2015: Welcome to Bizarro World   1 comment

January 15, 2015   January 31, 2015   February 20, 2015

Endeavor to Persevere

What a start to 2015. My intention was to comment on a few of the early strange (and occasionally stupid) comments being made by people as the new year began. But as the weeks went on more and more people checked in, and my self-imposed deadline to post continued to move (as the above dates confirm.) It became increasingly clear to me that planetary alignment, king tides, solar flares, or some unknown toxin was affecting brain activity, particularly among the politicians around the country. Who knew that in the short space of a few weeks, saying and doing stupid things would appear to be endemic? I concluded that the only reasonable explanation was that we have entered a strange parallel universe, an alternate reality with a not-so-subtle familiarity to Bizarro World.  As I recall from my childhood embrace of DC Comics, Bizarro World is simple: it’s a cube-shaped world of Bizarro where everything is the opposite of life on Earth. Beauty is hated, ugliness is revered, and it is a crime to make anything perfect.* And as the month continued, it just got weirder and weirder. We are clearly living in an alternate reality.

Item 1: The Detroit Lions got to the NFL playoffs this year, but as it turned out, Bizarro’s influence was on the playing field. How else can anyone explain the reversed call by an NFL “zebra” that single-handedly changed the game’s outcome: “With 8:18 left in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s heartbreaking 24-20 playoff loss to the Cowboys, official Pete Morelli announced that Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens had pass interfered with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a third-and-1 attempt by quarterback Matthew Stafford. Morelli then proceeded to say that no foul occurred on the play. . . .” There hasn’t been this kind of abject disregard for the city since the GOP fought any use of federal money to keep the auto industry alive in 2009.

Item 2: The GOP wannabes for the 2016 presidential nomination have already filled the proverbial Republican clown car. Consider the field: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick “Oops” Perry, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, John Bolton, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and of course, Sarah Palin. Whew. The list of issues with this group of family values-oriented clowns is astounding: Ethics failures, marital infidelity, divorce, evolution science denial, opposition to contraception, vaccine denial, threats on gays and lesbians, bullying and obnoxious behavior, family vacations subsidized by wealthy donors, climate change deniers, homophobia, Islamophobia, warmongers, birthers, anti-union, anti-education, anti-healthcare, pro pre-natal rights followed by post-natal abandonment, and so much more.

Item 3: Red-state (solidly Republican) governors have been meeting with the White House to discuss expanding Medicaid in their states: Repeat: Republicans expanding Medicaid. As The Hill reported, “Govs. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.) and Gary Herbert (R-Utah) told reporters they believe the president would sign off on their states’ alternative expansion plans for the low-income insurance program.” What a coup for these states. In return for Obama agreeing to sign off on their plans, they’ll expand Medicaid. Ooh. Aah. Can’t you just feel the macho coming from these “victorious” governors? Medicaid expansion was designed as a critical component in reducing the uninsured rate under ObamaCare . . .  [but] a Supreme Court decision made the expansion optional for states. Since the court’s decision, just over half of states [emphasis added] have opted to open up eligibility for the program in exchange for millions in new federal funding.” Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Alaska, Indiana, Montana, and Wyoming are looking to embrace the expansion, and take the federal money.

Item 4: In a January 6th opinion, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman attempted to steer the world in the right direction with “A Time for a Pause“: “there’s never been a time when we need more people living by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Because, in today’s world, more people can see into you and do unto you than ever before.” Among the examples cited of our “gotcha society”, he chose these: The November 2013 hacker-attack on Target • The August 2014, release of nude photos (not including any of Mr. Friedman) believed to have been stored by celebrities on Apple’s iCloud • The now infamous fall 2014 attack of Sony, by Anonymous, or Kim Jung Un, or a disgruntled Sony employee • The arrogance and/or malevolent behavior of the obnoxious start-up business Uber • Donald Sterling’s meltdown • Twitter attacks • Canada’s desire to see the completion of the international straw , that oil pipeline designed (?) to move Canada’s very dirty oil over-or-through the Ogallala Aquifer, that relatively shallow body of fresh water beneath the Great Plains • Personal attacks and insults by a few members of the New York City police against their boss, the Mayor. I have nothing against the Golden Rule. But Tom, if that’s your solution to what’s ailing America or the world, it’s time to walk off into the sunset. After all, you were a cheerleader for the 2003 invasion of Iraq (not really a Golden Rule moment) and we all know how that turned out.

Item 5: Rep. John Boehner was returned as Speaker for the new congress, but with the largest number of dissenting votes in memory. “When a clerk called the roll, 24 Republicans [10% of the GOP members] voted for a candidate other than the incumbent speaker, . . . In fact, it was the largest rebellion by a party against its incumbent speaker since the Civil War.” So much for the post-November election GOP love-fest. We know Mr. Boehner has been unimaginative and sycophantic to anything “tea-party”.  Yet even Republican House member Louis—as crazy as they come—Gohmert wanted to upend Boehner. You know Gohmert: “Arguing against gun control, he drew a link between gay marriage and bestiality. He has alleged that there are “so many Muslim Brotherhood members” in the Obama administration and that radical Islamist terrorists are being trained to “act like Hispanic” and cross the southern border. He has warned of terrorists sending pregnant women into America to give birth to “terror babies” who would have U.S. citizenship.” And that rhetoric from a solid representative of the Tea Party’s GOP, that base that Boehner caters to. Mr. Speaker, when your friends start telling you it’s time to go, why not just go?

Item 6: Having barely held on to his speakership, Rep. John Boehner set out to chart a new course, and get things done in Washington. This Congress would be different from the last. Mountains would move. Rivers would change course. The weather would be controlled. So how did the Speaker’s desire for change manifest itself? He opted to prioritize his vision on how to improve the economy by scheduling the 67th House vote to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act. When that vote takes place in early February it will have the same effect as the first 66 votes. Na Da. Greg Sargent reminded us in “Morning Plum” in the Washington Post that “As GOP continues denouncing Obamacare as failure, uninsured rate falls yet again.” (And note Item #3: Medicaid.)

Item 7: After more than a decade of operating the prison at Guantánamo—that exquisite, Cuban island resort, founded by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a Home for Wayward Terrorists—some in congress have drunk some more kool-aid and are convinced we must keep operating Guantánamo. Damn the world and the historians. You can almost hear Washington’s new power-couple—John McCain and Lindsey Graham— channeling Ronald Reagan as they declare that we paid for Guantánamo and no bunch of pussies is going to make us shut it down. The reality is that this eyesore, this blight, this ongoing neon light attracts as much negative attention to this country as anything. Getting rid of the “Guantánamo card” would go miles to, at least, give the world (and our enemies) one less thing to rally their followers and highlight as one of America’s great shames of this century’s first decade. Nevertheless another fearless Senator, Kelly Ayotte, will lead the charge to keep it open. Ayotte (with the usual suspects,  GOP Senators McCain, Graham, and Burr) have proposed legislation that would ban transfers from Guantánamo . . . .” Talk about dead-enders.

Item 8: Gay rights continued to move forward but a group probably made up of members of the Flat Earth Society continued to fight to stop the Gay and Lesbian onslaught. Sorry for the redundancy, but dead-enders are clearly on display in the Gay Rights fights these days. For example, in Florida “. . . late-night ceremonies were held in Key West and Palm Beach County as scores of jubilant couples exchanged marriage vows and rings.” Yet some appointed and elected officials continue to believe that their political view or their religious views trump the law: “In Geneva County, Judge Fred Hamic said Wednesday he would issue licenses to gay couples but that they would have to go somewhere else to wed. ‘I believe I would be partaking in a sin, and I sin every day, don’t get me wrong,’ he said. ‘This is one sin I do not have to participate in, not that you have to participate in any sin.’ These clerks, these conservative judges and legislators so obsessed with denying rights to LGBT couples are clearly ignorant of American public opinion, a sense of fairness, and a desire for equality for all under the law. And they’re on the wrong side of history. But alas, Bizarro is still with us.

Item 9. House speaker, John A. Boehner says that he is certainly prepared to allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security to disappear on February 27. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You know, that agency that does things like airport security, border patrol, fight human trafficking. And DHS oversees immigration. You get the picture. Congress will essentially defund this department, and is comfortable with the concept of employees being forced to work without pay. But Boehner’s not worried. His ace in the hole is that many DHS employees are required to work during a shutdown—without pay. Even “journalists”, like Betsy Woodruff at Slate, see this as a win for Boehner: “Short answer: The homeland is going to be OK. Specifically, a missed funding deadline means a small fraction [15%] of the department’s employees would be furloughed. As Alexandra Jaffe notes at CNN, a Congressional Research Service report says that federal employees ‘whose work is necessary for the preservation of the safety of human life or the protection of property’ are required to keep working during shutdowns, though in many cases without pay.*” Ms. Woodruff must assume that all of these essential employees are independently wealthy. What would she do without pay for a week, or two, or more? The Chicago Tribune assessed the damage: “Roughly 200,000 of Homeland Security’s 230,000 employees are considered essential, so they’d continue to work — without paychecks — if funding lapsed at the end of this month.” More than 85% must get to work (paying for gasoline or mass-transit fares), paying for parking, pay their rent or mortgage, electricity, phone, heat. You know, the things we all (presumably including Ms. Woodruff) must pay. But Woodruff and Boehner are OK with that.

In the film The Outlaw Josie Wales, actor Chief Dan George read his line perfectly as the character Lone Watie. “They took our pictures, and the newspapers said, ‘Indians Vow to Endeavor to Persevere.’ We thought about it for a long time. ‘Endeavor to persevere’. And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.” Maybe there is guidance here for the Speaker. Declare your intention to endeavor to persevere, and then declare war on your House membership.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2015

*”Since his hilarious debut in the 1950s, Bizarro has been a character of equal parts humor and confusion. The imperfect duplicate of Superman, the chalk faced hero lives on the cube-shaped world of Bizarro where everything is the opposite of life on Earth. Beauty is hated, ugliness is revered, and it is a crime to make anything perfect.”

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One response to “2015: Welcome to Bizarro World

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  1. Pingback: For Benjamin Netanyahu, A Just Peace Is Not A Desired Outcome (Part 2) | Jazzdavid

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