Tuesday, January 04, 2011

news and sports (that is, conspiracy theory and buying stuff)

What kind of a year will 2011 be? Well, if headlines like Obama exhorts Republicans to put politics aside is any indication, it's going to be a politically annoying year. I don't do partisan politics that much in this space, because the "two-party system" is utterly broken and predictable. But as I mulled over the GOP's early effort to repeal last year's health care reform bill, while the President was still on vacation, in a totally symbolic, legislatively useless, sniveling, pandering paean to their particularly wigged-out extremist wing, I came up with a very strange scenario.

I'm embarrassed to say, it's a cloak-and-dagger scenario, a really goofy, totally unsubstantiated, yet eerily plausible association of the sort that lead people to buy extremely rural real estate and stock their property with large quantities of canned food, canned heat, and weapons. Ready?

Throughout the Obama administration, there has been a conspiracy to destroy him - his historical reputation, his political agenda and power, his public image, everything. We know the Republicans have said they spent the first two years of Obama's administration attempting to obstruct everything on his legislative agenda. We know the Republican sympathizers at Fox News and elsewhere have spread deranged fantasies about him. I don't mean that. When people tell you they hate you, that they believe you're evil, and that they plan to try to destroy you, and then they do, that's not a conspiracy.

A conspiracy isn't a conspiracy unless it's covert, sneaky, pernicious, and above all disavowed by its members.

Now, consider: With large majorities in both Houses of Congress, and a popularly elected President with an ambitious legislative agenda, the Democratic Party refused to pass the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, refused to pass health care reform that provided any public option or meaningfully checked the monopoly power of private insurance companies, and in the end, ran as far away from their President as they could in the mid-term elections that they lost dozens of. Only in the lame-duck session did they get a few things done, including the DADT repeal. Only after all the political advantage they could have pressed had been eliminated by a mid-term election that the GOP machine turned against Obama.

The Democrats scuttled the President, not the Republicans. No, I thought, that's crazy. You haven't had enough coffee yet. But then I remembered how Obama became President, and what he did to outflank Hillary Clinton - the party Apparatchick - in the primary campaign. Obama's election was a great victory for the Democrats, but a defeat for the new-fangled Democratic group that came to power with Bill Clinton in 1992. Hillary was relying heavily on the inner circle of the Dem establishment to carry her to the Presidency, but the establishment couldn't find a way to beat Obama. And not only will they never forgive him for it, but they'll do anything they can to punish him for it.

And there it is. Mirroring the GOP strategy of the coming two years, which will be to posture and posture and posture in order to look good for 2012, the last two years the Democratic Party in Congress has done all it could to make Obama look bad. Do they care about winning or losing the Presidency in 2012? Anyone looking at it in terms of Presidential wins is not seeing the big, long-term picture, or the fundamental nature of the electoral politics business.

But people keep voting for people who say things that are obvious, blatant lies, just because they're lies we like. Voting is like playing the lottery.

So that's the news. And now, sports.

You can't change your car battery any more. At least, not if your car is a 2006 Jetta, and you're not fully decked-out with mechanic gear. That's because the car battery is bolted down, deep inside the engine compartment. I found that out during a long, extremely ridiculous dead-battery saga on New Year's Day. (Any saga involving a dead battery is likely to be ridiculous, I suppose.) The story is too long to recount following a conspiracy theory, but it took about 4 extra steps and several hours to purchase a new battery and have it installed by the same AAA roadside emergency aid mechanic who jump-started the car earlier that morning.

Yesterday I bought a new Swiss Army knife to replace the one I've lost. (It's part of basic equipment for me, along with guitar pick, pony-tail rubber-band, and handkerchief.) The knife came sealed in 18 square inches of plastic packaging - the type that is impossible to open without something like the knife inside the package or without cutting yourself on the sharp edges of the plastic. The last one I bought came in a small cardboard flip-top box that I could open unaided. And yes, I realize it's a so-called "passive theft-prevention device." The last time I bought a knife it was from a locked glass case, and an employee had to open the case and bring me out the one I wanted. In other words, the plastic is really an employment-prevention device.

There's a connection between those stories, isn't there?

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