One week ago today, Keith Olbermann recorded his last words as the host of Countdown. The very minute he left frame, the blogosphere and Twitter world caught fire as millions expressed shock, sadness, anger, and for the conservatives of the nation, delight. Conspiracy theories raged across the ether as corporate giant Comcast, whose merger with NBC technically started that day, was assumed to have ordered K.O.’s firing. Supporters quickly drew a line from Olbermann’s axing to Comcast and thence to the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court one year prior. Boycotts of MSNBC and NBC were planned and indeed demanded.
Liberals who have watched conservative commentators and bloggers burst into flames at the smallest hint of potential liberal scandal, have now (seemingly) adopted the same strategy. The worst possible conclusions of every event are automatically drawn, without corroborating evidence, and draconian solutions are immediately pushed as the only true liberal reaction. Liberals shocked at the reactionary and often violent rhetoric of the right, have decided to adopt a similar tone and trigger pressure in their own dealings with the worlds of politics and the media. We have seen the pattern repeated many times after; the decision to abandon the public option, the decision not to sanction Israel during the Gaza War and blockade, the decision to select the not liberal enough Elena Kagan, the decision-making before and after the Big Spill, the decision to adopt the plan that included a consumer financial agency inside the Fed, the decision to make a deal on taxes with Republicans, Tucson, and the firing of Keith Olbermann.
If you folks are anything like me, you need to lose some weight and get your blood chemistry under control. Your doctor has probably (many times by now) advised you to get some exercise, prescribed you some medication, and told you to eat more green leafys and less fast food. With just over three weeks separating America from its New Year’s resolutions, you are probably still trying to do the right thing. That won’t be the case for much longer though. When most of us give up the diet in a few weeks however, it won’t be because we think that french fries and inactivity are better for us. We the people are far too intelligent to fall for that kind of emotion-driven, fact-defying thinking. Aren’t we?
All of this effort, it should be noted, is directed at fulfilling the rational solution to a well-defined problem; we are overweight because we take in more calories than we burn. Our arteries are clogged because we take in more fats than we can process. It sounds simple, but we the people have a disturbing tendency to disregard facts we find uncomfortable. And we are perfectly willing to listen to people who spew utter nonsense, so long as the nonsense is wrapped in a tasty package. It only makes sense that we would follow the same logic in our democracy as that which we adhere to in our dietary lives. Currently, the preeminent peddler of nonsense in a tasty wrapper is John Boehner. Now that he is the Speaker of the House, it seems natural for America to go on the diet of the combative Ohio Republican; The Boehner Diet.
Filed under the heading of useless government action; the Republican House (and three Democrats) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In truth, they voted for the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, a magnificent example of snake-oil salesmanship. The action has no real political meaning; the Senate will never see the legislation because Republicans don’t have the votes to either open the debate or invoke cloture to force a vote. If the Senate were to pass a complement, President Obama would veto the action, and there aren’t enough votes in the House to override his veto.
But lets set aside the action, and move swiftly to the conservative premise for its taking. “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, is the title, and it purports to explain the reason the GOP moved against the law. It isn’t immediately apparent why a law that addresses the principal source of American industry’s lack of competitiveness with European business would be a job killer. But Speaker Boehner has an answer, and his answer is a stunning example of hypocrisy and economic smoke and mirrors. We all, I am sure, remember that time long ago (two weeks ago), when the Speaker dismissed the CBO as “opinion”. We all also remember when then-Minority Leader Boehner consistently slammed the CBO over its scoring of the bill as a deficit-reducer.
Jenny McCarthy is still railing against vaccines in her crusade against autism, and the media is still covering both her efforts and the questionable scientist who fueled the debate in the first place. What we Americans are ready to believe is often and interesting study in contrast. Literally thousands of long term studies of historical CO2 levels, temperature records via thermometers, temperature records via proxies (like corals and tree rings), direct observation, and simulation, have concluded that this planet is experiencing damaging anthropogenic climate change. But because the fossil fuel industry refuses to look out of its box, and a handful of fundamentalist Christians think science is an attack on God, this overwhelming argument still struggles for public credibility.
When an ex-Playmate and her comedian domestic partner however, raised the alarm based on one exceptionally flawed research paper, vaccination rates for newer diseases and in some high-risk communities fell. The medical community, fueled by a rigorous ethic of peer-reviewed reporting on long-term clinical studies, has managed to steadily control or destroy major diseases that devastated communities as recently as 60 years ago, . This history, however, slid to the background after Dr. Andrew Caulfield did a study of 12 children whose parents reported behavioral problems after they received vaccines. Jenny McCarthy and the good doctor believed that the parent’s association of behavioral difficulties and the MMR vaccine constitutes proof of a causal relationship between the two. Many parents around the world seem to have agreed with the pair.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Most of us heard that little nugget of wisdom when we were children, and I don’t imagine many of us believed a word. We grow up in a world where all of our authority figures punctuate their arguments with a name. Atheist, idolater, harlot, bum, bigot, fool, weakling, coward…it sometimes seems that fully half of our native tongue is devoted to the verbal assault on our fellow man. In politics, the art and science of name calling has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise; those who are possessed of the talent and will for true nastiness are the gatekeepers of power.
The last two years have seen America rise to the pinnacle of this less than noble pursuit; no longer does the application of a name or label have to employ even the slightest grounding in reality. In fact, we the people have become so good at calling each other names, that if a term brings the appropriate level of cruelty or spite to a conversation, we need only redefine it to suit our needs. This isn’t a new talent, teenagers of every generation have fundamentally changed the definitions of words like “hot” and “cool”, but now we have the ability to apply the same process to the names and places of history. We have heard “Marxism”, “Communism”, and “Fascism” thrown around the media like so many grains of wheat. But when it comes to historical names, none has such power to stir up fear, anger, and violent rage quite like Adolf Hitler.
Alan Greenspan is back! After a solid two years worth of exceedingly well-deserved humble pie, the former Fed chairman is settling into his favorite role; the oracle of deficit hawks. Recently interviewed for the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Greenspan cautioned Congress about the need to adopt the Debt Commission recommendations in order to avert a “bond crisis”. Ayn Rand’s most successful protege even spoke of the need for tax increases to help close the gap, and the timing of this communication was of course perfect.
For the past thirty years, the Wall Street interests that run Mr. Greenspan (or perhaps are run by him), have trotted the sage old man of finance out whenever Congress and the media have needed a push in their direction. Always in search of new and more creative ways of distilling working class innovation and effort into Wall Street fees, people like Alan Greenspan have achieved unprecedented success at convincing Americans to be happy about giving up their financial futures. In today’s popular disguise, these folks are introduced as “deficit hawks”; avenging angels of fiscal discipline. When the hawks lose faith, Mr. Greenspan is there to rally the troops. As of the beginning of 2011, the hawks were definitely losing faith.