Thursday, July 14, 2005

Help, my Country has been Hijacked by Criminals, and All I Got was This Lousy Refund Check!

     Wouldn't that be a great T-Shirt or what? I think when historians write about this era, they will look at the huge stadiums and arenas partially financed by the government, of the Michael Jackson and OJ trials, of the parade of damsels in distress garnering 24-hour coverage on the news stations, of sales tax holidays and refund checks, and of political feel-good wars like Grenada or Iraq I. This era will be the panem et circenses, or "bread and circuses", of the modern day. That term was used to describe the way the Roman emperors kept the populace content and subjugated. It's amazing and distressing to see how easy it is to distract the American public. Why is it that so many people are content to watch garbage news on television instead of real news, if they pay attention to the news at all? Why are so many people averse to even paying attention to politics, even though it strongly affects their daily lives? Instead, people react to scare tactics and vote on "issues" instead of on policy and principle.
     It's easy to blame the education system. In fact, that's what the Right has done for nearly 50 years. First it was subverting the American way of life because Black children were allowed to attend, so they moved to the far suburbs, where classrooms were still all White. Now, it's subverting the American way of life because it's not religious enough - because it's teaching Reading, Ritin' and 'Rithmatic instead of the Bible. But I don't think the education system is to blame. Obviously parents have a responsibility to teach their children, but they've abandoned this job. Parents today fight with the teachers more than the students do. They sometimes seem more interested in getting their children good grades than in getting them an education. Homeschooling parents usually manage to get a good education drilled into their kids. Does spending an extra 6-8 hours in a school make them dumber, or are the parents allowing and even encouraging lazy, stupid behavior?
     Maybe the current anti-intellectual jihad is a direct consequence of the hippie movement when the boomers were kids. In the 50's and 60's, education was paramount to combat the Soviets. Math and science were pushed hard. Logic was taught so kids could withstand Red propaganda. (A skill we could sorely use today) Then the boomer rebellion came, fueled by the Vietnam conflict. And this was a full-scale rebellion, not only rejecting unquestioned authoritah, er authority, but everything they were expected to do. Make your kids learn science? Hell no, man. That's a downer. My kids are going to be free, man. Science and math and politics are for nerds, man. And so two generations now know virtually nothing about how this country works. (The rest of us are split into two groups - the caretakers and the opportunists, but that's another post)
     Or maybe (and here's the conspiracy theorist talking) we are apathetic about the way this country is run because we've been led to it by years of propaganda and brainwashing. I'm not saying there's some sort of official government conspiracy to keep people down ala 1984. I just wonder if a lot of the PR politicians do is designed to suppress any interest in getting involved. Republicans make a lot of GW getting more votes than any other president in history. In fact, it had to do little with his popularity and more to do with the fact that a) there were no third-party candidates like in 1996 or 2000 b) voter turnout was high - the highest as a percent of the voting age population since 1968 and c) he won. Republicans don't publicize that Kerry also got more votes than any other presidential candidate before him. He was like the Sammy Sosa of candidates. Anyway, the reason turnout was so high in 1968 (61% compared to 56% in 2004 and ~50% for the 36 intervening years) was because in 1968 the country was polarized around an issue - race. George Wallace was a third-party candidate running on a platform of anti-civil rights. He got the southern Democrats so riled up that they went and joined the Republicans.
     Why is this relevant? A lot has been made about the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame scandal lately. Whether or not Rove is guilty (and we don't know that for certain yet), a crime was committed. Until Rove became the primary suspect, the White House was adamant that Plame's outing as a CIA operative was a crime. Scott McClellan insisted that if anyone from the White House was involved in the Plame affair, he or she would be terminated. Rove has actually already admitted to being involved, although his defense is a rather Clinton-esque "I didn't speak her name" when he identified "Wilson's wife". So will Rove be fired for his involvement? My guess is no. Americans don't seem to particularly care very much about Rove or Plame or spies who don't drive sports cars and shoot bad guys while skiing backwards and speaking with British accents. The White House is hoping this will blow over, and the Right-wing media is downplaying everything, saying completely irrelevant things like "Wilson lied", "Plame was a desk-jockey", "Wilson only went because his wife told him to". Eventually, Bush will name a controversial Supreme Court Justice and Rove will be in the clear.
     And Democrats will scratch their heads in bewilderment and wonder how on earth he can get away with this. And it all comes down to "issues". If it's not an exciting story with sex or race or gays or God involved, you can pretty much forget people watching. It's not like Valerie Plame went missing in Aruba. She's not even hot, for goodness sake. And if there's such a thing as "political capital", every organization is too busy burning theirs up fighting issues to waste on a boring legal battle about words spoken to a reporter and shadow corporations in foreign countries. So grab your remote control and your People magazine and flip to TBS - they probably have a James Bond marathon going that will ease your boredom from reading this column.


Ben said...

Actually Rove is not the primary suspect. According to Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the whole thing, Rove is not even a suspect. There's a real leaker, and it's whomever Judith Miller is protecting. You talk of the distraction techniques our leadership uses, well how about the media using attacks on Rove to distract people from the fact that the investigation is going on and Rove is not a suspect in any way?

I think blaming our educational system for a lot of the ignorance and apathy out there is pretty fair. Our schools seem to care more about boosting self-esteem than teaching reading, writing, and math. That's very definitely liberal influence, and the NEA, National Educators Association, while not technically union, acts like one and is definitely a liberal organization. Tehy block just about any changes proposed by people to try to fix things, whether it be making teachers accountable for bad teaching, or paying higher salaries to more successful teachers, or giving out vouchers to people who want to escape crappy schools, if it might help things get better, you can bet the NEA will protest and try to block it.

I'm not a morals guy, but the rbead and circuses thing reminds me of the theory that all successful civilizations become a victim of their own success as they fall in to decadence and become less vibrant and vigilant. I think this is happening to Europe, which is slowly becoming an Islamic outpost, and I think you can see the first signs of it here, too. I don't think it's our leadership, though, I think it's the gradual decline of our culture in to one that respects nothing and no one (except Islamic terrorists that kill people, they seem to get a lot of sympathy because at least they don't like Bush).

Sylvana said...

I like your damsel in distress analogy. Very nice.

I'm not sure what all this "I didn't speak her name" thing has to do with anything anyway. He did not have to actually say her name. The law says that all he had to do was leak information that would uncover her identity and that he had to know that her identity was being protected. I think the name game is a distraction. We don't need to find out whether he gave out her name, we need to find out whether he knew she was undercover.

Rove has a LONG history of dirty tricks. If you go to they have a nice resume of slimey things that he has done in his political career, so I certainly wouldn't put it past him to do anything, especially this.

Scott said...

Saying the media is using Rove to "distract people from ... the investigation" is absurd nonsense. The investigation has been going on for 2 years with hardly a peep about it since the initial uproar. There was nothing to distract from. It was the revelation that Rover really was involved that brought any attention back to this investigation. If it was anything, it was the opposite of a diversion from the investigation.
Re: the education system and self-esteem. It seems to me that the most guilty with regard to "social promotion" and other self-esteem measures are the parents. It's the parents who are more concerned with whether their kids get good grades than whether they learn anything. Think back - when you were in school, did people associate good grades with being smart? I know that's not necessarily true, and I know that since you are smart you probably know it too. My friends who are teachers are all scared to death of the parents coming to yell at them about "failing their kid". And despite your unconditional love of vouchers, the problem is worse at many private schools, where parents don't just have loud voices, they control the purse string as well.

Ben said...

I don't have an unconditional lvoe for vouchers, but I do think choice is almsot always a good thing, and vouchers owuldn't be necessary if the public education system was working well. Throwing more money at it is definitely not the answer.

I just found this little tidbit, this is quoted from the Washington Times:

"A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee. "She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.
"Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren't minding the store here. ... The agency never changed her cover status."

In addition, Mrs. Plame hadn't been out as an NOC since 1997, when she returned from her last assignment, married Mr. Wilson and had twins, USA Today reported yesterday. The distinction matters because a law that forbids disclosing the name of undercover CIA operatives applies to agents that had been on overseas assignment "within the last five years.""

That's pretty much all that needs to be said, y'all can drop the fry Rove campaign now.

ORF said...

Scott, would that T-shirt get handed out to US citizens or Iraqis?

At the risk of sounding like Francis Fukuyama and his "End of History" theory, I feel a need to put my expensive education to use by referring to hegemony theory. (Wikipedia all this stuff b/c I don't want to explain it here.) Basically, to follow Ben's point about how civilizations fall, the theory about the benevolent hegemon details the idea that a singular power (i.e. the United States) who sort of picks up the other countries around it and lets them live in a symbiotic/parasitic kind of way for a certain period of time, ultimately begins to self-destruct due to its overextended generosity. In other words, it's own fault. The US is there. We are facing decline, partly from being overly generous and partly from applying a foreign policy akin to the "bull in the chinashop" approach. And if you don't believe me, then just read Thomas Friedman.

As far as Rove goes, Ben, I really would caution you against the bedfellows you choose. I posted something today that talks a bit about his past dalliances in shady business. Even if I were a Bush supporter, I would seriously just be so skeeved out by that man. Shady McShadster all the way!

Ben said...

Look, I won't deny that Rove is shady, but I don't think he's any shadier than any number of political operatives, and in this case at least, he didn't do a single thing wrong.

That said, I wasn't planning to get in to bed with him or any man :)