Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apocalypse Now!

Anybody who thinks living in the desert is boring needs to come and visit when we are having one of our crazy weather weeks, like we are now. It's true during the overwhelming majority of the year our weather is consistent to the point of being boring - for long periods of time we are saddled with blue, cloudless skies, warm-to-hot temperatures and a delightfully dry climate. It's during the summer monsoon season and in the current mid-winter rainy spell when our Chamber-of-Commerce weather takes a hike and we get something completely different.

You need to remember this is a place where even a 30% chance of getting less than a tenth of an inch of rain gets everyone really excited and giddy with anticipation. So when the Rain Gods decide to bestow copious quantities of their liquid blessings on us - presumably to make up for denying us even a trace of precious moisture for as long as 180 consecutive days - it is a big, big deal. The local news media have gone into full-on apocalypse mode and the weather service has been issuing flash-flood warnings every five minutes. The weather people are all over TV predicting a possibility of getting half a year's worth of rain this week alone, and they are fairly squealing with delight and shivering with apprehension at the same time. Good times!

So while we are preoccupied with actually getting wet when we take a step outside, there has been a lot of craziness going on in the real world. The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti continues to loom large and ugly before the world, as rescue and relief agencies scramble in a desperate attempt to contain the terrible humanitarian disaster. Luckily we are not in the middle of hurricane season, because I could not imagine what would happen if a major hurricane started to bear down on that most unlucky place.

But another earthquake, this one of a political nature, happened on Tuesday when Republican Scott Brown scored an unexpected victory in a race to fill the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Such a victory was pretty much ruled out as wildly impossible just a few short weeks ago, when Democrat Martha Coakley had a double-digit lead in the polls which was regarded as insurmountable. So she decided to take an extended Christmas vacation while her opponent tirelessly worked the campaign trail. That may turn out to be the most expensive Christmas vacation ever for the Democrats, because Brown's election shattered the Democrats' sixty-seat supermajority in the Senate, giving the Republicans carte blanche to filibuster everything except the brand of toilet tissue used in the Senate rest rooms.

And filibuster they shall, with Obama's centerpiece health care reform legislation as target numero uno. How incredibly sad for this country that the one, best chance we had at fixing the horrendously broken health care system pivoted on this one election. The Republicans are almost delirious with joy and are making no attempt at all to conceal their glee at this major setback. Not only is losing the seat extremely painful for the Democrats, but particularly galling is the irony that it is Ted Kennedy's seat, who was the main champion of health care reform for most of his career. Blame is being flung far and wide, although most pundits agree that a deeply incompetent, totally mismanaged campaign by Coakley was the main cause of the failure. This is very very bad news for Democrats.

Brown's victory is bad enough, but today it was announced that the Supreme Court ruled that corporations should be able to spend money in political campaigns. Let's review, shall we: Our electoral system is already choked and corrupted beyond measure by corporate lobbyists of all types, and we all realize that's a big problem. So what should we do? Oh, I know, said the Supreme Court: Let's open up the wonderful world of campaign spending to the big corporations and allow them even more latitude to influence and corrupt the elections, large and small, in this country. Freedom of speech issue, said the Supremes. Hey, news flash, you crotchety old farts: People have freedom of speech, corporations don't. What is so hard about that? Corporations aren't people, and they should not be afforded freedom of speech protection. One needs only to view one of the slanted, ridiculous ads for something called "Clean Coal" - a complete contradiction if there ever was one - to get some idea of the heights of idiocy this will lead to.

Had enough depressing news? Let's wallow in a little more, and take a look at the strange case of John Edwards. Former Senator and presidential hopeful, Edwards was regarded as a rising Democratic star with a long, bright future in front of him until he decided to cheat on his cancer-striken wife and have an affair with a filmmaker. When word of the affair was leaked, Edwards got on every media outlet he could and denied, denied and denied some more. When rumors started spreading about him fathering a child with his mistress, Edwards donned the cloak of Righteous Indignation and proclaimed far and wide across the land that the story was utterly and completely free of merit. Today, he backtracked on all that and admitted yes indeed, everything was true. Apparently the upcoming tell-all book by a former campaign aide which will assert that Edwards offered to pay hush money for the rest of his life if he assumed paternity of the child in question (which he did) prompted Edwards to 'fess up to his tacky indiscretion.

I think the part that bothers people, including me, the most is the ease and facility with which Edwards deliberately and with all premeditation lied to the entire country repeatedly by denying something he knew full well had happened. This is why people have no respect for politicians nowadays, because they prove themselves to be compulsive, adroit and inveterate liars over and over again, until they are backed up against the wall and have no choice but to admit their sins. How extremely sad we have people of such dismally low morals in high public places.

And the rain keeps falling outside on the dry dusty desert, from a featureless gray sky, trying but not quite able to wash away our sins.

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