Ok, dear readers, quick poll: the most important news story of the week is:
1. Scandals involving DC politicians
2. Debt Ceiling negotiations
3. Terrorism in Norway
4. Rupert Murdoch
5. The Heat
Even before tallying the results, let me guess: THE HEAT wins! Not surprising, but too bad. The other stories are far more important, but only likely to deepen the misery index that is already high on the thermometer. We understand that we can’t do much about the weather ‘cept complain about it, but we are bewildered and frustrated that we can’t seem to do much either about politics, education, criminal minds and media scandals.
But here’s why we need to turn up the a/c a notch and pay closer attention to what’s going on elsewhere in the news:
Debt ceiling negotiations: forget about trying to understand the nuances of national finances, what you need to understand about this mess is that the inability of politicians to practice the most important skill set we should expect of them —- the art of compromise — is draining the credibility and economic stability of our nation, with the potential to devolve into economic catastrophe. I believe they will find a solution before the latter happens. However, the behaviors around this issue are reprehensible, signalling a clear breakdown in governance. Dan Balz had a great column on this topic in today’s Washington Post. Extreme ideologies and 2012 electoral politics have completely corrupted the ability of Congress to reach decisions that will serve the nation and global economy sensibly and responsibly.
Norway’s tragedy this weekend reveals, once again, the real dangers that lurk among extremists on the social and political fringes. The United States and other nations have spend billions on wars and defenses against threats posed by external terrorists, and yet, some of the greatest threats remain among domestic groups and individuals with murderous hostility toward social change, immigration and liberal governments. The sad consequence of the acts of hate-filled maniacs is the continuing erosion of freedom for the majority of people trying to live together in peaceful societies.
Closer to home, the ongoing political scandals among politicians in the District of Columbia make us sigh with frustration. Our city needs better.
Then again, scandal is a universal failing of powerful, famous or rich people. The fall of the empire of Rupert Murdoch is one of the summer’s more delicious episodes of schadenfreude, that vaguely venial sin that takes delight in other people’s misery. Murdoch gobbled up media outlets, in the process creating a climate in which “news” and “opinion” increasingly blurred. Perhaps the best result of this episode will be increased public wariness of media monopolies.
But, lordy, it’s too hot to think long and hard about any of this, isn’t it? Let’s hope cooler heads prevail this weekend in the debt negotiations. Backing away from economic catastrophe will be the coolest breeze possible in this long, hot summer.