For more on the politics of saving the economy, we bring in Bob in the Heights

From time to time, HIPRB! feels the need to turn over the front page for a spirited diatribe on issues of the day (or on something else).  Today is one of those days: my friend Bob Eddy takes issue with a thing or three out of the recent contretemps over raising the federal debt ceiling, and links us to quite an interesting examination of Barack Obama’s fear of confrontation.

That little congressional Mexican standoff was the sorriest and most shameful display of our democratic system that I’ve seen in a long time.  And come Monday morning I brought up the Times with a heavy heart, knowing as sure as the sunrise what I would see—yet another capitulating choke by the president and his party that will once again lamely be defended with that upbeat and reassuring phrase that has become this administration’s slogan: “Well, better than nothing…”  

“We tried, but…”

Like the coach telling the team owner “Well, we only lost by 10…”

“Our offense looked really good in the third quarter…”

“Our new kicker has some real potential…”

And of course I knew also that in the ensuing days we would be treated to the smiling but worn congressional faces of our brave representatives who rolled up their sleeves, set their differences aside, and hammered out a solution just before the clock ran out.  Whew, another global crisis avoided!  And once again we’ll all be reminded that democracy sometimes gets ugly, messy, and contentious, but that’s what makes this country great, and in the end rational compromise will win out for the betterment of the people and what’s best for America.  You know what?  Hey Harry, your catheter is leaking into your socks. 

The saddest part?  Watching the president of the United States spend 20 minutes addressing the nation to plead his case for a sharing of the fiscal burden, and John Boner barely taking 5 to sternly tell him that the dishes were piling up in the congressional cafeteria, and this is what his party will do and won’t do – sweet.  I’ve got to admit, I was taken back by the bluntness of his rebuttal, void of any hint at compromise or even respect.

I knew from the moment Obama got called out as a liar that there was going to be trouble with this crowd.  And I’m sorry, as much as Obama and everyone would like to think the hatred has nothing to do with color, come on, let’s be honest: no president in our lifetime has been this openly treated with hostility, disdain, and lack of decorum.  Not that I don’t have my own issues with our president.  You know, I wasn’t one of the foolishly naive who put him on a pedestal and thought upon his entering office we were all going to put on rainbow glasses and America was going to become Shangri-La West, but at the least I did expect some f****** backbone.

It just seems like his administration thus far has been more a cold slap of reality as far as what the president can do and (mostly) can’t do, than anything resembling hope and change.  He regularly treats his voting base like his third choice for the senior prom, and like me they’re all screaming “When are you going to give up this ridiculous fantasy of reaching across the aisle, of working together for the common good!?  Of expecting anything other than contempt and obstruction from this crowd!?”

Some say he’s playing the long game; I say the strategy has so far brought us next to nothing in the win column – it’s the age old “well now you’re pissing everyone off.”  Stop this ridiculous quest for the Holy Grail of the political center where your number crunchers assure you the percentages predict the most votes…to be the off-white shirt that goes with the most jackets in your closet.  When Leonard Pitts suggested in a recent column that it was time to start throwing some elbows on your way to the basket, my thoughts were “what took you so long to write this column?” 

And of course, Obama’s haggling capabilities leave something to be desired…

Obama at a pricey estate auction somewhere in Georgetown, where he spies a 19th century French coffee table that would like great in his study:

“Hmmm…$2,000, seems a little steep…I’ll give you $1,975!”

“$1,990 and not a penny less.”

“Michelle, get my wallet!”

Anyways, it’s never too early to start thinking about campaign slogans.  I thought maybe this one might look good on the presidential limo’s bumper, or certainly emblazoned across the side of the Marine One helicopter:

“2012 – Guarded Optimism & Mostly Disappointment”

This was a really good piece in the Times last weekend, pretty much sums it up for me.

I recommend the column Bob just referred to: it’s a very interesting examination of President Obama’s seeming aversion to confrontation, and not just confrontation with Republicans on the economy and the debt ceiling, and his failure (so far) to use the mandate he received when elected to get the American people behind him on substantive changes to strengthen the economy and regulate big money interests.  Even if you think he shouldn’t have done anything in those areas, it’s worth the read.

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Things you do when your team has a bye week

First thing this morning I’m heartened to see the Leonard Pitts Jr. column from yesterday’s Miami Herald, and so what if he’s piling on Christine O’Donnell for not understanding the Constitution—the point can’t be made too often that our country is in trouble if we voters don’t really think about what we’re doing when we get to the voting booth.

That this woman is a major party candidate for national office, that she is among the brightest stars of a constellation of like-minded cranks — some of them already in office — tells you all you need to know about this moment in our political life…Somehow we have forgotten the lesson we spent most of the last decade learning at ruinous cost, that faith-based governance, foreign policy by gut instinct, choosing leaders on the basis of which one we’d most like to watch television with, simply does not work.

It’s not  a question of conservative versus liberal:

…this is no conservatism Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater would have recognized. At least their ideology adhered to an interior logic. This ideology adheres to a perverse illogic which posits that the less you know, the more authentic you are. So what triumphs here is not conservatism but rather, mediocrity. The Know Nothings and Flat Earthers are ascendant.

And then while I was looking for a cartoon I saw to fill out this post, I ran into something even better—humor at the expense of our leader, in the form of a show tune!

Enjoy the lazy Sunday…the World Series, Halloween, and STS-133 are coming up the rear view mirror.

All hail the radical middle

I don’t write here every day because I promised myself I would try to think about things and then write rather than just explode all over the keyboard when something struck me as odd, inspiring, stupid or funny—Little League World Series developments, of course, being an exception.  And if that sets me apart from that part of the planet that’s always ready to respond to any development with the predigested talking points of some demagogue or another, I can live with that.

The more I think about this weekend’s TDS_RallyPosterRally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive, the more I think it will be a fun and educational way to remind everybody that we, the people who are not exactly pleased with everything that goes on in our government and our economy but haven’t thrown in with the extremist wingnuts du jour and want to talk about ways to make things better, are the center that holds this all together.  As the rally organizers say:

We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.

TCR_RallyPosterNow, I think that’s funny.  But I bet you, too, know people who wouldn’t laugh, who consider any deviation from the revealed truth to be treason and heresy, people unwilling to scrape the rust off of their imaginations for an honest discussion about possible alternatives to what they’ve told.  Leonard Pitts Jr. calls them “people who believe what they believe because they believe. Their ignorance is bellicose, determined, an act of sheer will, and there is not enough reason in all the world to budge them from it.”

Rex Huppke in the Chicago Tribune sees us as a sizeable block of Americans who are aware that the emperors on both sides of today’s partisan hissy fit are naked, and are occasionally amused by the spectacle.

…what about those folks who have remained largely on the sidelines during the campaign, chuckling at the often absurd rhetorical volleys of our feuding politicos? This could be their moment to stand up and say, “Hey. You all are acting like jerks. Cut it out.”

I’m sorry I can’t attend this weekend’s rally in Washington, D.C., but I plan to enjoy it from afar.  And I plan to keep thinking about and writing about issues that are important to our future, as Americans and as Earthlings.  A good place to start is among the ideas laid out by political consultant Mark McKinnon, who thinks we need more talk and good will in the political arena to get the radical middle into the game.

They don’t agree on every policy, but they are willing to debate on principles. And consider principled compromise. They recognize hard decisions are ahead. And neither party is stepping up to make the tough decisions.

We could use a little more sanity around here for a change.

UPDATE Oct. 20

This was published last evening about the same time as my post; Timothy Noah argues that what is likely to happen in the rallies next weekend could feed the animus that Tea Party types feel toward the “elites,” of which he believes Stewart and Colbert will be representative in their eyes, and actually influence the elections in favor of Republicans, which Stewart and Colbert would regret politically if not professionally.

My English is very goodly!

The Southeast Asian character who said that in a television show that’s stuck in a dusty corner of my memory—maybe a “M*A*S*H” episode?—got away with this funny line it because (1) she wasn’t a native English speaker and (2) it was the 1970s, excuses not available to the people who write and edit our newspapers and television newscasts today.

Last week  in The Washington Post Gene Weingarten lamented the death of English at the hands of journalists, the people you might have imagined should know how to properly use the tool that has expedited our exchange of information ever since evolution stole our ability to do that task with a simple sniff.

The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post.  A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the “youngest” daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their “younger” daughter.  In so doing, however, the letter writer called the first couple the “Obama’s.”  This, too, was published, constituting an illiterate proofreading of an illiterate criticism of an illiteracy.  Moments later, already severely weakened, English died of shame.

You in the hinterlands, do not take solace imagining that the plague is restricted to Our Nation’s Capital…oh no:

The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of “spading and neutering.”  The Miami Herald reported on someone who “eeks out a living” — alas, not by running an amusement-park haunted house.  The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star described professional football as a “doggy dog world.”  The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of “prostrate cancer.”

The demise of the language has not happened in a vacuum: readers supplied Weingarten with some of the more irksome examples they have stomached:

7. “loose,” as the opposite of “win.”

8. A mute point.

9. “amount” used to describe countable objects. 

Although regrettable, the slaying of the language by those who (arguably) should know better isn’t that much of a surprise.  These are the same people who, for instance, recently accepted the explanation from golfer Erica Blasberg’s doctor that he removed the suicide note and pill bottle from the scene of her suicide to save her family embarrassment without asking why he didn’t remove the plastic bag that was tied over her head, and who showed “dramatic video” shot from on board a Coast Guard helicopter of a rescue at sea without ever explaining why the boat was still speeding across the surf!

Got an excellent example of egregious and excess execution of English?  Hit the comment button and share with the class.