Archive for November, 2012

A Little Mercy

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

What cowardice it is to be dismayed by the happiness of others and devastated by their good fortune. — Montesquieu

The Spectacle Du Jour a couple weeks ago focused on a four-star General and the women in his life which lead to more questions about other accomplished men and the women who loved and/or used them. I did not find it amusing. My concern, in the abstract, was that personal emails were being rummaged through by our government for what seemed like spurious reasons. Worse, I didn’t like the blackmail implications — not by the women (though, of course that was and is a concern) but by the government. By our president.

My thoughts wandered to Hitler and his use of blackmail to silence his political opponents. Say what you want, but I’m not keen about living in a country where our government rifles through the shopping cart of our lives and then decides to shame us publicly when they find the Twinkie or Big Gulp that offends them.

But that’s a digression.

What really sickens is how Americans reacted to the salacious stories. It is sickening to joke about the destruction of many lives — as if these people weren’t people at all. They became amusements. We on Twitter became members of the Forum jeering at the prisoner sent to face the hungry lions.

It’s been said that comedy is a tragedy that happens to someone else. And maybe with distance, those in the throes of marital woe and relational and professional disaster will see the humor, but I doubt it. And I doubt anyone doing the cat calling would find it funny to have their own personal sins blared in neon. Or on Twitter.

Lance Armstrong, as an example, is being brought low. Whether he did the drugs or not (and everyone was doing them so he wasn’t alone), the real motivation to bring him down seems rooted in envy and a desire to destroy greatness. Ha! Ha! He’s a failure, just like me. Now I feel better about myself.

Tiger Woods had some pathological emptiness that needed to be fed with women other than his wife. It’s sad that he’s lost his edge. The world is worse for his lost potential.

General Petreaus got caught up with a woman and like an errant ship, hit the shore of wreck and ruin. America is not better for this failure.

And we are not better for having made fun of these people. We are worse.

I remember when Oprah was shocked at an audience member who told her, “I liked you better when you were fat.”

Oprah: Why?

Audience lady: Because you were just like me.

Now, General Petreaus, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong are just like us. Feel better?

Ace alludes to the “feeling better”:

What I can’t understand is the simple hate, the hate for hate’s sake, the hate of The Other for the sake of Self-Affirmation. I especially can’t understand the hate coming from the sort of people who will insist to you, quite seriously, that they have essentially purged all primitive and dark emotion from themselves and now exist on an elevated Oprah/Chopra plane of pidgin Zen harmony and balance.

I see less of this on the right, but I’ve seen enough to make me uncomfortable. Still, it’s worth noting that philosophically, people on the right acknowledge their own base nature even as they succumb to it. The left seems to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Is it really all that wrong to laugh, though? It’s not hate, hate–as Whoopi says.

What’s the big deal about laughing at Petreaus or Armstrong or Woods? People who know all these men have said that they’re kinda pricks anyway. Probably. A single-minded determination to have mastery in one’s field tends to be born of a ruthlessly demanding nature, competitiveness and annoyingly narrow focus. These people are not like you and me in many ways–they refuse to compromise where you and I do and tend to have a messianic complex about their skewed priorities.

So, they deserve the scorn they receive, right?

Joking does have its place. In fact, court jesters performed this function–poking holes in the aristocratic class and giving the commoners permission to laugh at the foibles and hypocrisy of the ruling class.

Yet, why does this current trend at ruthless mockery leave a bitter aftertaste? Maybe it’s because Petreaus and Woods and Armstrong aren’t the ruling class. They didn’t get to their position by patronage or birthright. They worked to achieve their success. They bested their competitors. They worked hard and achieved greatness.

It seems like success itself is being mocked. These are our peers. They are people who started as nothing and made something of themselves. These are just common men who, through hard work, achieved the uncommon.

These are the people we’d like to be. These are people working to achieve what we would like to if only we had the talent and self-discipline to do it.

Gabriel Malor linked to this piece by Jody Foster when she defended teen idol Kristen Stewart after her very public “gotcha” moment:

In my era, through discipline and force of will, you could still manage to reach for a star-powered career and have the authenticity of a private life. Sure, you’d have to lose your spontaneity in the elaborate architecture. You’d have to learn to submerge beneath the foul air and breathe through a straw. But at least you could stand up and say, I will not willfully participate in my own exploitation. Not anymore. If I were a young actor or actress starting my career today in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season, would I survive? Would I drown myself in drugs, sex, and parties? Would I be lost?

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety.

Kristen Stewart, a young actress, heartrendingly in my opinion, shared her grief and sorrow through People Magazine at having harmed her relationship with her boyfriend. She prostrated herself publicly, asking forgiveness.

The world jeered.

Social media and blogging and all this technology has democratized communications. It has changed the world for the better, in many ways.

It has also given megaphones to what used to be localized mob behavior.

Today, it’s Mayim Bialik’s divorce. I was tangentially aware of Bialik. She is very funny on the hit TV show Big Bang Theory. Less known to me, but a big deal to moms, is that she uses “attachment parenting”. In this form of parenting, a mom wears, sleeps with and generally is around her babies a lot. Women hated her. Well, some did.

Any woman who felt guilt for bottle-feeding when she could have nursed or in some other way felt guilt when she heard or looked at Ms. Bialik now feels triumphant. See?! Her ideas suck so bad they resulted in a divorce!

Oprah’s fat! Tiger has a 15 handicap! Lance Armstrong can’t compete in Ironmans now! General Petreaus won’t lead America’s security efforts!

The gods have been brought low. And rather than mourning the loss, Americans celebrate the fall and delight in the sorrow.

No mercy.



Fixing the GOP: Bruce Bartlett Is Better Than You

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

There is burying the lede, and then there’s burying the lede. In this case, the whole article can be flushed if only one reads the last line:

“When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.”

What could have been…. What could be…. If only….

It’s not that I disagree with everything Bruce says, because I don’t. It’s that he’s wrong enough about so much which causes me to question the areas where I agree with him.

P.S. I read the New York Times. Does the fact that I’m still searching for that Benghazi exposé make me a right-wing nutter?

P.P.S. That Krugman is being touted as a towering intellectual giant and some sort of litmus test for inclusive thinking, uh, please… And how, out of one side of your mouth do you dislike Medicare Part D but love Keynesism out of the other? Oh never mind, this isn’t about making sense. This is about feeling spurned and superior. It’s the same thing with his best buds Andrew Sullivan and David Frum. Maybe they can build a treehouse and decry epistemic cloture together. All by themselves. Just them.



Election Watch Coverage Here: With Citizen Watchdog

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

You can watch election coverage hosted by Tony Katz and featuring commentators and activists across the country here:

Starts at 6 pm eastern. See you then!



A Proactive Mitt Vote

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

When John McCain suspended his campaign after finally having some positive momentum post-Palin’s electrifying RNC speech, I knew it was over. It was quite possibly the dumbest political move I had ever seen and at that point, politics had been my focus for only three years.

Disheartened and discouraged, I soldiered on because Barack Obama would be, well, what he was: Bad for the economy, bad for international relations, and generally contemptuous of anyone who did not see things his way. It’s been worse than I imagined.

I joked on Twitter that I’d vote for a roasted turnip over Barack Obama.

My choice lost the GOP primary. I thought I was stuck voting for a turnip. I’ve been wrong. It has been a pleasant surprise.

Mitt Romney has shown himself to be an able, flexible, proactive campaigner. He’s had the press nearly universally against him and cheerfully plowed forward.

Strategically, Mitt is never put off by Obama’s silly mind games. The press’ obsession with Romney non-gaffes over Obama’s actual missteps has been … I’m at a loss for words. Put it this way: The press has so staked its existence on Barack Obama that it has decided to go down with the ship. No rats flee. No rats even attempt modest objectivity. And still, Mitt stays on his positive, pro-American message.

Policy wise, Mitt seems technocratic. That is, he doesn’t dislike government, per se, he dislikes how it is managed, and by golly, he’s going to do some restructuring.

Romney’s urge to reorder should comfort Democrats terrified that the business of government is going away with a Republican. President Romney sees a bureaucracy worth saving. That should inspire Dems, but no.

The Democrat position seems to be “Just as I am Lord.” Please, leave every bloated agency fat and inefficient. Keeping the agency and trimming the fat? Unthinkable.

Now, I go to the kill-the-agency-then-burn-it-in-a-fire school of government thought. I’m likely to be disappointed by Romney’s trimming of the verge.

Still, trimming is better than growing.

Here’s what’s surprised me about Mitt: I thought he was more of a nobless-oblige driven blue blood like George W. Bush. Oh, I know GW is from Texas. But underneath is a north-easterner who feels, like Obama, that the little people just can’t quite take care of themselves. It lead to many maddening policies.

Mitt is not that guy. Mitt’s midwestern sensibilities have hung on more than I thought. In addition, choosing to be a self-made man has given him confidence not only in himself but in people.

There’s an underlying lack of faith that statists have in people. They believe people incapable of self-sufficiency. Thus, laws have to be written to “protect” the citizen from himself. Mitt doesn’t seem to believe that. He has a live and let-live attitude and a firm faith in people. The attitude is refreshing.

When I get discouraged at the economic misery, I remind myself that multiple states have enjoyed quiet but quite solid turn arounds with good policy. Wisconsin and Indiana come immediately to mind. Bobby Jindal has been righting the Louisiana ship. This is happening all over America and it’s encouraging. California is a notable exception. Illinois seems to be a few disastrous steps behind.

Still, those turnarounds remind me that America is not lost. The situation is dire. There can be no doubt that whomever is elected faces some nearly impossibly difficult choices. My concern is that Barack Obama would just avoid them and his indecision would be a decision.

Mitt Romney will make the decisions. Some will be tough. They are bound to displease someone–all big decisions do, but what choice do we have? Doesn’t it feel like time is up?

So, it was easy for me to vote for Mitt Romney. Not as a defensive position, but as a positive decision. Maybe Mitt is just the man for the season. Maybe he can manage this failing state out of its bankruptcy. I say maybe not because I doubt his abilities but because the task is so formidable.

The media, left, and poll watchers seem 84% convinced that Barack Obama is a shoe-in. Or, it’s tied 48-48. 47-47. The models have Obama running away with the electoral college.

In my bones, I don’t believe this. Some states are going to be lost, no doubt. But this guaranteed result? Bah.

Vote. I feel good about my Mitt vote and you should, too.