In the aftermath of the midterm elections, politicians and pundits on either side of the partisan divide urged Democrats and Republicans to stop their bickering and get down to business. Sound advice, to be sure. But if recent history is any guide, such efforts are doomed from the start. As the saying goes, "The water is wide." And when it comes to putting the interests of everyday Americans before those of partisans and private interests, it's a bridge too far.
Saying this, I'm not being cynical, or partisan for that matter. A clear-eyed assessment of our political system reveals a twisted, shortsighted and self-interested logic that represents a far more ominous threat to our democracy -- and our whole way of life -- than any ideological differences we might have.
The election results are in and, as expected, Democrats took it on the chin. It remains to be seen how the historic gains made by Republicans -- and their Tea Party doppelgaengers -- will play out in the next session of Congress. But as one of MTV's memorable characters put it some years ago, "I've got a bad feeling about this Butthead."
In the meantime, it might be worthwhile to consider a few stories that got spun, overlooked, or just plain ignored amid the deluge of news, analysis and opinion coming out of the 2010 midterm elections. Here, then, in no particular order, are five stories that deserve a closer look.
In March 2002, Palestinian-American activist Edward Said wrote in CounterPunch, "That pseudo-pundit -- the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman -- still has the gall to say that 'Arab TV' shows one-sided pictures, as if 'Arab TV' should be showing things from Israel's point-of-view the way CNN does, with 'Mid-East violence' the catch-all word for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in their ghettoes and camps."
Indeed, Friedman has made a career of blaming the victim, and he stayed true to form during a Nov. 4 speech at the IU Auditorium when he explained why the United States is in economic distress. Using a Power Point, the New York Times columnist and author explained his "I'll be gone/You'll be gone" theory, blaming "people who make $50,000 a year purchasing an $800,000 home."
This year’s campaign season has been more bizarre than usual. From the manufactured controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque and Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” ad to Barack Obama’s “Yes we can, but” moment on The Daily Show, it’s been a long, strange trip.
With a tip of the hat to the Tea Party, and the journalists and pundits who love them, here are a few thoughts on the intersection of media, politics and culture on the eve of Decision 2010.
Saying "I told you so" is never a gratifying experience, even when the warning was prescient. "There is no cure for this strain of American Ugly," I wrote two days before the 2008 General Election. "If Barack Obama is elected on Tuesday, the virus will mutate, and it will only get uglier." I also wrote at that time, with slightly less zeal, that Democrats would squander the mandate for change voters ultimately gave them.
It's less than two weeks before the 2010 General Election, and even the most fervent Democratic apologists agree that is exactly what has happened, and ugly is poised to punish them for their impotence come Nov. 2. Talk about bait and switch. Despite the Democrats' 2008 talk, the only change their fleeting rise to power has wrought has been driven by Sarah Palin and the radical, religious and racist right. Indeed, the Palinistas have proven to be the only political force in America that understands how to effect change.
The revolving door between the Indiana Utility Regulatory has been well established for a very long time but may have a more difficult time in the future.
In what may be the clearest signal yet of a run for the presidency by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, he decided yesterday to try to mitigate a scandal of huge proportions by firing the Chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission David Lott Hardy.
With the midterm elections just around the corner, wars and corporate excess ruining the economy and environmental calamity all around us, I’ve been doing quite a bit of wishful thinking of late.
I wish Obama was a socialist.
I wish journalists would get out of show business and do some honest reporting for a change.
Editor's note: On Oct. 5, 2010, Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IURC Chair David Lott Hardy over the ethical scandal that followed the controversy reported on below.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels didn’t exactly get his presidential bid off to a stellar start when he alienated his party’s Radical Right last spring by telling a conservative publication it was time to “call a truce” on social issues. The Republican’s admonition that the economy trumps values, published in the Weekly Standard in June, drew harsh and immediate rebuke from the pro-life community.
It would seem that Daniels' approach to governance, as expressed through his actions as governor, would generate as much animosity from a Tea Party Right that preaches the evils of socialism as it does from a Progressive Left that rails against oligarchy. Ditto those who believe the money changers must be thrown out of the temple of democracy.
For public consumption, Mitch Daniels wears a "conservative" hat, but as Indiana governor, he oversaw one of the largest intrusions of the public sector into the private sector ever, in any state.
In 2006, he was the first to promote the building of a new coal-to-gas plant in one of the most polluted towns in the nation, Rockport, Ind. At the time gas prices were running around $12 per thousand BTUs (MMBtu), and fear was gripping the nation that natural gas was nearing an end and the only salvation, climate change or not, was converting hydrogen and carbon elements in coal into synthetic gas (syngas) that could substitute for industrial fuel and residential home heating.
Here's a news item that caught my eye last week: National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR.
Of course, with economic calamity devastating communities from Maine to California, environmental catastrophe in the Gulf and grinding occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, public radio's decision to re-brand itself is strictly small potatoes.
Still, I can't help thinking that NPR's re-branding efforts are one more indication that the public is being squeezed out of public radio.