Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Henry IV Part 2, Act 4, Scene 5

“Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days..”

A lot of people have drawn comparisons between King Henry IV’s advice to Prince Hal and the actions of the Bush administration in declaring war on Iraq. The idea being that the real motive of the war was to distract America (and the world) from the true issues of the day. I was never one of those people, though I have always had an attitude about the second Iraq war of, “Wait, we’re attacking who?!?”

But that isn’t to say that the concept is entirely without merit. I just think it’s too specific to simply lay the second Iraq war at its feet. In fact, I believe that US politicians and the media heed this advice in a way that has been endemic to the process as a whole. And we gullible Americans, our giddy minds hungry for clearly-defined issues with simplistic solutions, eat it right up.

I’ve been pretty plain lately that I feel like our government, perhaps our entire society, are spinning out of control. All sense of trust between the government and the people seems lost, and deservedly so. We have “pundits” who almost universally and without fail espouse the most mind-numbingly moronic ideologies you’d ever want to hear, be they liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. Though as a conservative I find the voices of my “fellow” conservatives like Beck and Limbaugh particularly cringe-worthy. Being linked to them in any way makes me feel dirty.

I got to thinking about this issue today after reading some of the writings of Dr. Thornes regarding the movement away from incandescent light-bulbs and his analysis of the pros and cons. Now I’m not saying that I accept Dr. Thornes’s position in its entirety. I haven’t done enough reading or research to know whether his facts and points have true merit or not. But on the surface they at least raise some questions, and there’s no doubt that my personal experience with light bulbs leaves me unimpressed by Compact Flourescents.

What strikes me about the debate, however, is the very real prospect that there may be no real cost-savings or energy savings to be had from this move. I think Dr. Thornes’s points here are well-taken and logical. If there’s a mandate that everybody make this switch, and everybody begins to save x% on energy costs, there’s going to be a glut somewhere. The energy company is going to be selling less energy and making less profit. Certain things, then, are going to happen – either they’ll pay less in taxes and people will make up the difference (negating some or all of their cost savings on energy) OR they’ll fire people (negating some or all of the cost savings through unemployment and reduced spending) OR they’ll raise their fees for electricity (negating some or all of the cost savings). Plus, it isn’t as if most of the country is facing an energy shortage such that switching to more energy-efficient bulbs will mean there’s more energy for other stuff. Based on what (very) little I know of energy production, I’m not even sure that the utilities are well-positioned to idle their electrical generators if consumption decreases significantly, so there might not even be a reduction in emissions. Or maybe there would – like I say, I’m no expert.

But it got me thinking that most of the issues we hear about are actually very complex, yet all we ever hear are the sound-bites and the easy solutions and the “if you’re a red-blooded American, you’ll support this measure” attitude. In fact, so many hot-button issues seem to be presented in such a way that to oppose them makes you sound really rotten. It’s like the old joke where you ask a guy “So, have you stopped beating your wife yet?” If he answers yes, it sounds like he once DID beat his wife. If he answers no, it sounds like he’s STILL beating his wife. There’s no safe answer to that question. This issue, and too many others, strike me much the same way. “Well, of course you WANT to save on energy consumption and energy costs, don’t you? Well if you do, then you need to support this initiative.” Well, maybe I don’t want to “save” on energy consumption and costs and I’m still a decent person. Maybe I don’t believe that, in this case, “saving” is necessarily a benefit to anybody, because it’s not that simple. Or maybe I think it would be great if we all lived off 100% solar power and bio-luminescent fungus, but that “this measure,” whichever one we happen to be referring to, doesn’t do anything to move us in that direction, but simply lines the pockets of some new arm of a corporate dynasty or lobbiest or special interest. But if I’m an elected official, all anybody’s going to see at election time is “Mike De Lucia voted four times AGAINST improved energy efficiency to secure our children’s precious futures. Don’t vote for Mike – he hates America.” And bam, suddenly I’m out of office. I’m starting to believe that it’s not realistically possible for a good and decent person to enact real reform in Washington (or in any of our state governments for that matter) because it’s OK for your opponents or the lobbies or whomever to draw and quarter you if you try to stand up for what’s right.

So instead of fixing things that are really broken, we get light bulbs and pork barrel projects and all manner of distractions while the political machine continues to chug along. And I don’t pretend to even begin to understand what’s really broken. I’m just as naïve as the rest of America as to how Washington politics really works and I can only assume that it’s about ten times worse than I actually think it is (and that’s probably a low estimate). So what am I left with? Well, I could make a full-time job of reading all the different media outlets and blogs and pundits (feh) and try to guess who’s on the level, who actually knows what they’re talking about, and who’s going to grind whatever axe is handy, but even then I’m not sure I’d get any closer to really understanding. And so what if I did? What would that really buy me? Sure, I’d know. The couple of dozen people reading my blog would know. I suppose if I had the whole thing figured out there’d probably be a lot more people reading, but I don’t and I’m not likely to really understand the ins and outs and who’s greasing who's palm and how x pays for y but is hidden behind z and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

So there you have it. A pure, frustrated, impotent political rant from one more giddy mind entranced by the doublespeak of our political machine. I’m no closer to knowing what any of us should do about it, but I can’t help but believe it’s getting worse with each passing year.

I'm going to try to make my next few blog posts about something happier.

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