History

Political Commentary: Out of my mind by Jon Dobrer

Year End Column 2022

We all know the important and controversial events that made 2022 special and sometimes especially horrible:

  1. Invasion of Ukraine
  2. Nice Words but Little Action on Climate Change
  3. Committee and DOJ Investigation of Trump
  4. Covid (illusion of control here while running amuck in China)
  5. The Overturning of Roe v Wade

Believing in the erudition of my readers, I’m not going over these already well-covered topics. I’m looking at the important under-covered, crazy and the painfully obvious because I believe that our society is revealed at its ragged edges.

Let’s look at some outrages, follies, and the inexplicable.

Why did our Congress have to wrestle whether to define lynching as a hate crime? Isn’t it self-evident that if you grab someone and drag (usually him) to a tree, string him up and watch him die that your actions are driven by hate and not a generous heart? Three Republicans voted against this bill.

Why are some of the most important political and literary documents widely celebrated, yet go largely unread? I’m thinking of the Mueller Report, the 800 pages of the 1/6 Committee Report along with Ezra Pound’s Cantos and James Joyce’s Ulysses. And don’t forget the Patriot Act and the 4,000-page Omnibus spending bill. All referenced and unread.

We also have political rhetoric that is designed to misinform or distract. Newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass admitted (after the election) that the homelessness crisis couldn’t be solved in four years. Defeated mayoral candidate Rick Caruso had solemnly promised that he couldn’t solve the problem in two years. Quite a choice when you think about it. But you’re not supposed to think about it.

Going along with trying to solve homelessness is our exhortation to investors to please build more dwelling units. Just don’t count on collecting rent or evicting people who don’t pay. Yes, I understand the argument, but do politicians not understand negative incentives?

My favorite political story—and it’s nuanced—is about Congressman elect George Santos (No, not George Soros!). He ran on a resume that seems to be wholly fabricated, citing a university, he neither graduated from nor attended and two financial corporations for whom he never worked. But the best part is that he claimed to be a Republican, a Jew descended from Ukrainian Holocaust survivors and Gay. He is apparently none of these. Yet this is kind of a feel-good story because he thought being a Gay Jewish Republican would work to his advantage. And it did!

My second favorite headline, repeated often in many newspapers and websites is “Trump Lied!” Well, yes. Ok. But is there anything new that makes this news? Seems to be baked into this mudpie. Trump lied about being under audit. He lied about his relationship with a porn star. (Why is it always a porn “star?” Are there no minor parts or, uh, second bananas? Is just being filmed enough to make you a star?” This seems to devalue stardom.) He lied about not knowing that David Duke, Nick Fuentes and Kanye West were anti-Semites. In all fairness, it may be confusing that an Hispanic and African American hang with White Supremacists. I’m sure that better minds than Trump’s are boggled by this. When the 1/6 Committee accused Trump of being the mastermind behind the many attempts to overthrow the election, Trump took it as a compliment, never before having been called a mastermind.

In international news, when Queen Elizabeth II died it was a huge world-wide story. When Prince Charles ascended to the throne and became King Charles III, it was hardly remarked upon. The monarchy may never be overthrown but simply fade to irrelevance.

In related news, the biggest controversy in England was what would last longer, an unrefrigerated head of lettuce or the term of Prime Minister Liz Truss? Alas, Truss’s salad days were brief, and the lettuce outlived her stint.

King Charles III has already outlasted both Truss and the lettuce. A kinder gentler monarch than Henry VIII, there’s no Tower of London for Andrew and Harry—only eviction and exile.

My favorite headline was a warning against licking frogs. I seldom need to be warned against doing something that I don’t want to do. However, some people apparently go around licking frogs in the hope of absorbing a powerful hallucinogen. I know many women who complain that they had to “kiss a lot of frogs” before finding their Prince Charming. These stories could be related. Charm can be a powerful hallucinogen.

An issue that doesn’t get enough attention is artificial intelligence. God knows that there’s little enough intelligence organic or artificial. Its value is in its scarcity. Still, many fear being replaced by robots or computers. Don’t surrender yet. AI may think faster than we do, play chess better and even pass the Turing test of carrying on a conversation that distinguished scientists can’t tell is computer generated. However, so far, it cannot drive a Tesla without occasionally crashing, sometimes with fatal results. On the other hand, the organic intelligence of Elon Musk may not be able to drive either Twitter or Tesla without corporately fatal crashes.

Let’s hope that our politicians, both here and abroad, can use all forms of intelligence and possibly even common sense, to keep us on the road and out of the ditches. Here’s to a better, wiser and more peaceful 2023!

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