Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014: The Year in Preview

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Other columns and stories look back on the year just past, but your Humble Columnist prefers to look ahead and away from a year that, quite frankly, has passed about as pleasantly for him as a golf-ball-sized kidney stone.
So, once again, our annual year in PREview:
JANUARY: The opening of the new congressional session is delayed when Sen. Ted Cruz vows to stand in a front entrance to the Capitol and sing the children’s folk song “Froggy Went A-Courtin’” until Obamacare is repealed.
The tactic is foiled when, after a six-hour standoff, the legislators recall that there’s a back entrance.
FEBRUARY: Tea party congressmen threaten to block any increase in the debt ceiling until President Obama agrees to step down, plead guilty to four counts of first degree murder in the Benghazi attacks, retroactively veto the Affordable Care Act, and admit to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, but not before issuing an executive order to give that “Duck Dynasty” guy his job back.
“Why won’t this Kenyan Socialist Marxist Fascist Chicago thug ever agree to negotiate with us?” demands North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx when the president refuses to consider the demands.
MARCH: Republican legislators in Tennessee introduce legislation to legalize beating food stamp recipients with sticks.
“We just feel that not allowing people to physically assault the poor just perpetuates a culture of dependency,” explains state GOP Chairman Clem Flenders. “What incentive will people have to even look for work if they’re not in constant fear of injury?”
APRIL: Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is forced to take a leave of absence after an on-air meltdown during which she begins screaming at guest Juan Williams about the race of the Easter Bunny. “He’s a WHITE rabbit!” Kelly raves. “WHITE, do you hear!?”
She then begins rocking back and forth, hugging herself and softly crooning “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” until gently led offstage by Williams.
MAY: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden drops another bombshell when he reveals a program run by the secretive agency that collects intimate data on millions of Americans, including such highly personal details as how much alcohol they’ve had to drink over a 24-hour period, pictures of what they had for dinner, the names and ages of household pets, and even their moods.
The bombshell fizzles when it’s revealed that the “program” is just NSA employees surfing Facebook when they were supposed to be working.
JUNE: A major breakthrough occurs in relations between the U.S. and North Korea as baby-faced lunatic dictator Kim Jong-un offers to give up nuclear weapons and initiate major political and economic reforms so long as we never, ever let Dennis Rodman travel to North Korea again.
“We thought he was interesting at first,” Kim says through a translator, “but MAN, that dude gets annoying after a while.”
JULY: After rehearsals for the MTV Video Music Awards, teen pop idol Miley Cyrus is rushed to the emergency room when she sprains her tongue by sticking it out so far she becomes unable to put it back into her mouth. Cyrus later tweets to her followers that “Mama always said if I made faces it’d stick like that. Never thought it actually would. #blurredmind”
AUGUST: Half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin uses her Facebook page to complain that a “Godless left-wing conspiracy” is behind the fact that someone responded to one of her sneezes by saying “bless you” rather than “God bless you.” Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee all take up the cause in what comes to be known as the “Remember Jesus After Your Sneezes” campaign.
SEPTEMBER: A notable TV personality gets suspended or fired for saying something egregiously racist or homophobic. Right-wingers propose an amendment making it a fundamental constitutional right for a conservative — but only a conservative — to have a TV or radio show.
OCTOBER: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wins “Best Costume” at the city’s annual Halloween party when he shows up as a sober person and no one recognizes him.
NOVEMBER: A midterm election is held. All those who lose claim they lost because of voter fraud. Or voter suppression. Or something other than their flawed message or lousy campaign.
DECEMBER: Christmas comes around again. And once again, I don’t get a pony.

Happy New Year, folks!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

That Person-of-the-Year Thing

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

OK, so one week I write a column lauding Pope Francis I and the very next week he gets named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. More than coincidence? Perhaps. But as much as I do admire this pope, I think Time made the wrong call.
It’s always been somewhat puzzling to me that the choice of Person of the Year is eagerly awaited by the media and often causes controversy. A lot of people seem to regard it as some sort of reward or honor.
This, despite the fact that every year Time stresses that the award goes to the person who “for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year,” not just one who’s been the nicest, most positive, or most beneficial to mankind.
(This still doesn't explain why Time said demented teen songstress Miley Cyrus was among its top contenders this year, but perhaps there are some things we aren't meant to know.)
Time’s been naming a Man of the Year since 1927, when aviator and Adolf Hitler apologist Charles Lindbergh got the nod. Hitler himself was named in 1938, which is probably why he felt cocky enough to invade Poland the next year.
Other luminaries achieving the status of Man (or Person) of the Year include Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
It was in 1999 that they started calling it Person of the Year. Sometimes, the Person of the Year isn't an actual person at all, like the years the magazine named “The Computer” (1982) or “The Endangered Earth” (1988).
Then there was the year Time copped out completely, put a mirrored panel on the cover and proclaimed that the Person of the Year was … wait for it … “You”! It was like something from some half-baked self-affirmation book, or maybe an Oprah episode.
You may have gathered from this that I think the whole POTY thing by Time is pretty lame, and you’d be right. Especially this year. I think the title should have gone to that prolific leaker of NSA secrets, Edward Snowden, who only made runner-up for POTY.
Whatever you may think about Snowden himself (and I for one don’t think anyone who flees to Russia is any kind of hero), there’s no denying the effect of his revelations about just how far American surveillance of people, even its own citizens, has gone.
People were also stunned to discover just how much of it is legal, such as the collection of so-called “metadata,” showing what numbers were called when and for how long.
The Supreme Court, as far back as 1979, ruled that that kind of data collection wasn’t even a search for Fourth Amendment purposes, because “we doubt that people in general entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial.”
No one thought much about that at the time, because hey, we were fighting crime, right?
But once the Supremes ruled gathering that kind of data wasn’t a search, it meant it was fair game for any purpose, anywhere.
Even when programs like the FBI’s Carnivore and DARPA’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) came to light in the early 2000s, only a few voices, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (and, it must be mentioned, your Humble Columnist), expressed any alarm at all, and they were regarded as crackpots at best.
At worst, they were told they were trying to subvert the Dear Leader George Dubbya’s Global War on Terror and that they wanted to bring on another 9/11.
It wasn’t until Snowden revealed the breadth of the net the NSA was casting (and until the election of a Democratic president terrified wingnuts into realizing that giving power to one president meant the next one kept it) that the general public started to wake up to the need to ask some hard questions about how much privacy we’re willing to give up, and how maybe we need to change the laws as they stand.
The words and deeds of Francis I may have an effect far beyond this year. I hope they do. In that case, I’ll enthusiastically endorse him for Person of the Decade, may even of the Century.

However, as much as I admire and respect His Holiness for, in Time’s words, “pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets,” it’s Snowden pulling NSA surveillance out of the shadows and into the light that’s “done the most to influence the events of the year.”

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Pope V. Wingnuts: I Know Who I'm Betting On

Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

I’ve got to tell you, I’m liking this pope more and more.
From the start, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis I) let everyone know he wasn’t going to be the kind of pontiff to which we’ve become accustomed. He chose to live in simple quarters in the Vatican guest house rather than the sumptuous papal apartments. He drives around in an old Ford Focus.
He’s called for greater dialogue with Muslims and made statements like, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Lately, it’s been rumored that Francis is continuing the practice he engaged in as Bishop of Buenos Aires by slipping out at night in regular priestly garb to minister to the homeless.
Then, on Nov. 24, Francis really dropped the bomb when he released the 50,000-word statement “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). It covers a lot of ground on the church’s outlook and mission, but what’s causing the most controversy are statements on economic injustice and inequality.
Statements like this:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. …
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Wait a minute … am I reading something by the Vicar of Christ on Earth or some manifesto from Occupy Wall Street? I’m amazed the Tea Party hasn’t announced that it is going to try to mount a recall.
Wingnut pundits quickly leapt in to remind us that the only thing they truly worship is oligarchy and that their only doctrine is Amen natus sum, ut abstineas manum meam acervus. (“I’m all right, Jack, keep your hands offa my stack.”)
Rush Limbaugh titled a post on his website, “It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is,” and went on to say that “this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about … This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”
Tea party activist Jonathan Mosely, a board member of the Northern Virginia Teahadist cell, wrote on the conservative website World Net Daily that “Jesus Christ is weeping in heaven hearing Christians espouse a socialist philosophy.” Right-wing pinup Sarah Palin allowed as how she was “taken aback” by Pope Francis’ “liberal” statements.
Wow. I remember when I wrote what I thought was a gently humorous column about the aged and weary Pope Benedict looking forward to taking some time off to put his feet up and catch some TV on Christmas after stepping down. I took flak for that one for weeks. You’d have thought I’d hocked a loogie in the baptismal font. My reply column was even spiked by the paper because people were so "riled up." 
One older lady rudely accosted me while I was at lunch with friends to upbraid me about my “disrespect” for the Holy Father. Not just one, but two local monsignors wrote letters to the paper to complain that even my mild joshing of the pope emeritus was causing “pain” to Catholics. Well, I can’t even begin to imagine the agony they must be in over the railings of conservatives against the current bishop of Rome.
I’m sure the lady who interrupted my lunch and the good monsignors will be taking to their keyboards letting Messrs. Limbaugh, Mosley, et al., as well as Half-Term Gov. Palin, know that they’re not going to stand for anyone dissing the pope. I’m sure they’re going to join the Holy Father in opposing inequality and speaking out against the “trickle-down” theories of folks just like our Republican overlords here in North Carolina. I believe all this because I am, after all, a person of faith.

There are some things that the Church and I may never agree on, at least in my lifetime. Marriage equality, for example, or reproductive freedom. But I’ll always give credit where credit is due. I don’t know about infallible, but this pope’s pretty awesome. Kinda reminds me of his boss. You know, the one whose birthday’s coming up.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion:

So Harry Reid finally did it. Frankly, I didn’t think he had the gumption. But it seems he’d finally had enough of the Republicans’ extended temper tantrum and took away their favorite toy — the filibuster of Obama administration nominees.
Now judicial and Cabinet nominees will need to be confirmed only by the simple “up or down vote” the Republicans were so fond of demanding during the years when it was Democrats filibustering Bush nominees.
The reaction was predictable, as the party that originally came up with the idea of the so-called “nuclear option” went into the usual hysterics. “Dictatorial,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Sessions. “A raw power grab by Senate Democrats and President Obama,” whined Lindsey Graham.
Right-wing pundits joined in as well. Rush Limbaugh referred to the rules change as “total statist authoritarianism” and compared it to a law allowing women to be raped. (Classy as always, Rush. How’s that Republican outreach to women voters going?) Charles Krauthammer went on Faux News and called the move “an example of the lawless way Obama has run the government.”
All of this might be more persuasive if they didn’t say the same thing about pretty much everything the president of the United States does.
It might also be more persuasive if there wasn’t so much footage of Republicans calling for exactly the same filibuster reform they just got. Limbaugh, for example, once called the filibuster “unconstitutional” and said a rules change like the one that just happened should properly be called the “constitutional option,” not the “nuclear” one. And you know what? He was right. Then, not now.
Accusations of hypocrisy aside, the way the filibuster’s been done for the past few years is a travesty, and it should have been done away with years ago. If we’d had an actual Jimmy Stewart-type filibuster, where you had to stand there and talk, it wouldn’t be such a problem, because there’d be some sort of limit to it.
It would end with some compromise, or withdrawal of the bill or nomination in question, or because the filibusterer gave up. That would delay action by the Senate, which in some cases is a good thing.
But the way it’s been done in the past few years, someone just had to say they’re going to filibuster and the bill or nomination died right then and there for lack of a super-majority. The traditional filibuster would help make the Senate, in words attributed to George Washington, the “cooling saucer” for legislation; the current rule stopped the tea from getting made in the first place.
And stop it the Republicans did, at an unprecedented and abusive rate. Sen. Reid presented a chart showing that 82 nominees had been blocked under President Obama, but 86 had been blocked under all the other presidents combined. The online fact checker Politifact weighed in and said that Sen. Reid’s graphic was wrong. The situation was actually worse.
“There were actually 68 individual nominees blocked prior to Obama taking office,” they calculated, “and 79 (so far) during Obama’s term, for a total of 147.” That means that so far, “blockages under Obama actually accounted for more than half of the total, not less than half. Either way, it’s disproportionate by historical standards.”
The Republicans made no bones about the fact that their obstructionism had nothing to do with nominees’ actual qualifications. For example, when a “60 Minutes” story about the Benghazi murders came out, Graham threatened to block every Obama nominee if he didn’t get another hearing to interrogate the survivors of the attack. When the story turned out to be a hoax, Graham said it didn’t matter, he was going to block the nominations anyway.
When the filibuster proves to be a tactic of extortion, spite and payback rather than an actual reflection on qualifications, then it needs to go, no matter who’s in power. Like every other privilege, when you abuse it, you lose it.
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the filibuster of nominees is a vital part of the Senate and of democracy itself.
Let’s also assume, purely for the sake of argument, that the Republicans are going to retake the Senate next year as they claim. In that case, I call upon all Republican candidates to swear that they’ll reinstate the old filibuster rules on Day One, and every Republican to hold them to the promise.

Think they’ll do it?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Little Word Salad For Thanksgiving From the Half-Term Half- Wit.

The Quitta From Wassilla weighs in on the change in filibuster rules, and the results are something to behold: 

In case you missed that, she said: 

“As for this rule change that some people are calling the nuclear option under Senate rules, you know, I guarantee, this week, Thanksgiving Dinner, people sitting around their tables were not going to be talking about the president blessing this thwarting of a balance of power in Congress with new Senate rules. People are going to be talking about our failed big government policies that will bankrupt this country. So, this distraction, this new talking point in the media and with Congress and with Senators and with the president blessing this action, it’s a distraction and it’s a lot of, you know, double standard and Democrat hypocrisy because just a few years ago they were so anti, anti-nuclear option. So, American people, they don’t care about distractions like that. They’re not in the inside baseball Senate rules stuff. They want government to be back on our side. They want it to get out of our lives… So, this new rule change, it stinks.”

The scary thing is, I've dealt with people like her in person and online. To her followers, she actually makes sense. They apparently actually think and talk in this kind of blizzard of disjointed gibberish,  spewing a veritable santorum of buzzwords: "Failed big government", "bankrupt this country"  "double standard", etc. As long as they hit the buzzwords and convey the proper sense of frustrated resentment. , it doesn't really matter to them what comes in between or whether or not the whole makes any sense. 

We may be headed for the post-linear-thinking society. 

It's the End of the World As We Know It. Again.

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Oh, dear. It looks like the world’s ending again. This time, it’s the Vikings who are telling us that the End of All Things is right around the corner. February, actually.
You may remember last year when the end was nigh, according to some scholars, if by “scholars” you mean “crackpots, grifters, and people desperate for some sort of headline.” The terminal date was supposed to be Dec. 21, 2012, because, according to these “experts,” the “Long Count” Mayan calendar ended on that date.
Now, it might have occurred to some people that maybe this was because some ancient Mayan calendar maker looked up from his carving and calculations and said, “Wait a minute. The market for calendars that go 2100 years into the future is probably a pretty small one. Enough’s enough,” after which he quit the calendar business, found a nice Mayan girl and settled down to a life of quiet farming, raising children, and cutting the living hearts out of virgins.
But that explanation wasn’t nearly as fun as predicting that the Earth was going to collide with a mysterious rogue planet, or that a massive solar flare was going to wipe us all out, or that an alignment of the planets was going to cause earthquakes and devastation on a massive scale.
As we all know (at least I hope we all do), 2012 came and went with the usual crop of fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters, but the world in general didn’t end on Dec. 21. We all woke up on Dec. 22, sighed, and went back to work, just as we did back in 2000, when the Y2K bug failed to spell the end of civilization.
Now, however, a group called the Jorvik Viking Center in York, England, assures us that their reading of Viking poetry and prophecy indicates that Ragnarok, the final battle, will begin on Feb. 22, 2014. To announce this, on Nov. 15, the JVC had a fellow stand on a rooftop and blow the “Horn of Heimdall,” which starts the countdown until the end begins.

As end-of-the-world stories go, the Viking Apocalypse of Ragnarok is a doozy. Winter will cover the Earth for three years. The enormous Midgard Serpent, which has grown in size and malice over the years until it encircles the entire world, will uncoil itself, spew poison over lands and seas, and create tidal waves with its thrashing.
Hel, the Queen of the Underworld, will arrive with an army of undead, sailing in a ship made of the fingernails of dead men. (How such a vessel would be remotely seaworthy, especially with a continent-sized snake flailing around and roiling up the water, is not explained.)
Odin, Father and King of the Gods, will die fighting the wolf Fenrir, who’s still cranky because Odin had some Dwarves chain him up in the backyard. Odin’s son Vidar will avenge his father by ripping Fenrir apart with his bare hands. Fenrir’s children will eat the sun and the moon. Thor will die fighting the aforementioned Midgard Serpent.

To make a long and bloody story short, everybody in the Norse pantheon will kill everyone else, and the Fire Giants will burn Asgard, home of the gods, to the ground.  Meanwhile, here on Earth, one prophecy foretells: “Brothers will fight and kill each other. Sisters’ children will defile kinship … an ax age, a sword age. Shields are riven. A wind age, a wolf age, before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.”
All in all, it’ll be pretty insane, although likely not as chaotic as a barbecue at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s house.
All will not be lost, however. Two humans will survive, a man and a woman, huddled in the gargantuan roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil. They’ll come forth into a new dawn and … well, you can guess the rest.
Scary stuff. It’s important to remember, however, that our records of Viking songs, stories and poetry come to us from various sources, some of them contradictory to others, and all of them composed by people who were raging drunk a lot of the time.
It’s also important to remember that Feb. 22, 2014, is the last day of the Jorvik Viking Center’s annual Viking Festival.

So I’m thinking that, once again, predictions of the coming doom are more promotional gimmick than prophecy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Big Benghazi Fizzle

The Pilot Newspaper: Columns:

In his classic work “Democracy in America,” French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “the job of the journalist in America is to attack coarsely, without preparation and without art, to set aside principles in order to grab men.”
That was in 1835. Looks like things haven’t changed much, judging by the recent “60 Minutes” debacle, in which the venerable CBS program recently ended up with egg on its face over its sloppy reporting about last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Correspondent Lara Logan introduced us to “Morgan Jones,” who, we were told, was using an alias to protect his safety. “Jones” told a tale of derring-do and high-level betrayal that night that was suitable for a thriller novel or a blockbuster movie.
He’d rushed to the compound upon learning it was under attack and gone over the wall. He’d knocked out a terrorist with his rifle butt. He’d sneaked into an al-Qaida-controlled hospital where he’d seen the dead and burned body of Ambassador Chris Stevens (cue big dramatic music). “Jones” recounted how the ambassador himself had told him he was worried about security, but that his pleas for help had fallen on deaf ears.
The right wing went insane (I mean, even more than usual) with joy. Finally, they had something they could really use to turn the tragedy into political gain again. After all, it had worked so well for Mitt Romney.
They even had a sad-eyed hero who’d only been doing his job when he was betrayed by those in power. Twitter exploded with the right-wing war cry of “BENGHAZIIIIIII!” Lindsey Graham stomped his dainty little feet and said he was going to hold up every Obama nomination until he got some answers.
Well, he got some, but probably not the ones he wanted, as the story began to unravel. It turns out that “Morgan Jones” was actually Dylan Davies, a security contractor (i.e., a mercenary). He’d given written reports to both his employer, the British company Blue Mountain, and to the FBI. Those reports contradicted what he’d told “60 Minutes.”
For instance, he’d told both his employer and the FBI that roadblocks had prevented him from even getting to the consulate compound. Like the general in the old soldier’s song (the one who got the Croix de Guerre), “the son of a gun was never there.”
“60 Minutes” first said that it stood by its story. Then, when the FBI report was revealed by The New York Times, Logan finally went on-air with an apology.
How could this happen? What would motivate a TV news institution like “60 Minutes” to be so sloppy that it wouldn’t fact-check or do any vetting on this guy and what he’d said to other people before dropping his bombshells on the air? Well, it’s exactly the motivation described by de Tocqueville: “to grab men” (and, since this is the modern world, women).
This was a big story. It was dramatic. It would inspire editorials, tweets, and the usual yelling on the usual on-air yell-fests. Both “Benghazi” and “60 Minutes” would be on everyone’s lips for weeks. They’d probably even be cited in congressional investigations. And “60 Minutes” wouldn’t just be reporting big news, it would BE big news.
It’s the same motivation that once led the same program, in its now-defunct Wednesday edition, to run a story on the premature departure of George W. Bush from the Texas Air National Guard that featured alleged “official memos” that later turned out to be fakes. A lot of liberals fell for that one, because they wanted to.
Just as there are inconvenient truths, there are convenient falsehoods, and the “Jones” story was a very convenient one for CBS and its ratings, as well as for the right-wing rubes for whom no snake oil is too dubious to swallow if they think it might be the magic potion that makes the man they love to hate go away.
However, it’s the job of entertainment to show us what we want to see, and thus make money for the producers. Journalism should show us what we need to see, whether or not it’s popular or profitable. Like so many other news outlets these days, “60 Minutes” set aside principles “in order to grab men” and went for entertainment and ratings over actual reporting of the truth.

In the process, CBS, and the wingnuts who suddenly loved it (if only for one night), got snookered by a glib con man. Both managed to damage their brand even further than it already was.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Shut It Down. Shut It All Down.

Latest Newspaper Column:

I’m telling you, this website thing is a total debacle.
One applicant, whose heartbreaking story was told by The Washington Post, spent hours trying to log in, only to be told via one of those infuriating error messages that the username and password that he’d picked didn’t exist.
Another filled out all the questions, only to have the website tell her that her application was incomplete. A third applicant cleverly set her alarm for 3:30 so she could successfully log on when no one else was on the site, but many more continue to experience frustration and anger due to the buggy, crash-prone online application process.
Oh, you think I mean the Obamacare website, Well, yeah, that’s a nightmare, too. But the online application giving thousands of young people heartburn is the one that 515 colleges and universities (including my own alma mater, UNC) require prospective students to fill out to seek admission.
It’s called the Common Application, and this year, more than 723,576 students used it to send in more than 3 million applications. Gone are the days of laboriously typing or hand-writing pages and pages of information, over and over, before stuffing them into manila envelopes and dropping them in the mail addressed to the college of your choice.
Now, bright young scholars-to-be can fill the info in once, send it off, and go back to their SnapTweets or their Tumblegrams or whatever the kids are up to these days. Or so they hope. It seems that a recent “upgrade,” as upgrades so often do, bollixed the system up, but good.
So it’s clear, fellow Americans, that there’s only one thing to do. We need to completely dismantle and defund the college and university system.
I mean it. The recent problems with the application process are undeniable proof that the entire system of higher education is a hideous combination of slavery and the Holocaust. Just ask any college student during exam week. Something has to be done to help all the young people who are being hurt by the train wreck that is higher education.
In fact, we need to get Ted Cruz (who seems a bit aimless and out of sorts these days) to go back to the Senate floor bravely clutching his copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” and ramble and rail against college until he drops from exhaustion.
While we’re on the subject, where are the investigations? Where are the hearings? Why aren’t more officials being dragged away from fixing problems so they can sit under hot lights and be berated by pompous attention grubbers? I’m a tax-paying citizen, by golly, and I deserve my congressional grandstanding. And I want both dogs AND ponies in this show, do you hear?
On second thought, wait. Let’s not do all that. Because that would be stupid. Like the Common App site, the central site has problems. It should not have those problems. With that point agreed upon, what now?
Well, some pols continue to demand that the whole law be dismantled. This is the wingnut pipedream it always was, the province of right-wing grifters like Ted Cruz and the delusional rubes who love them. Some are angrily seeking scalps and sound bites.
While it’s important to figure out what went wrong so we can try to keep it from happening again, trying to accomplish that through the modern congressional hearing is like trying to fix your busted computer by throwing it into the monkey cage at the zoo and hoping the simians stop screaming, beating their chests, and throwing poo long enough to at least give you an estimate.
It should be noted, by the way, that states who accepted the health care law rather than dragging their feet, i.e., states that set up their own exchanges, seem to be doing a lot better than the ones relying on the federal site.
For example, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state “have exceeded federal-enrollment targets,” according to an article in The Seattle Times. Here in North Carolina, however, and in other states where our New Republican Overlords have decided to do prove that Obamacare won’t work by doing everything in their power to make it not work, we’re stuck with the federal site.
So since the ACA is the law, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, maybe we should be hoping for it to be fixed rather than cheerleading for failure. Or better yet, maybe the GOP-controlled state government could make itself look good by setting up our own successful exchange. They could even sigh in exasperation like an irritated tech support guy and say, ‘Here, get out of the way and let me do it.”

But that would mean trying to fix problems with the law rather than create them.