Clowns to the Left of Me; Jokers to the Right

I got a protest unsubscribe this weekend from “EJ” in California, who complained:

Just too much coming in! Also your dim view of politics shows more ignorance than knowledge. Any nitwit can bash Washington. But only close observers realize the cause of the crisis: the Tea Party and lame GOP leadership.

But thx for some chuckles.

The funny part is, I had no idea where EJ was located when I saw the complaint, and I was anticipating that “close observers” such as EJ would pin the blame directly on “the progressive left and Obamacare” (or similar).

At least for once, he (she?) wasn’t blaming me for promoting/bashing the left/right. As long-time readers know, I’m an equal opportunity basher, simply because I think it’s the two party system — both parties — that are leading the country to hell (and that’s the hell of your choice: literal or metaphorical).

Right vs Left

I had seen a graphic “meme” on Facebook awhile back, and it came back to me after reading EJ’s whine. It shows the Democrat’s symbol, the donkey, facing left, and the Republican’s symbol, the elephant, facing right. There are two captions above those: “Clowns to the Left of Me” and “Jokers to the Right” and one at the bottom: “Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle With You.” I couldn’t find it, so I recreated it:

I commented, “And what do they do to us in the middle? Well, notice where their tails are, and what is emitted just below same.”

In just the first 10 minutes, the graphic was “Liked” more than 40 times, and shared more 20 times. I have little doubt that both left-leaners and right-leaners are among the readers who did. I haven’t met anyone on the right who fully approves of everything the Republicans do, and no one on the left who fully approves of the Democrats’ actions. The majority is a lot closer to the middle than either edge.

So I refuse to take EJ’s bait. I don’t fall for the notion that “the other side” is solely to blame for the constant messes we’re in. What one party’s president/Congress starts, the other continues (even after his own party has thoroughly bashed it, whether “it” is drones, spying, overreaching TSA security, or whatever else). So no, I don’t point my finger at the left or the right, I point it at Washington D.C. in its entirety. If I’m a “nitwit” for that, I’m in excellent company.

“This is True: Defiantly in the Middle Since 1994.”

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24 Comments on “Clowns to the Left of Me; Jokers to the Right

  1. I, for one, wholeheartedly support equal opportunity bashing. In fact, I would probably unsubscribe if you started showing an obvious bias for one side or the other. For me, publications and politics are like the wine and sewage analogy. If you put a tablespoon of wine in a barrel of sewage, you have sewage. If you put a tablespoon of sewage into a barrel of wine, you have sewage. Likewise, if you start putting partisan political viewpoints into even a small percentage of your stories, you end up with a a partisan political publication, which is exactly the wrong thing to do in a newsletter like yours.

    I like This is True for many of the same reasons I like South Park. It’s funny, it is unafraid to point out stupidity of any source, and it pokes fun at a variety of headline topics (sometimes taking them to their illogical extremes). Your newsletter may have far more taste, but I have yet to detect any bias except against the stupid.

  2. I agree that both parties are equally responsible for our problems in government. But the Tea Party Caucus (essentially the extreme right wing that even the Republican Party can’t control) is more responsible for the madness going on now. They are actually angry that the government didn’t default, despite the global catastrophe that would become of it. So many friends of mine who used to support the Republicans don’t anymore specifically because the extremists now run the party.

  3. Clowns in the middle. American voters expect solutions from politicians, as though they are incredible geniuses at solving every problem. You watch the political ads that give the lobbyists so much power. Just turn off and tell everyone that you are ignoring all ads and get everyone else to. Tell your representative to return the money. The other way to cut their power is to be involved in the parties’ caucus to cut off their power to choose candidates.

  4. From an outsider’s perspective, U.S. problems (political and otherwise) stem from two things, and neither of them is a political party: (a) bigotry and the total inability of a huge swath of the population to see *anything* from anyone else’s viewpoint, and (b) the political system is seriously, fundamentally, and fatally flawed.

    I could expound for pages on this but you’d be bored long before I got finished. Suffice it to say I don’t see how either of these could ever be solved, because whenever anyone tries, s/he gets shot down in flames (and attacked on a personal level — to hell with the *issues*, technicalities will do as long as you can defeat the other guy) — the whole of American society looks to be founded on and expectant of “quick fixes”.

    Good perspective, though a lot of the problem with (b) is, in fact, the two parties which collude to ensure there are no other parties (read: points of view) to dilute their own messages. A lot of things would change if a third party organized a significant portion of the voters. And indeed that would also go a long way toward fixing (a), since both parties actively promote the us-vs-them approach that leads to such polarity. -rc

  5. Aw, come on. The fundamental problem is that our system of financing elections guarantees a conflict of interest between serving the voters and serving the funders.

    Look up Karen Hudes, the former cheif counsel for the World Bank who was fired for protesting corruption and the highest levels. She says the people are pretty aware that Congress is bought and paid for. Google her and listen to her on RT Russian Television. Or check her site And she’s on Facebook.

  6. And just for fun, clowns are not moving towards the jokers because the jokers have gotten more ridiculous than they were before:

    Sheesh… also stuck in the middle — voting for independents (even if they can’t win [winning is not important here — why vote for “the winner”?], I can’t see supporting the clowns or the jokers at this point, so I might as well play outside the game and hope that either the clowns or the jokers see what’s going on).

  7. While I agree with you that we are stuck in the middle and both parties need to shoulder the blame, I’d like to change your statement that “Washington D.C. in its entirety” is to blame.

    It’s not Washington, D.C. that is to blame, it’s the people in Legislative and Executive branches of government who were voted in by the rest of the country. I know it might sound nit-picky, but the people who live in DC do not even have voting representation in Congress AND we had to get PERMISSION to use our own locally raised taxes to run the city during the shutdown! We have a hard enough time having to deal with your “duly elected representatives” without being blamed for what they do!

    Thanks for listening, I’ll get off my DC soapbox now… 😉

    You are correct that I’m not necessarily referring to all inhabitants of the city, but I think most people understood that. Still, I’m happy to post your reminder. -rc

  8. Josh in Arkansas: “…many friends of mine who used to support the Republicans don’t anymore specifically because the extremists now run the party.”

    Indeed. I’ve always felt more sympathy for the Republican position, but I’ve registered as an independent because I’ve never completely agreed, and now I’m glad I did because it’s kept me off of GOP and DNC mailing lists and call trees. It’s scary (to me) how many times I’ve had to go to the polls and vote for Richard Prior (“None of the Above!”), simply because even the lesser of two evils was still too “evil” for my tastes.

  9. I’m not sure what epithet the electorate deserves, but we aren’t logical nor effective in our voting, or any other aspect of our part of governing, either. Maybe we should be represented by ostriches, with our heads in the sand. When Congress has an 8% approval rating, and still manages a better than 80% re-election rate, the voters aren’t paying the right kind of attention. With some frequency, Congress votes against positions favored by 80%+ of the American public, according to polls, and they don’t suffer any consequences.

    It’s easy (and popular) to blame everything on the Government, but if we want improvement, a lot of us are going to have to change the way we vote, and stop rewarding the members of Congress who keep doing what we claim we don’t like.

  10. Toward the end of the government shutdown, I was asked what I thought of the whole situation and I made the offhand comment that the whole bunch (legislators and other elected officials) should be spanked soundly and sent to bed without supper. I got a laugh out of it. However, as I was thinking it over I decided that the whole lot should be fired. In other words, vote the rascals out.

  11. I am also dismayed by the lack of connection between the opinion of the people and the actions of the elected officials. There is in fact little evidence of consequences for politicians who ignore their promises. It seems to me that much of this is due to the fact that a large proportion of those voting have very little relevant information about the candidates and their track records. They are swayed, instead, by campaign advertising and the easy information sources on public broadcast media. Of course, it would help if the voter were required to have a pulse, an IQ greater than his shoe size, and some measure of “skin in the game.” Too many recipients of government money are now voting for candidates who promise them benefits paid for by taxpayers who aren’t bothering to vote intelligently, if at all.

  12. Back in 1992, the letter to the editor of the month was a fellow who was QUITE disappointed in the failure of two measures on the Washington State ballot. These measures were for term limits and for euthanasia.

    The writer suggested that we should combine the two measures into one, which would probably pass the voters with a near 100% approval.

    “Imagine the appeal,” he wrote, “if, after two terms in office, every politician was subjected to euthanasia.”

    I have had a good laugh over that one for years now. I don’t know how PRACTICAL it would be, nor if any of the politicians in office would obey the euthanasia part, but it would certainly shake up the various political offices!

  13. Focussing on the voters still electing legislators who don’t serve them is missing the context. If the FUNDERS still love them, then modern advertising (propaganda) can reelect them even if they would lose if the voters understood the truth. They NEVER hear the truth since the mainstream press is controlled by the funders. You need a much wider focus to achieve rational results. You have to change the SYSTEM to robustly change the results.

  14. It’s easy to want to bash on the right over a lot of recent trouble when their crap has been the most visible in-your-face aspect of the mess, but just because the left didn’t do anything so obvious doesn’t mean they’re not just as much to blame.

    The government shutdown battle was a perfect microcosm of this, in fact — extreme right-wings very publicly used attempts to defund Obamacare as a bargaining tool. But the less obvious problem that lead to it? The left refused to negotiate on their version, either — not even trying to put in some sort of “bait,” for lack of a better term, that the right would need to seriously consider.

    If nothing else, though, the amount of blame the right is getting for recent problems is a good thing. Fairly or not (depending on the specific issue), the Left has gotten a lot of crap over the past few years. Now the Right has shown they are just as big a problem as people believed the Left were being, showing how serious a problem the recent partisan politics have been.

  15. To say anyone is “in the middle” is a joke in itself. Looking at their platforms, they are all (including the Tea Party) left of center. Though the Tea Party is the closest to center.

    There will continue to be problems, until the government quits trying to pick who wins and who loses and just defends individual rights.

    Obviously, different people will have different definitions. The point, which most find obvious, is that neither party really represents the bulk of the people. -rc

  16. Yes, we are in the middle, treated like mushrooms. I am subscribing to the plan of calling a U.S. Constitution amendment convention. Let us set overall term limits for all national elective offices. And require balanced budgets as most states do. Have our U.S. senators appointed by state legislatures as they originally were. Any amendments still must be approved by a majority of the states.

  17. Randy, thank you for being a voice of reason in a media gone insane.

    Some time back, I proposed what I felt would be a short term solution to the nonsense we see coming out of Washington DC on a daily basis. I figure it would be good for 12 to 20 years, tops, but during that time frame, we, as a Nation, might be able to save ourselves.

    First, we’d need to quietly add the following question to our US Census:

    Q: Would you ever consider running for public office?
    A1: Yes
    A2: No
    A3: Hell no!

    Everyone who circled A3 would have their name placed in a big drum. Instead of an election, we’d randomly draw names from the drum till all of our elected officials, from POTUS to dog catcher of Podunk Iowa, were picked. These folks would have two years to run things however they want. Then we’d draw a new batch.

    Obviously, anyone who had ever held any political office in the past would be excluded.

    Certainly, it’s naive. But surely, they’d do a better job than the obliviots currently running the show.

    Equal opportunity basher for the last four decades.

  18. Randy, it’s no more reasonable for you to identify “politicians” as the bad guys who create all our problems than to single out one party. You’re just demonizing a different set of people, while refusing the responsibility to exercise any judgment.

    This is not harmless: just a few comments up the screen, Miladyblue says it would be funny to murder all politicians. I’m not surprised at the hatred, but I am surprised that we all seem to be letting it masquerade as humor. Not only can any nitwit bash Washington: any nameless denizen of the internet can strip our elected representatives of their humanity.

    Your pronouncement that I “refuse to exercise any judgment” makes even less sense than blaming me for someone else’s frustrated post. I only have one vote, and I assure you I use it in every election. -rc

  19. @James I suppose, but I think a lot of the reason we’re in these kind of messes is due to Party GroupThink — Probably why Derek observed an 80% reelection rate. I’ve never voted for a party; always for a person. I’ve found that party lines are fleeting and usually quite useless in entrenched states (even moving towards terms like RINO and DINO — really, a hapless purple lap-dinosaur?)

    I have 1 vote, and I use it for 1 person each time. I suppose that makes me a dinosaur, but I’m glad to be one!

    I think that politicians have a hard job (though I also think, since the majority of them were lawyers/lobbyists, they get many more perks than were supposed to be granted them — in in office and after-office; eg, I can’t wait to see what the FCC Chair [used to be head of a cable company] is going to do), but a lot of the rules are of their own design.

    Particularly in this case, you had a rule that the minority gets to decide what votes to bring to the floor, and then they further that by not bringing anything to the floor because “Obama says he’d veto it” — then you must bring said object to the floor and let him veto it if you want him to share the blame. I give them no credit for “not wanting to lose.” I actually think the minority gets to decide what to bring to vote is interesting because that ensures their voice is heard, but to not bring anything sounds too childish to me, even more childish than bringing 43 different things that Obama vetoes (perhaps the same outcome, but at least it shows things were being discussed — openly — rather than “I’d like to X but he said he wouldn’t” — and perhaps after the 38th time, some compromise would be made because both sides are tired of jumping through all the hoops).

    I also think the reason nobody is in support is a combination of “the wrong lizard” and that everyone has odd views that don’t conform to the current ideals; eg, for me:

    Tax drugs/alcohol/anything you think you need funding for treatment, but this prohibition only stance has got to go. “Left?”

    If you want to change a law, then you have to change it, not “defund” it. “Right?”

    Thou shalt not create special clauses (when the exemptions list runs longer than the law, something has gone wrong), and this also applies to unforeseen consequences (Red Lobster and Gibson Guitar issues — if the injured party doesn’t want to prosecute, why should a government overseer?) “Middle?” — I think only lawyers win here.

    So, in just 3 examples, I’m squarely all over the place, as I think most are. I don’t really see how to reconcile the views with anyone in the present office. They seem to be trying to draw party lines based on some weird flavoring of “core values” with popularity contest (much like pop music that’s gone awry).

  20. Republicans and Democrats ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. Both sides are DRIVEN by the FUNDERS who are empowered by MONEY so they already OWN the Supreme Court, the President, AND the Congress.

    Until we have PUBLIC FINANCED ELECTIONS, it will not matter who gets elected since they will all be owned by the funders without whom they will lose the next election. Well, not quite all of them, but most of them. Since the funders already OWN the mainstream press, you will not see this public financing idea seriously discussed there.

    Want proof? Read “The Network of Global Corporate Control” in PLoS two years ago. That’s the truth about politics. The big fights in the press are just there to fool you into ignoring the truth. They are the modern form of the ancient Roman trick of bread and circuses. It’s what keeps your mind off what really matters.

    We seem to look at it differently. I can agree that “Both sides are DRIVEN by the FUNDERS who are empowered by MONEY” and that “they already OWN the Supreme Court, the President, AND the Congress,” but my conclusion from that is “Thus, BOTH Republicans and Democrats are certainly the problem!” Once there, then we have to ask, “What is the solution?” You offer one.

    For those who don’t know, PLoS is the Public Library of Science, and the article Richard suggests, dated 26 October 2011, is here. (Note: I have not read it — I’m on deadline as I approve this.)

  21. Interesting. I have been feeling that the market is being quite manipulated (one of the “tricks” nowadays that you have to do is see when mutual funds are getting into/out of assets or you might find yourself betting against a Bank-Induced Bubble [starbucks 2 years ago]). But I wonder how to fix that while looking at large “powers that be” that have offered innovation, such as NASA, Bell Labs, IBM, Texas Instruments, DEC, Intel.

    I wish I knew why they became centers for (profitable) innovation where others have not… and more importantly I wish I understood why they died and if they would be still successful at innovation if they didn’t have such a large wad of cash behind them. Maybe the “crowd” ideas (Kickstarter, et al) will help, but I’m not so sure the mob is a smart one that could make fundamental leaps like Lasers, Transistors, IC’s….

  22. There is plenty of blame to be spread around to all the groups, parties, funders, etc listed above, and I agree with what has been said. However, the “group” that disappoints me the most is the voters. We have a lot of intelligent, and some brilliant, people in this country, but we also have way too many semi-educated non-thinkers in this country. A lot of people only partially listen when you talk, or partially read an article. I used to occasionally join discussion groups on the web, like EONS, which is for people over 50, but stopped because of this. You could start a conversation by asking a question or making a comment about something, and people would give their opinion. I once asked if people thought it was silly to have braille on a drive-through ATM, and was astounded at how many people responded hatefully because they thought I was against braille. One man wrote a page long diatribe about how much he appreciated braille since he had lost most of his vision, so I asked him if he ever drove to the bank and used the drive-through ATM that had braille because I didn’t want to be on the road when he did. He finally snapped and apologized for misunderstanding my question.

    You see these people a lot in your unsubscribe comments, so I know you know what I mean. Sometimes it seems that logic died and no one noticed. This is the main reason I love your newsletter so much. It reminds me that there are still a lot of people around who actually think.

  23. You have to have a sense of humor. What’s happening is serious, but I am afraid the politicians have already stripped themselves of humanity (James in Wisconsin). Who acts like that? Animals! They have even chosen animals to represent themselves, a donkey and an elephant! They chose them, and now they act like them!

  24. In Australia we have a similar problem. Here we too have two (some might say three) major parties that have over the years become indistinguishable from each other and disconnected from the population. As a result the Australian people have become stuck in the middle. The difference however is in the middle you have an array of alternate choices (seriously our ballot papers are huge!) This year our elections proved how sick the people were of these “faceless suits” with a large number of votes going to these alternate parties.

    Before the election the man who ended up Prime Minister was actively discouraging voters from voting against the major parties. Not that it helped, two micro parties (parties with one or two members only) got a seat each as did three small parties one of those parties even got three seats. What surprised me though was when these alternate parties had their seats confirmed they were heavily derided by the major parties, with insults like uneducated, politically naive and idiots and those who voted for them as trying to bring down the political system.

    It was pretty disgusting trash talk and as much as I understand that some of of these small and micro parties are a little weird and definitely eccentric and the reality is most of their votes come from protest voters, those who rise above the myriad of parties to actually win a seat deserve some credit for the political savvy that got them there. If the major parties keep up their childish behaviour you can be sure that more votes will be diverted to the other parties.


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