The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Column for 21 September, 2008

I Deny Your Reality and Substitute My Own

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
--Romans 1:25

I don’t really argue politics that much anymore. No, really. As the Republic Party continues to shrink into a smaller and more fanatical core, it’s getting harder and harder to have any kind of realistic political discussion with them. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously observed that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. But the remnant of the conservative movement has retreated into some kind of bizarre alternate reality, utterly impenetrable to facts, logic or the truth. I first noticed this trend in the 1990’s, when Bill Clinton-haters (and I mean haters, not people who disapproved of his policies, but those who loathed the very mention of his name) insisted that he was guilty of everything from drug-running to murder. There was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up these ludicrous fantasies, but it didn’t matter. Republicans would tell me with a straight face, “You can’t prove he didn’t kill all those people!” leaving me to sputter incoherently about logic and not being able to prove a negative. And these weren’t just some fringe weirdoes wearing tin-foil hats, either; Congressman Sam Johnson took to the floor of the House to proclaim that Clinton was a KGB agent because he “felt it in his gut.” At the same time, it became accepted Republican gospel that Ronald Reagan had cut taxes but increased government revenues. You still hear Republicans chanting this mantra, but it simply isn’t true. The numbers do not lie. When Reagan cut the top marginal tax rates, revenues plummeted, causing the deficit to explode. The rapid expansion of Right Wing talk radio, and the utter domination of cable news punditry by ultra-conservatives, has fed this monastic trend, allowing the faithful to live in a hermetically-sealed environment where the only voices they hear are those that reinforce their beliefs. The culmination of Spiro Agnew’s crusade against the “liberal media” also helps, since any news that strays from the latest propaganda bulletins can be dismissed as “biased.” The propaganda ministry regularly cranks out pre-fabricated talking points to be faithfully regurgitated by the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus. Religious propaganda is handled by the Sanhedrin of tele-Pharisees, Dr. James Dobson, Pat Robertson, the late unlamented Jerry Falwell and others, preying on fears of evil secularists, homosexuals, pro-choice activists and feminists. On the international front, the neo-Conservatives (really just old-fashion priggish Victorian imperialists) could take the (wholly justified) public fear of radical Islamic terrorism to justify an invasion of Iraq based on completely fraudulent grounds. With the rhetorical foundation now in place for ignoring the real world, John McCain and Sarah Palin feel comfortable in running a campaign based pretty much exclusively on lying through the teeth. Palin in particularly lies so much, I’m beginning to wonder if that is in fact her real name. Day in and day out, the Governor repeats the long-since discredited claim that she “told Congress no thank you” on the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, she campaigned for the Bridge. Republicans decry any criticism of her whatsoever as sexist and have the unmitigated gall to complain that Democrats are launching personal attacks, this from the same crew that continues to promote transparently nasty attacks on Barack Obama’s religious faith, patriotism and loyalty. The McCain campaign states with a straight face that Palin never asked for earmarks, when in fact she sought hundreds of millions in earmarks both as Governor and Mayor. McCain has gotten to the point where he even lies to himself. His public response to the ongoing financial melt-down on Wall Street, the most serious since the Great Depression, is to call for the creation of a “blue-ribbon panel” as though the source of the problem were some unfathomable mystery akin to discovering the Unified Field Theory, as he blasts Wall Street’s “greed.” In reality, of course, we know exactly what happened; McCain, along with that old troglodyte Phil Gramm deregulated the banking industry in 1999 and again in 2000. The result was what always happens when industries are de-regulated—an orgy of fraud and corruption with the taxpayers left holding the bag. He claims he warned about problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when just ten months earlier he claimed no one could have anticipated the sub-prime mortgage crisis. McCain blasts lobbyists when his campaign is run by some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington. He promises to “shake up Washington” as though it was some other John McCain (perhaps an evil twin) who has been comfortably ensconced on the Potomac for the last 25 years. Under those circumstances, where the truth is discarded so casually, how exactly am I going to have a meaningful political discussion with a Republican? Frankly, it’s not my idea of a good time to debate people whose only response is to stick their fingers in their ears and shout “I can’t hear you!” over and over again. To be sure, I am eternally grateful for the Republicans I know who can have a calm and reasoned discussion on the issues of the day, but at this stage in my life, I no longer have the energy or the patience to argue with a fencepost over how deep in the ground it is.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

I agree that Republicans in particular can be maddeningly stubborn when it comes to accepting facts. Even though I've defended Palin on the experience argument, I'm as sick as anyone of so-called conservative politicians who callously disregard any logic or science that disagrees with their distorted Christian "faith."

But I also think much of what you said characterizes the modern American political process as a whole. Democrats, in the past, have stubbornly clung to the belief that the federal government can and should be the solution to almost all of society's problems, even as evidence mounted that many Great Society-type programs had outlived their usefulness and in some cases were actually making problems worse. Ironically, their stubborness and resistance to the facts--their inability to see past their political orthodoxy--helped fuel the rise of the modern "conservative" movement.

I would love nothing more than for the U.S. to have politicians who were more pragmatic and rational than ideological and partisan. Just having a political process that isn't framed by the unimaginative and stultifying limits of Democratic and Republican party dogma would be a great start, but sadly, I don't see it happening any time soon.

9/20/2008 10:22 AM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

Hmm, I think you missed my point. I'm not talking about policy differences (regulation vs. free market, or even pro-choice vs. pro-life) I'm talking a deliberate denial of reality, a refusal to accept things as they verifiably, quantifiably are. Insisting on bad policies? Stupid. Insisting that black = white, up = down, that Saddam Hussein has WMDs? That's not stubborn--that's borderline pathological.

9/21/2008 2:34 PM  
Anonymous JohnT said...

What I notice is the lack of issues on both sides. Instead of issues we are given personalities and red herrings.

Let me dive right into it for an example. Months ago a friend of mine sought excuses to not vote for Obama simply because Obama is black. But he wouldn't admit that. Oh, no, it was "experience". So I asked him what his position was on Ossetia. He never heard of the place (this was several months before it exploded). So, I explained: We are making trouble for Russia by supporting Georgia in order to continue to get Azerbaijani oil and gas. Russia is making trouble for Georgia by supporting independence for Ossetia. What do you think we should do? He airily dismissed it as a technical problem for the experts. Somehow, he could divine experience and character from the TV (he doesn't read the papers) but not have any idea of good policy.

It gets worse. Cheney visited Georgia and promised 1 billion in aid, and pushed for NATO membership. First, why Cheney? I would expect Bush as head of state, or a ranking official in the State Dept depending on visibility desired. The implication is that Cheney is the de facto head of state! Why is that not discussed as an issue?

Second, NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Georgia is as far away as you can get from the Atlantic. How far can NATO be stretched? That is an issue that needs serious discussion.

Third, NATO is a military pact where an attack upon one member is an attack upon all. That means if Russia should attack Georgia, it is nuclear armageddon. Do we want nuclear armageddon over Baku oil? That is a very serious issue that we need to talk about. By the way, we have the same problem with Poland and Estonia in NATO already. Were we crazy?

Fourth, a military treaty is not a suicide pact. Some Supreme Court justice made that observation over the Bill of Rights during the Red Scare when our rights of association and speech were infringed, but it is really true of military pacts, despite the fact that occasionally a military pact does wind up as collective suicide. In other words, if it looks like nuclear war, over Poland let's say, France and Germany, and most of Western Europe will find ways to back out. That is, including Estonia, Poland, and Georgia in NATO will not strengthen our access to oil but will lead to the dissolution of NATO.

Why is that not discussed?

I am not arguing for the continuation of NATO. It may be a good thing to dissolve it. But I want this issue discussed. The Neo-cons have said that our alliance with Western Europe is so last-year, démodé, out of style. They have said that our interests now lie elsewhere, and if so, allowing NATO to dissolve may make sense. It may make sense to overlook the West and poach and snipe where we can in Russia's back yard. But it might not. This might be like Athen's stupid adventure in Syracuse during the Peloponesian War. Athens didn't have the resources it assumed it did, and the adventure exhausted Athens. To me, it looks like the Neo-cons made the same mistake trying to expand our influence to places hard for us to defend.

Serious issue? Or do we just blow off these concerns and concentrate on who eats arugula or can count his houses?

9/21/2008 2:35 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

<< I'm talking a deliberate denial of reality, a refusal to accept things as they verifiably, quantifiably are. >>

Oh I know. I'm not sure whether I picked the best example, but I have encountered the same phenomenon in a few wild-eyed liberals over the years. My main point is that they, too, can sometimes be so blinded by political or philosophical orthodoxy that it will lead them to deny reality even when the facts are staring them in the face. But, admittedly, I encounter this a lot more with so-called conservatives than I do with liberals. It's no mystery why; the overwhelming majority of conservatives are raised in (or have adopted) evangelical Christian faiths, which inherently condition people to reject facts or science when it conflicts with articles of their faith.

As for John's excellent observations, the sad reality is that your friend probably reflects the average American voter much better than the three of us do. We have become an increasingly superficial society that just doesn't place a high value on critical thinking, and can't be bothered to learn much about the rest of the world.

9/21/2008 6:50 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Incidentally, this may not be a perfect example either, but it's worth recounting: back in 1995, when Congress was about to pass the Welfare Reform Act, I distinctly remember the Children's Defense Fund predicting that tens of thousands of children would die of malnutrition if the act were passed. Other liberal groups, and a number of Democrats in Congress, were making similar claims. I was still an active Democrat at the time, and a Bill Clinton supporter (I voted for him both times), and I remember being aghast and stupefied by this wildly alarmist rhetoric that was so out of touch with reality. I never doubted, and still don't doubt, that the people making those claims were probably sincere. I just think they became victims of their own political and philosophical orthodoxy, which committed them to believing--in spite of all evidence and common sense to the contrary--that the federal government was the only thing keeping those children alive. Well meaning but naive, they were no longer in touch with reality. As a "fellow Democrat," I was frankly embarrassed. I believed then, and still believe now, that if you seriously want the government to be a force for good, you have to be willing to constantly evaluate its performance and be committed to swift and effective reform whenever the need arises, even if that means killing some agencies or programs that have outlived their usefulness. If you don't, then people will view their elected officials and their government as "out of touch" and will lose faith in them quickly. Which is pretty much where we're at now.

9/21/2008 7:07 PM  
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11/10/2008 3:04 AM  

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