Friday, February 10, 2006

Beware! Mudslides!

Hey, 'dja hear the one about the 24-year-old presidential appointee to a premier national scientific institute? An appointee with no scientific background? The one with, in fact, no educational credentials whatsoever, who claimed to be a journalist but who actually lied about having any college degree? You know, the one appointed to squelch scientific content coming out of NASA that he felt was inconvenient to the President's views? Did you hear about his resignation?

Yeah, that's a good one.

About as good as the recently-announced plan of that same appointing president to increase our nation's educational focus on science and math. Now there's a credible initiative. What kind of stewardship of education generally, and scientific education specifically, are we to expect from a group who neither esteems nor understands science? I would argue that they don't even understand education as something separate from indoctrination.

I'd have a lot less footing for this little tirade against his appointees if this particular appointment were a statistical aberration. If only. (Thanks to Kate for the link.) Or here. Or here.

Now be honest. What was your first thought when this president makes a speech about having thwarted a terror plot, and chooses to make such a speech at just the moment when congressional hearings are going on about the legality of his secret surveillance programs? Was it gratefulness that he's doing his job? Was it a sense of relief that we're being looked out for in ways that we're not even aware of? If so, I envy your peace of mind.

I'll tell you what I think. I think we are being lied to. Again. I think I'm being fed a fantastically-spun line of horseshit, a little kernel of classified information spun up into a fully-functional terrorist cabal. I'm witnessing a cynical attempt at damage control, a game played with the highest stakes, and with us as pawns. That's what I thought then, what I still think. It has become a predictable pattern: when things are going badly for this administration in the press, there is a sudden discovery of an imminent threat, or an old one is recycled--maybe a secret one!--or there is some similar event which dangles average Americans' safety front and center. The terror alert leaps up to a more lurid color. Nothing upstages like terror.

Never mind that this now-four-year old "plot" has no particular relevance at this point in time, and that the wiretapping the President approved--and the legality of which is under such scrutiny now--is not pertinent to this plot or its "discovery" and thwarting (and so this event cannot be used as the smoking-gun justification for the program in question). We honestly do have to be alert to people we know are trying to hurt us. But I cannot imagine a lower thing than to use this anxiety as a political prybar.

This is all so infuriating that I feel like I'll have some kind of seizure. How are even a paltry 40% of the population thinking we're on the right track? Do we blame it on second hand crack pipe smoke? All I see is dishonesty and slimy dealings that have become the standard operating procedures of this administration, and a man standing before us once again telling us that we are just barely hanging onto our safety because of his actions. Unfortunately, not only does that claim ring rather false after so many iterations--his actions have arguably made us all considerably less safe--but this time the claim is being tasked with squelching more than serious charges of illegal intelligence gathering. What's next? I guess we could always raise the threat level another notch.

Here's a darker suggestion to ponder. I've heard what I dismissed as hysterical claims that the administration would be willing to stage the terror attacks itself, if necessary, to keep its programs underway. I have always concluded that such thinking was absurd. But now... I begin to wonder. What evidence have we seen that the administration will take a high road or will stop short of crossing any given line? And that almost makes me sick to my stomach.


Dzesika said...

Um yes. And this is one big reason why I live in another country.

(And I know that's just dodging something extremely big and scary with some lame humour. But what else can we do?)

wunelle said...

What else can we do? Indeed. But that's what's so depressing. I think I'm well able to accept the outcome of a notoriously messy democratic process, but I just don't believe that We The People really signed up for this. And if we did, it means rewriting my whole opinion of popular democracy or accepting that my judgment of events and personalities is sadly wrong.

How are there not massive, brick-throwing protests? Where is the outrage that impeached a president for an extra-marital dalliance when we now find ourselves faced with an aggressive pre-emptive war, unprecedented budgetary woes, rampant cronyism, secrecy and divisive political wrangling and spin in the extreme?


Kate said...

I can't go as far as your last paragraph but to the rest...word. The thing I used to laugh about is the bumper stickers that say, "If you are not outraged, then you are not paying attention". I can finally relate to those.

As far as the appointee's, some think it's incompetance as an attempt to break down the agencies that they are so opposed to. FEMA being the most public (at this time) example of this.

Congress needs to be doing its job of providing oversight.

Kate said...

That was garbled. Sorry, I got distracted.

wunelle said...

Yeah, I'm not laying down money on my last paragraph either. I throw that out there not as a conviction but as an indicator of how bad things are that I'm able even to contemplate such a thing.

As ever, it's one of the oddities of the situation that I'd be happy--relieved, really--to be shown that I'm a left-footed fool and that my take on all this is wrong; that would be much kinder on the country and its citizens than to be under the knife of such a group as I'm afraid they are.

But while I'm a liberal on social issues, I don't believe my underlying motivation is merely political opposition to him. I could certainly find a bit of that too, but I neither identify myself as a Democrat (though I suppose in practice I am) nor am I immune to a well-wrought argument on either side.

It's not the Republicanism. It's the wrongness of so many actions and policies.

Kate said...

Well as it said in the Carpetbagger Report, a lot of this is all under the radar. We wouldn't know how they were dismantling FEMA if it weren't for Katrina. Unfortunately we may not pay attention to any of this stuff until it's too late. We meaning the American public in general.

I'll admit that I'm partisan but I'm not blinded by it. I'll choose ethics over party anyday.

Mandy said...

It's interesting and frustrating being an American overseas, and being faced with a lot of people who ask me, essentially "what the hell is wrong with you people?" Well, that's a good question. I have tried to explain that there are a lot of people at home, including me, who are outraged and disgusted by this Administration's grossly overdeveloped sense of entitlement. But much as exported TV and movies would have you think that we all live in mansions and drive BMWs, a lot of exported news would have you think that we're all flag-waiving, true-believing Bush supporters, when that doesn't describe the majority of the country.

I love my country, I really do. I think it can be a tremendous force for good in the world, but I think that this Administration has completely abdicated this responsibility and is pursuing a single-minded, selfish, corrupt, and disastrous course of events that have already hurt us more than many of us know. If I didn't love my country, I wouldn't give a crap about seeing it do so much that is fundamentally wrong.

Their cynical decision to parade some kind of national security crisis, past or present, as an example of why they are entitled to be above the law is sickening. Their insistence on boosting defense spending all out of proportion while continuing to cut social programs is unconscionable. To quote a movie, I don't understand people who claim to love America but clearly don't care about Americans. They are putting us in harm's way, and doing nothing but trying to find someone else to blame when the shit hits the fan.

Mandy said...

Oh, and I really do know the difference between "wave" and "waive". I just got too worked up to pay attention to my spelling...

Kate said...

Mandy brought up a good point about how we are perceived by the rest of the world because of our major export, 'entertainment'. I cringe when I think of all the countries that they beam Jerry Springer into.

wunelle said...

I think it's an incredibly good question to ask WHY we are so hated in so many places. There seems to be a prevailing tendency in our current government to reject this question as soft or somehow delegating to foreign people the governance of our country. But that's hogwash. People's reasons don't make them right or their actions against us justified; but we will make no progress if we do not seek to UNDERSTAND. And in the case of our traditional allies, I think we are wrong to have done so little to consult with them and / or include them in our foreign policy. A great talents of a leader is not to do everything themselves, but to consult and delegate and LEAD.

And again, I think education is the solution to so many problems. We cannot fight mythology with another myth.

Much more to say, but I must fly.

Anonymous said...

As appalling as the behavoir of the Bush administration is, I am equally dismayed by the amount of blind support for it given by so many people. It is not surprising that the administration keeps it up when all of this crap is so readily lapped up by the core Republican base.

Education does seem to be the answer, but I don't hold out much hope that the ranks of critical thinkers will swell much any time soon. There seems to be less and less interest in doing the hard work of actually thinking about anything that can't be summarized in a sound bite.

All I can hope is that enough people are fed up with all of the antics of this administration that we can kiss the whole lot of them good-bye when this term is done.