Friday, July 1, 2011

Today's Chuckle: The editorial

This faceplants into the so-bad-it's-funny category. Starting with a wannabe-hip headline ripped from the cultural memes of 1979, the unnamed Courier editor plunges wildly through a paranoid landscape, unable to tell mountain from molehill, and pretty sure the moles are out to get him. It's kinda Alien vs Caddyshack, with the editor standing in for Bill Murray.

Because organized hackers broke into the Email accounts of DPS officers, says the editor, "assume that nothing in cyberspace is safe." Presumably the editor also keeps a weather eye out for meteors as he sprints into the building from his truck.

Yet on the same day this hawkeyed newsman fills his Friday column (below) with a viral Email containing the most insidious sort of infection there is: facile hate for the weak.

Better idea: Assume that nothing on the Courier op-ed page is safe. And keep laughing. We're all in it for the lulz.

Wiederaenders: Assistance should come with conditions

Honestly, sometimes when I'm reading the Courier op-ed page I feel like I'm back at my high-school paper trying to edit some sense into the fevered punditry of all-knowing sixteen-year-olds. Tim's column today makes my Page Two team at the Creston Echo look like Washington Post material.

In it he quotes approvingly from a viral Email advocating adding various punitive costs to government assistance, carrying a clearly moralistic tone and descending into dog-whistle racism, sexism and classism. It's awful enough to make a thinking person blanch, and Tim claims he thinks it's funny. This is the same guy who proudly claims to be a Christian.

There are two reasons why we as a society organize to help those who need it: it's the right thing to do morally, and it's the right thing to do economically for all of us.

You don't have to be a Xtian to understand the moral value of helping your neighbors. It's who we are as social animals. But with relentless propaganda and social isolation it's relatively easy to create the idea that poor or unlucky or uneducated people are not our neighbors, and so are unworthy of our consideration. That's what's happening here, and the editor is a dupe for the hateful misanthrope he allows to publish anonymously in his column. Show me where Jesus said, "If a man be poor and without work, bind him into slavery for his bread." What I remember is "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Economically, it's bad for all of us if some of us are homeless and hungry. The costs of welfare programs are a pittance compared to the costs of not having them. That's why we have them in the first place. It's only because we've generally forgotten how bad the bad old days were that the editor is able to get away with his facile 'jokes.' Read some Dickens, Tim, or some Sinclair Lewis.

Better yet, come to my neighborhood and talk to a few real people who are struggling to make ends meet. Failing that, at least make an attempt to avoid sleeping through the Sunday sermon at your church. I imagine what Jesus said might come up there on occasion.

Are there abuses of these systems? Sure. Show me a system that is free of abuse. If that's a reason to eliminate them, let's go after the most expensive abused systems first: Defense Department contracting, for example. But we don't punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty, remember?

Editorial: Court decision raises public money concerns

In Thursday's musing, the unnamed Courier editor careens from one concept to another, creating a limp, damp word salad. Did you let JJ write this one, Tim?

He writes, "Chief Justice John Robert (sic) said the provision 'imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups,'" and accepts it as writ without explaining how the ability of one to speak in any way limits the ability of another. Of course, if the Chief Justice doesn't understand this either, I spoze we'll have to give the editor a pass on that one.

He "won't debate whether the provision violated freedom of speech," which for most writers would mean he's neutral on the question, but he immediately goes on to "applaud the justices who recognized that possibility and walked on the side of caution." Right. The sort of caution that specifically allows corporations to spend as much as they like to buy offices for their favored candidates.

He calls the influence of big money on politics a "sad state of affairs," and finishes up by advertising the Republican push to eliminate all public money from Arizona elections. Apparently it's only sad when the money is nonpartisan.

In the name of "free speech," he advocates taking the megaphone away from the ordinary working person and giving it to the corporate huckster and his pro cheerleading team.

This sort of ridiculously distorted decision by the Supreme Court proceeds from a cascade of terrible past decisions. The idea that money is equal to speech is one. The idea that corporations are the same as citizens is another. They make it impossible for good sense to even be heard, let alone prevail. Arguing the points that follow from these cracked premises can lead only to deeper absurdity.

Forget campaign finance reform, it's not gonna come anytime soon. The only way to improve the quality of our representation is to organize the old-fashioned way, person-to-person, one vote and one ten-dollar contribution at a time. Given modern technology and the rise of social media this has never been easier, but real people have to get out there and do it in an organized, consistent way.