Cliff Diving

Oh, what an exciting [yawn] few days it’s been, as first, the House diss’d John Boehner’s symbolic Grand Bargain vote, refused to discuss any deal and went home; then the President went on Meet the Press and told the world the Pubs were holding us all hostage [they were!] and pissed everyone off, so they all came back to the Hill to yell at one another.

Next, the Prez went back on television and announced that everyone was closer to a deal, smirking just a tad as he poked at the Pubs [he really did!] and put such a crimp in the Baggers sensibilities that the Senate vote that passed fell flat as the goad to the House, Baggers putting their fingers in their ears and chanting, “Lalalalala.” [Just kidding -- you thought it was possible though, didn't you?]

As HuffPost Hill had to say:

    Senate Republicans voted to raise taxes on most American households and added trillions to the deficit, proving they truly are the party of Reagan. Now it’s up to the House to win one for the Gipper.

And darned if they didn’t. Eric Cantor [in what I think is a double-down bid for Boehner's job as speaker, the vote is Thursday when a NEW Congress is sworn in and let's hope it's better than the last!] railed against the “deal,” voted against it and won points with the Baggers but to no avail. It’s all too late now.

I have mixed emotions. Me, I’d have been pleased to go over this cliff because the Prez .. yet again … caved at the last minute to get this bargain and, although the deal itself is bad [you realize it was ALWAYS going to be dreadful, no matter how good it was, right????] it wasn’t as bad as it might have been [they got Social Security off the table] although, as usual, we blinked first in raising the $250,000 threshold. Bad Biden! Bad! {{sigh}}

I’ve been schizophrenic about this, anyhow. Yes, we needed to keep the discretionary funding [3-5% that keeps environmental and nature organizations, veterans benefits and unemployment payments, education and nutrition delivery, all kinds of government pledges and programs going] in the worst damn way AND we needed to prove to the world that we’re more stable than we appear, which all begs an agreement …

BUT…

changing the numbers on taxation from $250,000 to $400,000, allowing the ‘death’ tax to only jump a bit instead of a bunch and making these changes permanent, does not raise enough revenue to get closer to those numbers we seem determined to meet … which means the money will have to come out of spending and that always hurts the weakest of our citizens. Pub pundits are already saying they’ve done their part, now it’s all about entitlement reform.

As well, the boons the left has made — unemployment renewal, etc — are temporary and we’ve only begun the process, kicking the can on the other aspects of budget down the road two months … which means that rather than begin gun control or immigration legislation, we’ll be tied up with this fiscal nonsense again.

Bottom line? Labor is always the target, the little people picking up the pricetag for the well-heeled. That simply HAS to stop. And if we solidly win an election, have public opinion on our side and every advantage and STILL can’t get a fair bill through Congress, what will happen in a few months when the “political capital” is used up? Those who think we still need some kind of bi-partisan agreement — including the Prez, in my estimation — have NOT been paying attention to the ideology of those making movement impossible.

This is … always was … an assault on entitlements. The Pubs really don’t care if they self-destruct in their attempt to turn back the clock. They’re Kamikaze’s and public welfare is in their cross hairs.

Open the links for the reads, good ones including Reich and Krugman. At minimum, read the Levin piece, it’s ‘different’ … echoes with that new energy, new conversation we must accustom ourselves to.

The bigger picture? Government function is at an impasse, barely operating. It’s time we had a MUCH bigger conversation about how all this works and we’d better get to it quickly. We got high-toned moral apoplexy about earmarks (thanks, John McCain!) which removed the traditional carrot/stick trade-offs that greased the skids of political cooperation — we gerrymandered ourselves into quicksand, making the House almost impossible to move out of Pub hands — and, as John Friedman wrote for Huffy, regarding this cliff smack down:

    We’re so busy expressing outrage and pointing fingers that we are not accepting responsibility for our own part in reelecting the same fiscal-cliff-creating, legislation-stalling, economy-risking people that we gave the lowest approval rate in history.

The first read below is from Marianne Williamson about spiritualizing our political stand in the coming months; something we Waver’s are very comfortable with. It is specific to women — but if we understand the Goddess function of this time frame, it’s for ALL of us. The second article is a 2012 wrap up from the Washington Post — a fun read, a grand tour through one of the most absurd, delusional and frustrating political years in recent history.

Still, even facing all this mess and mayhem, this is going to be a productive year, can you feel it? Not politics as usual [whatever that means, anymore] but perhaps politics with some actual meaning, from personal to panoramic and back again! Politics that expands our vision and moves us through our hearts and into a brighter future.

Happy New Year to each of you dearhearts!

From me to you, hang in there — the best is yet to come!

Jude

Welcome to the Fiscal Blip. Demand More in 2013
Adam Levin, HuffPo
12/31/2012

Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Cliff
Robert Reich, his blog
Monday, December 31, 2012

Perspective on the Deal
Paul Krugman, The Conscious of a Liberal blog — NYT
01/01/13

Democrats’ Cliff Compromise Is Bad; But the Strategic Consequences Are Disastrous
Noam Scheiber, The New Republic
December 31, 2012

Reject the Deal
Jeffrey Sachs, HuffPo
01/01/2013

Fiscal cliff deal first day of Biden presidency
Presidents Obama’s effort to sabotage his own last-minute deal with the Senate reveals who is the real adult in the White House.
Jonah Goldberg, USA Today
January 1, 2013

SISTER GIANT: Women, Non-Violence and Birthing A New American Politics
Marianne Williamson, her blog
October 20, 2012

America keeps trying to fix itself by moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. Clearly this isn’t working, and people in the consciousness movement have some important clues why — and what to do about it.

People involved in the inner journey discover the value of the feminine, or spiritually receptive and inclusive, aspect of human consciousness. Everyone archetypally is a parent to future generations. And a motherly love – putting the care of children before every other consideration — is the ultimate intelligence of nature. Yes, women are homemakers — and the entire earth is our home. Yes, we are here to take care of the children — and every child in the world is one of our own. We have evolved to a point to be ready to say these things, in a meaningful way and with a collective voice. Making money more important than your own children is a pathological way for an individual to run their affairs, and it’s a pathological way for a society to run its affairs.

But people often say to me, “I don’t want to get involved with politics because it makes me upset. What am I supposed to do with the anger, the rage, the cynicism?”

Well, I know what we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t use our own upset as an excuse for not helping. We shouldn’t come up with a pseudo-spiritual excuse for turning away from the pain of the world. There is nothing spiritual about complacency.

These are very serious times, and serious people need to be doing some serious thinking. The last thing we should do is allow ourselves to be infantalized by a counterfeit version of enlightenment. No true search for enlightenment ignores the suffering of other sentient beings. Ever.

Albert Einstein said we would not solve the problems of the world at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. We need more than a new politics; we need a new worldview. We need a fundamentally different bottom line. We need to shift from an economic to a humanitarian organizing principle for human civilization. And women, en masse, should be saying so.

The US incarcerates more of its people than any nation in the world, or any nation in history. Our military budget is almost twice that of all other nations of the world combined. At 23.1 per cent, our child poverty rate is so high that it is second only to Romania among the 35 developed nations of the world. 17,000 children on earth die of starvation every single day. We are the only species systematically destroying its own habitat. And two billion people – almost a third of the world’s population – live on less than 2 dollars a day. There’s a lot more to those statistics than a simple “To Do” list can fix. Those facts will only change when we bring to our problem-solving a far more committed heart.

Currently, the U.S. Congress is comprised of 16.8 per cent women. Our State legislatures are comprised of 23.6 per cent women. Would our legislative priorities be what they are today – tending always in the direction of serving those with economic leverage first — were those legislative bodies anywhere near gender equal? Would the “war on women” exist as it does now? Would child poverty – or poverty, period – be given such short shrift? I like to think not.

Yet there are understandable reasons for the lack of female participation in our electoral politics, not the least of which is that the entire political system is contrary to everything a feminine heart stands for. It lacks inclusion. It lacks poetry. It doesn’t nurture. It doesn’t love. And without those things, the feminine psyche disconnects.

Where does that leave us though, if we simply shudder at the thought of politics and then ignore it altogether? Talk about being co-opted by a patriarchal system! We will have gone from men telling us condescendingly to not bother our pretty little heads about important things like politics, to not bothering our pretty little heads without even being told not to! The suffragettes struggled and suffered so much on our behalf; what a travesty of everything they stood for, if we simply look away as though we can’t be bothered.

And yet we should be bothered. Our challenge is to not look away, but rather to transform the field; to create a new political conversation, our own conversation, out of which we can speak our truth in our own way.

My hope and intention is that Sister Giant will be an incubator for the emergence of that new field of political possibility, entailing a new conversation about America and a serious sense of sisterhood. It will cover everything from psychological and emotional issues to a spiritual perspective on politics, to actually training women how to run for office. I want to be a cheerleader for women who have never considered running for office or being involved in a campaign, but who in the quietness of their hearts might think, “Why not me?”

As we awaken individually, we will act more powerfully collectively; legislation and political campaigns will embody a new kind of thinking only if we engage en masse. In the absence of our engaging the political system, we allow it to become something other than what we are. That in fact is what has happened, but it’s also what we can change. For what we engage, we transform. And what we engage with our hearts is transformed forever.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the desegregation of the American South was the political externalization of the goal of the Civil Rights movement, but that the ultimate goal was the establishment of the beloved community. He said it was time to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of human civilization. He wasn’t called a New Age nutcase or considered an intellectual lightweight for saying such things, and neither should we be. I don’t think making love the new bottom line is naïve; I believe that thinking we can survive the next hundred years doing anything less, is naïve. Sister Giant is a place for anyone who agrees with that – male or female, from the political Left, the political Right or the political Center. It will, I hope, contribute to a new conversation, a new America and a new world. ++

Sister Giant

Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2012
1/01/13
Dave Barry, WaPo

It was a cruel, cruel year — a year that kept raising our hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on the interstate.

Example: This year the “reality” show “Jersey Shore,” which for six hideous seasons has been a compelling argument in favor of a major Earth-asteroid collision, finally got canceled, and we dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, as a society, were becoming slightly less stupid.

But then, WHAP, we were slapped in our national face by the cold hard frozen mackerel of reality in the form of the hugely popular new “reality” show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which, in terms of intellectual content, makes “Jersey Shore” look like “Hamlet.”

Another example: As the year began, the hottest recording artist was the brilliant singer-songwriter Adele, whose popularity made us think that maybe, just maybe, after years of rewarding overhyped auto-tuned dreck, we were finally developing more sophisticated musical tastes, and then …

WHAP, we were assaulted from all sides by the monster megahit video “Gangnam Style,” in which a Korean man prances around a variety of bizarre Korean settings riding an imaginary Korean horse and shouting a song that, except for the words “Eh, sexy lady,” is entirely in Korean.

It was that kind of year. Remember back in 2011, when the big sex scandal involved Anthony Weiner, the ferret-like congressperson who committed political suicide by tweet? We all thought, “Oh, well, another Washington politician who wants to regulate everything except his own personal ding-dong. At least there are SOME institutions, such as the Secret Service, the CIA and the Army, where males in positions of responsibility can control their …”

WHAP.

Did anything good come out of 2012? Maybe. Just maybe.

Consider: For years now, Washington has been paralyzed by bitterly partisan gridlock, unable and unwilling to act in the face of a looming, potentially disastrous economic crisis. But this year, we, the people, finally did something about it. We went to the polls, and we made our decision. Which is why now, as the year ends, we can look forward to a future in which Washington is …

WHAP.

So, okay, basically we need to forget about 2012 as soon as possible. But just so we can remember exactly what it is we need to forget, let’s pour ourselves a stiff drink and take a look back at the train wreck we’re staggering away from, starting with …

January

… in which President Obama, in the State of the Union address, boldly rebuts critics who charge that his economic policies have been a failure by displaying the scalp of Osama bin Laden, which a White House aide carries in a special briefcase.

Meanwhile the race for the Republican presidential nomination, which began in approximately 2003, continues to be a spicy political gumbo of excitement. The emerging front runner is Mitt Romney, who combines a strong résumé of executive experience with the easygoing natural human warmth of a parking meter. Still in contention, however, is Newt Gingrich, whose popularity surges briefly, only to wane when voters begin to grasp the fact that he is Newt Gingrich. This opens the door for Rick Santorum, whose strong suit is that he has a normal first name, and who apparently at one point was a senator or governor of Pennsylvania or possibly Vermont.

Abroad, an Iranian nuclear scientist is killed in a suspicious bomb blast. Responding to accusations that the United States was behind the killing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declares “we had nothing to do with it,” adding that if any more Iranian nuclear scientists are killed, “we will have had nothing to do with that, either.”

In the new year’s first major disaster, the Mediterranean cruise ship Costa Concordia goes way off course, hits a rock and sinks. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is immediately relieved of command and placed in charge of the Italian economy.

The economic news remains bad in …

February

… as American motorists struggle to afford ever-higher gasoline prices, prompting a pledge from President Obama to do “whatever it takes” to bring relief at the pump, “including killing Osama bin Laden again.” Mitt Romney responds that he, more than any other candidate, understands the consumers’ pain over this issue, since he owns “at least 45 cars.”

In Spain and Greece, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in protest against government-imposed austerity measures necessitated by the fact that for the past five years pretty much nobody in Spain or Greece has done anything except take to the streets in protest.

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan mount after eyewitnesses in Waziristan claim that an unmanned U.S. Predator drone robbed a convenience store. Meanwhile, in what international observers see as a red flag, Iran places an ad on Craigslist stating, “WE PAY CASH FOR NUCLEAR BOMB MATERIALS.”

In sports, a little-known athlete named Jeremy Lin scores numerous points in a professional basketball game despite having graduated from Harvard. Instantly, he becomes a bigger international star than all of the Kardashians combined. His image appears everywhere — on TV, magazine covers, T-shirts, etc. — and for a brief period, he is the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Then, suddenly — Poof! — he vanishes without a trace. Looking back on it, we’re not 100 percent sure that “Jeremy Lin” ever really existed.

In other sports news, Indianapolis, shedding its “hick town” image, shows that it is truly a world-class city as it hosts Super Bowl XLVI, in which the Giants seal a dramatic 21-17 victory when Ahmad Bradshaw, with 57 seconds left, reaches the end zone by vaulting over a cow that wandered onto the field.

Speaking of dramatic, in …

March

… the endless slog for the Republican presidential nomination reaches “Super Tuesday,” with voters going to the polls in 12 states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina, which have already held primaries but can no longer remember whom they voted for. It is now clear that Romney has won the nomination, but Gingrich vows to continue his campaign, lurching gamely onward despite the tranquilizer darts fired into his neck by his own advisers.

In Florida, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin sets off a passionate, weeks-long national debate among politicians, journalists, pundits, talk-show hosts, activists, celebrities, bloggers, anti-gun groups, pro-gun groups, Al Sharpton and millions of ordinary citizens, not a single one of whom knows what actually happened.

In Europe, the economic crisis continues to worsen as the government of Greece, desperate for revenue, is forced to lease the Parthenon to Hooters. Meanwhile Moody’s Investors Service officially downgrades the credit rating of Spain to “putrid” after an audit reveals that the national treasury consists entirely of Groupons.

In the Middle East, tensions rise between the United States and Pakistan after an unmanned Predator drone destroys the only working toilet in Waziristan.

In sports, the National Football League imposes stiff penalties on the New Orleans Saints following the shocking revelation that some Saints players might have deliberately committed acts of violence against opposing players for monetary gain, which is of course totally contrary to the spirit of professional football. Commissioner Roger Goodell states that the NFL is also investigating disturbing allegations that players sometimes deliberately knock their opponents to the ground via a violent tactic known as “tackling.”

The scandals continue in …

April

… when the U.S. Secret Service acknowledges that agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Obama at the Summit of the Americas allegedly engaged in some unauthorized summiting, if you catch our drift. The agents are immediately recalled to the United States and reassigned to former President Clinton.

Abroad, a closely watched attempt by North Korea to test a long-range rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead ends in an embarrassing failure when, moments before the scheduled launch, the rocket is eaten by North Korean citizens.

Meanwhile in Waziristan, tensions continue to mount when an al-Qaeda safe house is destroyed by an unmanned Predator drone missile that apparently gained access by pretending to deliver a pizza.

In finance, Moody’s downgrades Spain’s credit rating from “putrid” to “rancid” when the Spanish government, attempting to write a check, is unable to produce a valid photo ID.

Meanwhile the Greek parliament, meeting in an emergency session on the worsening economic crisis, votes to give heroin a try.

In domestic business news, Facebook, a company with a business model that nobody really understands, spends $1 billion to buy Instagram, another company with a business model that nobody really understands. Since everybody involved is about 19 years old, Wall Street concludes this must be a good idea.

In golf, Bubba Watsonwins a dramatic Masters tournament in a sudden-death playoff when Louis Oosthuizen, attempting a putt on the par-4 10th hole, suddenly dies, thereby incurring a three-stroke penalty. Elsewhere in sports, NFL Commissioner Goodell vows to investigate reports that some members of the New Orleans Saints have, during games, deliberately called opposing players bad names, which Goodell notes “could cause low self-esteem.”

On a sad note, beloved entertainer Dick Clark passes away, although he will continue to host his popular New Year’s Eve special.

Speaking of sad, in …

May

… Newt Gingrich finally suspends his presidential campaign, despite an emotional plea to keep fighting from his base of supporters, namely Mrs. and Mrs. Elrod Pomfurter of Oklahoma City, who, after months of deliberation, had just invested in a bumper sticker.

In other political news, President Obama, who supported same-sex marriage when he ran for the Illinois Senate in 1996 but opposed it when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, clarifies his evolving position, which is that he once again fully supports same-sex marriage, for now.

Mitt Romney reaffirms his long-standing position on the issue, which is that he is in favor of sex during marriage, but only at night.

Voters in the French presidential election, rejecting the austerity program of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, choose, as their new leader, Charlie Sheen. In other European economic crisis news, Greece, seeing a way out of its financial woes, invests all of its remaining money in the initial public offering of Facebook stock, which immediately drops faster than Snooki’s underpants.

In sports, Usain Bolt, running in his final tuneup race before the Olympics, wins the Kentucky Derby.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, having dealt with all of the city’s other concerns — disaster preparation, for example — turns his attention to the lone remaining problem facing New Yorkers: soft drinks. For far too long, these uncontrolled beverages have roamed the city in vicious large-container packs, forcing innocent people to drink them and become obese. Mayor Bloomberg’s plan would prohibit the sale of soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, thereby making it impossible to consume larger quantities, unless of course somebody bought two containers, but the mayor is confident that nobody except him would ever be smart enough to think of that.

Another major health-related story breaks in …

June

… when the U.S. Supreme Court, handing down its much-anticipated ruling on Obamacare, decides by a 5 to 4 vote that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Moments after the decision is announced, the justices discover that, because of a clerical error, the document they have spent the past three months reviewing is actually the transmission-repair manual for a 1997 Hyundai Sonata. By a 9 to 0 vote, they decide to say nothing more about this.

In other domestic news, San Francisco, not wishing to be outdone by New York in the field of caring about the public welfare, bans beverage containers altogether, requiring restaurants to serve soft drinks by pouring them directly into their customers’ mouths.

Abroad, England celebrates the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II with a massive Diamond Jubilee blowout bash lasting several days, at the end of which members of the royal family are found wandering around naked as far away as Croatia. Also many of the Crown Jewels are covered with what appears to be Vaseline.

In the worsening European economic crisis, Greece announces a new bailout plan that hinges on persuading Germany to buy what Prime Minister Lucas Papademos describes as “a buttload of Tupperware.”

Tensions in Waziristan mount still higher amid reports that an unmanned Predator drone missile has been roaming the province engaging in unprotected sex.

In sports, major league baseball fans are treated to an unusual spate of no-hitters, all thrown by Usain Bolt. Roger Goodell announces that the NFL is investigating disturbing allegations that some members of the New Orleans Saints do not sing during the national anthem.

Speaking of disturbing, in …

July

… the Mexican presidential election — won by Enrique Peña Nieto of the wonderfully named Institutional Revolutionary Party — is tainted by allegations of voting fraud after independent observers note that the “optical scanners” used to count ballots are in fact Sunbeam toasters. Mexican election officials conduct a recount and conclude that PeñaNieto has indeed won the election fair and square, as well as the election that will take place in 2018.

In Moscow, three members of the Russian all-woman punk-rock group Pussy Riot go on trial for engaging in an anti-government protest. Their cause is adopted by a variety of concerned organizations, including Amnesty International and the U.S. Secret Service.

A tragic fatal drama plays out on the streets of New York City, where police officers fire 183 bullets into a man who, according to witnesses, was about to take a sip from a Big Gulp, which he apparently obtained in New Jersey. The shooting is defended by Mayor Bloomberg, who notes that if the officers had not acted quickly, the man “could have placed himself in very real danger of becoming obese.”

In science news, a group of physicists announces that, after decades of research costing billions of dollars, they believe they have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, which according to them is an extremely exciting tiny invisible thing next to which all the other bosons pale by comparison. This is breathlessly reported as major news by journalists who majored in English and whose knowledge of science is derived exclusively from making baking-soda volcanoes in third grade. Back in the lab, the physicists enjoy a hearty scientific laugh, then resume the important work of thinking up names for exciting new invisible things they can announce the discovery of.

In London, the Olympics get under way with a spectacular opening ceremony, climaxing in the dramatic lighting of the Olympic torch by an unmanned Predator drone, which also takes out the entire Pakistani team. The only glitch in the ceremony occurs when a streaker runs onto the track and passes out. He is identified by police as Prince Philip, still in Diamond Jubilee mode.

The partying continues in …

August

… when Hurricane Isaac fails to dampen the mood in Tampa at the wild and crazy spontaneous wacky funfest that is the Republican National Convention. The Republicans — eager to disprove the stereotype that they are the party of old, out-of-touch rich white men — give their highest-visibility prime-time TV spot to: Clint Eastwood. Clint wows the delegates by delivering a series of fascinating sentence fragments to a chair that he either does or does not realize has nobody sitting on it.

In other convention highlights, the Republicans declare their support for the Middle Class and pass a platform calling on the nation to get the hell off their lawn.

Tensions continue to rise in the Middle East when Iran unveils a new surface-to-surface ballistic missile named “Conqueror,” which, according to an Iranian spokesman, will be used for “agriculture.” Elsewhere in the troubled region, an unmanned Predator drone hacks Waziristan’s Twitter account and posts pictures of itself naked.

In the European economic crisis, an increasingly desperate Greece offers to have sex with Germany.

Closer to home, suspicions that the Mexican military may be involved with drug trafficking are heightened when a U.S. surveillance satellite photographs a Mexican army convoy transporting what appears to be a 200-foot doobie.

In space news, NASA scientists cheer as the Curiosity Mars rover, which was launched from Cape Canaveral in November 2011, finally makes a safe landing. The cheers quickly fade, however, when an analysis of images transmitted back by Curiosity indicate that because of a glitch in the navigational software — which coincidentally is the same type used in the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5 — the Rover has actually landed in Waco, Tex.

In sports, Usain Boltdominates the London Olympics, picking up gold medals in three sprint events and winning a world record eight seats in the House of Lords. Great Britain’s team ignites a national celebration of patriotism, winning medals in many events, including rowing, paddling, pedaling, croquet, darts, skiffles, whist, the pudding toss, the 50-meter lawn rake and the men’s umbrella furl.

Speaking of celebrating, in …

September

… the Democrats gather in Charlotte, N.C., for their convention, during which they declare their near-carnal passion for the Middle Class and celebrate the many major achievements of the Obama administration, including the killing of Osama bin Laden, solar energy, the winning of the War on Terror by killing Osama bin Laden, the Chevy Volt, bold presidential leadership in the form of making the difficult decision to order the killing of Osama bin Laden, wind power, and many, many other major things that the administration has achieved, such as killing Osama bin Laden. The Democrats acknowledge that the economy is not totally 100 percent “there” yet, but promise to continue moving steadfastly forward with their relentless attacks on the root cause of economic stagnation and continued high unemployment, namely, George W. Bush.

Abroad, the big story is a deadly 9/11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It soon becomes apparent that the attack either was or was not a spontaneous protest to a movie that either does or does not actually exist, or possibly it was an organized terrorist attack that either did or did not involve al-Qaeda and either could or could not have been prevented if there had been better intelligence, which maybe there was, or maybe there was not, although if there was, it was not acted on, possibly for political reasons. Or not. But beyond these basic facts, little is clear. The White House issues a strong statement assuring the nation that President Obama was not in any way involved in this, “or anything else that may or may not become known.”

In European economic news, Greece abandons the euro in favor of a new currency, the gyro, which is backed by some kind of grayish meat.

In labor news, Chicago teachers go on strike over controversial proposed contract changes that would allow the school board to terminate teachers who have passed away. Meanwhile, the NFL comes under increasing pressure to settle the referee strike following a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans in which the replacement refs call four balks and three traveling violations, and ultimately declare that the winner is the Green Bay Packers. At the end of the month the strike is settled, and the replacement refs move on to their new role as Florida elections officials.

In other sports labor action, the National Hockey League locks out its players, lending credence to rumors that there is still a National Hockey League.

In space news, NASA scientists remotely analyze a soil sample collected by the Curiosity Waco rover and report that it contains “an alarmingly high level of spit.”

Apple releases the much-anticipated iPhone 5, which receives some criticism for its glitchy map software and the fact that it uses a different connector from all the other iPhones and iPhone accessories. Also, it can neither make nor receive telephone calls. Nevertheless it is a big hit with Apple fans, who line up to buy it even as they eagerly anticipate the forthcoming iPhone 5S, which, rumor has it, will require 3-D glasses.

Speaking of criticism, in …

October

… President Obama is widely faulted for his performance in the first presidential debate, during which he appears moody and detached, several times stopping in mid-answer to go outside to smoke a cigarette. The debate moderator, veteran PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, at first seems a bit overwhelmed by the task, but after a few minutes he falls asleep. This leaves the field wide open for a confident and assertive Mitt Romney, who, in a span of 90 minutes, manages to explain his five-point economic-recovery plan a total of 37 times, running up an indoor record presidential-debate score of 185 points. Romney also demonstrates his understanding of the issues facing ordinary Americans by promising to cut federal funding for Big Bird.

Stung by the defeat, Obama closets himself with his advisers, who coach him on debating techniques such as smiling, pretending to listen and forming complete sentences without a teleprompter. Obama is much more aggressive in the next two debates, at one point pulling out his BlackBerry on-camera and ordering a missile strike against Syria.

In the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden gives Paul Ryan a noogie.

With polls showing a very tight race, the final weeks of the campaign are a textbook example of what this great experiment called “American democracy” is all about: two opposing political parties, each with valid positions, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on comically simplistic radio and TV ads designed by consultants to terrify ill-informed half-wits.

But the month’s big story is “superstorm” Sandy, which devastates a large swath of the Northeast despite the courageous efforts of hundreds of TV news reporters standing on the beaches telling people to stay off the beaches. New York City is hit hard, but Mayor Bloomberg responds swiftly, ordering police to arrest anybody suspected of taking advantage of the disaster by consuming soft drinks from containers larger than 16 ounces, which could potentially cause them to become obese.

Fidel Castro, for what is believed to be the 17th time in the past eight years, dies.

In the month’s most inspiring story, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumps from the Red Bull Stratos helium balloon 24 miles high and breaks the sound barrier in free fall, reaching a speed of 834 mph and thrilling a worldwide broadcast audience before being shot down by a Predator drone sponsored by Monster, a competing energy drink.

In entertainment news, Walt Disney purchases Lucasfilm and releases a trailer for the forthcoming “Star Wars Episode VII,” in which Darth Vader is a talking penguin.

Speaking of surprises, in …

November

… after an election cycle in which an estimated $6 billion was spent on races for the presidency and Congress, the American voters — who by every account are disgusted with Washington and desperately want change — vote to keep everything pretty much the same. President Obama wins all the key battleground states except Florida, where, after a week of ballot-counting delays caused by denture adhesive in the scanners, election officials finally announce that the state’s 29 electoral votes will be awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

With the election finally over and the federal government headed toward a “fiscal cliff” that could plunge the nation back into a recession, Congress, realizing the urgency of the situation, rolls up its sleeves and gets on with the crucial job of remaining gridlocked, while President Obama heads for Burma, a vital U.S. strategic partner located somewhere abroad.

In other election developments, voters in Colorado and Washington approve the legalization of recreational marijuana use, and also order $257 million worth of delivery pizzas.

Speaking of nutrition: A bankruptcy court grants Hostess Brands permission to close its business, posing a serious threat to the nation’s strategic Twinkie supply. Fortunately, an agreement is worked out under which Twinkies will be produced by a new entity.

Unfortunately, that entity is: Iran.

In other disturbing national security news, David Petraeus, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired four-star general, is embroiled in scandal for engaging in unauthorized covert action with his official biographer, Paula Broadwell, who, according to the FBI, sent threatening e-mails to Tampa social event planner Jill Kelley concerning both Petraeus and four-star general John Allen, who, while serving as U.S. commander in Afghanistan, found the time to exchange more than 20,000 pages worth of communications with Kelley, which means that either they were e-mailing a Stephen King novel to each other, or they were planning some kind of social event, if you catch our drift. Petraeus resigns and is immediately placed in charge of the U.S. Secret Service. The White House issues a statement assuring the nation that President Obama knew nothing about any of this and was “unaware of the existence of any so-called Central Intelligence Agency.”

In the World Series, a team with a payroll $65 million lower than that of the Yankees is defeated by a team with a payroll $80 million lower than that of the Yankees, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the Yankees need a bigger payroll.

Toward the end of the month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is dispatched on an urgent mission to try to bring peace to one of the world’s most troubled spots: the Moultrie, Ga., Walmart, where mobs of crazed Black Friday shoppers are viciously assaulting each other over discounted cellphones. Clinton soon realizes the futility of her mission and heads for the Middle East, where people are more reasonable.

Speaking of troubled, in …

December

… there is much fiscal-cliff drama in Washington as Congress and the White House — after months of engaging in cynical posturing and political gamesmanship while putting off hard decisions about a dangerous crisis that everyone knew was coming — finally get serious about working together to come up with a way to appear to take decisive action without actually solving anything.

On a brighter note: Two months after superstorm Sandy ravaged New York, electrical power is finally restored to all areas of the city. It is immediately turned back off by order of Mayor Bloomberg, on the grounds that electricity can be used to watch television, which the mayor notes is a leading cause of obesity. In retaliation, the San Francisco City Council bans molecules, noting that they are “a key ingredient in sugar.”

Speaking of consumer danger: In the largest product recall ever, the Food and Drug Administration orders supermarkets to pull 148 million of the new Iranian-made Twinkies off the shelves after one of them explodes, obliterating most of Cleveland.

In science news, physicists announce that they think they might have discovered a totally new tiny invisible particle, named the “Weems foomple,” which the scientists say could be even more important than the Higgs boson, although to be absolutely certain that it truly exists they say they are going to need, quote, “billions more research dollars,” as well as “a large boat.”

On a more troubling note, NASA scientists announce that their analysis of data transmitted back to Houston by the Curiosity Waco rover shows conclusively that Earth is uninhabitable.

As the year finally draws to close, a festive crowd gathers in Times Square for the traditional New Year’s Eve illuminated ball drop, counting down the seconds and cheering the magical moment when, at the stroke of midnight, the ball is destroyed by an unmanned Predator drone. This seems to be a bad omen. Yet, as 2013 dawns, there is hope that maybe, just maybe, the new year will be better; that this will be the year when we finally break the cycle of perpetual idiocy, the year when, at long last, we find a way to …

WHAP. ++

Correction:

The article incorrectly described baseball’s World Series as ending in November. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series on Oct. 28.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”~ The Reverand Martin Luther King

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