Saturday, September 05, 2009


I’m reminded of Mencken’s sound description of the typical politician:
He is a man who has lied and dissembled, and a man who has crawled. He knows the taste of boot-polish. He has suffered kicks in the tonneau of his pantaloons. He has taken orders from his superiors in knavery and he has wooed and flattered his inferiors in sense. His public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretences. He is willing to embrace any issue, however idiotic, that will get him votes, and he is willing to sacrifice any principle, however sound, that will lose them for him. I do not describe the democratic politician at his inordinate worst; I describe him as he is encountered in the full sunshine of normalcy. He may be, on the one hand, a cross-roads idler striving to get into the State Legislature by grace of the local mortgage-sharks and evangelical clergy, or he may be, on the other, the President of the United States. It is almost an axiom that no man may make a career in politics in the Republic without stooping to such ignobility: it is as necessary as a loud voice. Now and then, to be sure, a man of sounder self-respect may make a beginning, but he seldom gets very far. Those who survive are nearly all tarred, soon or late, with the same stick. They are men who, at some time or other, have compromised with their honour, either by swallowing their convictions or by whooping for what they believe to be untrue. They are in the position of the chorus girl who, in order to get her humble job, has had to admit the manager to her person. And the old birds among them, like chorus girls of long experience come to regard the business resignedly and even complacently. It is the price that a man who loves the clapper-clawing of the vulgar must pay for it under the democratic system. He becomes a coward and a trimmer ex-officio. Where his dignity was in the days of his innocence there is now only a vacuum in the wastes of his subconscious. Vanity remains to him, but not pride.
From H.L. Mencken, A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995), pp. 31-32.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Earplugs anyone? On Tuesday, President Obama is taking his propaganda drive to the nation’s schools. A historical first will be the President addressing all of the nation’s pubic school children at once in a televised address. For this time period he will be educator- and- parent- in- chief. And this is just his warmup for another one of his pedantic addresses to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. If you can fool the kids on Tuesday, fooling the bozos on Wednesday should be a piece of cake. What exactly is the point of his pretension to lecture to children and Congresscritters? CBS reports that as of August, Obama has given over 200 speeches in 240 days. Obama’s teleprompter has become an integral part of the administration; on occasions when it has failed, Obama has become almost speechless.
It becomes more obvious each day that Obama’s presidency is about speeches and recreational diversions, not performance or accomplishment. Every problem demands an eloquent speech to slip past the glaring flaws and incompetence of the policies he proposes. Speechifying, or I prefer the old term for political speeches, ‘bloviating,’ is what Obama does best; it won him the Presidency. Unfortunately, he apparently has nothing better to do that what he does best.
The kiddie speech will only cost the children a couple hours of lost class time, which I am sure they will enjoy as goof-off time, but, of course, I wonder how much money this will cost cash strapped schools nationwide? The Wednesday prime time bloviation to Congress, hereinafter referred to as Congresscritters, will cost the TV networks $20 million and who knows about the costs to the rest of the economy.
Since this is primarily a propaganda push, I feel that the kiddies and the Congresscritters should be provided with optional earplugs if they think they have heard ‘it’ all before. Because eloquence, exploited by a master, trumps reason, I think the captive audiences need a fighting chance to hold on to their sanity with ear plugs that allow them to just ‘space out.’ Think of Odysseus, in Homer’s classic Greek epic, who ties himself to the mast of his ship to prevent his succumbing to the sweet song of the Sirens inducing him to jump overboard. The kiddies are at a disadvantage because after this first ever Presidential intrusion into the classroom, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education are providing teachers with a followup ‘study guide’ that contains assignments like "Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of Congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?" or "What are your three favorite words" of the President? And my personal favorite, "Teachers can extend the learning process by having students … write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the President. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."
I may be paranoid but do I also detect a bit of paranoia in Obama’s concern about fractious citizens (called mobs) at Town hall Meetings and Tea Parties who will not listen to their Leader? Could this be his motivation to reach out to the children thus bypassing the adult population? The teacher’s guide, of course, does not have the companion question, "Why is it important for our elected officials to listen to us?" This is not a question that seems to occur to our rulers in Imperial Washington.
On Tuesday Obama attempts to imprint on the gullible minds of the kiddies, but on Wednesday he speaks to ossified brains of the Congresscritters who will be parsing every word of his speech trying to determine how they can personally gain or, at least, divert some funds to their home districts. Their pre-programmed minds will be asking ‘Where’s the pork?" rather than asking what do their constituents want or what’s good of their country. This week’s Rasmussen opinion poll found that 57% of Americans believe that 100% of Congresscritters should be replaced. Also, 42% of Americans say names selected at random from the local phone book could walk the political path between common sense and insanity better than the Congresscritters and our current leader. Earplugs are called for. Odysseus could have used them against the seductive song of the Sirens. Many shoppers and drivers (even those on riding mowers ) have already opted to stop up their ears with music or to talk on a cell phone rather than hear the chatter of the outside world. Is there no Constitutional right for citizens to have earplugs to stop the drone of politicians, especially Obama?