January 28, 2011

Ray Patterson and the State of the Union

Yes, this will be one of those blog posts where the seriousness of our nation's economic and productive status will be contextualized in a reference to a popular animated sitcom. Moving on.

That was the best quality clip I could find, but you probably remember the scene anyway: it's from an episode of The Simpsons where Homer ousts the sitting garbage commissioner, Ray Patterson, because he was angry that the garbage collection tax was raised by a small amount. Homer's election strategy was to claim that he'd do everything for Springfield, re-deploying an army of garbagemen who would not just pick up trash but wash cars, clean gutters, walk dogs, and so forth. Oh, and simply making demeaning comments about his opponent with folksy, smarmy one-liners.

Naturally, the entire annual budget for Springfield's garbage service was depleted in a single month to pay for all this. Springfield then asks Patterson to take back the job he responsibly held:

In a perfect example of life imitating a ten-year-old cartoon, this is exactly what is now happening in Nassau County, New York, where a year after the sitting county executive pointed out that paying for things would require raising taxes and was immediately ousted by a teabagger who promised to give everyone free money, the county is now completely bankrupt.

I don't have a clip for the ending of the episode, but after Patterson walks away telling the moronic voters of Springfield to wallow in their own ignorant mess they created for themselves, the town realizes they need to return to fiscal sanity and implement a better budget with a touch of environmental awareness to address their now soaring piles of garbage because they can't afford garbagemen anymore. Okay, actually that's all false; the ending of the episode is that everyone in Springfield literally puts their homes on flatbed trucks and moves the entire city a few miles down the road.

It's important to emphasize that this is funny and wacky because it's a cartoon and completely unrealistic. Only it's not to Republicans who now want to give states the right to declare bankruptcy.

This is, ultimately, what made the State of the Union address so disappointing. Obviously, for Obama to go up there and make the "you're all screwed" statement to the American populace that just voted in a few hundred Homer Simpsons at every state and local level is unrealistic. But it would have been nice for him not to basically spend ninety minutes asking how many flatbeds we have lying around.

It's good that more attention is being focused on the fact that, after riding into power on a "let's fix all the problems we claim Democrats caused" platform, the Republican response is to do absolutely nothing. The first few weeks of GOP House control has been devoted to trying to repeal the new health care law (they won't), trying to ban abortion (they won't), trying to alter the 14th Amendment (they won't), and promoting a deficit reduction plan that slashes almost every federal agency that a majority of Americans enjoy having (this is insane). You will notice, as other pundits are slowly, slowly starting to notice as well, that none of these things do anything to create jobs or fix the economy in general, save for the last one, which I will point out again is insane. Meanwhile, the two biggest fiscal boogeymen for the right are unions, who encompass a single-digit percentage of the nation's work force at this point, and Social Security, a government program that is deficit-neutral and solvent for at least the next twenty-six years.

We're not screwed; we're screwed with an asterisk. The asterisk is that at some point--maybe in five years, maybe in ten years, maybe next week--someone in charge will have to make the unpopular, career-threatening, and painfully obvious point that we have to raise taxes and cut the defense budget because that's why we don't have any money. And our best bet will be to hope they have a stronger resolve than Ray Patterson, or for that matter President Obama.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:21 PM

January 26, 2011

Okay let me follow up on that

You'll notice in my previous comment that I chose to make fun of Michele Bachmann's terrible delivery of her speech last night, the most blatant element being how she stared off to the side of the screen the entire time. Not to be smug or schoolmarmy here, but you'll also notice how I didn't make fun of her makeup or any other aspect of her physical appearance, unlike, tragically, half the blog posts and tweets I've read in the last eight hours or so from both the left and the right.

I'm very quickly getting the impression that the net positive for the GOP from Bachmann's speech is twofold: that her overall crazyness makes Paul Ryan look better, and much like we saw with Nancy Pelosi, her being a woman somehow makes her much easier to make fun of, especially on visual levels.

It's absolutely ridiculous that CNN entertained her rambling with equal time on their network. It's even more ridiculous that the front of Yahoo! News this morning was a three-way splitscreen of her, Obama and Ryan as if giving a pet name to being an extremely stupid version of Republican actually makes her a third political party. But what would be even more ridiculous than both of those things would actually be discussing the application of her makeup on an equal level of the actually significant fact that she's a lunatic who doesn't say anything that's true.

Update: look, yes, I understand that physical attributes of a person are an undeniable factor in politics, a place where image is practically everything. Cases in point, John Boehner is very, very orange and cries a lot and Paul Begala looks like some weird combination of a Keebler elf and a penis. And if for some reason Obama delivered the speech while wearing a crazy Dr. Seuss hat by all means we would have a discussion about what he was wearing that night.

My point is that in the long run, sniping on looks is great for "winning at internet comments" but it doesn't best address whether a person is crazy or not. Bachmann's speech wasn't terrible merely because she wore too much makeup. And it's scary how many teabaggers have a physical obsession with Sarah Palin, but ultimately her looks aren't going to be her downfall. Like Bachmann, she's not going to advance much further in politics because she's crazy and says stupid, wrong things and maybe we can just talk about that.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:52 AM

Catty comment of the day

Maybe Michele Bachmann should have actually taken a lesson from Barack Obama about reading a teleprompter.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:48 AM

January 24, 2011

"Dynamically Moderate State of the Union"

Latest comic - click here!

The State of the Union address isn't supposed to beg for ratings like your standard television show, but it should go without saying that the President still wants to get as many people to watch it as possible. Promoting it with such inspirational lines as "pragmatic and business friendly" saves a lot of people money on the week's prescription for Ambien.

Buy some crap.
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Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:19 AM

January 23, 2011

Re: Olbermann

I understand this upsets a lot of people, but to be perfectly honest I don't even have cable. And when I did I didn't watch his show, or for that matter any other cable news show. That isn't to play the condescending "why should I care about this" card or anything, just a point that the entire format of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News is so abysmal that losing an hour of it that was moderately less craptastic seems like complaning that you burned the cake you were baking in a house that's on fire.

Also, while it sucks to lose a left-leaning voice like that, and while I understand how irritating the next two weeks of right-wing, back-patting comments will be, I can't exactly muster throes of anguish over a guy "suffering" a $15 million payout to not work for two years. If anyone wants to pay me $15 million to shut up for two years I'll do it. Usually I'm asked to do that pro bono.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:02 PM