Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Half a head of lettuce
A joke: A grocery clerk is approached by a big, strapping Texan in the produce section, who says: "Son, I want to buy me half a head of lettuce. Can you help me?" The young clerk, who knows the store only sells full heads of lettuce, replies. "Just a second, I'll be right back." And, he heads off to the employee section, but unbeknownst to him, he has the big Texan right behind. As soon as the door shuts behind the both of them, he shouts out to his friend, "Lou! Some idiot Texan wants to buy half a head of lettuce!" Before he can laugh about it, he sees that his friend is looking over his shoulder at something; he turns around and sees the big Texan.
..." and this fine gentleman wants to buy the other half," he adds.
In my opinion, the clerk's fast thinking is pretty much the daily strategy for the federal government and increasingly, local and state governments: make fun of the rank and file until you're busted and then vamp your ass off.
It's grown to such an artform, this lack of respect for the electorate, that I'm not sure Harriet Miers was ever a "real" candidate for the Supreme Court. In the convoluted poli-thinking of of our two groups of lords and masters, Miers may have just been a dodge, a ruse to get Bush's base riled up and back into fear mode, where they are easily manipulated. Since Roe v. Wade can't be overturned by conservatives (how could they replace its galvanizing effect without re-instituting slavery?), they've got to slap their base in the face ("See? We're considering a moderate," they warn) and then offer something more to the conservatives' liking -- ineffectual, but more to their liking.
The Dems get a free pass with their constituency, too. They get to crow that their push for a moderate brought Miers to the fore, but, "Oh! those horrible Republicans have torn her down!" I almost laughed when I read Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, offer this backhanded support of Miers.
"They wouldn't have done that to a male candidate," she said.
It's getting pretty thick.
I blog here because I am positive that we know less and less how real government operates. Looking at it logically and scientifically (sorry, Intelligent Design people), the culture of money and politics that has supplanted diplomacy has to have evolved over the course of 200+ years. Lobbying is a billion-dollar business and, like advertising, it learns new tricks each season. We aren't privy to those tricks and politicians aren't inclined to share.
So, we are the the United Secrets of America, and rule No. 1 is don't share information with the public. How on earth, then, are we to be an informed electorate? The cliche is that we can't handle the truth. I don't think we can handle the lies.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Religion as a marketing tool
I never trusted Billy Graham. When I was a child in the 1960s/early 1970s, I remember my aunt listened to him religiously. My first indoctrination into the mainstream church was as a Baptist in central Illinois. I was taken to Sunday School, dropped off and picked up after services. My aunt that listened to Billy Graham would occasionally send him money and she would tell me how it wasn't OK to dance to church music (a sin) or wear red lipstick (another sin).
All I remember is a droning, nasal voice on the radio; a soundtrack to Sundays as my aunts washed dishes, swept the floor or washed clothes. The voice sounded nothing like the boisterous, accidentally profane sounds that came from the throats of my family members.
It took a few more years of life before I realized that he was selling the keys to the Kingdom, divine joy and a nearer place to Him. All in the monotone of an insurance salesman.
And, it took a few years more before I came to the conclusion that he was simply selling his beliefs to as many people as possible -- the multi-level marketing of God.
Having attended C.O.G.I.C, Baptist, AME, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic and several more services, usually on the arms of true believers, my perception of mainstream religion is best summed up by the bumper sticker: 'God Save Me From Your Believers.'
I will go on record and say, 'I don't want a religious government.' I don't want prayer in the schools and I don't want to vote for candidates who lead with Jesus.
The liberal in me offers this proviso: 'I'm sure their beliefs are important to them, and I respect their journey.' But, the pragmatist in me says, 'Don't even try and proselytize when you're wrapped in the flag.' I will not respect you; I will not vote for you; I won't trust you.
Blame it on Billy (who actually seems to have avoided controversy) or Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart or Bob Jones or Oral Roberts or Reverend Ike. In my opinion, money is not at the core of religion and yet we Americans have made it big business. My belief is that teachers should make a ton of money, while preachers should make next to nothing. If you think I'm placing a value judgement on religion, then you have succumbed to the money uber alles mentality that has become insidious in America.
Quick observations: Money likely will not bring back your health if a company poisons you with its products; it won't bring back a loved one who has been killed by negligence and it doesn't do a damn thing for religion but make for an industry that draws in captains of commerce. If I need Lee Iacocca to tell me how to get into heaven, then prepare the express elevator to hell.
I am being obvious here, but I can't help it. Irony is lost on too many people, nowadays: How can we hate Islamic governments, when a religion-based government is the path we are on? And, every time we have a preacher endorse a Republican or a Democrat, how can that not take him or her further away from the spiritual?
Why must morality be the sole province of mainstream religion? Doesn't the weight of society count for something? As bad as crime has been, it still is representative of only a sliver of a fraction of Americans -- doesn't that speak to a certain amount of "goodness" in secular society? And, organized relgions certainly aren't doing the "goodness" thing as well as they could, witness the legions of abused boys who trusted Catholic priests.
I'm not against religion; people need comforting and succor; they need understanding about what lies beyond. I'm simply against any religion that requires a microphone and spreadsheets.
We are heading down a road that is merging religion and democracy and that is not a proper fit in my opinion. Those in control of the government should have a faith in the system and a respect for the people. When faith in higher powers starts to inform their decisions I am concerned, because that higher power may soon become a fog that makes for some very bad laws, however perfectly divine their rationales may be.
Friday, October 21, 2005
1-A little something for you to scan, frame and hang on your powder-room wall.
2-This should be unbelievable... but it's not: Guess who House Republicans have nominated for the Congressional Medal of Freedom? Considering the first tid bit, you may be thinking Tom DeLay. That would be a good guess, but it would be wrong. The answer is Dick Cheney. What is that? Hubris, spite, psychosis... the middle finger?
Yeesh. Better get it to him before Fitzgerald issues his indictment.
Posted by Kay
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I appreciate you guys
One of the things I enjoy about this blog is that people are passionate about their beliefs and able to defend them intellectually. I remember thinking that Morton Downey, Jr. (remember him?) was the nadir of public discourse. But, as the saying goes, 'We hit rock bottom and started to dig.'
Hypocrisy is rampant in so many areas of life (and I am not immune to it) that it's refreshing to not have to deal with it here. I can be infuriated by someone and still consider them a decent person, a friend, even.
Plus, the concepts -- Trotskyists (thanks for the education, Renegade), hard-ass liberalism, black conservatism actually extend beyond black and white. My God, there are shades of gray. Take that, George Bush.
So many things have sent me googling or on to other parts of the net, searching for references and more information. For instance, I remember Trotsky, but a quick look-see reminded me of how dangerous it can be to be a visionary (Ice pick... yikes!) And, then some things were just plain illuminating -- for me, anyway. When CB differentiated between the Republican Party and conservatism the way he did, it made me think.
What sprang to mind was that our economic and political systems are not interchangeable, but our actions suggest that we think they are. Capitalism, if I may use a very rough analogy, is like a dictatorship in that a very few hold the power (some, might argue that it actually a meritocracy, but I'm not using abstractions -- what nation has ever been a true meritocracy?) But, it is overlain over republican (intentionally lower case) principles. The dynamic is one of a tug of war: social principles against financial principles, or put another way: every man for himself versus a collective social effort.
Putting aside the racism argument; that might be why African Americans, Hispanics, some Asians and American Indians don't collectively thrive in the system. They are looking to attempt collective social progress in conjunction with collective economic progress. True capitalists don't trust that. The knock on Jewish people is they don't like to spend money with people who aren't Jewish -- they are clique-ish. It's not seen as a good thing.
Ann Coulter educated me, too. When I read her defense of Condi Rice, she said it was a defect in the African American community that we feel we have to identify with all elements of our community. She mentioned murderers being put to death and how we agonize over what led them to such heinous acts. She said white people would be happy to flip the switch on a white death row inmate. She doesn't feel particularly attached to her white cohort group.
That is of interest to me. I am attached to my perception of a human community and I have a fascination with the motives of people who are "social capitalists" and willing to "throw away" non-valued human beings.
... but, I've got to laugh; I was going to spend two minutes saying, I appreciate your posts and to exhort you to go out and find others to write in, piss us off and get a piece of our minds -- but the lure was too tempting...
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
CB, you refer to a set of social problems...
... African Americans who are under-educated, unemployed, unmarried, incarcerated and oversexed – and blame it on social-program spending. “… these are the results of $6,600,000,000,000 worth of government administered social programs.”
To quote “Fargo’s” Marge Gunderson, “I’m not sure I agree with your police work there…”
That these problems continue isn’t proof that social safety-nets are the cause.
The individual is pretty much formed by adulthood and money poured into adult welfare programs (substance abuse, domestic violence, legal services etc) can seem, at times, to make painfully little difference to the warp and weave of the social fabric. But it’s not only the lives of these adults that we’re ultimately trying to effect. The hope is that we can stop adults who are in free-fall mode from taking their kids along for the ride and then make sure the kids have their basic needs met as well as give them opportunities that might help break the cycle.
The Reagan-era perpetuated myth of the “welfare mom” who procreates just so she can take in an extra welfare check is a false enemy. The enemy is poverty, which begets dumbness, which begets dumb choices.
Conservative policies seem to contradict conservative stated goals. Their mouths say “work,” but their policies say, “starve.” Conservatives are steadfastly opposed to raising the minimum wage. A full time minimum-wage worker earns $10,712 a year. A couple with two children would have to work a combined 132 minimum-wage hours a week just to make ends meet… and they do (despite what Rush Limbaugh says, it’s not just teenagers who are taking these jobs).
Many Americans saw poor black people sitting on New Orleans rooftops and assumed they were all welfare recipients (one conservative pundit quipped, “now they won’t know where to pick up their welfare checks”). In fact, those desperate faces were, in many case those of the “working poor” -- the people who sweep our floors, prep our food, type our memos, and empty our bedpans. To make matters worse, Bush keeps pushing his guest worker program claiming that an imported labor force would only take those jobs that Americans are unwilling to take. In fact, this is just a way for Bushes corporate donors to get cheap labor. If these jobs aren’t made available to “guest workers” employers are forced to make the jobs more competitive for American workers.
As for the problem of unmarried parents, how are two dysfunctional adults better than one? Seems like twice the emotional scarring to me. What we have to focus on is how to keep sexually active humans from reproducing until they’re financially and emotionally ready to do so. The catch 22 is, they won’t be equipped unless society delivers a good education and the promise of a decent job. This is the social contract. When we default on it, the problem continues into perpetuity.
Sadly, liberal programs to address that very problem are under constant and unrelenting attack by the right. I’m talking about sex education in schools, and access to the morning after pill and safe and legal abortion.
The irony – which somehow seems lost on many right-wingers – is that the abortion rate (along with poverty) steadily declined during the Clinton years and has (along with poverty) steadily increased under Bush.
(Which reminds me of another Limbaugh-ism. He likes to quote poverty numbers from the beginning of the Clinton administration (numbers that belonged to Bush One and were bad) and compare them to poverty numbers at the beginning of the Bush Two administration (numbers that belonged to Clinton and were good). In fact, he has it exactly backwards and the lying SOB knows it.)
Other damaging conservative bright ideas include corporate welfare that allows outsourcing of American labor and off shore tax shelters so multi billion dollar companies don’t have to contribute to the tax base. Where bankruptcy is concerned, we’re getting screwed six ways to Sunday. The new bankruptcy bill says to credit card companies, ‘hunt away, we’ve blocked the exit,’ but corporate bankruptcies are protected, and leave us, the taxpayers to pick up the tab for reneged upon pension plans.
Let’s talk about Delphi, a GM spin-off and one of the largest employers in Michigan. Tens of thousands of retired GM workers are now being told they’ll now get only 30 percent of the pension they worked their asses off to earn. Meanwhile, current workers are being told their wages will be cut in half. And Delphi goes on its merry way, protected by corporate bankruptcy laws.
What the Taliban did to the Muslim religion? That’s what the neo-cons have done to your party. Rather than defending them, you should be demanding they give it back. At least then we can get back to agreeing to disagree.
And now for the ‘wading into unknown territory’ portion of my post (I think Renegade Eye, a self-proclaimed Trotskyite is better qualified to address this, but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway)…
Just because we have social programs doesn’t make us anything resembling a socialist country (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We are capitalists, through and through
Having said that, there seems to be little agreement as to what qualifies as socialism – just because a party calls itself socialist, does not make it so. More often than not, so-called socialist governments are an amalgam of different political parties. Of your examples, a Spanish Socialist Workers Party won the election in 2004. Who knows yet weather it will work?
Since 1998, the government of Germany has been built as a coalition of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, The Green Party and Christian Democratic Union.
And Jacques Chirac's party affiliation, Union for a Popular Movement, is considered right wing, by French standards.
Rather than talk about countries that “promote” (or dabble in) socialism. Let’s talk about a place where it’s been in place for decades -- ya know, the lefties that brought us Ikea and Abba:
“The Nordic countries are characterized by excellent macroeconomic management over all," said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of the global competitiveness program of the World Economic Forum. "They are all running budget surpluses, they have extremely low levels of corruption, with their firms operating in a legal environment in which there is widespread respect for contracts and the rule of law, and their private sectors are on the forefront of technological innovation."
"It's that old myth that social protection requires more business regulations and hurts business," said Caralee McLeish, a co-author of the World Bank survey. "In fact, we found that social protection is good for business, it takes the burden off of businesses for health care costs and ensures a well-trained and educated work force."
The Nordic countries have bested some of the world's hottest economies and dominate the top ranks of the list of most competitive economies in the world in a new ranking of the best places to do business.”—The International Herald
Better to compare the US to Argentina where rabid privatization has left the country with nothing left to privatize, eroding the tax base, and leading to a deep recession. In 2001, economic collapse left more than half the population living in poverty.
--Posted by Kay
CB on Black Conservatism: Millions More Socialists
My friend Jae (I know him as Herky) and I haven’t seen one another in years. Through the magic of the World Wide Web and my continued contact with his family, we recently reconnected. He, like my family, and his family were surprised to see me devolve into that lowest form of human life, the dreaded Black Republican. To make things worse, I am a proud, unapologetic conservative. I make a distinction between conservative and Republican. Conservatives believe in a set of principles, Republicans seek to win elections. What speaks to me as much as anything about Jae’s character, the confidence he has in his positions and our renewed friendship, is that he has asked me to provide an occasional counter point. I’ll do my best.
As you read, you will be tempted to make broad generalizations about me or perhaps psychoanalyze me or wonder how Jae could be so f*%#@$d up to have a friend like me. I don’t hate my friends, family or the amount of melanin in my skin. Some friends and professional psychologists (who happen to be my friends too) tell me that I need psychotropic drugs or at least a double blind placebo study, but for the moment, please assume that I am somewhat lucid.
The winds and waves of Katrina exposed a much more devastating storm visited upon, primarily, poor blacks than any Atlantic borne disturbance could ever produce – social welfare programs and their perfect failure. Like the 17th street levy that gave way (or was blown up according to the Minister Louis Mothership Farrakhan) to the Gulf waters, poor black women, small children, the sick and the elderly streamed to the Super Dome and the New Orleans Convention Center. I’m just curious to know where were the men? I’m sure the stranded young women with multiple children hanging off of them were asking too.
Since Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” American’s, through their government have spent $6.6 Trillion specifically earmarked for poverty programs. The results have been revealing. The number of black children whose parents aren’t married is nearly 80%. Can this be good? The number of young black men between the ages of 18 and 40 in jail or on parole is close to 25%. Can this be good? The education gap between black and white students is wider now than 40 years ago. Can this be good? Black unemployment is above 10%, nearing 20% in some communities. Can this be good? I could talk about the all but naked girls on BET grinding on thuggish young men and how this passes for “black culture” but I’ll leave that for another day. Collectively, these are the results of $6,600,000,000,000 worth of government administered social programs.
I’m going to walk through some math, math that makes a much more favorable case for the programs than truly exists, to be as fair to liberal sensibilities as I can be. In 1965, the black population of America was roughly 17 million. Let’s assume, for arguments sake that half of the black population was in poverty (although we know it did not come close to that). The black population was roughly 14% of the total American population. Even though the percentage of blacks in poverty was much higher than the general population, for arguments sake, we’ll only assign the general population percentage to the total dollars spent for black folk. Then of the $6.6 Trillion spent on poverty, a mere $924 Billion would be targeted toward poor blacks. Had the government simply given half of the black population of 1965, the money to be spent on poverty programs, every man, woman and child could have looked forward to receiving $110,000 each. In 1965, the average salary of a black man expressed in today’s dollars was $14,ooo and that of a black woman was $5,800. So the poor could have looked forward to receiving nearly 9 times the amount of the average working black man and 20 times the amount of the average working black woman. As ill advised as that approach is and would have been, it would have been infinitely better than the mess we are confronted with today.
So what do Jesse, Al and Louis advocate? They propose more government dependency, more social welfare programs. These, however, are not benign positions that flow from benevolent hearts. These are calculated and cultivated planks, which invoke “worker’s rights” and seek out communist dictators who deny rights to their people. Like Jesse pursuing Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator and Louis invoking his 3 hour conversation with Castro at the Millions More Movement. Katrina did more than expose the failure of socialism, it provided capital to the race/poverty pimps, whose goal is not to solve problems or help people, but to gain and retain control by using hatred and fostering attitudes of entitlement. I won’t go into the corruption, lack of freedom and violence that communist regimes promote (read Mona Charen’s book Useful Idiots to see what Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Mihn, Daniel Ortega, Castro and others did to their own people) but I must provide examples of the economic consequences of socialism.
In Europe, especially in France, Belgium, Germany and Spain, where socialism has been heavily promoted, the unemployment rate is higher than it is for black Americans. There will be serious unrest in Europe soon that will have global consequences. In Africa, socialism reigns supreme. So too does government corruption, poverty, violence and starvation. They are providing Europe with a preview. North Korea’s population is starving and under complete authoritarian domination. How many American’s make boats out of a car chassis and milk cartons and jump into the Caribbean in hopes of setting foot on Cuba’s shores? How many of our athlete’s and entertainers defect to Cuba? How about Canada you ask? Their vaunted health system was recently struck a severe blow by their ultra liberal Supreme Court, which concluded that the way they distribute health care is patently unfair. Canada also has no military to defend itself. If Guam attacked, they’d have to surrender. If you think taxes are bad here, try living in Canada.
The most compelling case is Mexico. Mexico has no Halliburton’s for their liberals to scoff at, industry in Mexico is government owned for the most part. Mexico has lots of social welfare programs. We see the success of their programs every day in Nashville. There are entire sections of town that if you don’t speak Spanish, you are lost. Not Houston, San Antonio, Dallas or Los Angeles, Phoenix or Miami, New York or Chicago, but Nashvegas, Tennessee. Mexico has a booming export economy, their people. Yet those on the political left and particularly our so called black leaders advocate what has led to the failure and misery of so many.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Having spent most of my life under an elected Republican president -- GW Bush excepted -- I have acquired a tool when discussing poltics, i.e., investigate "facts" presented as hard and fast truths. We are so used to assuming the truth is being told that Bush could piss on our shoe, look us in the eye and tell us it's raining. And, we'd buy an umbrella!
We are so used to arguing with this group of neocons about context that we forget to insist on facts. Worst of all, the media have no inclination to call a lie a lie.
My friend, CB, and many conservatives suggest that $6.6 trillion has been spent on programs for the poor. That figure was bandied about after the Katrina disaster. Before I get on with the rant, I have to ask this about the conservative mentality -do you expect poverty to just go away? 'No, thanks, we're tired of being poor; we're going to crack open those IRAs, now.' My impression is that you're doing some kind of Affirmative Action countdown and by 2019 people better not need welfare. Is welfare some special case? I mean, We've spent trillions on the military - but we still have wars; we've spent billions on law enforcement - but we still have crime; we've spent billions on medicine - but still have disease.
OK, back to the $6.6 trillion; I addressed that number as if it were gospel in my recent post. But I stuck a mental note on the refrigerator door of my mind reminding me to do my own check of that figure for its accuracy. I don't have the most current figures because I found a great site whose numbers I wanted to cite and it was from the mid-90s. And, I am not trying to suggest that NO money was spent on the poor. I'm sure it was a very large sum, but $6.6 trillion seemed hyperbolic to me. And, with my cursory check of the internet; I'm going to say it is.
Assuming that "welfare for the poor" strictly describes AFDC, WIC and other types of government aid, it's not possible to have paid that much out. $6.6 trillion would mean an average state and federal outlay of $165 billion a year for welfare for the 40 years since 1965.
Quick math trick. AFDC, WIC, food stamps and other more direct welfare programs have averaged about 1% of the total state and federal budgets over that period -- meaning average state and federal budgets of $16 TRILLION for each year. That's not even remotely close to possible in the last 40 years of U.S. governmental budgets
To even achieve an outlay of $165 billion a year in social programs (state and federal) one has to expand the definition of "welfare" to make this figure larger, which includes middle class programs such as Medicaid and student loans.
In 1992 (sorry for the old figures, but you'll see why in a second), AFDC formed only 1 percent of the combined federal and state budgets. Food stamps also took up 1 percent. Both programs cost $24.9 billion each, comprising 1 percent each of the combined federal, state and local budget of $2.5 trillion (see why I say an average of $16 trillion isn't possible?)
I am going to refer to a link to offer a comparison of other government spending: http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-runawaywelfare.htm
"Comparing the size of federal AFDC to other federal programs puts a great deal in perspective:
Federal AFDC Expenditures as Compared to Federal Spending in Other Areas in 1993
(once again, the figures are kind of long in the tooth).
Agency $ billions
Social Security 305
"To rescue their point that welfare is responsible for runaway government spending, conservatives must expand the definition of "welfare" as much as possible. Unfortunately, AFDC and food stamps are by far the largest welfare programs for the poor, and any expanded definition is going to include popular middle class programs like Medicaid, student grants, school lunches, and pensions for needy veterans. In other words, conservatives must villainize the middle class if they wish to villainize the poor. But for the moment, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, and accompany their line of argument to the end:
Many conservatives expand "welfare" to include all one-way transfers of cash, goods or services to persons who make no payment and render no service in return. The Library of Congress provides a list of such programs (Good Reading - jae). In 1992, these expenditures for combined federal, state and local governments came to $289.9 billion, or 12 percent of the combined budget of $2,487 billion.
Keep in mind that this 12 percent includes such popular middle class programs as Medicaid, student grants, school lunches, pensions for needy veterans, etc.
If conservatives are still frustrated that this does not prove their point that government is drowning in welfare, then they might try expanding "welfare" to include all social welfare expenditures, which include every entitlement program under the sun, including Social Security and Medicare. (Forget, for the moment, that the middle class is defending these programs with bazookas and rocket launchers.) In 1992, these expenditures comprised 62 percent of combined government outlays. However, at least at the federal level, these benefits are paid to literally every income bracket, and in a remarkably proportional manner:
Distributions of Federal Funds by Income Bracket, Compared to Distribution
of Households by Income Bracket, CY 1991
Percent of Percent of
Income all households all benefits
Under $10,000 16.4% 17.8%
$10,000 - $20,000 18.8 21.7
$20,000 - $30,000 17.0 17.2
$30,000 - $50,000 23.6 21.8
$50,000 - $100,000 19.1 15.9
Over $100,000 5.1 5.6
As the above chart shows, the conservative's absurdism is now complete; he has declared class war against every member of society. But at least he has proven his point."
> That's not my line; but I might have to steal it ;-)
Monday, October 17, 2005
Racial Politics, Part Deux: And, now for a rebuttal from CB, a good friend of mine
I come from a liberal tradition, black, grew up in a university town, listened to NPR everyday, even had a pair of birkenstocks and frequented Starbucks, etc. However, as I began to have children, I realized that everything that glitters ain't gold. Liberal policies, specifically, welfare, lack of school choice etc. have done more harm than good. To add insult to injury, The old media (I'm not trying to be insulting), NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, race/poverty pimp preachers and white liberals, I believe have done more to harm the fortunes of especially poor blacks than the Klan and crack combined. They preach/publish/advocate about how the government owes poor blacks and how they are entitled to government paternalism. The result of which Katrina exposed with blinding clarity.
Before I came out of the dark side, the issue I had with conservatives, was the face of it and the use of racial undertones by certain Republicans until the early 1980's. Jesse Helms and before him, Nixon and Goldwater using the "Southern Strategy" in the crass politics of division. More recently, David Duke under the guise of the Republican banner and "conservativism" came out of Louisiana. On the other hand, Robert Byrd is a former head of the klan in W Virginia and as recently as two years ago, he referred to so called "white niggers." Of course these indiscretions are passed over by the press. Mary Landreiux, recently, in her defense of Ray Nagan and Kathleen Blanco, said that they couldn't rely on those lazy civil servants in their administrations (notwithstanding that the folks she is talking about are by and large black). How about when Chris Dodd praised Robert Byrd last year on the Senate floor for his service to the country even during the years when he was the head of the Klan. That is all window dressing though, but the inconsistency is forgiven by black folk.
All that is preamble to this point. There are different factions within conservativism. To be certain, there are those with a racist agenda among those who refer to themselves as conservatives. By and large, most conservatives aren't concerned about holding someone else down, to the contrary, they are looking to preserve liberty for themselves and their children. In fact, I contend, the largest faction of racists in this country are not conservatives, but liberals. Anyone who suggests that I am not as smart so I need affirmative action is a racist. Anyone who concludes that I need the state to provide for me and mine and that if my children receive assistance, that I shouldn't live with them, is a racist. Anyone who suggests that I can't control my behavior and need to be understood instead of jailed when I beat my wife or children, shoot someone, sell drugs to children, is a racist. Anyone who suggests that the behavior we see on BET is "black culture" is a racist. Bill Cosby merely exposed the conversations we have among ourselves about us and he is vilified.
Specifically with regard to Roe v. Wade (the original plaintiff is now pro life), two points: Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood, like Hitler was a follower of eugenics. She intended to introduce and promote abortion in the black community to clean up the gene pool in America, facts not in dispute. Yet black folk continue to support the concept. My point here is, when we won't defend the most innocent and defenseless among us, how do we value those that remain? The second point is, for judicial conservatives, aside from the moral argument, it is a matter of liberty. According to former ACLU chief counsel, abortion supporter, Clinton appointee and US Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Roe v. Wade is bad law and was wrongly decided. The overturning of Roe won't eliminate abortions, it will merely send it back to the states to decide through the process of representative government - legislation. The court has become imperial, with Stephen Breyer looking to foreign law to decide precedent regarding the US Constitution. That is merely looking for the result you want and trying to justify it.
We the people have been stripped of our liberty. When the court can decide that the city of New London CT had the right to Ms. Kelo's property because the city could earn more tax income from a commercial property, the courts are out of control. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court can create a right of two same sex people to wed, outside of the will of the people, the courts are out of control. What makes America great and the envy of the world is liberty (limited government), the rule of law (not man - or rogue courts), and free markets (capitalism) informed by Judeo Christian values and defended with strength. In a little over 200 years, America has amassed nearly 25% of the world's wealth with a little less than 5% of the world's population.
$6.6 Trillion has been spent on the "war on poverty" in just over 40 years. It has done more harm than helped. We don't tell our children that 86.5% of them that finish school, get a job before they get married, get married before they have children and stay out of the criminal justice system, never come close to poverty. Economies are contrary to liberal belief, not a zero sum game. As you engage in capitalism, the pie gets bigger. Evidence of this is America's "poor."
Let's look at the world's poor first. The biggest health problem of the world's poor is malnutrition. The biggest health problem of America's "poor" is obesity. The world's poor typically don't have or have inadequate shelter. 46% of America's "poor" own their homes. The average size of the homes of America's "poor" is larger than the average home of all citizens in France and England. The world's poor don't have adequate clothing. With some exceptions, America's poor children wear $200 tennis shoes etc. The world's poor are uneducated. Even America's "poor" are required to go to school until the 12th grade.
Poor black folk, given the choice of schools to educate their children, rejecting the BET thug culture, having the rule of law on their side to protect property rights, benefitting from a growing economy due to tax cuts (that even liberals concede have worked), stand more to benefit from conservative principals than any group in America. The face and delivery of the message may need to change, but the principles are true and effective.
Conservatism takes on many flavors, the brand I identify with supports judicial original intent, deeper tax cuts and deep spending cuts, a strong military, school choice, border enforcement, faith based initiatives - government is extremely inefficient, social security reform, elimination of the prescription drug benefit, etc. etc. etc., all of which I believe will benefit our people more than anyone else in America.
Being the reasonable one has its drawbacks
Remember when our suspicions were confirmed about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rove, Rice, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Bolton, Libby, DeLay, Frist. Limbaugh, O’Reilley, Coulter, Robertson, Santorum, Lott [the list goes on ad nauseum]…?
It was a couple of years ago. Researchers at Berkley published a paper entitled Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition*. The paper discussed the results of a study funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institute of Health. Various newspapers reported on the study; various conservative talk-show hosts condemned it.
In short, the study concluded that conservatism is a pathological condition, rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity."
Liberals -- still coming to grips with our conservative-dealt bitch slapping -- enjoyed a brief ‘what’d-I-tell-you’ moment. Feeling vindicated, we nonetheless understood there would be no tangible pay-off (men in white coats would not be showing up at the Rove home, for instance).
The part of the study that interests me for the purpose of this post, however, is what those conclusions imply about liberals.
If the conservative mind is associated with rigidity, then the liberal mind is associated with flexibility. We have a talent for holding in our heads, many – and sometimes opposing – notions. Our more mutable and inquisitive nature is our strength – the engine that drives intellectual evolution. But as is usually the case, strengths are also weaknesses.
"… Liberals might be less intolerant of ambiguity,” authors of the study said, “but they may be less decisive, less committed, less loyal."
This explains why political rallies organized by liberals often feel more like liberal-issues-a-thons, with booths, banners, leaflets and entertainment for every lefty cause ever championed.
A recent anti-war rally – the purpose of which was to protest the American invasion and occupation of Iraq – drew everything from anti animal-cruelty activists to free-Tibet action groups, all with speeches and pamphlets at the ready.
Don’t get me wrong, I tend to support these causes and – like most mentally fluid liberals – can see the interconnectedness of all these issues. But our inability to focus our attention on one thing is paralyzing us. It has the same mind-numbing effect as one of those convoluted flyers you see hanging up on the co-op bulletin board, where every thought the author has about the topic he’s trying to sell is crammed onto one unreadable page. Liberals are the collective human embodiment of the muddy flyer that is so inclusive as to be inscrutable and -- as a result -- un-actionable. It’s bad marketing.
We need to focus and -- if only for the purpose of the immediate campaign – block out the inevitable addendums, postscripts and cross-references that come to mind.
Otherwise, my dear liberal brethren, we look like disorganized idiots. Are we here to impeach George Bush or liberate Palestine? Let’s make up our fucking collective mind!
* See the paper: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml
Posted by Kay
Friday, October 14, 2005
Dems are having it too easy in these posts
As any child knows who learned to play one parent against another -- required behavior for teens -- it's important to have some leverage in social interactions. These posts may appear to be Republican-bashing, but au contraire. It's the two-pronged political process -- Dems and the GOP are problematic parties -- that I rail against.
In a perfect or near-perfect world, it's imperative to have representation in both parties of a two-party system. But, the nine or 10 percent of African Americans who belong to the Republican party are mainly advance scouts. Certainly, there are some who are true believers in their own intra-party second-class citizenship, but the African American Republicans I've met are racially sensitive and hoping to change the culture of racism that exists. They are not optimistic that it will be an easy job. Here, in Minneapolis, I know a raging black Republican who loves Bush, loves his party -- and sued them a while back for racial discrimination. Kind of a disconnect, huh?
The advance scouts need to stay, but in lieu of creating a strong third-party in this country; one that doesn't pit citizens against each other while the elected elite quietly make off with the spoils, I suggest a very bedraggled Democratic party get its shit together. The party's message of inclusion is a winner, but the party let it get blindsided by "faithers" and moralists who want their church to run the country. Because of the narrow-minded nature of the "faithers" the Dems didn't seek them out as a constituency; the party didn't play up its committment to family values, didn't effectively promote its established territory on human tolerance. Bad move. Politicians have to know and deal with such elements.
And, let's call it like it is; the Dems take people of color, gays and women for granted. Instead of establishing a system of training and promoting its core constituency -- hell, call it quotas, I don't care; politics ain't rocket science -- Dems have defined electability in Republican terms. Once again, bad move. You can't win a game when the other side makes the rules (a quick aside: Republicans screamed about the nation's debt when Dems were in control, but have now spun that to say that national debt isn't so bad).
I have said and I continue to believe that African Americans are sensitive to survival and see that the Dems are the lesser evil, as far as fit goes. The Republican Party leadership don't fool anyone with their obvious racial pandering. For them to act surprised that they get such low vote tallies from African Americans is far beyond disingenuous -- it's bad acting. They don't want African American participation in their party, they simply want African American votes.
They have done what they do best and gone to those who are easily swayed and offered golden promises or, gold, whichever works. As a result, some larger black churches have had their superstar pastors come to Jesus and the Republican way. The 'Republican way' being an effective caste system that puts societal controls into the hands of a very select few. Whenever anyone says, 'Republican Values' that's what my pops into my head: churches and morality, yeah, right!
Republican apologist Ken Mehlman has been a monkey on a stick wagging his tongue about Republicans being the party of Abraham Lincoln. Ken, you ignorant slut, this it the 21st century... I ask, 'What have you done for me, lately?' and you give me a Tuesday afternoon from 150 years ago. BTW, Ken, quick history lesson -- Lincoln only freed the slaves that were being held in the Confederacy as a political gesture. They weren't actually freed by his decree since he wasn't recognized by the Confederacy. He was less a humanitarian than a politician plying his trade. Lincoln saw the Empancipation Proclamation as a necessary evil and opined that he preferred not to do it. Winning the war -- which was never a given and was aided by black people from the North and South -- is what gave it the weight of law.
But, I am here to chastise Dems, not GOP'ers. Here is why the party is reeling and in some quarters may be described as sucking:
First, the real leaders of the party are just as beholden to Big Business and Military as the GOP. Kerry could have railed on Bush's ass about being in bed with corporations and didn't let out a peep. I wonder why.
Second, in losing elections, the Dems mistakenly think their base is not numerous enough. Listen, screw the Fox News polls and look at the census. People of color and women constitute a majority of the electorate. In underestimating its inclusive base, it seeks to become a second Republican party. Another, bad move. Why should some choose New Coke, when Classic Coke has got it covered?
Third, the Dems don't do enough to really understand the issues that affect its base. Hell, put everybody in a bag and shake it. Seriously. The dialogs have got to be real. Part of the problem is there has not enough honest dialog between the party's core groups. The party could say, 'We are running women, people of color and gays for office everywhere we can.' Normalize it. Eventually, even the most jaded voter will note -- 'Hey, all the Republicans ever run are white guys and the occasional white woman.' But, to get to that point, you have to complete a complex program of coordinating and overlaying your base's agendas. Some agendas may clash, but you should let it be known that you are returning the country back to the people. For example, you have got to get African Americans and gays from clashing over gay marriage and comparisons of gay rights to Civil Rights and all the other GOP b.s. that flummoxes the Dems.
Fourth, call out the GOP. Ask Bush if he sees any African American as his equal. Then, watch him lie and call him a liar. Question the GOP agendas as far as religious pandering and race-baiting. Note that they've had the votes to overturn the Roe v. Wade carrot, but have never used it, instead relying on its existence to generate funds and ostracize Dems. But, remember, you can't do this without cleaning your own house. So, Dems must ferret out the intolerant elements in their own house. Don't misunderstand; you can't get into a pissing match and say you're going to knock on the door of every racist Bubba in the country and lock him or her up. If you do that, Louisiana will secede tomorrow. No. You say that you want to help people understand that we're all in this together and the party will respect the journey each human is on. And, mean it. Don't try to convert racists or homophobes, show them a better way through your success. For the political cynics, the upshot is that that element will gravitate to the GOP and make it a minor party in due time (even the African American advance scouts wouldn't feel comfortable in Klan HQ.)
If the Dems can't do these things, or won't, then the party gets what it deserves at election time.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Fighting swords with safety pins
George McGovern opened my eyes. No, not when he got his ass handed to him during his presidential campaign. It was because of an article that he wrote in a 2002 issue of Harper's magazine that described the Bushies' take on political life. It boiled down to this: Anything goes.
Prince Machiavelli would have been impressed. A world view and an action plan in two words. I guess the only logical response is: 'Shit!' My own, resultant, personal world view and action plan.
So much of what is happening as the Bushies dismantle the country -- like some Leveraged Buyout junkie on a binge -- is elegant, simple and downright evil. It's brilliant, in an inhumane way.
McGovern wrote that for Bush and the Gang to play by the rules, they'd have to respect the rules. They would have to believe that the rules apply to all who play, which, of course, they don't.
He further postulated that that can never be the case because Bushism, like Reaganism, is a revolution. Using an analogy; for George Bush to consistently tell the truth to the American public would be like our Founding Fathers deciding they kind of liked being a suburb of Britain or the Black Panthers deciding that Bull Connors wasn't that bad of a guy. Revolutionaries don't believe in the existing system; they want it removed.
A lie told to benefit a revolution is a glorious thing -- ask Oliver North. So, each time Bush says he cares about the poor, each time he gives another reason (other than oil) for going to Iraq, each time he talks about saving the environment, he is basking in the glory of his true believers.
A couple of observations and how they fit in with the Bush Revolution:
1. If everyone is rich, no one is rich. If a million dollars a year in salary is universally achievable, there are no more rich people, no more special interests and no elite class. How this fits in?: It means, 'Poor people wanted.' There have to be scapegoats -- preferrably of a darker hue and different accents. Under Republican administrations, the rich have become so much richer that it would take generations for 98 percent of the Americans now living to match their accumulated wealth.
2. A government that tries to solve social problems is bad. So, quality public education (or, for some true believers, ANY public education) is a bad investment. Welfare is very bad. Social Security is bad. And, Affirmative Action is the worst. Oddly, despite a market for abortions, that is bad, too.
3. Religion is the banner for the revolution. In a great deal of history, including the move to America by the first colonists, religion has tried to expand freedoms. Modern revolutionary religion is a means to restrict freedoms, a way to keep all the flocks in line. Some examples: Bob Jones University, a religious institution, bans interracial dating; the Mormons view black people as descendants of an inferior biblical character, one of the fastest growing religious industries is the white supremacy sects. How does religion fit in? Well, I'm going to take a flyer and say my guess is that Bush, Frist, DeLay, Cheney and all those other revolutionaries, aren't truly religious zealots so much as they are religious opportunists. L. Ron Hubbard once said the only way to get rich in America is to start your own religion. Subsitute "power" for "rich" and I think you see into the Bushies' Christian souls. The coolest thing about religon, though? The faith thing. Adherents never have to give any better answer than, 'God would want it that way.'
4. The middle class has grown too large. Too many people make too much money and are able to compete for some of the amenities of the super-rich. Middle class people are more likely to vote, more educated, more likely to own homes and more likely to pass some of their wealth on. And, the newer ones are more likely to vote in counter-revolutionary ways since they are relatively recently removed from the poorer class. Poor people are the best subjects in a revolutionary society because they know the No. 1 rule: the rich make the rules. The middle class feel too entitled.
OK. The point I'm making is that liberals, leftists, moderates and a whole bunch of very reasonable people are getting kicked in their collective ass because of the nature of their convictions. In a phrase, their convictions may be summed up as: "I see your point."
They've lost the battle right there, as far as modern political power goes. Certainly, they stand on a higher moral ground -- but it may as well be in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for all the political clout it gets them.
You can't say to your potential rapist-robber-murderer-garage mechanic-assailant, "I see your point."
Revolutionaries see that as weakness. They will never see the other person's point. 'God will kill you because you're gay.' 'I will kill you if you have an abortion.' 'You should be in jail if you use drugs (unless your name is Rush)' -- get the point?
This the brilliant part. It is hard for intelligent, moral people not to see the other's point of view. It is a human thing to do. It is human to say I've been broke; I've been hungry; I've been cold and I empathize with you. Not so for a revolutionary. Ann Coulter is a perfect weapon for the revolution. She is the coldest, most callous, most unfeeling human being I can recall being exposed to. She is this era's Eva Braun. She believes those who disagree with her viewpoints should be killed -- a perfect revolutionary.
Do you want to know what the revolution has done? Check for the empathy. Where is the empathy in the new bankruptcy laws? Where is the empathy in 2,000 soldiers dying in Iraq (and 50,000+ Iraqi citizens)? Where is the empathy in our environmental laws? Where is the empathy in decreasing college grants? Where is the empathy in our drug laws?
Life is fluid, Bushies are not. In certain moments, certain shades of light, they may appear reasonable -- that is a mirage.
The left may want to start thinking about a revolution of their own.
Monday, October 10, 2005
This is my stunned deer in headlights look. I had just finished learning how to salsa dance and I was thinking, 'How can I use this to conquer the world?' Then, a bright light flashed and the thoughts ran away. More world conquests are thwarted that way.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The Amazing Thought Processes of Black Republicans
Sometimes, when I 'm feeling particularly poetic; I refer to the National Democratic Party as Die Rote Kapelle, which means Red Orchestra, in German. It was an anti-Nazi resistance group that had no real connections to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s. It was painted as a band of evil, Soviet spies by Hitler's regime and its members were sought out for either ridicule or execution.
It must feel to the national Democratic Party leaders that they are the 21st century Red Orchestra. The party has the right idea in that it offers an alternative to what is fast becoming a repressive regime. But, the social winds are blowing against it. And, one particular segment that opposes it makes me scratch my head. But, I really shouldn't be befuddled because -- as history instructs -- anything is possible. After all, there were German Jews for Hitler.
Although 90 percent of the nation's African Americans do not vote for Republicans (please note the difference between voting Democratic), there is a 10 percent-strong segment that loathes the Dems and praises the Republicans. Question: why would these people not try to change the Democratic party from the inside? Or, more logically, create a 3rd party that has a money-first, but racially inclusive theme? Kind of a Republican-lite party.
Secondly, what the hell are black Republicans complaining about? Their guys bought every branch of government. They own it. Bought and paid for. I guess there's nothing like a little Red Orchestra bashing to draw attention away from looting your own store.
Personally, I wish there were a stronger 3rd party, but in dealing with the political reality of black Republicans I must invoke the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "What are you? Stupid?!"
Most Republicans bash Dems for a dearth of ideas at a time when our energy policy is not concerned about peak oil or natural gas production; at a time when hate crimes are on the rise, at a time when an unpopular war is killing thousands of our young people; at a time when 45 million Americans can't afford health care; at a time when corporate welfare dwarfs all but defense spending, at a time when those same corporations are stealing, lying and cheating with damn near impunity.
Dearth of ideas? I think any idea that has at its base the concept of 'knock that shit off' sounds pretty good to me. But, oddly, a core of blackRepublicans feel compelled to protect George W. Bush, to protect anti-Affirmative Action strategies, to protect a unilaterally-declared war.
Their arguments are that the Dems haven't done enough for them. Well, George McGovern wrote this great piece several years ago, I think it was in the Atlantic, that said every major social success in America was a liberal success. Remember a little thing I like to call Civil Rights, guys? The Republican Party fought that tooth and nail. And, the Dems that fought it left the party to join the Republican Party.
Conservatism, by its nature, means to not expand, to not grow. It is the "I got mine" mentality, that is rampant at present. As far as Dems not doing enough for them, do they remember that their Trent Lott suggested the nation would have done better had it elected White Supremacist Strom Thurmond as president? Heil Thurmond.
Black Republicans, instead of attempting to change the Democratic party from within (certainly there is still racism, homophobism, elitism, etc) decide to side with a party that re-defined itself as a party of exclusion -- Strom Thurmond's party.
Go ahead and tell me the Dems suck as far as protecting us from the viler aspects of Republicanism and I won't fight too much, But, once again, by definition, the Democratic Party is a more inclusive party. Read its mission statement and you will be able to compare it to Republican idealogy.
Quick question for Black Republicans -- of the 3 white major party canidates who ran for president in 2000 and 2004 who do you think the overwhelming majority of White Supremacists voted for?
How many overt White Supremacists have run under the Democratic flag? It's become a ritual every election season: some Neo-Nazi or Racist Church candidate will run as a Republican and the local party will harrumph and disavow him. But, what's not being said is that the party atmosphere creates those candidates. Who the hell is going walk into a room of African American, white, Hispanic, Asian and gay people and declare they are running for office on the platform that all but the white attendees will be excluded from the political process?
What would impress me is if the black Republicans would take the courage of their supposed convictions and actually try to change Republican views on race. Barack Obama and Kwiesi Mfume and John Conyers and so many other African Americans rise up through the party on their own merits, beholden to their constituency-- actually voted for. Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice were pulled up through an old boy's network; they were appointed -- primarily for political expediency. Besides JC Watts, who left office pissed by the way, and Ohio's Kenneth Blackwell , name me half a dozen black Republican elected officials. Remember, Alan Keyes, who's never been elected, had no serious financial support from his party when he ran in Illinois.
The advantage that the Dems have, as far as I'm concerned, is a grasp of demographics. They at least attempt to include as many as possible into the party. And, that is great. All the crap oozes out -- the black and white and brown prejudices, the mistrust, the anger -- all of it gets to be played out in the open. That makes for strength and honesty. And, as time passes, more people will join the Dems because the Republican balancing act is too difficult to maintain. Eventually, all of those black, gay and Hispanic Republicans are going to remember the Boston Tea Party and ask for real representation.
How does one say: 'Just Kidding' to inclusion? I'm not sure, but look in the encyclopedia under 'H' for Hitler. You might find some pretty good answers.
Friday, October 07, 2005
LONDON (AFP) - George W. Bush allegedly said God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, a new BBC documentary will reveal, according to details. Bush made the claim when he met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and then foreign minister Nabil Shaath in June 2003, the ministers told the documentary series to be broadcast in Britain later this month.
Bush also told them he had been ordered by God to create a Palestinian state, the ministers said. Shaath, now the Palestinian information minister, said: "He said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. 'God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'.'
"And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did.
"'And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it'," said Shaath.
Abbas, who was also at the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, recalled how Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. "So I will get you a Palestinian state."
A BBC spokesman said the content of the programme had been put to the White House but it had refused to comment on a private conversation.
The three-part series, "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs", charts the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from former US president Bill Clinton's peace talks in 1999-2000 to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza strip.
The programme speaks to presidents and prime ministers, their generals and ministers, about what happened behind closed doors as the peace talks failed and the intifada grew.
The series is due to be screened in Britain on October 10, 17 and 24.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Racial politics... or 'Hello,' we lied'
America has cheated herself. Probably more than any nation in history, it alone had the opportunity to engage all of its citizens in an effort to create an enlightened civilization that would shine through the ages.
African nations couldn't do this because they fought simply not to be subsumed; England couldn't do this because whiteness lies at the heart of its society; France couldn't do it because francais blanc is the engine for its democracy.
Nope. America had the opportunity, but shortchanged itself when it came to the politics of race. Before the spittle starts flying from my lips and the raving begins, consider these historical facts:
1. Europe needed Africa for its people at the time of the Black Plague because its population had been decimated. Lords had few serfs to farm and tend the land because the serfs were dying in great numbers. Africa provided heartier -- or at least unexposed -- humans.
2. The time of the Plague coincided with the time of exploration.
3. Many of the first Africans were serfs, just like their white counterparts. They were in a state of indentured servitude because they had been sold off by African rulers
4. African society, which was complex and farflung, was not seen as inferior to European society at the time; and the people, who looked different from Europeans, were not viewed as subhuman.
5. Slavery was an ECONOMIC system that got out of hand. Just as drugs can make someone an addict, slavery's FREE LABOR was an enticement to the junkies who ran Europe.
6. OK, this is my leap, but bear with me -- viewing Africans as inferior was a MARKETING PLOY to keep slavery in business.
When you consider there were 4 black Popes (at a time when being Pope was tantamount to being a King), it is ludicrous to assume that much of Europe's population had succumbed to racial prejudice. Wasn't happening. (Quick aside: I laughed my ass off when I read about how the world wasn't ready for its 'first' African Pope. Good ol' religious intolerance and bad journalism, where would we be without them?)
So, jump behind your sneeze guards children because it's about to get moist in here.
How on earth is race so entwined in modern U.S. politics and yet so unspoken? I've got a suggestion: it is the work of a 550-YEAR-OLD marketing campaign that's still paying dividends to its adherents. Don't ever forget: racism pays. If I was a white guy, hell if I was a Paisley guy, who could get a leg up on my competition for money, for housing, for food, for education, by simply saying that my competitor's biggest fault was that he was not like me, the pressure would be enormous for me to do so.
And, we did it. Jim Crow and subtle racism weakened America by not promoting true competition; competition that would have, hopefully, evolved our society into one of sophisticated cooperation. For you math geeks, consider this. If genius is truly a genetic trait, then its presence would trace a bell curve (I'm shuddering here because of a benighted textbook) -- in the entire human population.
By following mathematical logic; America probably hung an Einstein, made an Edison a drug dealer or lost a DaVinci in Hurricane Katrina. Cultivating genius for 95% of American history has been the business of cultivating only white geniuses.
We cheated ourselves.
And, now, the most powerful of the Twin Parties of America is inclined to offer lip service to racial equality when it knows its lying. It is the party of the privileged white male -- please note the differentiation -- and anyone who says otherwise is either naive or lying, too. The modern GOP is based on SOUTHERN principles, one of those principles being anti-Affirmative Action. Wherever you stand on the issue, believe me, they are to the right of you. Their stance on Affirmative Action is not about equal opportunity; it is about ensuring a permanent underclass.
But, the politics of race is a post-modern racism. It is a means to an end. Much like the beginning of racism in the Middle Ages, it is a ploy to make sure the hoi polloi don't start getting wise to what is being done to them. While its ostensible victims are black people (or American Indian or Hispanics or Asians), its targets are white males. This is the message for its target audience: When things are looking bleak, when your girlfriend left you, your health insurance is gone, your car is being repossessed, is it so hard to blame a black guy? Never mind that the majority of those problems may be related to fianances, which means it was likely a white guy who increased your health insurance premiums, or repossessed your car or attracted your girlfriend with his $200,000 Ferrari.
It's really a psychological art form: divide and conquer, without the divided even knowing they've been conquered. How cool is that?
George Bush is probably a racist, but that's entirely secondary to his use of race as a divisive technique. It is part of a palette that includes abortion, gay marriage and communism.
As Americans, we must be panicked about the black gay woman who wants to have an abortion so she can marry her white, communist lover.
The bottom line is: we fell for it. White people tell jokes about black people in private; black people tell jokes about white people on TV and ignorant Southern Boys re-discover the Klan and join churches with signs that read 'No N***ers allowed.'
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney's stake in Halliburton (blind trust, my ass) pushes him towards billionaire status. Oil barons become richer. And, we fear the color of each other's skin.
How do you spell relief?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
It's not the man; it's the machine
I've met Pat Buchanan -- he wore a nice red, cream and blue tie; I met Steve Forbes, he invited me onto his very nicely appointed campaign bus; I met Orrin Hatch, he was, seemingly, a very nice man.
I used to work for a newspaper in Iowa and the joke was that you could get a presidential candidate to deliver your pizza during the caucus season. All of the above men seemed reasonable except for Forbes. He was on his flat tax kick and when he talked in that hypnotic monotone you couldn't help but stare into his eyes, looking for a spark that wasn't in the conversation. And, it was a wasted effort. Steve Forbes had the deadest eyes I have ever seen on someone in the habit of breathing.
Still, how very contrary the public image and the person. Nice in a one-to-one, while a part of the lunatic fringe when it comes to thoughts on governing. So, what is it that makes these men stark raving advocates of the right when the country spends most of its time in the middle?
I rail and raise a hue and cry about the hands of government smacking us around. But, I fear the hands are interchangeable. A Democratic opportunist has the same tailor as a Republican one. Which raises the questions: Has the system "achieved consciousness"? Did our government become a living entity when we weren't looking?
Is HAL running the country?
If viewed in terms of a sporting contest, I have very few moments when I want to jump to my feet, fist clenched and scream, "Yeah! That's MY government!" My "team" doesn't thrill me so much as I'm afraid of the goons on the other side. It's a very mechanical support that I give to my candidates; I practice artificial enthusiasm because that's about the best I can do. It's a reaction that is a close cousin to the nervous smile on the lips of a shopkeeper paying protection money to a grinning extortionist.
The sickening truisms that fall from everyone's lips -- including mine -- are blazing clues that something is amiss: 'It takes money to run a poitical campaign;' 'term limits are never going to pass in Congress;' ''I don't want to run for office because they'll dig up dirt on me;' You can tell a politician is lying when her lips move.'
Good grief! The beast is at the door and we're rummaging through the pantry for a doggie biscuit when the real meal it desires is us.
How can people fit that kind of political reality into their brain pan? It is anti-human. It is fear-based. It is elitist. But, even more interesting is that it appears uncontrollable. Even the perpetrators get smacked by the machine.
Presidents get black eyes nowadays, not from a fawning press, but from a bureaucracy that won't budge when it needs to -- hello New Orleans? Collect call from FEMA for you. Yet, they keep feeding the beast -- as you're reading this, a law is being passed or debated that impinges on some aspect of your life despite -- read this carefully -- EVERY level of government being controlled by a party supposedly committed to small government and less federal intervention.
I think that's ironic... but I'm not sure I understand irony anymore since I listened to that Alanis Morrissette song. Whatever it is, it seems like a triumph of the system over the human.
That's why we have what I call machine-speak. In machine-speak, liberal is a bad word because it acquiesces to human foibles and needs. The inside-the-beltway derogative slang for such people are goo-goos and squishies. Warm and fuzzy, indeed.
Tom "The Hammer" DeLay got into government with the express notion that he wanted MORE Republicans. That was his goal. He knew how the beast worked. The strategy is to get more people of your party in, not to be "idealogues" -- the latest GOP curse word -- but to work the system.
And, the Dems get no free pass, here. Though I've spent most of my life with a Republican president in office, the machine was fed by a Democratic Congress.
One of the keenest disappointments I've seen in the political arena was Paul Wellstone's decision to run again after he promised he wouldn't. I wasn't dissatisfied with his job and had he not made the promise, I wouldn't have had an issue. I still voted for him, but my suspicion that something about our political process warped a person was fed anew.
In a nation full of very smart people -- and the ass who cut me off on the freeway in the rain this afternoon -- there has GOT to be a trunkful of suggestions as to how we can starve HAL instead of HAL starving us. We can start with term limits, but that does nothing about the bureaucracy.
What can we do?
Monday, October 03, 2005
Absolute Societal Compliance
I often wondered when I was growing up, 'What would America be like if everyone followed the rules?" OK, so maybe by "when I was growing up" I mean last week, but it's still a valid question.
We are a nation that loves the Gotti's, Capones and Dillingers of the world. We think of Bonnie and Clyde as a sweetly murderous Romeo and Juliet.
In that vein, we had no problems cheating on our taxes -- millions of children 'vanished' overnight when the IRS said social security numbers had to accompany any deductions for our kids -- speeding on our roads -- why ELSE would the speedometer have 140 miles per hour on it? or calling in "sick" to our jobs in myriad creative ways.
Why? The simple answer is because we wouldn't be caught. But, technology is starting to change that. We have 'cameras' that can look through our walls and computer systems owned by utility companies that can tell if we're growing "some hemp for our smoking" simply by our energy consumption.
The latest frenzy is to have cameras follow our cars' movements and have tickets issued based on those pictures.
I coined a phrase -- ASC, or Absolute Societal Compliance, to understand these things better. I mean, there have always been ways to keep tabs on the citizenry -- especially when our population was much smaller. What I'm feeling is a growing pathological insistence that no one get away with anything.
Forget the technology for a second; on a very real social level, we have empowered our governors to demand absolute compliance from all. What I fear is being lost in this mad scramble to ASC is that compliance demands norms. And, who sets those norms?
I'm not allowed to speed, or operate a vehicle without a safety belt or smoke weed or drink and drive or declare more than a 50% deduction on my expenses for my home office... OK. But, we are also encroaching on a mindset that says one can't end one's life, no matter what the circumstances and one can't criticize government.
This amazes me because I was brought up in America where, when you were speeding down the highway, you threw your trash out the window and smoked and drank at 75 miles per hour. Call it an evolution from that point, call it positive, but call it a day -- soon. I don't want to impart my mores onto anyone who doesn't want them. I'm fine that there are people who hate me because they are hate-filled bastards; I feel bad for those who feel their biggest aim in life is to control their fellow humans. But, I don't want to wrest the controls from them. What I'd like to do is use our 'bad boy' and 'bad girl' genius to make this hugely messy, imperfect American experiment continue on its merry way. Collectively, individually and everything in between. A healthy relationship, like a healthy government, adapts to its times without (in my opinion) resorting to nuclear options at the drop of a hat. Your kid sneaks off once -- you don't get to lock them in a cage. You don't.
If I have to say "Yea" to societal compliance, let's make it the big things: don't kill people; take care of our least fortunate when you can; try not to be a complete ass and understand that cooperation is what makes a society work.
That said: no photographs (of me running a red light) please!
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Four and half hours of oblivion
Newsday just published a story, based on Nielsen studies, that shows the average American watches 4.5 hours of television every day. Here is the link to the story:
That is 4.5 hours of Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel, Friends re-runs and hundreds of commercials. Just a crazy balloon I'm floating out there, but we devote much more time to television -- based on the average American's level of education (High School with Some College) -- than we do for formal education. By the time they're 18, our young people have PhDs in television watching.
I'm absolutely not immune to this Great Wasteland trap, but I've got to believe anything that draws such a universal response has the potential to be doctored. The lure is too great for those who wield power. If everyone ate French toast every morning, wouldn't there be some federal mystery man who shows up at the grain or syrup factory one day speaking in reasonable tones about "national security"?
We can't count on television to be as pure as our water (OK, I know about the fluouride scam, but I needed an analogy). Television has been visibly adulterated. For example, it's been established that commercials are losing their hold on the typical viewer. Whether through TiVo or personal habit, we are able to bypass commercials routinely. So, what have advertisers done? They've insinuated their products into the programs themselves... take that you commercial shirking bastards!
My point is television has a proven history as a mind controlling medium and even when viewers think they've made themselves immune to it (ala ditching commercials), they're deluding themselves.
Extrapolating a little further, what needs could television programming fill for an entity that wants to make sure it has a pliant audience? Apathy is easy. Some researchers indicate that a person's brainwaves when watching TV are less active than when that person is asleep. What about futility? That could come in handy around election season (and, why couldn't Fred Sanford ever catch a break?) How about envy? Fits pretty well into "class warfare" rhetoric.
I know it's hard to be wary of everything in one's life -- what DOESN'T cause cancer? -- but I'm of the mind that big changes are a'coming. And, to borrow a line from some patriotic homily: eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. What has television dulled our senses, to? Hmmmm... let's talk about, oh, off the top of my head... oil.
We are now predicted to be about 20 years from peak production for the world's oil. In fact, for the first time in history a year went by with no new major oil field discoveries. And, the 20-year estimate did not factor in a very energy-hungry China. What that means is the things we have taken for granted -- a cheap drive to work, a relatively affordable mode of transportation, have to be rethought. If clear minds were at the helm, they would understand that such a sea change of the national quality of life should be approached with a cohesive optimism. Robber Republicans and Robber Democrats (sorry, couldn't resist the slam) would have to be arm-in-arm because running out of oil presents a threat to the established progression of American society. Put simply, a single political party strong-arming the opposition will leave the nation fractured when it's time to deal with the question of no more oil. The precedent set will be one of the Bushies lying and grabbing all they can get away with. And, resistance from a sizeable minority will be the order of the day. I mean, right at this second, if Bush told me to buy an electric car, I'd wonder what electric car company he bought stock in. But, as far as I can see, there is no grand plan for alternative energy or even a particularly cohesive energy conservation plan. There is more of the same as we rush headlong into a future we KNOW is coming, but our government isn't preparing for.
It's an ugly thing to contemplate... I think I better end this. Family Guy is on.