Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Charlie Madigan's Screaming Baby:

 A Faux News Blog

What the hell, you might ask, is a faux news blog? Well,
it's not a traditional blog and its not actual news. It's kind of commentary unleashed, but not the commentary Nate Silver disdains as "bullshit." There's already plenty of that. The floor of the news pen is littered with cow pies, actually. I would like to think of it as commentary that is not boring, first, and not like everything else, second. And also not like a cow pie.

Why the screaming baby? It's a cool image and it sends a message about what I feel like doing with this enterprise. Babies don't have many filters on their reactions early on. In that way, they are completely authentic! My objective is to present an adult reaction that is baby-like in one important sense. It is not filtered. I'm not interesting in behaving well, winning affirmation, being approved, nothing like that. I just want to react honestly whenever I need to and maybe invite you to think. That is the whole point of commentary, to my mind. You can either agree with me, disagree with me or just ignore me. I would rather the first two of the trio. I ask only honesty in your reactions.

I started this effort with my peculiar assessment of news coverage of the missing airplane, which has become so wacky that even Courtney Love had her unusual moment in the spotlight. All the attention to the past few weeks of missing airplane has led me to conclude the oceans are full of things that look like missing airplane parts, but are not, and media will do anything for ratings. Airplane wrecks are always good for a couple of days of coverage, at best. They are too bad, of course, and we mourn for the next of kin. But basically, its a couple of hundred tons of metal and flammable stuff slamming into the ground because not enough air was going over the wings. This one is different because it slammed into the ocean. In more convenient crashes, news stories start out with certainty that the "black boxes" that record flight data will be found.  The National Transportation and Safety Board ultimately sorts it all out and we find out long after we have forgotten the dead that rust on a hidden thingamabob someplace led to a chain of events and suddenly, a breathless Wolf Blitzer won't go away! A federal thingamabob greasing order goes out, that problem is solved, then something else happens.

I have two subjects today. The first is the Imperial Presidency, and what a crock of shit that argument is, and the second is the way the president keeps pumping up the rhetoric around the health care law. Obviously, the Republicans, perhaps bankrupt despite their affinity for dirty money, want to use it as a theme for the upcoming election. President Obama is on the defense, again. More on that later.

"The Imperial Presidency."

There is just one imperial president at this point, and his name is Vladimir Putin and he is not from here.

The House Judiciary Committee conducted one of its supremely political hearings the other day to address the question of  the "imperial presidency" and ponder whether President Obama's White House isn't whittling away at Congressional authority just to get its way.

I say, yo, you bet it is. What might one expect a president to do once everything he has tried has crashed on the rocky shores of a Congress determined to wreck his ship of state? I'm not an Obama apologist, although I voted for him two times and would most certainly again if this were the 1930s and he were a Roosevelt and you could get more than two terms. And also if he were white because, back then, blacks in the White House were generally serving tables and not yet much a part of the political conversation. (See, things DO get better!)

I believe what this hearing is really about is underlining a message the Republicans have been trying to send for months now, that Barack Obama is an imperial president who uses executive orders to achieve what he cannot get through the Congress. 

Snap my butt with a wet towel, that is a novel, novel thought. 

Except that's hardly an imperial presidency. You want imperial presidencies, look at Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, just to name a few from the modern era. George Bush I don't list as an imperial president. Too dumb. He was a puppet who had an imperial vice president's hand stuck up...well, you know what I mean.

Harry Truman was kind of imperial, too, dropping those atom bombs on Japan and being very pushy and determined in the White House. Abe Lincoln, now there was an imperial president. He managed a whole war without a lot of help from the Hill. I think all the presidents who participated in the slaughter of Native Americans were imperial, too, and they stretched across parties and generations. Teddy Roosevelt, he was as imperial as they come. Warren G. Harding, probably not imperial.

In the case of President Obama, I think they are lying about this imperial presidency thing because they want any advantage they can get in their death struggle with this compelling character. They have called him just about every name you can call him (including liar on the floor of the House). Now the struggle over health care has spread a little blood in the water and they are in a frenzy, seeing the issue as a pathway to victory in November.

It's how they play the game. They want to build a word association among an electorate that wouldn't know an imperial presidency if it bit it on the shins. They want lots of unthinking people everywhere to think, "Obama, well he's just trying to be the king," or something even more stupid. It's this year's variant on the "death panels" crap they pumped out a couple of years ago.

I hope it just doesn't work. And I hope that because I don't want to think the electorate is that stupid. It's track record indicates it is, but you can always change that with just one election. But not if you don't vote. People who sit this one out will decide who wins, unfortunately.

God Endorses Health Care

I suppose I understand why Obama felt the need the other day to make a huge deal out of the fact that something like 7 million people have done something technical connected to the health care law. It is as though the hand of God reached out and touched Health and Human Services and its finicky bastard of a computer program.

I don't know what that means in more concrete terms. There have been plenty of stories about people who can afford to find out they don't feel well now when only a year ago they had to depend just on how they felt. Does that mean their problems are going to be fixed by medical science? I guess in many cases it does. Or maybe it doesn't. It's a great fund raiser for Obama's opponents, so I understand why the politicians are so loud about it. But we need time to know.

That has always been the achilles heel (Hard to fix!) problem with the health care act. It's one of those things we can only measure over the long term. And fix as we are measuring it. If I could look back on it 40 years down the road...but then, I'll be dead!

So it could be that this era, way down the time continuum, will be viewed as the point at which we started to deal with this problem. Not the point at which we finished it.

But what can you expect in a country where you can't take a Swiss Army Knife on an airliner, but you can carry a concealed weapon into a bar, or even a church, in lots of places? We are not the most rational place in the universe.


  1. The Frank Luntz / Carl Rove way - repeat a blatant lie enough times that it becomes reality in eyes of the ignorant, unthinking right. Did I hear: 'WMD in Iraq', 'swift boat', 'death pannels', 'you didn't build that', 'imperial president'.....

    Sadly I fear this is what has come of our political system. It's a zero sum game where the Right has convinced people that Democrats are a party for the undeserving poor. The Left, meanwhile, has successfully portrayed the Republicans as a party for the heartless rich - though the GOP has done a bang-up job of doing it to themselves - 47% anyone? Neither party has done nearly as well at making a positive case for itself. And, that's a shame.

  2. A couple of things - one, you have ratcheted up a notch from your routinely superb work, also, I do not want to think about let alone visualize your butt being snapped with a towel