Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tired of Being Taken for a Fool?

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Most attribute that adage to Abraham Lincoln, a Republican politician, though some argue for legendary showman PT Barnum.  For purposes of this discussion it doesn’t much matter which one said it, because in today’s world enough of us are fools so much of the time that the rest of us suffer as if we’re all fools all the time.

No, I’m not talking about the ridiculous political campaign rhetoric tossed at us with about as much sincerity and honest intentions as a hooker’s smile.  An example of that scenario will play out tomorrow as Greeks vote to see who will replace the non-political caretaker government appointed to run their country after their elected legislators ignominiously failed to agree upon who should run it.  Tomorrow’s election is fraught with promises that cannot possibly be kept, consequences few want to grasp, and a result likely far worse that the current situation.   But I’m not talking about that.

May 6, 2012 Election Results--no coalition formed
I’m talking about the US.  Americans pride themselves on hard work and honest government, but are we any better governed than the suffering Greeks who must contend with an entrenched political hierarchy that puts vested personal self-interest and cash above the common good?

Yes, cash.  Okay, in the US the cash transaction typically doesn’t involve the Greek’s traditional envelope or untraditional Pampers box, but rather opportunities to trade on insider information (a crime for mere mortals) or receive preferential investment deals from companies seeking government support.  Both put cash in a legislator’s pocket—and the legislator likely in the pocket of the benefactor.  Now, thanks to the US Supreme Court’s infamous (from my way of thinking) Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions, there’s no doubt that cash rules the Congressional and Executive branches of government.  Not sure what holds the top spot with the Judiciary, but it’s likely one of the seven deadly sins.   

With all due respect to Lincoln and Barnum, I think today’s truism on American politics is, “Money talks.  End of Story.” 

We need to find a way to get things back on track. And fast.  Think of Greece as our canary in the mine, revealing what happens when those we trust to govern on our behalf lose sight of their primary obligation to do what is best for their country.

Alexis Papachelas
Here are some thoughts expressed this week by Alexis Papachelas, managing editor of Athens’ Kathimerini.  He wrote of what it meant to see his government in the hands of people working for love of country, not personal ambition.  

It’s good to know that when your country is in danger, there are still responsible people who care about it, who are willing to risk their reputation for it, and who can handle extremely delicate issues using skill and common sense.

These days I often hear state officials and ordinary people saying: “I wish previous governments had the quality of the current caretaker administration…”

The question is this: Why don’t we see people like [these] taking government posts unless they are in emergency or caretaker governments?

A first response would be that they…would not be elected if they were included on party tickets.

A different response would be because they would be snubbed by most mainstream TV networks because of low ratings.

A third explanation is that the traditional parties are highly allergic to such people; rather, they are treated with envy, disdain and, sometimes, fear.

It’s a pity that we never got a chance to see such a government…

It’s sad to have to put up with all those who systematically attack any serious individual... They either want governments staffed with TV personalities so that they can get close to the political personnel or they are concerned about losing the lavish handouts by any party army that climbs to power.

It’s time we got serious.

Yes, my fellow Americans, it’s time we got serious.



  1. You know how complicated this is. Our recent past is fraught with cynical, sinister, and unfortunately successful attacks on the fabric of our society. (The sibilant, snake-like sound of these sentences is intentional!). Our body politic is fractionated even if our party system isn't. And money rules the airwaves as well as everything else. I pray that we can get it together. Coalescing under these circumstances will take a LOT to accomplish.

  2. And I fear it will get worse, Annamaria, before it (hopefully) gets better.

  3. Right with you, Jeff. Unfortunately, I can't see the road map for how to get there. Historically, in times of great distress, it has taken great calamity to "bring the country back together" (for a great discourse on this, see the book "The Fourth Turning").

    If *I* were King, the US constitution would be amended to include:
    1) Corporations are NOT people.
    2) Money is NOT speech (with some caveats).
    3) Any government official who even APPEARED to accept 'favors' (when applying the 'duck' criteria) is sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    THEN I would abdicate my Kingship. :-)

  4. Hey, Everett, if you want to be king you've got my vote...though not sure an election would be quite the vehicle for your coronation. Only one bit of advice from one regis to another (spell it backwards for evidence of my bona fides): Choose carefully whom you favor with your scepter, corporations are known to dress in LLP's clothing.

  5. What's so scary to me this year is that common sense has no role in how the money is received. We have a populace that is ruled by things that have nothing to do with getting things better, and everything to do with issues that make no sense.And those with their ugly agendas are flying. Is it possible to vote for a regis? i might :)

  6. If nominated, Lil, I shall not run, if elected I shall not serve...depending on the book deal.

  7. I have a solution for the deficit. Eliminate the Federal government. Let the states run themselves. If we must have a president, let's elect a department-store mannequin for photo ops and store in-between it in a closet in the White House, which we could turn into low-income housing. No Dept. of Defense, no Pentagon, no Dept. of Education. Let the states receive the taxes for Social Security and Medicare and administer those programs, and it would be a kind of competition to see who does it best so voters in other states could force their own state to emulate the successful ones. Appoint a highways committee for interstate travel and mske the Coast Guard the only armed force, to be funded by the coastal states. Just think: no congressmen and women, no Joe Biden, no John Boehner or Pelosi or McConnell or Eric Cantor. Put all the savings against the deficit until it's paid off.

    (Brushing his hands.) There. All cleared up.

  8. It sounds terrific, Tim. And I've got a catchy name for it: European Union Light!

  9. Given the European Union is about to financially implode you might want to rethink that one Jeff!

    And Tim - given some of the utterly bizarre anti-choice and 'intelligent design' legislation that some of them come up with, I'm not sure I'd let some American states look after my hamsters never mind receive taxes and run social security and medicare programmes!

  10. Right on, Dan. The poor of Mississippi have had no luck whatsoever with the kind of interstate competition Tim favors. Only the Federal regulations give them even a marginal chance of survival. In the current economic conditions, I am sure they have long since had not choice but to eat their hamsters.

  11. I wasn't suggesting the brand would sell better than the classic version, Dan, just what to call it. :)