A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fresh Thinking is Dammed Hard Work

But there is no help for it. If I am to continue political blogging and preserve my own self respect, I had better start doing it, since no one else looks to be. As I have slowly dipped back into the blogs on my roll, it becomes ever more evident that they have virtually nothing new to say. I promise a Straight Shot of Politics here, but somebody seems to have stolen all the whiskey in town.

Vice President Cheney shot a friend, probably to his lasting horror and mortification. Maybe the friend will die. But nobody, of his party or outside of it, even has a clue that this is a haunting personal tragedy for two human beings, and would be so whatever their politics. The debilitating thing about it all is that the responses on blogs, and in the news, are so predictable, so tired, so pointless, and so inhumane.

There is a bright shooting star on the Liberal Blogging horizon, a fellow by the name of Glenn Greenwald, who has barely been blogging three months and has made a massive impact on both sides of the Sphere. He's really good and he deserves his meteoric rise to fame in our little world, so go read him. But be prepared for the fact that our politics are so dead and compromised, so little connected to real issues that impact real people, that his posts are about things that no man with a mind could acknowledge being involved in, even to condemn them, without embarrassment.

Like the loud applause of the Republican faithful for Ann Coulter's remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

"I think our motto should be post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'"

Greenwald has a very fine mind, indeed. But even the finest mind needs something better than this to work with, to be able to write something really worth reading.

The Democrats have proved once again that Howard Dean's attempt at a spinal transplant was a dismal failure. By constantly looking to "positioning", rather than articulating and standing behind principles, they have retreated to their usual position. The one with the head up the ass.


The Republicans, even the ones whom I like and list here on the left, are still doing nothing more than airing out their chronic Islamophobia, and producing more bile than they can consume locally.


There is something really very wrong with this country. There is something wrong with its newsreading and voting public. There is something wrong with the Government it reads about. And there is something wrong with the news coverage it is reading. No, it's not "political bias". I only wish it were. That could be fixed. It is also not the economic transformation of America into a Third World Country, horrible as that has been. That may not be fixable, but it could be managed sensibly. It is not terrorism. It is not the Iraq and Afghanistan wars [yes, we still have two of them going on]. It is not anything.

It is the absence of everything.

We have been seized by a demon of decadent triviality which no longer allows us to even discern what issues are seriously important for our future, or to make intelligent choices about them. It is a disease of incoherence spread by one party which abandoned all principles in a ruthless pursuit of total power; another party that forgot it ever had principles once it finally, and definitively, lost power; and, finally, a Chief Executive whose idea of government is to simply order people to do things, legal or not, and make up the reasons for them as you go along.

I suppose if we wanted to blame somebody, we could blame Alan Greenspan. He was a genius, probably the greatest central banker who has ever lived. And he, more than anyone else, has shielded the American public from the ultimate disaster that this horrid trivialization of our politics could lead to. We have been led to believe, by Greenspan's success, that our government can do almost anything the people running it want to do, without real consequences for most of the rest of us one way or the other. We will still have our credit cards, our cellphones, our I-Pods, and our SUV's, in any case.

We have been led to believe that policy doesn't matter, that nothing needs fixed even if it is clearly broken, and that we live in a world of constant breaking news coverage, but no truly important events.

I am deeply afraid that until a strong plurality of us suddenly lose our credit cards, cellphones, I-Pods, and SUV's, this illusion will persist until our country can no longer avoid or evade a worldwide disaster of its own making.

Our politics are broken. We cannot even begin to prepare to mend them until later this year--if then. Despite my private views, merely electing Democrats will not fix things, particularly, though soundly defeating corrupt and incompetent incumbents might. We have to elect people who can manage the difficult balancing act of thinking straight, standing firm, but seeking consensus. We also have to persuade the ones we can't unelect yet to cooperate with the balancing act. A sound thrashing of incumbents is probably the only way to do this.

There are no guarantees that our politics can be mended, ever. It is a virtual certainty that they cannot be fully mended until we have a completely different Presidency, whatever party or candidate is elected to do it. The actual process of mending cannot begin until at least January 2009. They may not be mended in my lifetime.

Hence the self-demand for fresh thinking, a demand I'm not wholly certain I can meet. What do we really need in the way of public policy? What do we really face in the way of danger? What is really broken that needs to be fixed? How can we fix it? How can we persuade enough people to get involved in demanding that it be fixed?

I once had the mind and heart and will to treat such questions like a police dog trained to bite, hold, and not let go. I do not have these now. But treat them I must if I am going to continue political writing with any degree of integrity and self-respect.

Peculiarly, most of the nonsense kited out by current Administration has burned out any chance that they will make a lasting transformation, one way or another, in this country, or the world. Americans no longer have the stomach to make another reckless, unintelligent, and ill-considered war, no matter who waves the dangers of the "ragheads" at us.

Social Security is intact, and the two judges shoved into the Supreme Court--without any effective opposition by or cooperation with one-half of the country--are likely, I think, to find that the rush of events will overtake and overwhelm any attempt to impose a Conservative Christian social and "intellectual" agenda on us all.

We will all be left in the same incoherent muddle, screaming at each other, until the ineptitude that seized Washington in 2000 is finally swept away, hopefully by events, certainly by mere time.

We will survive. I don't think we will prosper, but we will survive. It would be nice to prosper. But that will require fresh thinking. And that is dammed hard work.


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