Friday, February 18, 2011

Motes and beams

There was a wicked messenger
From Eli he did come
With a mind that multiplied
The smallest matter.

-Bob Dylan-


To distort the importance of a matter, to exaggerate little things, perhaps to draw attention away from big things, to belabor the significance of a problem long past: making a mountain out of a molehill. If you need to elevate this common human tendency to the level of psychology, call it magnification. Call it hyperbole. Call it catastrophization. Otherwise call it politics. It's how governments handle problems both real and invented. High purpose, Liberal or Conservative; it usually ends in hyperbole and fraudulent accounting.

Dismayed at how may people are dying in automobiles? One might expect a focus on the areas where most of them occur, but once the problem is taken up by zealots, hyperbolized and dressed up as catastrophic, we have unbearable pressure to apply oppressive speed limits to the safest areas while doing essentially nothing about those areas where the bulk of fatalities occur. As crime declines, we make every next one a bigger problem, focus on the most spectacular and base our estimations of the whole on a freak occurrence. It's human nature and it's also a human weakness to be exploited.

But there are more sinister applications. Take the constant carping about how trade unions are harming our economy, now that their membership and power are at low tide. One might infer that eliminating them entirely is a better description of the hidden intent.

Take the heavy emphasis on medical liability claims as a way to reduce the accelerating cost of health care. They account for a tiny fraction of the whole and seem to be the whole and sole solution offered by one particular political party. Never mind the mountain, look here instead. A cynic might suggest a motive having to do with benefiting from high medical costs.

Spending cuts. We need spending cuts and you're crazy if you don't think we need spending cuts so lets propose spending cuts and lets keep cackling and gobbling and chanting about cutting the little things so that no one notices where the money is going and why the income can't keep up with it. Never mind that mountain LOOK AT THAT MOLEHILL!

So what are we told we have to cut? In general we're told about programs that aren't as much financially significant as doctrinally anathematic. NPR has to go, particularly now that it's credibility exceeds that of Fox. It may cost the average American pennies a year, but never mind, it has to go. The EPA of course since it retards the wanton rape and pillage of corporate vikings. Gingrich wants it dead. Planned Parenthood: it's offensive to religious tyrants -- it has to go.

Hyperbole and fraudulent accounting, Let's cut the debt by .001% and make things that are cheap seem prohibitively expensive and those trillions and trillions we didn't make from cutting taxes and those trillions we blew on unnecessary wars obsolete weapons and fraudulent procurement? Don't look at that, look at school lunches!


  1. I am astonished at how callous and savage this country is becoming, and how the proto-fascists are dominating public debate. Welcome to the New Feudalism where human beings are reduced to cyphers while their overlords aggrandize themselves further. It feels as if civilization itself is unraveling.

    Maybe I ought to dump the Dump Beck campaign for a few days and let the Wisconsin story take center stage. What a galloping piece of horse shit, this right wing Governor who cuts taxes and then persecutes the working class. If the labor unions lose this one, goodbye middle class, goodbye Democratic Party, goodnight and good luck.

  2. In case y'all are wondering what has me hot and bothered, take a look at this:

    Wisconsin's new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker's collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

    The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately ...

    Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus [my bold]. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office [my bold].

    A direct assault on workers, the middle class, and the Wisconsin Democratic Party whose support comes from labor unions. Consider this a Tea Party Putsch, pure and simple.

    Rocky, if you are reading this, remember: You are in charge and you may need to intervene and put Octopus in the cooler for awhile.

  3. Today the House cut spending for Planned Parenthood - about 350 million dollars. This will probably not become law, but it is a program the Republicans have tried to kill for years.

    Yesterday there was a Defense cut for an engine in the billions. The engine will not be stopped from being made, only one plant was cut. The engine is still being made at another plant.

    But the plant that will be shut down, was in the Republican speakers district. Just hours after that vote the speaker came out to the press and said he was prepared to shut down the government. Something he has not said up to yesterday.

    Of course the budget is all about politics and political ideology. Common sense, or peoples real needs, be dammed.

    Pandering to voters by chanting "cut taxes" while bankrupting America over the last 30 years; is not only irresponsible and hurting America, but purely political.

    Those who claim (Republicans) to have their children and grandchildren's best interests in mind as they make policy and law, must explain how their irresponsible fiscal policies are best for future Americans. Because they are not.

  4. Consider the source of this existential moment:

    Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs' Plan to Break Labor's Back

    The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Funded by Koch Brothers

    Is it worth staying and fighting, or should I just throw up my tentacles in disgust and leave the damn country to its well-deserved fascism.

  5. All of this budget mess could be fixed if we'd just cut the teleprompter expenses the White House spends... Hard to believe some of the steaming horsepoop these jerks want to publicize.

  6. and all this pales in comparison to the coming storm of higher interest rates and soaring food costs.

    cutting the ethanol subsidies and returning the farmland to feed the starving masses would make too much sense.

  7. @ Octopus -

    Beck is a sideshow, and he is already in decline.

    Don't waste your time and effort on him.

    Wisconsin is the battlefront - for now.

    Your "New-feudalism" statement is spot on. This is about rolling back unions, the new deal, child labor laws, civil rights, the Constitution, and the Enlightenment.

    Rethugs are the font men for the Koch Brothers, and their goal is serfdom for our grandchildren.

    If we will allow it.


  8. An astute analysis, dear Captain. It's sort of like choosing to use a baseball bat to kill a fly. The problem may be real but the solution is often way out of proportion and more destructive that the initial problem.

  9. I wrote this before watching Bill Maher who produced a heaping plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and Macaroni with cheese on his show last week.

    He described the Republicans as trying to diet by removing the parsley.

    They've been trying to undo NPR and the NEA and other tiny programs for years and although it's always phrased in terms of money, it's about their hatred of culture, fear of independent reportage and neurotic loathing for anything that makes this a better country to live in. The only justification for anything is profit with these people. They see themselves as beset with impediments to their personal gain as though money makes a person one of God's elect and collective responsibility, as well as civilization itself is collective interference with the divine will.

    Would that I could believe in an avenging God.

  10. As usual Fogg you have covered the topic, made salient points and brought us to conclusion.
    But while reading the paragraph about automobiles I was reminded how, several years ago some in the state legislature wanted to lower the speed limit opining about the death rate and catastrophic accidents. They demanded a study be done. It was and it showed that since the increasing of speed limits on our highways - fatalities had steadily DROPPED! The talk of dropping the speed limit faded away.
    If only we could have such reasoned, well-researched studies for other aspects of our society before someone jumps on the "let's fix what ain't broke!" bandwagon.
    OCTO - I am here and I see you. I have some stuff to catch up on and then I will be back to put you in the cooler for a while!

  11. I think it was Daniel Webster who said " the notion that something needs to be done is the mother of many a bad measure."

    Highway death rates at the time that thing was past were declining, because of safer cars, better tires, better brakes, better stability and safer roads and in spite of increasingly bad drivers. The death toll on German roads with no speed limits also declined and at a faster rate, but such is the Liberal habit, sad to say, of approaching things with " we need more/tougher laws" without regard to enforceability and even less regard to results is hard to break.

    I mentioned it mostly to avoid my own liberal smugness, because we don't have the answers to everything and we're not necessarily more pragmatic than our opponents. And they know it.

    We're also prone to hyperbole: "shoot the Avon Lady" laws, for instance and even though nobody's shooting at her. Like Chicken Little, we damage our credibility when we actually are right.

    God knows, the bastards will use everything against us and I don't want to give them fodder.

  12. I know, we get in a dither about the richest of our rich but they only amount to less than 2% of of our total population.


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