Cruz Control

Ever ready to provide grist to the satirical mill, the Republican leadership has selected Ted Cruz to chair the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, which as the name indicates happens to be NASA’s governmental overlord. In case you thought that another Ted Cruz had been voted into Congress in the last election, you are sadly mistaken. Ted Cruz is still the same Ted Cruz that denies climate change, telling CNN that the “data are not supporting what the [climate change] advocates are arguing”. Oh Ted Cruz. And NASA is still the same NASA that has a climate change section on its website and states: “Most scientists say it’s very likely that most of the warming since the mid-1900s is due to the burning of coal, oil and gas.”. Needless to say, there are many light years between those two opinions.

If Cruz can readily deny what is now considered mainstream science, I wonder what his opinions of other well-trodden scientific truths are:

  • Did we go to the Moon, or was it a conspiracy by television manufacturers to boost sales?
  • Is the Mars Inc publicity team behind the recent explorations of our second nearest planet?
  • Was the Apollo 13 mission just a long viral campaign for the Ron Howard film?
  • Was Ted Cruz given this assignment with the hope that he would be taken on a field trip on a big rocket?
  • Or was it to bring him closer to science and discredit him to his Republican base?*

*I do realise that this assumes a type of logical coherence missing from so many of the Party’s decisions.

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The U.S. Election from the other side of The Pond

The site of so much drama and glamour over the years, the US political system is viewed with a certain amount of jealous affection by us in the UK. At their core both American and UK politics are exactly the same: both predominantly feature middle-aged (mostly white) men in nice suits trying to speak as tepidly as possible yet at the same time attempting to stay on the right side of the Accountant Line. But putting British and American politicians side-by-side is like comparing the glamour of Mad Men to the Office; Ricky Gervais to Don Draper.

Yes, they both use balloon arches, but what looks tacky in the UK, looks exciting and innovative over there. Both use words such as: ‘change’ and ‘freedom’ but doesn’t American freedom just seem so much more alluring, more free? British change appears like a political ploy, nigh on impossible in such a staid society.

Maybe that is my British cynicism coming though, maybe I should try to be more wilfully optimistic like Americans.

Barack the Tired and Mitt the Mist slug it out. But why?

Though throughout this election cycle there has definitely been a dampening of spirits amongst the electorate. Both the supporters of the Democrats and the Republicans are trying to get fired up despite the best efforts of the candidates. Barack the Tired looks as if he wants to sleep for the next four years and would happily sit this cycle out and run again in 2016. Whilst Mitt the Mist is a man lacking in substance, someone lacking in a developed emotional range and imagines the middle-ground as a place you can say anything to anyone in the hope that they will vote for you, even if it contradicts a previous stance.

But to me, Romney is not a statesman, he is a local politician who can’t cut it internationally (is it that difficult to turn up to the Olympics and smile?) The Mitt-ster has only enthused his base because Obama must have been solving some logic puzzle during the first debate. The fundamental lack of choice for Americans is not just unfortunate, but more an indictment on the polarised toxicity of politics in recent times.

Even after four years, Obama still oozes charisma and cool; and whilst he has let down his supporters with his penchant for drone strikes, he has had some of the largest obstacles to overcome in recent memory. Namely, a Republican Party willing to roadblock any substantial policies that Obama put forward and then label him an ineffectual President. The move to the right (read ‘crazy’) of the Republican Party seems a vote killer to us over here but apparently a large portion of Americans are happy voting against their best interests (a refutation of Rational Choice Theory if ever there was one) and placing trust in unelected corporations rather than elected officials. And the Party’s oppressive use of the word freedom in every sentence which works at cross-purposes to it’s definition, serving to ensure all Americans conform to one specific, dizzyingly contradictory notion of it (Protect the Constitution (apart from the mentions of Church and State), stop the Government interfering in our lives, apart from the times when it acts as a medical safety net – they have to remain).

So hopefully you can see why we are entranced by American politics not just in Britain but around the world; here is a country with an actual ideological debate (albeit one-sided), where passions frequently erupt and where we can view from afar with a joyous sense of superiority mixed with a tinge of disappointment as the closest thing we in Britain have to a political celebrity is Boris Johnson.

Santorum Suffers Suspension In Campaign – Will Be Out Indefinitely

Now Rick Santorum has left the Republican Primary race, slowly backing away from the mess he has made, Mitt Romney can march on into obsolescence, trumpeting his own patented brand of mediocrity. For what seems like a lifetime, Mitt has been the presumptive nominee, and Rick was the perpetual thorn in the side, chasing some imaginary showdown at the RNC. But now he seems to have understood the basic logic that overturning a 400 delegate lead is impossible, save for an Act of God (though I have some core doubts about the likelihood of that…).

The Man With The World's Most Forgettable Face

Santorum was the outsider’s candidate: outside politically, morally and psychotically, but he proved a necessary counter-foil to the straight-edged Romney. He was the threat dangled in front of the GOP membership: ‘Vote Romney or you get him‘. Granted for some people that was a boon! ‘A candidate as deeply conservative and offensively prejudiced as me’ they gloat mawkishly, obscured to the realities of reality. A true sceptic could be led to believe that Mitt asked Santorum to stay in the race as long as possible to keep the Republican agenda in the news and by dint of that, make Romney look palatable by comparison (an idea made doubtful by the lack of mention Romney received in the concession speech. Genuine animosity or superb petulance?). Sadly, for most voters ‘palatable’ is just about the best adjective Mitt can be associated with. In reality, it may have just taken him that long to tot up the results on his fingers, so distrustful is he of anything resembling education.

It surely now must be time for the other two candidates to turn their backs on aspirations for the nomination, as neither Newt nor Ron have made an ant jumping into a pond’s worth of an impression. Ron Paul, can do what he likes as for the most part, he is motoring under his own steam, but Newt must be proving a point to Mitt, possibly angling for a cabinet position.

With Romney coasting home, and the interminable Primary fight nearly over, it will be interesting to see how the Republican team can still grab the media’s attention between now and August. For everyone’s sanity, hope that they can’t.

Not So High and Mitt-y

With Mitt Romney lurching ever forward be the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, there seem to be two elephants in the room that no one dares to talk about:

1) he has less chance of winning the Presidency than the Tea Party has of seeing the world in colour. The Right don’t like him, the left prefer him, but why would they be voting Republican? The Evangelical Christians think he is a cult member, regardless of how shiny his teeth are. Actually the whiter the teeth, the more cultish the person. The ‘average’ (pah!) voter distrusts him from his time at Bain Capital, whilst simultaneously championing the further incursion of big business into American culture. From all concerned, Mitt is the second pick, only in this instance there wasn’t a first choice

GOP settle for Jeff Daniels lookalike

2) The GOP know this election is all but over save for Obama spitting on a child, and so will be using this election as a chance to reorganise and sniff out those ‘rising stars’ ready for 2016. Faces like Rubio, Jed Bush and the ever-present spectre of Sarah Palin will be glued to cameras; their names and Vice-President being uttered in the same sentence with growing frequency. They know that with a well shaped message and the traditionally destructive Democratic primary fight, the prize is theirs for the taking.

So for this election year the Republicans will be ‘pouring their heart and soul’ into the fight, but giving more than a half glance at what is down the road.

Patriotism

It’s fair to say that America is a patriotic country; the chants “U.S.A .U.S.A.”  punctuate most sporting events, yet whether the pride is for the abstract ideal of the country or everyone and everything in it is another question.

To myself, as an outsider it seems that half the population see the US as a country of one, and the pursuit of happiness should not extend past yourself.  This individualism seems long engrained within society possibly due to the hyper-capitalist age with spending geared around what will benefit me and only me. Yet this attitude comes at the expense of a sense of community and the development of a truly social conscience. Robert Putnam in his book, Bowling Alone sees the dissolution of trust and by extension the vanishing of communities due to the atomised lifestyles we are living.

The blubbing and boohooing surrounding tax increases, a threat so viciously reported, one would be led to believe it relieved itself on the Constitution (some might say it has, but they deserve to be patted on the head and left alone). Contrary to what some people may believe, higher taxes can BENEFIT you, the uses are endless: schools, hospitals, prisons, the arts, space exploration and so on. They don’t get funnelled into a secret project to create a tunnel from Mexico into Texas allowing people to come into the country and steal your guns. No, the money is used to help you or others. But that is the killer part to the sentence. Others. Ah yes, the self-interested part of the country just couldn’t bear to see a struggling single mother have a slightly easier time of it; don’t they know you want to get a new TV this year? I mean the old one has lost its new TV smell.

Yet those who bemoan taxation are the very people who claim to love their country. Just like in any relationship, to love is to share, so please do not get your knickers in a twist over the pitiful rate of taxation that has to be paid. Take one look at any of the Scandinavian countries and you will find some of the best literacy rates, the best healthcare in short, amongst the best quality of life in the entire world and their tax rates can be around 60%, a number that is unthinkable to some Americans.

Some might say that being American is to be free from government interference, and the lack of restrictions on the way you live your life. But that position is one that is built on shoddy foundations: why do those people allow the creeping tentacles of shady companies to slowly close around their everyday lives yet distrust the publically accountable government? Other than citing people who lived in a different age, are there any real reasons for hating taxation? In my opinion (one that is very rarely incorrect), man is a social animal, and this society extends to the very corner of the kingdom and beyond. Whilst it might be irksome to lose some of your paycheck every month, just think of the public benefits it will generate. One that no number of TVs can bring.

The idea of patriotism not following words with actions is lamentable yet wholly unsurprising as self-interest has been one of the backbones of any society since time immemorial. Yes, this is an act of socialism but what is wrong with that? Why is looking after your fellow person such an alien concept? The pervasive growth in belief in the United State of One needs to be addressed; the folly of self-interested behaviour has to be challenged. In short, patriotism can only be truly achieved by gaining a social conscience.