American Politicians 2008: What planet are they from?
I've always felt a tad detached from the American political
process. I know what I want, and I know what I'm offered,
and I've never quite figured out how to make the two meet.
The campaigning for the 2008 presidential elections continues
to feel surreal, as usual. Back some 4-odd years ago, all
that talk about invading Iraq seemed awfully surreal, quite
obviously spun on giant web of lies that surely no one would
ever fall for: and so I ignored it -- I'm not political, and
why bother with the hulaballoo when it will blow over shortly.
Well, it seems like everyone else fell for it, which is quite
perplexing to me: why was my perception so distant from that
of the masses? Why is my world so surreal?
Well, there is a new political season upon us. Upcoming primaries
in Iowa; well, I guess
Iowa must be a rural, farming state or something like that, and
maybe that is why the Huckabee and freinds are talking to farmers
and ranchers about cattle and corn. However, I live in the city.
Lets see: 4 out of 5 Americans live in the city. How come the
presidential candidates aren't talking to city-folk about
Let me introduce you to my strange, surreal world. I live in the
city, and my mind is warped by city-folk issues. Here are some
of the things that I think about. Daily, even. Like, every day.
These are all things that I guess are so strange and unreal,
that I have not yet heard any presidential candidate express any
Anyway, that's the little bizarre alternate reality that
I live in. I invite the presidential candidates to come join me.
- Public education.
I've got kids, 7 and 12, and I worry about
the education they're getting. OK, let me be blunt: the
education they are getting is not as good as the
one that either I or my wife got. Why is that?
- MRSA. I exercise for my health. I row. I heard rumours
of another rower getting a staph infection. Staph, aka
MRSA, is an antibiotic-resistant bacterial strain that is
now killing more people than AIDS. My understanding is
that CA-MRSA first got its antibiotics-resistance on a
pig farm or a chicken farm, and crossed over into humans.
How come the presidential candidates that are doing all
that talking to all those farmers aren't talking to
them about antibiotics, close-confinement livestock
raising, and MRSA? How come the FDA, the Centers for
Disease Control, etc., is doing nada zero zippo zilch,
doodley-squat about MRSA? When Phen-Fen killed three
people, there was national outcry. When MRSA kills
by the tens of thousands, there is utter, complete
silence. Its like, surreal. A Salvador Dali painting,
with melting clocks, burning girafees, and actionless
- Air pollution. Oh yeah, there's the Kyoto protocols, and
global warming and all that, and I'm sure its quite important,
but its not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the
local stuff: you go jogging or bike riding and inhale giant
lungfuls of fumes from garden weed-wackers, acrid wood smoke
from cheery Christmas hearth fires, and smog from passing
pickup trucks and SUV's. I can almost hear some fat,
artery-clogged Republican chortling now: "Air pollution?
Jogging? You're looney, looney!". Yeah, well, I'm planning
on living to be old. The quality of the air I breath, as
well as the purity of the food I eat, are of considerable
concern: especially as its something that I have very little
or even no control over. Maybe that seems surreal to the
presidential candidates, but it seems very real to me.
- Highway safety. Right up there with heart disease, cancer and
stroke, automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of
death for all age groups. In my case, I think I've got heart
disease and its cousins mostly under my thumb, it seems that
highway safety is the leading killer. Now the Democrats and
the Republicans love to argue about gun control, but really,
now, guns don't kill people, cars do. Highway safety seems
to be a mostly laissez-faire thing, with consumers driving
demand for airbags and anti-lock brakes. Oh, make note:
cars kill more people than gay couples and abortionists
combined. Please stop talking about gay marriage
and abortion; it makes you sound like you're from outer
space or some wacko Waco religious cult or something.
- Urban transportation.
Can any talk about highways ever be
complete without talk about light rail, toll roads,
urban transportaion, urban sprawl, urban planning? All
that talk about ethanol and corn is nice, but it really
very far way from the world where I live. Urban
trans is a very real problem. It may be difficult, but
being ignorant to the point of completely flaccid about
it is ... ignorant. Oh, right, none of the presidential
candidates live in cities, so that's why they have no clue
- Tax breaks.
I solved my transportation, and highway safety, and fuel
cost problems by finding a job where I can work from home.
Let me be greedy: I'd also like to get the IRS home office
exemption. Let me be truthful: the IRS home office exemption
rules are written so that its impossible for anyone working
at home to actually meet them. OK, so, on the list
of real irks irking me, this is minor. But it does make
me think of class inequality; it really really ticks me off
when my richer Republican, umm, partner/boss brags about the
$2,000 tax discount/rebate/whatever he got on his brand new
SUV because he wrote it off as a business expense, while I'm,
ahem, driving an old beater? Can the rest of us get tax
breaks too? Why are these always just for the rich people?
- Internet Costs.
Speaking of working from home, why does my internet
connection suck? I've had an internet connection for a decade;
its speed has not gone up, but its price has. I live in the
center of the city, and AT&T has a "lightspeed" fiber shack
less than a few hundred feet from my house. These wrist-sized
bundles of fiber-optic have been there for, what, 7 years now?
Will I ever be tied into that? OK, sure, internet costs are
a small part of my life, maybe a few percent of household
income, about the same as my other utility bills combined.
So what am I bellyaching about? For the record: the U.S
is ranked 20th, or something like that, in terms of the
quality of its internet connection. Now, is that surreal,
or what? Didn't we invent the internet here in the US?
Then why does the US internet suck? Is it because of AT&T?
- Health insurance.
One thing that does make a huge impact on my expenses is
health insurance. Its big, and its scary, and there seems
to be no safety net at all. Someday, when I'm old, I'm
going to get screwed on health insureance, and I know it,
I can feel it in my bones. Please, please, please: can some
politician start talking about some way where I won't get
screwed on health insurance?
Speaking of getting old, I'm not feeling particularly
secure with retirement. Now, I've got a PhD, I've been working
in high-paying hi-tech jobs all my life, and I should have it
made, right? Well, it sure doesn't feel that way. Je n'ai
pas arrivee. I have got this feeling, deep in my bones,
that I'll be penniless by the time I'm 80. The good news:
I think I can make it to 80 and even beyond. The bad news:
I'll be broke. WTF.
- Spineless Democrats
Part of my ongoing detachment from the political process
is the continuing unreality of it all. Why can't the New
York Times use the word "torture" instead of "extreme
interrogation techniques"? It walks like a duck, it quacks
like a duck, but the New York Times (or the Washington Post
or any of the others) seems to think that its not a duck.
Like, ahem, are all Democrats spineless globs of lumpfish eggs?
Don't know about you, but I voted Democratic in the last
elections because I thought that they'd do something useful,
like start impeachment proceedings against Bush, and start
taking steps to bring the nightmare of the Bush administration
to an end. They've done no such thing. Who am I supposed to
vote for to get things done around here? Anyone? Are
all Democrats sleeping zombies? Are all Republicans
immoral, dishonest, scheming liars and cheats? Aren't
there some normal people in the ranks, there? Someone
who will show some courage, and do the right thing
for the right reason? Instead of the wrong thing for
evil reasons? Anyone? Hellloooo ....
- Nightmares. Orwellian nightmares.
Am I really one of the
few people who are bothered by the rampant wire-tapping of
American citizens? Am I revealing my old age by knowing
what the Cold War was, and why we fought it? According
to my recollections, the Cold War was fought between the
United States and the Soviet Union, over issues like
personal freedom and freedom of the press, and the KGB
spying on Soviet citizens, and the need to present ID
papers where-ever one went. So why are we talking about
national ID cards? Why do I have to flash ID all over
place? What's up with that insane shit at the airport?
And this news of domestic spying? Didn't we fight a cold
war to end this? Didn't we win?
Its as if the Soviets decamped, inflitrated the U.S.
Presidential cabinet, House and Senate, and are now
running the show. Where are those crazy gun-toting
NRA members when you need them? Shouldn't they be
mounting an armed defense against an invasive government
right about now? The newspapers say that the CIA is
torturing foreigners, and wiretapping Americans.
But maybe they've started torturing NRA members? Is that
why we haven't heard even the tiniest blip of a bleep out
of the right-wing libertarians? Maybe the black helicopters
have been quietly rounding up the right-wing looneys
and putting them in extra-territorial-jurisdiction camps,
where they can't be seen or heard or tried by a jury of
thier peers. That must surely be the explanation why
they are so absent from the national debate. So...
either I'm in a Hollywood movie, or the Soviets won,
and I'm being brainwashed right now. Oh wait, a better
explanation: the space aliens have taken over American
politics. Yes, that's it, that's surely it. There is
no other rational explanation...
Linas Vepstas 31 December 2007. Happy New Year!