Sunday, May 1, 2011

A "Dawg" Story, Rotting Foundations and Gullibility

Well, the President finally produced his original birth document from back in 1961.  I think it was a mistake for him to do so because now the Obama-haters can say, “See what our power made him do?”  The fact that the document confirmed everything on the earlier “certification” and supported everything the President said and nothing his detractors said means nothing to them.  They are still free to believe he was born in Kenya, that the moon is made of green cheese and that the New York Mets will win the World Series this year.  Now, as you can see, they are challenging his academic credentials. 

These people are intent at destroying Barack Obama’s Presidency and will stop at nothing. The President, by presenting the birth documentation, has not shut them up; rather, he has given them new-found credibility which they will not hesitate to use.  His response gave a degree of legitimacy to a ludicrous request, making them believe their pathetic arguments actually had some meat on them.  There are more important things to deal with and one of them was talked about by David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, in a recent column which appears later on in the blog.  Please let me know your thoughts about it.  But first, let’s start with a warm Harvey Sage story which I suspect comes out of one of the “hollows” of Appalachia.  

(Need I remind you once more that your stories, poems, essays and ideas are always welcome on this blog? Some of you have asked me to help you start your own blog.  Great Idea!  But until then, just post your material on this blog.)

Jack Lippman

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JAFFA the Good Dawg

From Tails of the Wooferball by Harvey Sage

Kathy and Arnold were in a heated discussion that neighbors could hear from a quarter mile away.
“Hell no, she gotta go,” he screamed into the cool night air. “She’s just a mutt. An old mutt.”
“But…” Kathy responded in her soft, alluring voice. “Jon Jon loves her and so do I. And you used         to love her too. Until you had to take a pay cut. It’s not her fault the economy tanked. What do you expect with three wars.”
Arnold was peeved as he said “ There’s just no sense keeping her. We’ve got to cut costs, even if the government doesn’t.”
Kathy thought for a moment and rejoindered            “Why not get rid of me and Jon Jon. Think of how much money you’d save then.”
“Come on honey. Don’t say that. You know how much I love you both. We’re family. But Jaffa is a pain. She sheds like a dry Christmas tree. I go to work with dog hair all over my clothes. The guys call me the hair man. My boss told me that if I’d sit and stayed he’d give me a milk bone for a treat.”
Kathy laughed. “That’s hilarious.”
“I don’t think so. It was liver flavored, and I hate liver.”

Jon Jon sat in the corner with Jaffa, putting his tiny toddler arms around her neck. While he wasn’t able to understand all the words the adults said in their heated banter, which was slowly cooling off, he was smart enough to get the drift. So did Jaffa. Poor dawg. Jon Jon squeezed her and then began to cry.

The battle abated so the neighbors could go to sleep. Arnold sauntered off to watch TV. Tonite the Mets were playing. Big game. He stepped on something and tripped, almost hitting his head on the edge of the counter. “Damn! The bloody dawg left her toy on the floor. We’ve got wall to wall dawg toys in this house.” That woke ‘em up again.
“But Jaffa likes to chew and play. She’s got a life too, you know.”
“Oh yeah? Sez who. We don’t owe that mutt a thing.” Half the neighbors were in agreement. Keep the dawg. Get rid of the dawg. Just shut up and let us go to sleep!
Kathy had the perfect come back. “God sez He’ll do to us what we do for the least of His creatures.”
Arnold quieted down. “Where’s it say that honey?”
“In the Bible. We are taught to be humble.”
Arnold laughed. “OK. You made your point. Let’s put this discussion on hold. It’s the top of the third inning.” He settled down to watch his team, engrossed by the mesmerism of a game.
Kathy sat at the kitchen table, praying that Arnold would give up on his antipathy toward Jaffa. What could she say or do? Arnold was the breadwinner of the family. Jon Jon and Jaffa loved each other. Only a miracle could save her.

An hour later she awoke from her meditations as Arnold let out a whoop. The Met’s catcher hit a home run with two on which put them ahead by a run. “Let’s go Mets”, Arnold screamed along with the New York crowd. His neighbors were hoping that the game would end already.
“Where’s Jon Jon?” His beloved came into the living room where her husband was quaffing a beer in front of his beloved flat screen TV, his temple to the god of sports.
“Whad’ya mean?” He scarcely looked at her.
“I mean where’s Jon Jon? Arnold, the damn front door is open.”

The emergency people arrived with their dogs and Sheriff Brady. He was miffed. “You people are irresponsible. Parenting is a full time job, especially with toddlers/ They’re mobile and fearless.” The search dogs went about their business, sniffing and baying and keeping the neighbors from sleep. The cackle of the radios added to the cacophony. The night was crisp and clear. “Jon Jon. Jaffa. Where are you?” Cries went out to the ether to no avail. Arnold and Kathy finished giving the Sheriff details. They knew they would face further interrogation and maybe charges. This didn’t concern them. All they wanted was Jon Jon. Kathy collapsed into her husband’s arms and they both cried.

Arnold asked God and Kathy to forgive him. He had been so wrapped up in the game- who won by the way?- that he’d ignored his son who should have been getting ready for bed. Would his son die of hyperthermia, shivering to death? He thought of the argument he’d had earlier and wondered if his carrying on could have caused the incident. “Dear God, please bring Jon Jon back to us, safe and sound. I’m so sorry about my harsh words and attitude which came about just because the Mets have dropped out of first place. I’ll be good to the dawg and treat her nicely. Just please, bring us back Jon Jon.” Suddenly he even forgot about the Mets and the baseball gods.

Midst the aroos of the hounds came loud shouting. Kathy and Arnold looked up to see the smiling deputy carrying their son, safe and sound, wrapped in a blanket. Jaffa followed, tail wagging swiftly. “We heard your dawg barking from behind the neighbor’s house. Jon Jon was asleep, wrapped in a tarp, curled up with Jaffa.

Jon Jon looked at his dad to say “Jaffa kept me warm. She loves me daddy. Please don’t throw her away. Please Daddy. Please. She’s a good dawg.”
Tears down his cheeks, Arnold screamed more loudly than ever as he looked skyward. “Thank you!” Then he took his child as he fervently patted Jaffa. “Good dawg Jaffa. Good dawg.” 

This tail is based on a true incident. The moral is whatever you think it is.

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The Big Disconnect

Published: April 25, 2011 (New York Times)

On one level, American politics looks amazingly stable. President Obama’s approval rating is about 47 percent, and it hasn’t changed much in well over a year. Health care reform is mildly unpopular, and the public’s view hasn’t shifted much since before it was passed. 

According to Pew Research Center polls, the public is evenly divided over which party can do a better job of handling foreign policy, the job situation, Social Security reform, health care reform and many other issues. It looks as if we’re back to the 50-50 stasis that has been the norm for the past few decades. 

Moreover, the two parties are about to run utterly familiar political campaigns. The Democrats are going to promise to raise taxes on the rich to preserve the welfare state, just as they have since 1980. The Republicans are going to vow to cut taxes and introduce market mechanisms to reform the welfare state, just as they have since 1980. The country is about to be offered the same two products: one from Soviet Production Facility A (the Republicans), and the other from Soviet Production Facility B (the Democrats). It will react just as it always has. 

From this you could easily get the impression that American politics are trundling along as usual. But this stability is misleading. The current arrangements are stagnant but also fragile. American politics is like a boxing match atop a platform. Once you’re on the platform, everything looks normal. But when you step back, you see that the beams and pillars supporting the platform are cracking and rotting. 

This cracking and rotting is originally caused by a series of structural problems that transcend any economic cycle: There are structural problems in the economy as growth slows and middle-class incomes stagnate. There are structural problems in the welfare state as baby boomers spend lavishly on themselves and impose horrendous costs on future generations. There are structural problems in energy markets as the rise of China and chronic instability in the Middle East leads to volatile gas prices. There are structural problems with immigration policy and tax policy and on and on. 

As these problems have gone unaddressed, Americans have lost faith in the credibility of their political system, which is the one resource the entire regime is predicated upon. This loss of faith has contributed to a complex but dark national mood. The country is anxious, pessimistic, ashamed, helpless and defensive. 

The share of Americans who say they trust government to do the right thing most of the time is scuttling along at historic lows. Approval of Congress and most other institutions has slid. Seventy percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, according to The New York Times/CBS News poll. Nearly two-thirds believe the nation is in decline, according to a variety of surveys. 

Over the past months, we’ve seen a fascinating phenomenon. The public mood has detached from the economic cycle. In normal times, economic recoveries produce psychological recoveries. At least at the moment, that seems not to be happening. The U.S. has experienced nine straight months of slow economic growth. The unemployment rate has fallen, and, in March, the U.S. economy added a robust 216,000 jobs. Yet the public mood is darkening, not brightening. The New York Times/CBS News poll showed a 13 percentage point increase in the number of Americans who believe things are getting worse. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is now as low as it has been since the height of the recession.   Public opinion is not behaving the way it did after other recent recessions. 

If you dive deeper into the polling, you see the country is not mobilized by this sense of crisis but immobilized by it. Raising taxes on the rich is popular, but nearly every other measure that might be taken to address the fiscal crisis is deeply unpopular. Sixty-three percent of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling; similar majorities oppose measures to make that sort of thing unnecessary.
There is a negativity bias in the country, especially among political independents and people earning between $30,000 and $75,000 (who have become extremely gloomy). It is hard to rally majorities behind immigration, energy or tax reform. 

At some point something is going to happen to topple the political platform — maybe a debt crisis, maybe when China passes the United States as the world’s largest economy, perhaps as early as 2016. At that point, we could see changes that are unimaginable today. 

New political forces will emerge from the outside or the inside. A semi-crackpot outsider like Donald Trump could storm the gates and achieve astonishing political stature. Alternatively, insiders like the Simpson-Bowles commission or the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” could assert authority and recreate a strong centrist political establishment, such as the nation enjoyed in the 1950s. 

Neither seems likely now. But in these circumstances, rule out nothing.  

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“American Gullible”
The most important factor in the upcoming elections in 2012, just eighteen months from now, will be gullibility.  Forget the issues.  Oh, they are certainly important.  But to elect a President, win a Congressional seat, choose a Senator or Governor or elect a State Legislator, a swing in either direction of no more than five percent of the people voting can decisively affect the outcome.  The vast majority of voters will cast their ballot based on their knowledge of the issues and where the candidates stand on them.  At least five percent, however, will cast votes influenced by the lies told during the campaign, particularly in ads on television and in messages appearing on the internet.  This misguided five percent will determine the election’s outcome.  These voters may believe that President Obama is a socialist or perhaps that any Republican candidate is no more than a purchased mouthpiece for corporations and the wealthy.  Both claims are lies, but millions will believe them.  

Of course, both the Democrats and Republicans tell such lies during the campaign.  This was the case during the 2010 elections in which the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, several Governorships and State legislatures.  The always crucial five percent swung to the Republican side in that election.  From that we can conclude that scurrilous appeals to the gullible portion of the electorate were more effective in 2010 in getting people to vote Republican than to vote Democratic.

The results of the 2012 elections will depend on which party can best, using any tools available to them, get a majority of the “American Gullible” to vote for them.  My recommendation to you is to keep a can of Lysol Disinfectant Spray handy for use when you detect a stench being emitted from your TV or computer screen. (As we approach the 2012 elections, watch for discount coupons for this product in your Sunday newspaper advertising supplement. The manufacturers know when the stink season is drawing near.)

Jack Lippman

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