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What just happened?

I spent a strange week this week, with my company observing the MLK Day holiday and then on the road for three days. Needless to say my consumption of news was a little disjointed, but suffice it to say that I was stunned at some of what transpired over the past few days.....

First and foremost, congratulations to Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown for capturing a U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by the late Ted Kennedy for the past 47 years. Quite a feat, and now the Democrats only have a nine-vote majority in the Senate. From the cheap seats where I am, the "filibuster-proof" majority had not helped the Dems ram through every single piece of legislation, so I don't see much changing a a result of a slightly smaller majority.

What I do see changing, though, is the overall political landscape as the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision yesterday, which paves the way for corporations to spend as much as they like in advertising and other activities designed to sway voter opinions and legally influence election outcomes. What concerns me is that now that this will be in the open, instead of concealed in political action committees and such, these corporate entities (a good many of whom have received assistance from the Bush and Obama administrations) will now exert a lot of influence. When I heard this I thought of the cover of a book that was written just after Richard Nixon was elected President in the late '60's. The name of the book was "The Selling of the President" and while I don't remember the author, what I DO remember was the cover art: Nixon's face on the front of a pack of cigarettes, and I presume the book forwarded the argument that Nixon was elected in much the same way that a product is sold to the buying public. So get ready for political candidates who have more sizzle than steak in the coming years, as image will truly be everything in politics, even more so than today.

Finally, it's made me feel pretty proud to be an American to see how we as a country have responded to the recent earthquake and aftershock in Haiti. To see an impoverished country's citizens lose what little they had is disconcerting, to be sure, but when you add a corrupt government and little hope of a self-recovery and you know that these people need and deserve whatever help we can provide. I just saw a news item that the Haitian government plans to move around 400,000 people into temporary settlements, presumably to get them away from the ruins in and around Port-Au-Prince and the disease that will surely follow those medieval conditions, so good for them in acting proactively. And the port has been reopened, so there should be a better mechanism for getting relief supplies into the country.


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