Monday, April 26, 2010

Dad endorses conspiracy theory

Masters of the universe

My politically benighted father has shared with me yet another classic of the forwarded-wisdom genre. Although I have told him (many more times than once) that one is unlikely to find trenchant political wisdom in poorly formatted, multiply forwarded e-mail screeds, he cannot resist sending me some of the iron pyrite nuggets that drop into his AOL mail box. The latest example is fairly typical of the right-wing spam with which he favors me. It's a tribute to the power of politicians. It's really much greater than you might imagine. No, really!

They control everything.

Yeah. Sure.

I'm always conflicted about the proper way to react when these chunks of nonsense show up in my in-box. Initially, I'm insulted that he thinks I could be persuaded by such lame manifestos. Then I'm embarrassed that my father swallows such tripe without blinking. Finally, I simply ash-can the message or—if I just can't resist it—I zing back with a tart response.

This was one of those zinger occasions.

It didn't help that Dad included his endorsement instead of merely forwarding the spam:

“This really got it right. This is what is happening to our country and I do not like it!!!!”

No, Dad. Multiple exclamation points do not add to the weight of the argument. They just don't.

This is part of what followed:

Charlie Reese, a retired reporter for the Orlando Sentinel has hit the nail directly on the head, defining clearly who it is that in the final analysis must assume responsibility for the judgments made that impact each one of us every day. Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years. It's a short but good read. Worth the time. Worth remembering!


545 vs. 300,000,000 PEOPLE
By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them...Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered: If all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi. She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.
If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.
If the Army & Marines are in IRAQ, it's because they want them in IRAQ.
If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible. They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses. Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees. We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper. What you do with this article now that you have read it.
No one should be surprised to learn that the editorial supposedly written by Mr. Reese of the Orlando Sentinel is not quite as advertised. It has been severely “improved” by clumsy hands as it's been passed from one right-winger to another. I omitted the extensive coda in Dad's version that included a long list of taxes, all of which are horrible crimes against humanity. I especially enjoyed the breathless claim that “Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.” Why was that amusing?

The list included the Telephone Federal Excise Tax, the Gasoline Tax, and the Recreational Vehicle Tax.

I think I have a clue why none of those terrible taxes existed in 1910. I also doubt that their non-existence was a key factor in the nation's prosperity back then. (It didn't even prevent the panic of 1910-11.)

As I previously admitted, I could not resist sending Dad a slightly snarky response.
Dear Dad:

The original version was published by Charley (not “Charlie”) Reese in 1995, when the Republicans ran Congress. He pointed out that the GOP only pretends to want balanced budgets, since they never pass any, even when in power. This version was edited with a right-wing slant to blame Democrats alone and also stuck in some nonsense about the supposed absolute power of the 545 senators and representatives to control the universe. To my knowledge, Reese never wrote anything as silly as

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Any political reporter who wrote that would apparently believe that Congress could have passed a law abolishing the Depression or mandating peace on earth or banning flash floods and earthquakes. Would that the world were that simple.

The “improved” version of Reese's editorial that you forwarded to me can be rebutted much too easily. Like this, for example:
  • Every member of the House of Representatives is elected by the voters in his or her district. If a person is in the House, it's because the people in that district want that person in the House.
  • Every member of the Senate is elected by the voters in his or her state (except for temporary interim appointments). If a person is in the Senate, it's because the people in that state want that person in the Senate.
  • The Congress is elected by the people of the United States. Therefore the Congress is the representative body that the people want.
Above all, do not let anyone con you into thinking that there exists some disembodied political forces like “radical liberals” or “environmental extremists” or “ACORN” or “George Soros” that prevent voters from electing the people they want in office.

And then, of course, these people control the universe.
The state of the world? It's all the fault of the masters of the universe. Yeah. We can blame it all on He-Man.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Obama outrage

One of these things is not like the other

The wacky right was never at a loss for words when George W. Bush was criticized for being a lousy president—perhaps the worst in American history. (Look to your laurels, James Buchanan!) Those who pointed to Bush's many failures were accused of suffering from “Bush derangement syndrome.” It was, you see, irrational to denigrate poor old George for traipsing into Iraq with no valid reason in hand and no exit plan in mind, allowing financial institutions to cheat their clients and each other to the point of meltdown, and slashing taxes for his “base” in an orgy of deficit-building.

I mean, what's to criticize in those minor missteps?

Now that Barack Obama is president, there are real outrages that must be denounced in the strongest terms possible. After all, when the occupant of the White House is an enemy of America (and maybe even a communist!), eternal vigilance is called for. A recent letter writer to the Sacramento Bee identified the president's latest example of hatred for his fellow citizens.
No aid for U.S. quake victims

Imperial Valley and Northern Baja had 7.2 earthquake on Easter Sunday. President Barack Obama has done nothing. This is in his own country. He has done nothing for us, no word about it. Haiti had a 7.1 earthquake; 18 minutes later he is giving all kinds of aid to a foreign country.

Mike Van Zandt, Brawley
Mr. Van Zandt is right! (Probably extreme right.) The earthquake in southern California was a tenth of a point worse than the Haitian temblor, yet the emergency services response to the two incidents could scarcely have been more different.

It may—just possibly—have something to do with the results: Two people were reported killed in the Mexicali/Calexico quake. Two hundred thousand were reported dead in Haiti, with the counting still continuing. (We can blame government interference with acts of God: building codes are much stronger in the U.S. and Mexico than in Haiti.)

As head of state, it naturally fell to President Obama to extend the nation's sympathy to the people of Haiti and to initiate our relief efforts. In the case of the quake on the border between California and Mexico, Governor Schwarzenegger is the chief executive who issues (and did issue) a declaration of emergency. The day after the quake, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that “No request for Federal assistance has been received.”

FEMA was on hand, however, when the California Emergency Management Agency asked for its participation in surveying and assessing the earthquake damage.

Of course, that was ten days after the quake occurred. If Obama really loved America, he would not have waited. He would have flooded Imperial Valley and the border region with federal troops and agents.

I'm sure Mr. Van Zandt and others of his ilk would have greeted them as liberators.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

G is for Grafton

Men of letters

Over breakfast in Turlock during spring break (hey, where else would you go for breakfast during spring break?), my old college buddy gave me some detailed feedback on the manuscript of my novel. He was kind enough to point out that the character based on me kept getting in the way of the main storyline. (Damn. He's right.)

In addition to talking about my attempt at becoming a writer, my friend and I talked about actual writers (you know, the published kind). It turned out that neither of us had read Sarah Palin's autobiography, although I had riffled through the pages at Mom and Dad's. (Wait a minute: I said “actual” writers. Going Rogue is ghostwritten.) I teased him about his university becoming the notorious venue for Palin's secretly expensive public speaking appearance, but he wasn't particularly embarrassed. The faculty at California State University, Stanislaus, are innocent bystanders when the activities of their institution's president are concerned.

Somehow we wandered onto a new topic. I'm not sure how or why. For whatever, reason, I wondered aloud what Sue Grafton would do when she ran out of letters for her “alphabet series.” (Right now she's on U is for Undertow.) My buddy pointed out that there was no reason for Grafton to abandon the series after penning Z is for Zebra (or whatever). Spreadsheets have taught us that the alphabet need not end, for column Z is succeeded by column AA.

“She could write AA is for Alcoholics,” my friend suggested.

I laughed and got into the spirit of things. I know that Excel says that AB should be next, but I chose a different route.

BB is for Air Rifle,” I said.

CC is for Dosage,” he replied, with a fine metric sense.

We disagreed about DD. Thinking Dungeons & Dragons, I suggested DD is for Nerds, but he riposted that it should be EE is for Nerds (and I imagine that most EE majors would agree). He offered the possibility that DD should stand for lingerie.

I think not.

Anyway, I'm sure that Grafton can make up her own mind. But what do you think?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

T is for Turlock

Or maybe “turkey”

The modest California town of Turlock in Stanislaus county currently boasts a population of 70,000 and a campus of the California State University. The university is the legacy of a sufficiently well-connected state senator who thought his hometown should snag one of the new campuses being planned during the 1960s expansion of the CSU system. It gave Turlock something else to brag about aside from the poultry farms that inspired the memorable radio jingle about “Turkeys from Turlock.” (This is assuredly the reason that California State University, Stanislaus, is fondly referred to by many as “Turkey Tech.”)

I recently had breakfast in Turlock with an old grad school buddy who is a professor at Stan State (that's the other nickname of CSU, Stanislaus). It was impossible, of course, to avoid twitting him about the selection of Alaska's former half-term governor as guest of honor for the “celebration of excellence” marking Stan State's fiftieth anniversary.

Perhaps Sarah Palin is not someone you automatically associate in your mind with “excellence.” Or “education.” The snarky among us might say the same thing about Stan State, but the truth is that CSU Stanislaus has gained a reputation as a good deal in public higher education. Away from the high-cost environments of the CSU's urban campuses, Stan State offers a low-rent alternative path to bachelor's and master's degrees. (We shouldn't hold it against Stan State that one of its professors is the wacky IDiot Richard Weikert.)

Besides, as my friend pointed out, the university's leadership is simply pandering to the local political environment—and taking advantage of it. California's Central Valley is the locus of blood-red politics and teabagging. The university's “independent” foundation doesn't have to admit how much money it's paying Palin to aw-shucks her way through a “Knowledge is good” speech. The foundation claims, however, that it will clear between $100,000 to $200,000 from her appearance, even after crossing Palin's palm.

So think about it. The right-wing residents of Stanislaus county are being drawn like moths to Palin's bright and shiny flame. In return, each will be relieved of at least $500. (The hardcore Palinistas can unload $50,000 for the honor of being called “platinum sponsors.”) All of that money will go into student scholarships and other educational programs.

And, as we all know, the result of a public higher education in the liberal arts is more liberals. Glenn Beck said so, and he's an “expert” (on everything!).

Yeah, let's take their money.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A member of no organized political party

As Will Rogers once said

For a bit of casual fun, you can test your political persona at Don't expect to be surprised. Do expect to be slightly irritated at some of the questions. (“People raising children have a responsibility to live up to society's standards”? What if society's standards aren't very “up”?) You're required to come down on one side or the other on every single question. No neutral answers are allowed.

It appears that the test was concocted for the 2008 political season, but it was just today that a friend sent me his results. I am, of course, disappointed that I didn't turn out to be as much of a socialist as he is. Shucks! (Maybe after the Obama administration ships me off to the re-education camps! I'll save a place for Dad!)