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State of the Union

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 3:51 AM

Phrases I Don't Want To Hear From Politicians Anymore:

- 'We must answer history's call.'

History isn't calling anyone. When we stand up for those things we believe in, when we choose to do what is right over what is expedient, we're not being called by our ancestors or the shades of presidents long dead.

And, frankly, Mr. President, if this is the call of history, the response of both Democrats and Republicans leaves much to be desired.


Obama explained that neither he nor anyone in Congress liked the TARP bailout plan, but they all voted for it anyway, and, gosh, y'see, things are better. Progress!

This reminds me of the circular firing squad after the cancellation of Star Trek: Voyager. Magazine articles featured the producers and writers, and no one took ownership of the problems, yet insisted they were instrumental in fixing them.

Ultimately, this led to executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga blaming the demise of Enterprise on the fans.


Mr. President, the banks aren't repaying bailout monies because everything is all better and our economic boo-boo is healed up. They're flinging it back in your face because they don't want to be responsible or regulated; they want their million-dollar bonuses and office remodels and meetings at luxury resorts and new private jets, and they don't want the White House or the taxpayers to have a say in it.

And when Timothy Geithner keeps looking like the suspect in a procedural crime drama who has bloodstains and gunpowder residue on his hands, methinks a little regulatory effort is needed in-house. He's been cutting sweetheart deals with his buddies, and basically threatened Congress by telling them to confirm Bernanke or else.


However, Obama hit a high note as he pointed out that the rest of the world is not waiting for us to get our house in order.

"China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs."

Which is exactly what I've been saying - we need to be the innovators, the ones leading the pack, so we don't end up sucking hind tit on energy again.


I also give a thumbs-up to Obama calling out both sides for their respective failings - the Democrats' habit of rolling over, and the Republicans' intransigence.

Yet his answer to these problems is 'bipartisanship.'

To which I say, if the minority doesn't want to cooperate, the boat leaves the dock without them. Quibbling over who gets the front seat in the lifeboat is no better than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


Okay, so we have another promise to repeal DADT, but no action. Hop to it.


Lastly, some well-deserved knocks to the media punditry crowd. (Which happens to include MSNBC's Chris Matthews remarking, "I actually forgot he was black for about an hour." Fucking brilliant commentary, Chris. Sheer genius. NOT!)

But the problem is more than mere punditry; it's been the replacement of objective reporting with false equivalence and manufactured controversy. It has to do with a populace that seemingly can't engage in the most basic elements of critical thinking and, in fact, revels in their ignorance.

I'm not sure that reviving the Fairness Doctrine would do any good, unless it's a regulatory package with teeth - and I'm talking fines that exceed those for casual profanity and 'wardrobe malfunctions.' Let's not waste our time with ombudsmen and fact-checking panels that come into play after an egregious lie or mistruth has been injected into the public discourse - let's put the burden of responsibility squarely on the shoulders of broadcasters. We in the media are supposed to know how to conduct ourselves responsibly and ethically; this isn't a new frontier by any stretch of the imagination - it's a fundamental question of knowing how to do our jobs. We either get our collective shit together, or we're nothing but lights and wires in a box, as Edward R. Murrow once observed.

To this end, we need net neutrality. If you want to mitigate the influence of corporations and million-dollar bankrolls, the average citizen has to be able to disseminate their ideas without being squeezed by providers like AT&T or Comcast. Part of this will be the infrastructure the country needs to truly enter the 21st Century, and part of it is remembering that free speech is not a privilege of the rich; it belongs to all of us.

This isn't about the 'speaking truth to power' (a phrase that has been overused to the point of being trite), but rediscovering civil discourse and piercing the illusion that a bully pulpit with a million-dollar bankroll is anything close to resembling a free market.


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