Saturday, February 14, 2009

Whose Idea Was It to Put an "S" in "Lisp"?

The question in the title of today's blog was included in an e-mail I received (again) this week. The e-mail poses a number of questions, for which there are no good answers, but which nonetheless leave you scratching your head and, often, giggling. My favorite question in this week's version is "Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?" I've included the entire e-mail at the end of the blog, but you have to get through the more serious pondering to enjoy it.

It struck me that the concept of asking whimsical questions that illustrate human foibles can be applied to our current political situation. Both with respect to the emergence of radical Republicans opposition to bipartisanship on a national level and the U.S. Senate recount in Minnesota, a whimsical "why" keeps getting asked. As is the case with this week's humorous e-mail, there are no good answers.

When Barack Obama received 53% of the popular vote and a landslide of electoral votes on November 4th last, the American people were signaling that they wanted a change in direction of the management of this country. Certainly, Republicans, who treated the squeakers of 2000 and 2004 as a mandate to impose their will without regard for dissent, should understand that the majority is entitled to have its elected representatives pursue policies reflecting the will of the electorate. This does not suggest that the party in the minority should capitulate on every issue of dispute that arises. However, the minority party should be prepared to compromise and, ultimately, put aside the partisan bickering in order to support efforts to save the Republic.

The fact that nary a Republican voted for final passage of the economic stimulus plan in the House of Representatives this week illustrates a lockstep approach to participating in governing that is disturbing in its resemblance to German goosesteps. Clearly, the stimulus plan is not so toxic that not one independently thinking Republican congressman was able in good conscience to support it. The support for the legislation from professional economic analysts, always with the caveat of no certain success, is widespread across the partisan playing field. The general perception is that something has to be tried; failing to act because of partisan gridlock will only cause a steeper economic downturn, more lost jobs, more suffering and a more difficult recovery.

Getting back to the election, it is unreasonable for Republicans to expect that the Democratic majority in Congress will relinquish to the Republicans the majority's ability to direct the tenor of critical legislation. Republicans should continue to engage the White House and the Congressional leadership and fight for concessions in pending legislation. However, at the point where the compromising has concluded, Republicans, patriots, should cast their votes for or against the legislation solely on the basis of whether, on balance, the legislation is in the best interests of the United States of America.

To the extent that some truly believe that doing nothing or, at least, substantially less than the Democrats' economic stimulus plan is better for the country and its citizenry, so be it. There is no way, however, that each and every House Republican came to that conclusion. Rather, the conventional wisdom goes, the Republicans shirked their responsibility to help solve the country's economic challenges in order to better position themselves for the 2010 mid-term elections. Since, by all educated guesstimates, the country will still be in a recession in 2010, Republicans feel that by voting against the legislation this week, they can take an "it's not my fault" attitude when things are still bad in two years.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about that in two years. In the meantime, I have another whimsical question for the circulating e-mail: "I wonder if Republicans who voted against the economic stimulus package for political reasons are as concerned with the suffering of their constituents as they are with the posturing of their leadership?"

The second "why" question that comes to mind is "Why is Norm Coleman so determined to undermine the credibility of the U.S. Senate election?" I do not begrudge Mr. Coleman the right to pursue his legal remedies in a legitimate challenge of the State Canvassing Board's determination that Al Franken received more votes in last year's election. However, the combination of his constantly changing his position on the propriety of counting certain ballots and his regular proclamation that if every vote is counted he will emerge the winner has the dual effect of unnecessarily dragging out the process and de-legitimizing the outcome among Mr. Coleman's supporters should he not prevail.

When the recount process started, Mr. Coleman was adamant that no absentee ballot not counted on election night be included in the results. 180 degrees later, Mr. Coleman is looking for votes wherever he can find them and the pile of 12,000 or so rejected absentee ballots, net of the ones already determined to have been wrongfully rejected, appeals to Mr. Coleman like a bunch of rotten bananas appeals to drosophila melanogaster.

Senator-elect Franken, on the other hand, has consistently called for the counting of all legally cast ballots. The Franken campaign has never argued that all rejected ballots should be counted. They recognized that in a country where the rule of law prevails, persons who failed to follow instructions for properly casting absentee ballots effectively disenfranchised themselves. Senator-elect Franken took that position even when it was not convenient and lessened his margin of victory.

It appears that the Coleman gameplan has nothing to do with trying to prevail. Rather, it smacks of purposely delaying the arrival at an outcome for purely partisan purposes. By keeping Senator-elect Franken out of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Coleman and his Republican benefactors are able to maintain a tighter grip on the business of Congress, notwithstanding a clear mandate from the national electorate to the contrary. Mr. Coleman's fight is incredibly expensive and, I believe, is being funded primarily out of the national GOP coffers in order to achieve a hidden agenda as the new Obama adminstration attempts to pass legislation with the support of a strong Democratic majority in Congress.

Mr. Coleman's unprincipaled positions in his election contest and his constant insinuation that the election is being stolen from him by the refusal to count every ballot cast, whatever infirmity renders it void as a matter of law, is offensive and, again for purely political purposes, jeopardizes the ability of the country to unite at this critical time and pull together to face our challenges.

Now that you've managed to wallow through the serious ponderings, enjoy some lighter musings:

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are almost dead?

Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they already know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars; but have to check when you say the paint is still wet?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?' Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?'

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.

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