Did you hear that Dick Cheney has no pulse?
I'm not kidding about that, actually. That's not some sort of clever metaphor, or a literary device for making a political point by using a pithy (or so the writer might wish) little turn of phrase.
It's actually the spot-on truth. The guy's heart is so deteriorated that doctors have installed a mechanical pumping device in his chest to keep his blood circulating. The flow is now constant, rather than pumped the old-fashioned way, and so ol' Dick literally no longer has a pulse.
Ready now for the clever literary device? How "bout this: "Well, duh!" Heartless Dick Cheney. The guy with no pulse. The Snarler-In-Chief with the mechanical heart. Talk about your proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel. These are swimming in a baggie. For any pundit this side of comatose it's like wielding a Sherman Tank to hit that target.
The truth is that it's quite the commentary about our time that a heartless Dick Cheney is no news at all. If you've missed that one somewhere along the way, you've probably more or less missed all of the last decade. Which may of course be a good thing, but that's another a subject for another essay.
More to the point, it's been a week or two like that. Lots of big news stories. Na lot of actual newness in them.
For instance, John Boehner cried. Again. This time when he got installed as Speaker of the House.
So, hey, there's a genuine news flash, no? Unlike Heartless Dick, here's a powerful Republican who is a true emotional fellow. Filled with compassion. A real feel-your-pain guy. An actual non-sociopathic politician. Right?
Well, hang on a sec. Have you noticed that he always seems to be crying about, well, himself. It's always all about John Boehner and his personal life saga. That's just a bit creepy, isn't it? I mean, he's not out there crying about the million or so (we don't know, "cause we can't be bothered counting) Iraqis he helped to murder, is he? He's not breaking up thinking about the 15 million American children -" one out of every five in the country -" now living in poverty, in no small part due to his politics and his policies, is he? I haven't once seen him reduced to tears at the prospect of the environmental wreckage he and his party are creating for generations to come, have you?
No. Instead, he seems to choke up about how he's overcome enormous adversity in his life. Oh, okay, well that makes more sense then. "Cause you know he had polio when he was a child. And he was kicked around from foster home to foster home. And he was so emaciated from lack of food when he came out of the poorhouse that he weighed under 100 pounds and would have been hospitalized but he was too poor to receive medical treatment. Then he got cancer of the whole body. Oh, and, try as he might -" over and over again -" he could never get the kids in his junior high to pronounce his name "Bayner". They always called him "Boner" instead.
As it turns out, only one of those things is likely to have been true, which makes Speaker John's self-referential weepy act the scary height of narcissism. But at least now we're getting somewhere. So he worked as a busboy or a deliveryman and put himself through school. So what? Lots of us did, and we don't walk around publically crying about it. Most of us don't even cry about it at home. One senses that there's a lot going on there bubbling inside Mr. Boehner from Ohio, and not very far below the surface either.
Boehner's cryfest was in the news, but is it news? Let's see here. A narcissistic, insecure, right-wing politician so self-absorbed that all his attention is focused on what his political victory means for himself, not for the country? Gee, go figure. That hardly sounds familiar...
There's more big news from the Republicans as well, besides just personalities. Both on the procedural front and the substantive, they're really creating some news. You see, back in the bad old days, they were just outrageous hypocrites. But now, they've changed entirely. Now they're obscenely outrageous hypocrites. Back before they election, they promised to slash $100 billion from spending next year, but for some odd reason they would never say how. Now it's $30 billion and falling fast. Just a matter of weeks ago, they were promising that they were going to run the House of Representatives in an entirely new fashion, all full of openness and debate, and access for minority party legislators. As soon as they got their hands on the gavel, however, they somehow decided that stuff like committee hearings, debate time or amendment opportunities were not so important after all, especially on such small-ticket items like rescinding the president's health care bill. You can understand that. You can also understand why pulling a stunt like reading the Constitution on the floor of the House and leaving out certain parts also might not exactly qualify as new behavior if you've been following Republicans for, oh, about forty or fifty years now.
Another big news item was the Speaker's complete dismissal of the Congressional Budget Office's cost estimation for rescinding the health care bill. The CBO, which is (or, at least, always was) widely regarded as a neutral, fair and nonpartisan research and analysis shop that serves Congress by generating cost estimates of legislative proposals, has stated that if the Republicans get their way, killing the bill will add $230 billion to federal debt over the next ten years. Boehner simultaneously destroyed another American institution of governance, plus even the slightest commitment to truth in American political discourse, and any seriousness with regard to Republican aspirations to cut deficits, all in one fell swoop, saying that "CBO is entitled to their opinion" -" as if his and theirs were equally analytically sound, equally politically dispassionate, and equally valid.
Big news, eh?! Yeah. But only if you've been in a deep-sea submersible craft underneath Antarctica for decades, and as recently as the last couple of weeks. For that's when the fiscally responsible and very grown-up Republicans last added hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt by demanding and obtaining massive tax giveaways for the wealthiest Americans. If hypocrisy among Republicans was really new, there sure would have been lots of news lately. As is the case for flying pigs, however, that "if' turns out to be a rather large qualifier indeed.
Over on the other side of the fence (which is not really the other side of anything at all) there's been lots of news without news as well. Big Bad Barack is kicking some butt and cleaning house inside his administration. No more will he be advised and served by the likes of Chicago-Wall-Street-Clinton-administration-hack Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual. No sirree. Now it will be somebody completely different. Now he's got Chicago-Wall-Street-Clinton-administration-hack William Daley in there instead. Big change, man! I mean, one guy's named Rahm and the other's called Bill, for chrissakes! These guys aren't fooling around when it comes to redirecting the course of the administration. This is change you can believe in!
Same deal on the economic front. Turns out that having a guy in the White House as chief economic advisor who was part of the Clinton Era team whose policies helped wreck the current economy, who was deeply connected to Goldman Sachs, and who has essentially the same approach to economic policy as, say, oh, the Chamber of Commerce, was a really bad idea for the Obama White House. That's why Larry Summers is now gone, baby. They're turning over a new leaf. So the new guy was also part of the Clinton Era team whose policies helped wreck the current economy, was deeply connected to Goldman Sachs, and has essentially the same approach to economic policy as, say, oh, the Chamber of Commerce. So what? His name's Gene Sperling! Completely different animal!
And speaking of something really new and different, it appears that Democrats are now fighting mad about Republican transgressions, and ready to dig in and battle against them down to the last barricade. Now, that is, um, er, that the election is over. You know, the one where they forgot to fight against the Republicans and therefore got their clocks cleaned. That one. But that was a whole month or two ago. They're serious now. So much so that I'm getting email from one Jen O'Malley Dillon (easy on the Irish thing there, girl!), complete with the fancy new Democratic Party logo (which looks suspiciously like a target), saying, "David, This is a critical moment for Democrats -" and we need your support. In the wake of the fall elections, all the progress we've made with President Obama over the course of the past two years is hanging in the balance. The Republicans are working to repeal everything we've done -" starting with health reform. We're ready to fight back and defend our accomplishments, but we can't do it without your commitment." (I'm not positive, but I think she wants my money.)
Oh! Be still my heart! Fighting Democrats! Obama's "progress"! An appeal for me to give them cash! How exhilarating! How novel! Odd, though, isn't it, how much what President Obama has "accomplished' over the last two years is reminiscent of the very same kind of policies his predecessor stood for? And especially odd, is it not, that the Democrats almost seemed like they wanted to lose the last election, back when they actually had the power to govern, but now they're all full of piss and vinegar when they don't? If I were a very cynical Martian, come here to observe the nature of American politics, I might have to conclude that it's actually all just another Smigerga Bagba! (That's Martian for a political system in which a single corporately-owned party is divided into a red team and a blue team purely for public relations purposes, each pretending to fight against the evil bad guys on the other side of the aisle as a distraction to keep the voters from seeing the true nature of their joint predatory politics.) Fortunately, however, I am not a cynical Martian. Well, at least, I'm not Martian.
Here's some more news that isn't. This week a presidential commission investigating last year's Gulf of Mexico oil blowout determined that the corporations running the well -" jes' friendly folks in the neighborhood like BP and Halliburton -" cheaped out everywhere imaginable, in the blind pursuit of profit, when it came to equipment and testing -" and this led to catastrophe. The report concluded that many of these behaviors are industry-wide in scope, not just the aberrations of a few rogue pirates. Talk about news that isn't new. Corporate recklessness in the pursuit of a fast buck -" wow, whodathunkit??
Amazingly, in a "culture' which seems altogether, and even resolutely, impervious to learning, we actually had figured this stuff out once before in our history. That's where the concept of government regulatory agencies came from. And what a concept it is. Or was. Before we dismantled them in the name of private sector profiteering. And thus, just like clockwork, comes the news that isn't, also contained in the report, that the Minerals Management Service and other regulatory bodies were not quite doing their job. Of course, given that they thought that their job was to serve the corporados, rather than policing them, maybe they did think they were doing their job after all. In any case, you could spend the better part of a lifetime trying to find some new news in that particular revelation, pal.
Maybe my favorite non-news item of late, however, was the breaking story that revealed once again the sheer cynicism and deceit in how American foreign policy is practiced. As the New York Times reported, "Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism... At the behest of a host of companies -" from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation's largest banks -" a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory... Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley's gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran's Olympic athletes."
How about being some 17 year-old kid sent off to Iran in America's next Middle Eastern war based on lies, there to get ground up into hamburger meat by the machine of lies that publicly rants about "Axis of Evil" this, or"nuclear threat" that, while privately facilitating chewing gum and hot sauce profits for the connected set? Big news, eh? Well, yeah. If you don't know about how this happens all the time. How Reagan sold missiles to the evil Iranians, and how Republicans covered for Mean Mr. Saddam back when he was one of our local puppet tyrants. Then it's news.
As we go to press, yet another sad story is emerging. Looks like an assassination attempt on Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Federal Justice John Roll, who had been involved in immigration cases. They and a dozen others were apparently shot up by a punk named Jared Lee Loughner. Big surprise in a country that insists on arming itself to the teeth. And, ever notice how many folks who commit heinous crimes and/or are executed in state penitentiaries have Lee for a middle name? Gee, what does that tell you?
Sarah Palin immediately scrambled to undo her website, which had not long ago listed Giffords as one of the top "targets" in the midterm elections. Back then, Giffords had complained on MSNBC that, "we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. And when people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action."
Once again, it's big news when this sort of thing happens. But only if you happened to have missed what Palin and others of her ilk told their followers just a few months ago. You know, stuff like, "Don't retreat, reload". Or, time for "Second Amendment Solutions". Etc.
What a shock it is, then, when that's just what those followers do.