Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
Why are people standing around while bureaucrats from LA and factory farms drain the Delta? It’s like “Chinatown” all over again!
–Paranoid in Prospect Slough

Dear Paranoid,
This may seem like an odd comparison, but the water issue around here is starting to remind me of the health care debate we’re seeing play out around the country. That is, the debate seems to be framed not by the actual issues but by paranoid fantasies that play out like a comic book written by Ayn Rand after somebody spiked her martini with a sheet of acid.

In case I’m not making any sense, check out yesterday’s video of a tea bagger holding a photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache, who asked Congressman Barney Frank “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy,” referring of course to the health care bill in Congress. Now this poor lady had the bad sense to bring a Nerf knife to a gunfight; if you’re gonna take on Barney Frank in a flame war, you’d better bring your A-game and a truck full of napalm. He promptly silenced her with a “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Then he compared arguing with her to arguing with a dining room table, ensuring her status as an unwitting Internet celebrity, and offending dining room tables everywhere. Simon Cowell would have been proud.

Anyway, I got a little carried away there. And I’m not going to deny that my side has more than its share of crazies too. That “Bush was behind 9/11” rumor refuses to die, despite ample evidence no one anywhere close to that administration would have been remotely competent to pull that off.

My point is that this whole water think has become the weird rail of California politics. The conventional wisdom is so far out there that you could spot it with the Hubble. Anything you say is likely to get you in trouble with somebody, and rationale debate is the victim. Burning farms and sinking islands? Sure.

So having a rational discussion about water in Sacramento is a little like trying to have a rational discussion about health care in a town hall meeting with your Congressman. Point being, if there is one – that political discourse seems to have gone into the toilet – not just in California, but everywhere. Really, what is this world coming to? We can’t have an open budget discussion for fear of interest groups tattling on the legislative leaders. Meanwhile, in town hall meetings around the country, hundreds of Medicare recipients rail against government-run health care.

The world just doesn’t make any sense anymore. Perhaps we need a new way of thinking about these things – a new way around the problems we continue to run into again and again. A rhetorical peripheral canal, if you will. In the mean time, I’m going to sit back and watch all the posturing for a couple of weeks, and maybe we’ll have something to talk about come deadline time.

There’s nothing like the legislative deadline pressure to link policy items that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. If  I were a betting man, and I am, I’m guessing the fate of the water deal hinges on the future of Internet poker, or pomegranate juice, or some other policy-driven non sequitur.

That kind of political free association can be maddening. But if properly medicated, and in a nice comfy chair, watching it go down can be a beautiful thing.

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