Take your pick. National Politics, State Politics, Jackson City Governance, Bullying, Racism, Guns, Crime, Drugs, Fires, Snake Handling, Antitrust-Not; and I am only getting started. One would think that 50 years after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show we would have made more progress as a nation, state, and city and as individuals, but the facts suggest otherwise. About the only saving grace is that North Korea, much of what used to be the old Soviet Union and most of the Middle East are effectively making the case for American Exceptionalism even though a close look in our own mirror reveals a sometimes ugly and overall dispiriting image. Predictably, the four building blocks of the human experience are working overtime to explain the current state of affairs. They are: Ignorance, Prejudice, Ego and Greed. Top it off with so called leaders a/k/a serial hypocrites who have perfected the art of public denial, selective memory loss and an ever mounting sense of self importance often referred to as the “Me, Me, Me Syndrome.” Then wrap it up in a shiny package financed by Super Pac money and you have the New American Template. So, where to start … ?
So what’s the problem with the straight talking GOP Presidential hope for 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie? But for his top aides closing down four lanes of the world’s busiest bridge to exert political retribution on a northern New Jersey mayor who didn’t support Christie’s recent run for reelection, nothing. Christie told us he didn’t know anything about it despite his reputation as a micro-manager. End of story, right? I mean, can you think of a politician who has actually lied to the American People when denying charges of abuse of political power or reckless behavior? So this is where Ignorance, Prejudice, Ego and Greed come into play. The biggest factor is Ignorance.
In the new frontier of digital America, everybody is just too busy with Facebook and Twitter to pay attention to real issues. They are eagerly waiting for a sentence fragment from some self promoting celebrity (let’s just hypothetically pick Justin Bieber out of the millions that play the social media game). But the most telling statistic that confirms America’s obsession with digital Bread and Circuses for the masses is the fact that 93 million Americans play an interactive game called “Candy Crush Saga” one billion times a day. I mean, who has time to pay attention much less cast an informed vote if they even bother to vote at all? That’s exactly how you get the political class we’ve got.
And then there is the ever expanding overlay of prejudice (the more benign versions are arrogance or blind belief based on nothing more than the familiar phrase, “I’m right and anybody who disagrees with me is wrong, period.” Some of the leading exponents of this degree of subjective knowledge are Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, Reverend Al Sharpton (does anybody know where he went to divinity school?) and Bill O’Reilly, to name only four out of countless people who never let inconvenient facts get in the way of their opinions.
And speaking of the Rev. and Bill O, the 24/7 Cable Echo Chamber which provides both with a forum is nothing if not predictable when it comes to the George Washington Bridge shenanigans. PMSNBC (name attributed to Rush Limbaugh) spends all of its time excoriating Christie on Bridgegate while Fox Noise (name attributed to Keith Olbermann) just ignores it as you would expect. The really sad thing is that the closest thing we have to an “Actual Fair & Balanced” cable news channel is Aljazeera America (formerly Current TV). No kidding. As far as Ego and Greed goes, just focus on the New Jersey Governor and those who stand to gain from him being in charge. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, the Rev. and Bill O and their pronouncements from on high.
And so, what is the truth about Bridgegate? Given what we know and the realities of hardball New Jersey politics, it doesn’t look good for the Governor. One piece of evidence pointing to this conclusion is an official vetting of Christie by the Romney Campaign who assessed him as a potential running mate in 2012. Let’s just say that the report turned out badly for the Governor which helps explain why Paul Ryan was on the ticket and Christie was not. Add to this the Governor’s Chief of Staff sending out an e-mail which said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The immediate response from a Christie appointee to the Port Authority was, “Got it.” Days later, there were indeed severe traffic problems in Fort Lee. I’m sure that Chiefs of Staff everywhere freelance all the time on risky issues without their bosses’ approval. This is especially the case when the act is so reprehensible and the potential fallout so negative that public knowledge of the truth could be considered a career ender. Can you say Carlos Danger?
Now if this were just another Nixon “I’m not a Crook” declaration or a Clinton “That depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” then maybe I would not be sharing my cynicism quite as ardently as I am. But once a pattern emerges and repeats itself endlessly, cynicism sets in. I refer you to the words and actions of other self absorbed hypocrite politicos such as Spiro Agnew, the aforementioned Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, Tom Delay, Rod Blagojevich, Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer, David Vitter, Ray Nagin. (Ooops, I am pushing my word count toward 10,000 so I have to stop now. Trust me, I have not even scratched the surface).
When Senator Thad Cochran’s Republican Senate seat is no longer safe, there is a problem. It is even a bigger problem when the primary challenger is Republican Tea Party State Senator Chris McDaniel a/k/a “Ted Cruz Lite.” Electing the crusading Senator McDaniel is one of the very few ways that the Congressional Approval Rate of 9% could fall any lower. First, there is ignorance. If you haven’t been paying attention, Mississippi is on the bottom of almost every economic and educational category that are used to measure states. Fortunately, friendliness and genuine compassion of its people are not among these indicators. Having lived and worked in other states, these are two of the biggest reasons why I live here. But when it comes to objective criteria, Mississippi is at the top of the list of recipients of federal dollars. Senator Cochran, formerly known as the King of Earmarks, is a big reason for that. It’s kind of like Social Security and Medicare. Too many white conservative seniors in this state decry all things Washington, but you better not even think of touching their Social Security and Medicare. This is where Ignorance and Greed team up. Undoubtedly, Ego drives the Chris McDaniels of the world, but thanks to a television ad being aired by an anonymous Pro Cochran Super Pac, the reality appears to be that the challenger is just one more ambitious hypocrite whose words and actions don’t always mesh. A hypocritical politician? No! Say it ain’t so.
I can sum this one up with a quick Res Ipsa Loquitur. No wonder Southwest Airlines is pulling out. Greyhound or even Mega Bus might be next. Besides the Phantom Developments of Farish Street, Old Capital Green, The District at Eastover et al. and more geysers than Yellowstone National Park, all one needs to do is watch a Jackson City Council Meeting on Public Access Television to realize “the thing speaks for itself.” You also have the option to simulate rough and tumble desert off roading by taking your car for a spin on Jackson’s state-of-the-art, turn-of-the-first-millennium streets. Or, if you fancy yourself as a part-time archaeologist and love charcoal you have plenty of abandoned and/or burned out houses to explore. And depending on your tolerance for adventure there will surely be random homicides, robberies and burglaries all around to make your explorations all that more exciting. But then, if you prefer a more sedate environment with all the amenities any land developer could ever imagine (but never actually build), you could leave Jackson and move to Harbor Walk … Ooops. Or maybe the Town Square at Lost Rabbit. Ooops again. Okay, at least Jackson has a Whole Foods now. Maybe you could pitch a tent in the organic produce section of the store until the manager calls the cops.
Here’s a little game. Match the topic above with the following name or scenario (1) Richie Incognito. (2) What too many Right Wing Ideologues think and say when Barack Obama is linked to anything from a birth certificate to the Affordable Care Act. (3) Michael Dunn, the guy in Florida who shot into a car ten times killing a 17-year old claiming self defense. He didn’t bother calling the police in favor of ordering a pizza and then was shocked when he was arrested and convicted on three counts of attempted murder while the jury could not reach agreement on first degree murder. (4) What we learn about every night on the 6:00 p.m. local Jackson television news (definitely not from the Gannett Ledger which only recycles Chicago Tribune editorials and publishes local human interest stories). (5) Phillip Seymour Hoffman. (6) The Salvation Army Thrift Store. (7) The Pastor in Kentucky who got bit, refused treatment and died. Note: Some categories have multiple answers.
It has become quite apparent that Antitrust Law has simply become a subdivision of legal history. Consider the recent Comcast buyout of Time Warner Cable. Or, if you have flown recently, you know all about the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, Delta and Northwest, United and Continental, and many more before that. Are prices down and customer satisfaction up? And even though all of these conglomerates have an army of ill labeled Customer Service Specialists to assure you that “your call is very important to them,” excuse me for harboring more than a little doubt about this, especially when the message betrays an accent that is much more familiar with Mumbai than the Capital City of Mississippi. The truth is that the corporate world could care less about you. Its one concern is about the money they can suck out of your pocket or purse. Because big seems to be better these days (or at least legal), Corporate America doesn’t have to care. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, indirect bribery of public officials under the guise of free speech and political fundraising is now legal. If you think we have income inequality now, just wait while the Koch Brothers and all of the other greedy plutocrats continue to buy a government that will do their bidding while fooling people in poor states like Mississippi to continue to vote against their own interests.
Otherwise, things are just great!