touch by begging out of the debate to go and do the only job they're both currently sworn to do. And never mind Obama's deft response, making Mcain look old by insisting they could do both. The debate itself left me with a bizarre, twilight-zonesque feeling that these two men had been cloned and trained to state the same position in different ways, so as to try and fool the public into thinking there was a clear difference between them. Admittedly, I was listening to it on the radio, and so couldn't appreciate how creepy and old McCain must have looked, and how dynamic and young the man who invented hope must have appeared. I could only listen to their words, and so lost count of how many times they disagreed to agree, fumbling to restate what the opposition just said, in a way that pleases their constituency. It reminds me of that great episode of Futurama (ah, that show of shows!) where the two candidates actually are clones of each other. I was disappointed in McCain, who had a chance to hit a home run when Obama lectured on how to treat disabled veterans. All he had to say was "Hey, guess what? I am a disabled veteran. I might know a thing or two about it." He might be too dedicated to appearing civil to be president. There are not words to describe how sick I am of these two, pretending to take the high road while their "people" dig for dirt and splash it all over the television. At any rate, I'm sure they are, as this is being written, engaged in fervent discussions with their campaign managers on how to differentiate themselves from each other. And how to keep their apparently insane VP's from talking to the press any more.

*WAR IN IRAQ! Remember when we were treated daily to news of the inefficient bloodbath that was destroying all hope for any decent future for all humanity in Iraq? Did you hear the news that their recent casualty totals are at all time lows? I almost missed it, too. I had to dig for it. Did you hear the General's recent declaration that we should definitely be out of there by next summer? Did you hear about the thousands of soldiers who beg to go back when they are discharged? Look, I was totally in love with the fact that the war was questioned so stridently. I also believe firmly that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place--(even as I admit that to debate whether we should have gone at this point might be the most useless exercise since the thigh-master). Finally, I hate to sound like one of those whiners who complain about how there's never any good news on TV. But seriously, if there is something good going on there, and the situation is better at this point than it has been in a long time, what's wrong with reporting that?

*OCTOBER SURPRISE! Wouldn't it be weird if Osama Bin Laden was captured just days, or even hours before Americans went to the polls? Yes it would be odd. But I'm pulling for it because that was time frame for his capture that I had in the office pool. I stand to win a good sum of money if he's captured or killed any time between now and the election.

*HOLLYWOOD! Do you think that McCain would see a bump in the polls if Tom Cruise made his endorsement of Obama more vociferous? If Palin ends up Vice President, do you think she'll take action against Oprah for not letting her on? Do you have as much desire as me to NOT see this so-called "conservative comedy" starring John Voigt and Kelsey Grammer? It was made by a man (Zucker) whose last great film was Airplane! and stars Chris Farley's little brother for heaven's sake. Does he have any claim to fame except that his dead brother was as talented as he was fat? I will not be watching any comedy that advertises its ideology before its other credentials. But I'll give them props for having the guts to say what they were after, unlike the even fatter (but less talented) Michael Moore and his "documentaries." (He'd get a lot more mileage with me if he admitted to making propaganda). A good example of how to do this correctly was Year of the Dog, starring the genius Molly Shannon. If they would have gotten PETA involved in their advertising (it was, in the end, a transparent animal rights advertisement) I would have avoided it, and missed a really charming, well made movie. Speaking of PETA . . .

*HOORAY FOR ICE CREAM! And mad, mad props to PETA for finally doing something that is not bitch-slappably annoying. Their recent attempt to pressure Ben and Jerry's to replace the cow's milk in their ice cream with human breast milk was an ingenious way to highlight how creepy milk really is, without highlighting how creepy PETA people can be. (Not that I'm going to stop eating an occasional bowl of ice cream. Even if the only frozen treats in my freezer are Tofudi Cuties). How many of you, upon hearing the news, called your friends to suggest that you get into the "dairy" business? Jason Adair swears that you'd save a fortune in sugar making ice cream that way, because you wouldn't have to sweeten the milk. OK, that joke is creepy as well. But send your complaints to PETA.

vendredi, septembre 19, 2008

THE NFP! (Finally, a viable third party . . . )

If you are loyal to either party at this point--if you really think that, on a national level, either party represents anything beyond its own bloated self--if you still think anything along the lines of Democrat good, Republican bad (or the reverse)--then you are frankly too stupid to continue reading this and I happily invite you to leave and never come back and yes I just insulted you in a run on sentence and you totally deserved it you stupid idiot. PS: I'd tell you to go to hell, but your intellect is already rotting there. PPS: This is the strident, melodramatic, rhetorically irresponsible, attention grabbing opening paragraph. Which is the last traditional political tool you will read in this entry.

And which I will not retract.

But seriously, if there was ever a need for a third party, it is now. If ever there were two parties desperate to spawn a third to reign in their tired, weak-sauce excuse for governance, we are witnessing them in action now.

I therefore propose a new party. One with a platform simple enough to believe in, because of the beautiful complexity of the changes it will make. One with achievable, measurable goals which will produce powerful, obvious results. With special thanks to Jason Adair for the working name, you are witnessing, here and now, the creation of the New Federalist Party. (I had thought of calling it, simply, Party Town, or the No Fear Party, because those are hype names, and for reasons that will become clearer in a minute, but New Federalism was too good to pass up.)

Our philosophy is simple: POLITICS IS ABOUT GOVERNMENT. The national level is simply not the place to debate or make policy over the majority of issues. The federal government is not designed to help you feel good (or bad) about yourself--or really, to do anything that effects your life directly. We're not going to waste your time blathering on about hope, or strength. Government can be about one thing: Efficiency--leave moral debates, bureaucratic oversight, and policy making where they belong: WHERE YOU LIVE.

Our action plan is simple. Given that we are not interested in the overarching (and yet somehow petty) moral principles that you should be adopting and discussing in your own home and in your town hall, we can leave beliefs out of our modus operandi.
Furthermore, since we have no desire to regulate aspects of local life that we cannot see from inside the beltway, we have, thankfully, nothing to say about education, or infrastructure. Trusting such things to the federal government is like filling a bag full of quarters, poking a hole in the bottom, and appointing someone to drag it to Washington D.C. He drags it there sure enough, but of course leaves a trail of money you'll never see again behind him all the way there, where blind bureaucrats run their fingers through it, lose much of it, poke a few more holes in the bag, and finally send it back. The only thing left when you open it is a wrinkled piece of paper with their useless recommendations on it. This analogy applies to ideas as well as money. You can't tell me this isn't true and that this isn't the way we are currently trying to run the country.
Finally, you have to face it: most of the so-called issues you care about, and have attached to grandiose, hyperbolic political machines, are out of place in the form of federal legislation, which almost always takes the form of some feckless, unfunded mandate. An excuse for partisans and ideologues to argue and make themselves feel important. We feel that if we actually focus on a few ideas with real impact on the American public, we can get the country back on track.

Hence, our three pronged plan of action.
FIRST: Institute a national sales tax and abolish the IRS. Imagine a world where you get you keep your entire paycheck. Imagine the era of freedom that will dawn when we are made responsible for our own income and rewarded for our efforts in full--in a world were we don't have to live in fear of an audit, or a slip up on a form. There are simply no disadvantages to this. And the advantages are legion.
a)The mechanism to collect it is already in place. We're getting rid of billions in spending and replacing it with total simplicity.
b)Tax loopholes and sleazy accounting practices disappear.
c)You still get to punish the rich, who cannot escape taxes with high paid shysters who know the creases in the tax code. And imagine the tax on a yacht, while necessaries like food and medication, etc. are exempt!
d)At last we extend the privilege of participating in our government to pimps, prostitutes and pirates--not to mention illegal aliens, tourists, and convicted felons with Internet access. We'll pay of the national debt in a matter of years.
e)Consumerism, finally the engine of the free market system it should have funded long ago, also becomes something we should be a little more scrupulous about. You might wash a few dishes rather than pay the tax on the stack of paper plates you would have otherwise added to the land fill. Every time you buy, you get to feel good about helping make the government work. And every time you don't, you get to feel good about not contributing to the egregious waste we have been too eager to produce.
f)People might actually save money. Forget about the ridiculous idea of tax exempt accounts, which really amount to them taking money, then giving it back to you after fooling around with it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Everything will be a little more expensive, but you'll have a lot more money to spend. I personally cannot wait to put money in a savings account knowing that the money is all mine. That the government cannot touch it unless I decide to purchase something with it. All the while knowing that that same government, under this plan, will have more money than it knows what to do with.

SECOND: Legal Reform. Our justice system is crippled by greedy idiots and their greedy clients using it to make a buck. This is not just the only thing more stupidly immoral than the IRS--it's an issue that actually effects your life, where the federal apparatus can take logistically feasible action. Our proposal is simple. Eliminate frivolous lawsuits with a federal law, which stipulates that a judge or jury can deem your lawsuit frivolous, making you responsible for all legal costs (yours AND those of your legal victim), and levying a fine (a percentage of what you were seeking). This solves a host of other problems you might not even think are related. A medical system that doesn't have to concern itself with being sued by every litigious ninny that passes through it might actually be able to take care of people. A restaurant that can serve coffee without having to worry if the customer is going to make a million dollar profit by spilling it in his groin could actually lower its prices and serve decent food. Think of the ink and paper we could save. Think of the common sense that might prevail. I offer the following brief illustration. Your daughter's friend breaks her arm on your trampoline. Her idiot parents consider the idea of trying to take a little money out of your pocket, (or the pocket of your insurance company, which is the same thing). They call their lawyer who says: "Listen, there is an accepted risk when you jump on a trampoline. There is a good chance the judge or jury would think your claim to $30,000 in pain and suffering for a simple fracture is frivolous, at which point you'd owe me, their lawyer, and the American People a big chunk of change. They were not negligent in letting your kid jump on their trampoline, they were being nice. Why don't you just call them and tell them she's OK, invite them to dinner and remain friends?"

THIRD: Abortion! Finally, a way to resolve the unresolvable debate. Take it out of the hands of the federal government, where even Obama said the issue was "above my pay grade." Every state gets to vote. If your state votes against it, and you don't want to live with people who think they can tell a woman what to do with her unviable tissue mass, get out. Start an abortion clinic on the state line. That'll teach 'em. If your state votes for abortion, and you are against it--tough. If you don't like it, and you just can't live in a place where people can callously destroy miniature humans in good conscience, then move. (Then when your daughter gets pregnant, you can drive her across the state line to the clinic.) Either way, the feds are out of it. They will never fund another procedure. And we never have to listen to a presidential candidate dance around the world's most delicate topic. We give the abortion issue as an example of how New Federalism will deal with a host of formerly difficult topics. The legalization of Marijuana, (or just hemp if you want). Speed limits. Education. Even Welfare. These are not federal issues. Washington has a 0% success record managing them effectively. So neither your communist co-worker nor your stuffy conservative blowhard uncle can make a "federal case" about them. In fact, we might lose that particular figure of speech entirely.

And that's it. For the time being, those three points are all we as a party need to believe in. I hear you asking: "What about foreign policy? International Trade? Terrorism?" These are precisely the province of the federal government. Can you imagine the international efficiency of a streamlined, unencumbered national machine? Can you imagine the influence a solvent administration could wield for good in the world? Could you imagine the diplomacy that could be accomplished by a diplomat who was officially not concerned with moral issues that are out of his or her purview?
FOREIGN DIGNITARY: Mr. Secretary, we find some of your citizens' views on homosexual marriage to be old fashioned. [or vice versa]
AMERICAN DIPLOMAT: With all due respect, that's really got nothing to do with my duties here. Let's get down to business . . . [insert substantive discussion of international issue here]. By the way, while we are aware that we no longer have a national debt, we are no longer authorized to give you millions of dollars in aide without oversight. It isn't efficient. Perhaps if you can prove that the money is feeding starving children and not arming warlords, we can authorize a small amount.
FOREIGN DIGNITARY: No one ever checked on us before.
AMERICAN DIPLOMAT: We didn't have the means, but now that we're streamlined and focused on tasks that make sense, we have the time. I used to work for the IRS. . .

We hope we can rely on your vote.

lundi, septembre 01, 2008

Election Tips

Election time is usually a period of storm and stress for people of good sense. A time to run or hide from idiot partisans and ideologues until the whole ugliness blows over. This is to be mourned. Like the ridiculous taboo against discussing religion, the idea that people of divergent political views cannot discuss such is worse than preposterous. In the country that invented freedom of speech, no one should have to live in fear of expressing their opinion, no matter how stupid it is.

That said, let us first discard the idea that one is bound to accept or respect someone else's opinion based on some insane concept of automatic fairness. You have to accept that they have an opinion. You have to respect them as a fellow human. But you are NOT bound to respect any one's opinion if they can't back it up with reasonable philosophical argument. EVER. It is OK to disagree! If we could arrive at a point where we could question a bad opinion without calling anything else into question, we might have a substantive discussion or two. All of the really smart people I know have good friends with whom they passionately disagree. Think about that. Our society has arrived at a point where stupid people stay stupid by surrounding themselves with friends who never question them, because of some idiotic notion that a friend is someone with whom you agree, and anyone who is not in your ideological camp is an enemy. We have, by and large, lost the ability to disagree with civility. There might not be a worse tragedy, or a clearer harbinger of doom for our political system.

As paralyzing and hopeless as that may seem, for the time being, all that can be offered as a remedy are the following tips for the minuscule minority (people with sense and decorum) to tough out the election season.

1) Avoid discussions with people who have deflated the tires on either the left or right side of their intellectual vehicle. They are more easily identified than you might think. One big indicator is the economy. People who seem to have a deep, personal investment in declaring how totally screwed up it is are simply not capable of a reasonable discussion. They are, in fact, worse than people who go digging around for positive economic news for the sole purpose of claiming credit for their particular party. If you try to point out one of the hundreds of positive economic indicators currently in play, and the person with whom you are conversing can't accept it in anyway, simply change the subject and talk about sports. I don't know what these people get out of constantly harping about how f*cked up everything is (while they and almost everyone they know enjoy a level of prosperity unheard of in the world's history), but I do know that none of them have ever advanced the debate. And while they will absolutely deny this, I know with absolute certainty that when someone they like is in power, they find something positive to hang their hat on. IT SIMPLY ISN'T POSSIBLE IN AMERICA FOR A POLITICAL PARTY OR PRESIDENT TO TOTALLY SCREW UP THE ECONOMY. THERE ARE ALWAYS BIGGER FORCES AT PLAY. IT IS ALWAYS GOING UP AND DOWN. IT ALWAYS HAS POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES. FURTHERMORE, IT IS ALWAYS A LITTLE WORSE THAN THE PARTY IN POWER WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE, AND A HELL OF A LOT BETTER THAN THE OPPOSITION WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE. It has always been that way, and people who try to convince you otherwise are a waste of words. Don't waste yours on them, or waste your time listening to theirs. Find out if you like any of the same television shows and talk about those.

Another red flag to watch for is raised by the "dirt diggers." These people who spend their time digging up Internet dirt in the history of the people with whom they disagree. They can have a certain value, but they must be vetted. If someone approaches you and says they have anything resembling dirt on any candidate, simply say "And what's the dirt on your guy?" If they don't have any, change the subject or run. Either they are living in a world where they actually believe that only the "opposition" has shady elements in their past, or they are willing to turn a blind eye when it is politically expedient. Are these people with whom you could possibly have a worthwhile discussion? Enough said.

As for people who have taken it a step further, and are deeply, personally invested in one party or the other, who derive any degree of personal/emotional satisfaction at the idea of the demise of the republicans, or the defeat of the democrats, to hell with these mental midgets. Even if they have an opinion that makes sense, it is invalidated by their bile. You'll have to fall back on the old Mr. Rodgers Rule. Simply find something to like about them and focus on that until they shut up.
2) Avoid certain hot button issues. Number one is abortion. It is, technically and rhetorically, impossible to have a debate on a subject where the two sides have never once talked about the same idea at the same time. Even the labels are misleading: "Pro Life" people have chosen that designation to disguise the fact that they do indeed want to (justifiably or not) restrict certain currently held freedoms. "Pro Choice" types have chosen that description of their position so as to avoid thinking or talking about the reality that the "choice" involved means the literal and brutal destruction of a miniature human being. In this sense, both sides are equally useless and vile. You will never find a pro-choiceketeer willing to chant "I support a woman's right to suck the baby out of her womb with a vacuum or tear it to pieces with forceps!" And you will never find a pro-lifeketeer with a sign that says "whether you have your baby or not is OUR decision!" As soon as the issue is brought up, both sides change the subject. My own dear son asked my dear sister-in-law her position. It wasn't two seconds before she was talking about unwanted kids born to abusive or neglectful non-parents. My son got sucked in, and asked "I know a man who was raised in an abusive environment by parents who didn't want him. He's one of the most inspiring people in my life. Are you saying he should have been aborted?" There is no answer for this if you are pro-choice, but it was her fault for not answering the question in the first place. And had she asked this teenage boy if he had a right to tell an abused, cracked-out mother of 6 to bring the 7th spawn of her drunken, shiftless husband into the world, he would have had no answer. Until both camps are ready to face the ugly sides to their position, a substantive discussion is impossible. Frankly, with the precious little moral common ground the factions have left, "the Sanctity and Infinite Potential of Human Life vs. the Sanctity of Liberty and the Scourge of Unwanted Pregnancy" might not be a conundrum we can resolve.

Other useless topics to avoid for similar reasons: Whether or not the news media are biased; Global warming; Big tobacco; Matt Damon vs. Ben Affleck; Mooseknuckles; the merits of Dr. Phil; Reality television; Gay marriage; and anything about New Orleans except the Saints.

3) Stop thinking about a debate as something to be won. In the first place, since partisans and ideologues literally cannot be argued with in the best sense of that word, you weren't going to win--even in a world where it was OK to try. In the second place, tearing down someone else's beliefs does not constitute victory. Finally, if you can truly convince yourself that every discussion is simply an exchange of ideas between two people with more in common than not, it will not matter what a mindless, one-sided, or starry eyed, or pig headed, or bleeding hearted, or stodgy old fashioned wonk the other participant is. Unless you are getting paid, no one you talk to is your opponent. She or He is your fellow American. That idea alone should be the grain of salt which, when taken with all opinions and comments, makes this election season bearable.