Friday, December 31, 2010

Maybe Some People Seriously Should Think about Going to Church

I am not a religious person in the least. In fact, I don’t believe in any god; but – unlike seemingly a fair few people of the liberal persuasion – neither do I feel the need to elevate any person, living or dead, to a god-like position. Everybody has feet of clay, and no one is perfect, and that includes people whom some would normally regard as heroes or role models.
But there’s a defining line between having feet of clay and sinking fast in slime.

I’m more than a bit uneasy at the free pass to heroic martyrdom currently being given by many on the Left to Julian Assange, who was currently named The Nation’s Person of the year by the fragrant, but bored, socialite who keeps that publication afloat with her private fortune and reckons this entitles her to be considered a bona fide political pundit. What happened to the days when wealthy, bored socialites visited the sick and destitute? I suppose they no longer count, since many of them watch Fox News.

A lot of punditry on the Left have invested a lot of speech time and writing space to pointing out the bleeding obvious to their viewers/listeners/readers: People like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are grifters – narcissistic egomaniacs with media savvy and an eye for opportunity in promoting their personal brands, as well as the ueber-Rightwing agenda of a certain political party, at the expense of wantonly discrediting the current President, both personally and politically.

That is true.

Also true is that both these people have been proven to be liars. The same can be said about the Palin protoge’ Joe Miller, whose supporters had a penchant for armed marches through the streets on public holidays and strong-arming reporters in an overt effort to stifle Freedom of the Press.

But the Left is capable of spawning like demons as well, and no one fits the bill better than the latest drama queen, Assange.

To say this guy gives me the creeps is an understatement, and I’m pretty astute at judging a book by its cover; so I don’t feel as alone in my initial assessment of Assange as a Class A Asshole and drama queen when I’m in such disparate company as Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live and The National Review. That pretty much covers both sides of the fence.

As soon as Assange burst on the scene, I saw (in this order) book deal, high-profiled interviews and movie deal, with Leonardo di Caprio lined up to play the jerk, himself. I saw dollar signs and offshore bank accounts swelling. And a permanent position in the cablesphere as an “esteemed television analyst.”

I saw the Left clasp him to their collective bosom as the latest Christ-like figure, that position being enhanced by his almost ephemeral image. I heard them proclaim his demands for government and diplomatic transparency, whilst willfully ignoring the fact that the whisteblower not only got noticeably cadgey about answering allegations surrounding possible rape charges but also resorted to open blackmail by daring authorities to follow through with his arrest and extradition.

I don’t know enough about the sex crimes charges to comment on them, per se. I don’t think anyone does, and that includes Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann, both of whom didn’t do their liberal credentials any favours by dismissing the womens’ claims as “hooey.” Moore has a daughter and Olbermann, a sister and nieces. One would hope that, should any of their female relatives have the misfortune to be sexually attacked by some lowlife, that these men would be loathe to dismiss such claims as “hooey.” Anyway, I was raised by my liberal Democratic parents to believe that our party was the party who championed the rights of minorities and women. I guess such things pale in the wake of such a male messianic figure.

I just think that if Assange has nothing to hide, he should return voluntarily to Sweden, answer the charges, submit to the STI and HIV tests and clear his name. I may be wrong here, but I sense that it’s the tests which seem to trigger a ballistic response in Assange, causing him to resort to shouting down any interviewers who raise that point. Doing that not only makes him look suspect, it makes him look decidedly seedy, like a louche and peripatetic roue’, travelling the earth intent on spreading a disease as a means of imparting his disdain to the legion of women he reckons are ready to fall at his feet.

When asked, recently, in an interview with an established British daily, if he were promiscuous, Assange replied laconically that he wasn’t promiscuous, he just liked sex.

So do we all, but if a woman slept with three different men in a five-day period, she’d be deemed a slut in no uncertain terms and called promiscuous (and that’s being nice). How should a man doing that same thing be considered any differently? Yet from the most prestigious quarters of the Left, this man is a hero and his detractors, anything from deluded to CIA operatives.

In a world where, arguably, the most intelligent and articulate man to occupy the Oval Office since John F Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt, has his every word parsed, his every nuance interpreted and his whole agenda criticized as vociferously by his purported supporters as much as by his detractors on the opposite side; in an era where genuine heroes come few and far between, it amazes me that people have to dig deep to elevate such a pejoratively cryptic, openly hypocritical and deeply dislikeable man to the status of Saviour of the Truth.

He is anything but.

What he is, however, is a grifter, pure and simple - the 21st Century’s equivalent of Elmer Gantry gone rogue, a snake oil salesman who, in another time, would be found preaching redemption for a dime at a tent revival before retiring to a wooded enclave with the intention of deflowering the local village virgin, leaving as a souvenir, the fruit of his loin within her, be that infant or infection.

Are we that morally, spiritually and intellectually bereft that we seek our heroes amongst the people who wish us only the worst, at the same time enriching themselves at our expense?

My personal hero happens to be Keith Richards, but my standards are low, and Richards has never ever pretended either to be something he’s not, or to act as any sort of moral arbiter.

If the people of the Left are that desirous of a genuine messiah figure, perhaps it’s time they went back to church. I don’t know about you, but to me, Jesus is one helluva lot better hero, martyr and messiah than a lanky, skanky Antipodean who looks as though he’s in dire need of a bath.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paul Simon - American Tune (1975)


No Vote, No Voice

My mother’s oldest brother never voted in his life. He went to his grave, having never cast a vote for a single politcal candidate, Democrat or Republican. That didn’t stop him from having opinions though, about every man who ever sat in the White House, and he could have voted in every Presidential election from Roosevelt’s first to Nixon’s last. At every family gathering, be it holiday, birthday or funeral, he could be found someplace in the corner, drink in one hand, vociferously complaining to some poor sod about the injustices of the current government, whilst jabbing the guy dangerously in the chest with his free hand, which held a Marlboro precariously between his forefinger and middle finger.

Finally, one day, the exasperation got to my dad.

“Bill,” he yelled across the room, at the wedding reception of one of my numerous cousins, “Shut the fuck up. You don’t even vote. You don’t vote, you don’t have a voice, and no right to criticize those people.”

When I registered to vote at 18 in 1972, that message stayed with me and has stayed with me ever since, ensuring that each year I make sure I receive some sort of absentee ballot with which I might make my voice heard. It might be an insignificant one, but at least I’m exercising my right to have it heard, to remain an active part of the political process in my own country.

Keith Olbermann is a powerful man with a powerful voice and the ability to influence a lot of people who watch his program daily. Keith Olbermann’s program is dedicated to what he considers to be the most controversial and important political stories of the day. It’s fact-based political news, heavily laced with opinion – Keith’s opinion and anyone else who happens to be a guest and who echoes that same opinion. Sometimes, at the end of his program, he gives a lengthy and erudite “Special Comment” on some particular subject which, he feels, affects him greatly.

Last week, in the wake of the President having reached a compromise with the Republican leadership of the House and Senate regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts, amongst other things, Keith registered his idealogical displeasure with this compromise in no uncertain terms.

Like everyone else inhabiting the fashionable fringe of the Progressive Left, inhabitants of metropolitan and otherwise areas of the so-called “Left Coast” and the affluent urban areas of the Northeastern corner of the U S, he ranted and railed about the President “caving in” to the Republican Party. In one Special Comment, he referred to the President as an American Neville Chamberlain, meaning he was nothing less than an appeaser. That was on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, he openly referred to the President of the United States as a quisling.

Oh, really?

To say directly that Barack Obama is the epitome of the worst kind of traitor, to liken him to a man who betrayed his country and delivered his people into the hands of the worst kind of fascist regime, the Nazis, is not only pretty heavy going, it’s absolutely worse than any rhetoric or hyperbole the Tea Party have attempted. That sort of accusation actually places our President on a footing several floors below the lower extremities currently occupied by Bush 43 and Richard Nixon.

On Thursday night, when two Republican Senators, aided and abetted by the Senate’s newest Blue Dog, reneged on a promise to vote in favour of the repeal of DADT, holding the delayed Democratic support for the tax cut legislation to ransome before delivering their vote, Olbermann, again, directly blamed the President for this, and salaciously took pleasure in relaying the details of a pretty prickly encounter between House Democrats and Vice-President Biden, repeating, not once, but several times, that one member of the Democratic caucus actually shouted out, “Fuck the President.” Instead of sounding like a seasoned and responsible newsman, Olbermann sounded like a cross between a gossipy, but indignant, old spinster and a ten year-old boy, giggling behind the woodshed at the wonder of a crass four-letter word.

Keith Olbermann doesn’t vote.

He feels that voting would impinge upon his journalistic integrity, yet he contributed to three different Democratic candidates for Congress, including one who’d just appeared on his programm. I’m sorry, but if you are a journalist, and you choose not to vote in order to maintain an impartial integrity, doesn’t contributing to candidates of a particular political persuasion kind of negate that? Isn’t that more than just a bit hypocritical?

It still does not belie the fact that this man does not vote, yet he’s allowed a public platform by which he can influence the opinions of people who do exercise their privilege. And that, to me, is immoral.

A person who doesn’t vote enables whatever political party is given the mandate to govern at the polls. Therefore, Keith Olbermann is just as responsible for enabling Bush to initiate the unpaid-for tax cuts in 2001, as he is for enabling Barack Obama to reach a compromise with the Republicans to extend them.

You don’t vote, you don’t have a voice.

Shut the fuck up, Keith.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Morphing on The Hill

Loads of people are in high-gear whine mode about the deal cut in Washington by the President with the Republicans last week. One of the lesser ad hominems being thrown at the President at the moment is the accusation that he's morphed into a Republican at last.

I beg to differ.

It's the fools on the Hill in the Democratic Party who are showing their true colours.

Pardon me, but I thought the deficit was one of the main GOP Rightwing talking points. You know, the spreading of the fear meme that if we don't get the deficit down and pronto, we're doomed to be roasted on a blazing spit in eternal hell or end up in international debtors' prison or something along those lines. Until last week, I thought the Democratic response to the GOP deficit war cry was, "Do not address the deficit at the expense of jobs."

In fact, many Democrats, both on the Hill and off it, who were critical of the President, often said in hindsight, that perhaps the first two years of his Presidency should have been devoted to job creation, instead of healthcare reform; in fact, that's one of the nicer criticisms two of the more bitchier self-proclaimed professional political pundits have levelled.

But that's all water under the bridge. The President effected a compromise with the recalcitrant Republican party to allow the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens to be extended temporarily for the next two years, in exchange for the tax cuts to be extended permanently on people earning less than $200,000 per annum ($250K for couples), a 13-month extension of Unemployment Insurance, a year's moratorium on payroll taxes and several other bits of legislation beneficial to the working class, the middle class, the working poor and their children (especially if those children wish to attend college or university).

Now, all of a sudden, it's a matter of the highest dudgeon that the exchange concerned the two-year extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens. That and only that. That the revolt was led on the Hill by various and sundry elected officials in reasonably safe seats, and included members of Congress who rank amongst the wealthiest on the Hill - four of the five richest elected officials in Congress are Democrats - was truly astounding.

Not that they shouldn't want or expect to pay more taxes. That's fully in line with the Democrats' altruistic principles; but also, as career politicians, many of whom have been around the political block more than enough times, they should know that, in the free world, politics consists of compromise and compromise isn't pretty and doesn't make people happy. Even that great arm-twister, Lyndon Johnson, recognised that. So did FDR, who effectively compromised away any inclusion of African Americans in New Deal benefits in order to keep the Southern Democratic Senators sweet.

I cut my teeth in a Democratic cradle on the mantra that Democrats looked after the poor, the working poor, the working people, that Republicans helped only the rich and big business.

I guess nobody looks after those people now, except, maybe the President; and if Congress keeps throwing an idealogical hissy fit, that'll pretty much mean no one will.

But then, why should we Democrats worry about a bunch of toothless, uneducated rubes who sit agog in front of Fox News and always vote Republican anyway?

A couple of points amidst all this adolescent angst taking place at the moment:

The President told the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House that he wanted the tax cut situation addressed on the Hill when Congress returned from its summer hiatus in September. He wanted the tax cuts to feature in the midterm campaigns. If they'd passed for the middle classes, with the wealthiests' expiring, then that was a positive point to feature in any Congressional campaign; if they'd been defeated by Republican intransigence, then there was all the evidence a Democrat needed that the GOP cared only for the rich and their corporate masters.
Both Reid and Pelosi refused to consider this, informing the President that they would be addressing the tax cuts after the midterms, as there were too many who were up for re-election whose districts contained quite a few people above the arbitrary $250 point. Sticky subject. In fact, Russ Feingold personally lobbied to President not to press this issue until after the mid-terms. Well, Feingold lost his seat, and so did 65 Democrats in the House. Had this issue been addressed when the President originally asked, who knows what this might have wrought?

With that in mind, had more people actually got up off their asses on November 2 and moseyed along down to the polls, there may never have been need of such an odious compromise.
And, finally, thinking ahead to 2012, if the President should choose to try for re-election (and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't), the fact that the Republicans were all for using the moot point of reducing the deficit at all costs, to be more important than addressing the unemployment issue, would lend itself to being a very strong campaign point ... only now, the Democrats have boarded the deficit bus to ride along the road to 2012 with the Republicans, it seems.

And with the highest hypocrisy.

Suddenly, the tax cuts for the wealthiest, which she supported in 2001, have become distasteful to Senator Mary "Louisiana Purchase" Landrieu, who had to be bought like a high-class Big Easy hooker in order to sign onto any healthcare reform.

The longer this bus ride continues, the more ammunition the GOP have to throw back in any Democratic candidate's face in 2012, included that venerable saint, Howard Dean, who sounded off on this same note today.

And by effectively validating the deficit argument as the single most important issue that must be addressed in Congress, with rejecting this bill outright as contributing to that deficit, doesn't this sorta kinda (forgive the Palinese) indirectly validate Simpson-Bowles?

The political bus these recalcitrant Democrats are about to board at their own risk doesn't stop until the deficit's been addressed, and, like all means of transport, it doesn't do flip-flops, no matter how regrettably short the voting public's memory is. Any moving vehicle which flip-flops, as we all know results in its occupants suffering inevitable fatalities.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

To say I'm pretty angry at the moment would be an understatement, but then, having lived in the UK for almost 30 years, I suppose I've mastered that art. It certainly wouldn't go amiss in the US, and maybe that's what's pissing off so many people of either political stripe: the fact that they spend the majority of the working day shouting down the odds at one another whilst the President rises above all the clamour with a quiet demeanor.

The Right see this behaviour, shout that he "doesn't get it," and brand him an elitist. The Left see this behaviour, shout that he "doesn't get it," and say that he's weak and spineless. The Right march in the streets, carrying placards with the President dressed like a jungle tribesman or a monkey. The Left blog angrily about "the Affirmative Action President" or "the house nigger."

Each night, I watch the BBC News at Ten. The presenter reads the items, all actual news items about events which occurred during the day in Britain and even around the world, in measured tones, with no opinion about anything reported. If an in-depth analysis is sought, a journalist who specialises in the subject being explored is brought in for about five minutes. In Britain, the political media is populated by people who've actually followed political procedure and know how the process and the politicians operate. They report the why and wherefore of the facts and leave it to the viewers to form their own opinion. Amongst their commentators, you won't find any ex-sportscasters, film producers, comedians or socialite ex-wives of politicians. You won't find a single trust fund kid whose father bought her a newspaper. And although the questioning in the few opinion shows is undeniably tough, there's no shouting or name-calling.

Although I have lots of issues with the BBC, at this moment in time, I'm eternally grateful for its measure.

At the moment in the UK, the gap between the wealthy and the poor has never been greater. It's bound to get even bigger, considering that David Cameron's just cut all child benefits to families earning more than £40,000 ($55,000) and is substantially increasing university tuition fees. This gap didn't turn into a breach overnight once Cameron got the keys to Downing Street. Maggie Thatcher moved the goal posts, and Tony Blair stole them. So, that's been a continuously worsening situation for the past thirty years. Sound familiar?

There's always been rich people, ever since there's been some sort of civilisation. There's even a song which says that the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. In Britain, the working class envied the rich, whilst the middle class emulated them.

The America I left in 1981 hadn't yet succumbed to Reaganomics. Coming of age in the Seventies, I was taught that knowledge was power and that a college degree enabled social mobility; and there has always been an element of keeping up with the Joneses. I guess maybe, thanks to The Gipper, keeping up with the Joneses literally became a way of life. Instead of education empowering people, the sense of wealth provided by plastic money and a loan-friendly financial services system enabled most working class people to dub themselves middle class, fooled them into thinking that the latest electronic equipment in the home, the biggest SUV on the block or the timeshare in Redondo Beach, the annual Carribbean cruise, meant one had finally attained The American Dream. Whenever I would visit home in the 80s or 90s, I always remember marvelling at how well-off and how "rich" people were.

Now I know it was all an illusion, and I wonder if this anger directed at the wealthiest Americans these days, whilst simmering precitiously under cover before, is misdirected anger at the fact that, since 2007, people have realised that, for one reason or another, we won't get the same opportunity to "play rich" again.

Margaret Thatcher once made an odiously cruel statement, and one that will be synonymous with her tenure as Prime Minister for eternity. She said, "There is no such thing as 'society.' There's just people trying to get by."

After yesterday's shenanigans, I'm wondering if what she said isn't true in America.

Oh, I know it's always been true of the Republicans - at least the Republican Party as it existed from Reagan onwards - although I can remember the liberal Republicans who fought for social justice, like Nelson Rockefeller and, as unbelieveable as it might seem, George Romney. But now I'm absolutely certain that this anti-societal attitude has pervaded the Democrats as well, from the Blue Dogs to the Progressives.

From Mary Landrieu to Bernie Sanders (yes, pedants, I know he's not a Democrat) they were united in condemning the President's recent compromise with the Republicans on extending the tax cuts. You know, I've never in my life heard so much venom in the blogosphere against the extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I guess anger comes easier now once people realise that the lifestyle they lived in approximation of the good life they wanted to attain was pretty facile and transient. They want the good times back, and they want it now. George Bush took it from them, and now Obama's keeping it, or so it seems.

Yesterday, Barack Obama showed me one thing - that, above all the hype, he's a man of immense compassion. He put his neck on the line and put his people, the people of America - white, black and brown and anything inbetween - first. I've no doubt he didn't try to get the Republicans to budge on ending the tax cuts for the wealthy; he's certainly talked about this consistently enough in the past, that I certainly didn't doubt his sincerity. But they wouldn't budge. Sometimes you can't budge a brick wall with your head.

He could easily have said, "Stuff you, we'll let the whole thing collapse," and be done with it. Come January 1, everybody's taxes go up. In a recession. Done and dusted.

In truth, the President tried to get Congress - a Democratic Congress, remember - to vote on this measure immediately before they recessed to campaign. He knew then, as he knew on Saturday, that, although there were votes enough to pass this measure in the House, the votes were lacking in the Senate. It would have failed, but that failure would have sent a strong message to voters about just whose side the Republicans favoured. But the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill - that's Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid - balked and refused. And then, immediately before yet another week-long recess, a vote on the extension of UI benefits failed to pass.

Obama seized the moment. If the Republicans wanted to retain the tax cuts for the wealthy, he was willing to extend the cuts for 2 years, but only if they would allow an extension of UI for the next 13 months. Throw in a reduction of payroll tax for a year, and the Republicans get their inheritance tax wet dream.

All in all, this increases the deficit - which never has, in my memory, become a major worry for Americans until out irresponsible and whore-panicked media made it so; but it's also shown us that the only thing which worries the Republicans is serving their wealthy corporate masters, whilst the President went for helping the unemployed, keeping the tax burden down for the middle and working classes, and maybe, just maybe, stimulating the economy a bit more with this payroll tax reduction.

But this wasn't enough for the fools on the Hill. Talk of filibuster and voting the compromise down, coupled with vicious and snarling attacks from the hate-filled Progressive blogosphere and bully-boy rantings from Ed Schultz prompted the President to reach out and smack some ass on both sides of the aisle. I feel he was right. And I would say to the likes of Rachel Maddow, whom I usually admire, and Keith Olbermann, whose narcissism is so bad that he made his remembrance comment about Elizabeth Edwards all about himself, simply to STFU and take your medicine.

This isn't about denying Freedom of Speech, it's about acknowledging something: That Liberals or liberals or even Progressives or whatever you want to call yourselves, people who believe in social justice, think about putting the disadvantaged first, instead of trying to score political points, which end up leaving those same people in a worse condition than before.

I was taught that the Democratic party stood for tolerance and compassion, caring for the less fortunate and championing the rights of the oppressed. Today, one end of the Republican party answers to the corporations and the other end is a festering pool of intolerant, belligerant, mean-spirited purists. My bad for thinking that purism was the stuff of Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, something that smacked of Nazi Germany at its finest hour!

I used to know, via the Internet, a couple of those purists. One was a former local politician, who liked to crow that she was from the "Left Coast." The other is a writer, teaching in a small Florida university, unhappy for various reasons, with his lot in life and blaming that on America. They were fine and friendly as long as you agreed with their point of view, but they were unable to sustain any divergence of opinion. Discussions escalated into arguments and ended in ad hominem when one made a point to which they were unable to respond, when they listened at all. There's a special karma in the world for such people. The failed politician was forced, for economic reasons, to abandon her beloved Left Coast for the bowels of Alabama, and Mr Florida had a heart attack. Lucky for him, he was privately insured. The President for whom he's reserved a special and vitriolic hatred just provided a source of healthcare for the millions of people for whom Mr Florida expresses concern but for whom he actually does nothing.

For all those whining, including the talking heads on MSNBC, about Obama caving, maybe they should take a look at the Dark Side and see what they're saying. Fox and The Daily Caller were absolutely stymied yesterday. They were confused and confounded by what had happened, and didn't know how to spin the thing. People were equally confused and dismayed on Michele Bachmann's Facebook page. There was a sense that somehow they hadn't exactly got what they wanted, that they were pwned.

On the other hand, the Democrats would do well to think about this: If they filibuster this, or if they vote it down, the tax cuts will lapse and the UI extensions would have been non-existant, with millions of long-term unemployed kicked to the curb. In one fell swoop, the GOP could point the finger and accuse the Democrats, not only of being the party which hiked taxes during a recession, but also the same party who pulled the plug on UI extensions. That's as much of a surefire win for the GOP in 2012 as is primarying the President.

And the papers are replete with full-throated bayings for that as well; in fact, Michael Lerner, writing in the Washington Post, smugly asserts that, rather than offering a primary challenger, the Democratic party will eschew the primary system all together and force the President not to run for re-election in order to replace him with a big-name ueber liberal - in short, to effect what is tantamount to a de facto coup, by means of eliminating a primary process. This is rich, coming from the party who wholeheartedly embraced the lengthy electoral process as evidence of making the Democratic candidate the choice of the people. Even richer is the fact that the party who bullied through a much-needed and long-overdue Civil Rights' Act, now becomes the party to ditch the nation's first African American President.

Who's the racist now? Perception, after all, is reality.

The Democrats are angry because the President didn't score points with the Republicans, but many of them ran from his policies whilst on the campaign trail. The ultimate blame for this compromise situation, as a longtime friend pointed out to me yesterday, lies with the voters, themselves - or rather, the non-voters. If the Democrats had bothered to get over their almighty and childish sulk because the President couldn't undo in two years what it took thirty to achieve, or that he didn't wave a magic wand and eliminate DADT and end the wars, amongst other things, if they'd manage to "man up" and vote, or if the 30% of the LGBT community hadn't voted Republican in some sort of perverse protest, the President wouldn't have been forced to compromise.

As for the celebrity pundits, obviously, Rachel and Keith, ensconced in their million-dollar ivory towers, have never experienced long-term unemployment nor have they known anyone who has experienced this. They've never spent a week, a day or even an hour in the deprevation of an urban ghetto or amongst the poor working class in a Southern or Midwestern town, the latter being the demographic which always votes against its interest, the demographic which Keith's and Rachel's followers ignorantly refer to as "flyovers" or "unreconstructed Confederates", who would be better off actually seceding from the Union so the ueber-tolerant and all-inclusive Progressives wouldn't have to be bothered by their existance or even share a country with them.

Seems like the President cares about them, though, even though the people they elect, from either party, do. This lot care more about their posturing and their egos than the masses who populate the hoi polloi. They're only good for votes and only then when they vote the right way.

In all my life, and I remember Presidents from Kennedy to the present one, I've never seen a President so hated and reviled on both sides. A pundit/comedian, who likes to think of himself as well-informed, pondered after the elections, how the American people could hand the keys of government back to the clowns who derailed the process the first time. It seems to me that the hubristic Democats, clamouring to abandon the President for some as yet unnamed Great White Hope, are doing the same.


Monday, December 6, 2010

R Is Not Just for Republican

What is the “middle class?”

When I grew up in the 60s and 70s, the middle class was white-collared professionals, all of whom had a university degree. They were doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, accountants.

Most people were from solid working class – blue collars, skilled and unskilled, or low-level clerical. My parents were strictly blue-collar, but we were taught that you bettered your own social position by education. The 1970s saw record numbers of people going to universities thanks to the scholarships and financial aid schemes engendered under the Johnson and (yes), the Nixon Administrations, and social mobility was achieved thus.

I have a cousin who married a doctor. Her husband’s father was a self-trained carpenter from South Carolina who never learned to read or write, but he saw one of his sons become a doctor and the other finish at West Point.

Somewhere in the past 30 years, when we got conned into believing that just because we had a credit card in our pockets and could get a loan from the bank on the collateral of your house or whatever to buy the latest car or go on a lujo cruise, that we were middle class. In truth, most of us aren’t.

And in truth, for all the talking head pundits, Right and Left, go on about the “middle class”, who are REALLY working class, they’d have to fumigate themselves if they ever had occasions to walk amongst them.

An awful lot of the Obama-hate on BOTH sides of the political equation is down to one thing and one thing only: RACE.

The sooner that’s admitted, the sooner we can address the elephant in the room – and that elephant’s not necessarily a Republican.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Richard Nixon's Legacy: This Democratic Party

I'm giving up officially. On politics. Specifically, American politics.

I was raised in what my mother regularly called "a Democratic kitchen" in the South, by parents who had been Roosevelt Democrats. My father cast his first vote as a 21 year-old for FDR's second term. Four years after that, my mother cast her first for his third. They, unfailingly, voted Democratic until the day they died; in fact, my father would often proudly proclaim he would vote the Democratic candidate if the candidate turned out to be the Devil, himself.

In the Virginia Democratic primary of 1988, my father voted for Jesse Jackson. The following year, he voted for Douglass Wilder in the gubernatorial election. In 1992, he voted, again, for Jackson over Bill Clinton in the Presidential primary. My father was white and had been raised in the segregated South of Jim Crow. He didn't care about race, he told me. He voted Democratic, because the Democratic Party was for what he called "the working man," and Jesse Jackson, he reasoned, was more for the working man than Bill Clinton. Besides, he continued, Jesse had known poverty, the same sort of abject poverty my father had known as a child and a young man growing up in the rural South. At the end of the day, in November 1992, he voted for Clinton too.

That was the way I was raised: The Democrats were for the working class, and the Republicans were for the wealthy and the business class. My first Presidential election fell in 1972, when I was part of the newly-registered demographic of 18 year-olds. I voted for McGovern; so did my parents, but they held their noses. My father would have preferred Humphrey; my mother, Ed Muskie or Ted Kennedy. They stayed with the party, because they always believed that the Democrats would work for their interests.

Years later, after spending most of my married adult life in Britain (but never failing to vote in Presidential and Congressional elections in the US), I'm looking back at that era when I cast my first vote, and so I started to read Rick Perlstein's book, Nixonland, which has not only taught me a great deal of things I was too young to notice, even in 1972, it's filled me with a curious sense of deja vu, especially concerning today's Democratic Party.

The Democrats, as we know them, the angst they're encountering at the moment amongst their supporters and their elected officials, is the culmination of a seed subtly planted by Richard Nixon back in 1970. It's a perfect storm about to implode, and the result of that implosion will be what Karl Rove has long sought to achieve: an unbroken hegemony of Republican rule in the United States.

I vaguely remember the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, when Hubert Humphrey won the nomination without ever having entered a primary. Lyndon Johnson, the current President, had gone from hero to zero in the two years from his 1964 election. He was primaried by Eugene McCarthy, who was advocating an anti-war platform. After two close showings in the early primaries, Johnson withdrew, announcing he would not seek re-election. Then Bobby Kennedy announced his candidacy, and many expected McCarthy to fall by the wayside, as most pundits thought him a stalking horse for Kennedy; but McCarthy stayed the course, and Kennedy was assassinated.

The Convention was more famous for what happened outside the venue than inside. The protest riots, led by Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman, are the stuff of legend; when anyone thinks of this particular convention, they think of the Chicago Seven.

In 1970, there was a revolution within the Democratic Party, whose base, heretofore had consisted of a solid core of working class people - the farmers of the Midwest and Western states, the industrial workers of the Rust Belt and the agrarian workers and labourers of the Southern states, who were fronted by the unions and cooperatives. Before 1970, the world of the Democrats was pretty much that of the Republicans, politically - smoke-filled rooms, men in suits, cigar smoke and deal-making. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Back this candidate, and I'll see you get your bridge built. That sort of thing.

That all changed in 1970. A couple of young political strategists decided to mold the Democratic party from a blue-collared party of principle to a high-minded elite corps of coastal intellectuals. No more would their thinksters be the types embodied by Bob LaFollett or the CIO's John Lewis. The mindsets of the party would be centred on the West Coast or the Northeast Coast of America. The party would promote an Affirmative Action agenda by means of ensuring that the state delegations to the 1972 Convention would reflect the racial and gender demographics of each state. Instead of principles the old working class understood, like minimum wage and price controls, this party would advocate ideals - basically, peace, love and understanding, in a nutshell.

The kids who were on the streets in 1968, would be at the centre of power in 1972. And above all, there would be no compromise on any of their ideals. None whatsoever. Their way, or the highway.

And Nixon smiled. Because he knew that such idealistic aspiration would prove divisive.

Almost from the very beginning, it was. At the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach, many states showed up with two delegations, each claiming to be the duly elected one. Illinois fielded two delegations, one of which contained Mayor Richard Daley, the other of which, didn't. The two delegations clashed over which one was the legal one. They couldn't reach agreement and were arguing vociferously, when Daley and Jesse Jackson drew aside and, between the two of them, worked out an arrangement where half of the Daley delegation and half of the reform delegation would serve. When Jackson revealed the resolution, he was shouted down as a traitor for compromising, and the Daley delegation left.

Immediately he was on the campaign trail, when McGovern, who had previously stated that upon his Inauguration, he would order an immediate cease-fire in Viet Nam, walked back the statement with a need for maintaining troops in nearby Singapore, the "no compromisers" (now calling themselves, "Progressives"), again shouted him down for his betrayal. When the governor of a Northeastern state asked to see McGovern during the campaign, with a view to endorsing him, McGovern was publically castigated by his backroom staff for daring to enter into what appeared to be private negotiations with the governor.

"No backroom deals!" They shouted.

And so it went on. Nixon had welcomed the refomation of the Democratic party. He could see the factions forming within and could see the in-fighting that would occur. He'd already started infiltrating the staffs of various Democratic contenders with college-aged operatives of his own, the celebrated ratfuckers of Donald Segretti, amongst whom was a young Karl Rove, with a view to causing dissension and general mischief in an attempt to upend Democratic candidates. The object of the 1972 election, as far as the GOP and Nixon were concerned, was to ensure that the Democrats fielded the weakest candidate possible, and McGovern fit the bill.

The campaign was a shambles from the very beginning. Nixon's operatives, Roger Ailes and Pat Buchanan, managed to feed the press exaggerated stories of McGovern's supposed liberal ideals. He became the triple-A candidate, allegedly endorsing amnesty (for Viet Nam draft dodgers), abortion and acid (de-criminalisation of pot). He suddenly found himself going on the defensive in swings through the Prairie States, having, painstakingly, to explain his real policies to disbelieving farmers in Nebraska, whereas previously, McGovern, from South Dakota, had found this tranche of voter an easy touch.

He even had trouble finding a Vice Presidential candidate. Kennedy turned him down. And Humphrey. And Abraham Ribicoff. Finally, he landed Thomas Eagleton, a freshman senator from Missouri, who, it was rumoured, had a drinking problem. Almost immediately Eagleton had accepted, the press "suddenly" found evidence that he'd been hospitalised for depression and had received electric shock treatments. Eagleton was the Sarah Palin of his day, but with the grace to resign, as unqualified, before the campaign got underway. Sargent Shriver was tapped as a suitable replacement and a quasi-Kennedy.

The rest is history. McGovern went on to a landslide defeat. Only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia declared for him. He got 17 electoral votes. He couldn't even carry his own state of South Dakota, a state which, heretofore, had been solidly blue. The old Democratic base - the farmers, the industrial workers - stayed home. For the first time in its history, the AFL-CIO refused to endorse a Democratic candidate, its leader, George Meany, pointedly saying that George McGovern did not speak for the majority of his Democrats. Some of those from the old base furtively voted for Richard Nixon - hence, the myth of the Southern Strategy.

McGovern, himself, was so confused and disillusioned with what had appeared to happen in the Democratic Party, that - instead of voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976 - he voted for Gerald Ford.

During the decade after the McGovern election, Republican operatives strengthened their presence amongst the farmers and working classes of the Midwest, the Rust Belt and the South. They used local people who spoke like the people they targeted, who understood the values and concerns of this demographic. In short, the GOP used people "just like" the people the targeted. "People like us." And even though they blipped and saw these people support Jimmy Carter's successful 1976 run, they were acclimatised enough to Republican values (which didn't seem so different to the ones they held) that by the time Carter was visciously primaried by Ted Kennedy (primarying a sitting President again), the old Democratic base were ready to be recognised fully as "Reagan Democrats." For the next 12 years. Many of these Reagan Democrats are now Republicans, most probably voting against their own interests.

In 1996, in preparation for a 2000 Presidential run, Republican strategist Matthew Dowd and the infamous turd blossom, Karl Rove, devised a new Republican strategy: play to the base. Forget the independents. Independents were well-educated fiscal conservatives with social consciences. They always voted the issue, never the party. Concentrate on elevating the base to centre-stage importance. If they were religious, give them a hefty dose of Christianity. If they liked their Second Amendment rights, show them your pistol, if not your pistolino. Work your base and they will work for you. And the Republican base did.

While the Democratic base is just one of shifting sand.

One of the biggest frustrations my father had with the Democratic Party was the fact that they could win the battle but not the war. As soon as they'd attained a notable victory, the various factions within started in-fighting. Today, we seem hell-bent on an Armageddon amongst the Democrats between the Progressive ueber-Left and the rest of the party, whom they would like to see expelled for reasons of reality, compromise and pragmatism. The kids who took over the show in 1970 and demanded no compromise, no discussion, who engaged in shout-downs have now come back bigger and stronger - maybe not in numbers, as poll after poll always shows Americans identifying themselves as Liberal/Progressive numbering around 20% of the electorate. But they're aided and abetted by the 24/7 cable media and various internet aggregates, who repeatedly obsess, cherry-pick, second-guess, surmise and assume soundbitten titbits presented as fact, heavily coated with opinion.

Almost from the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency, they've nit-picked, parsed and second-guessed this man like no other President before him. At first, it was under the guise of constructive criticism, then it just became gratuitous, now it's become downright mean and nasty. When members of so-called Progressive Left begin to refer to the President as the Affirmative Action President or, as one particularly vile commentator on Huffington Post did recently, a "house nigger," then I'd say the Democratic Party was seriously in danger of imminent implosion. Remarks like that make it all too obvious that racism is alive and well and surreptitiously gnawing at the fibre of so-called progressivism, just below the surface, so that it doesn't necessarily show, unless one of the more unrestrained and immature elements loses control. The fact that Arianna Huffington's crack team of moderators let that remark stand speaks volumes for her ethics as well.

With all that in mind, it's no wonder John Boehner's got by in the past two years, retiring to the nearest bar to imbibe as soon as 5PM showed on the clock. Apart from just opposing everything on the President's agenda, all the GOP had to do was sit back and watch the Democrats destroy each other. They giggled at the Progressive sections open desires to rid the party of Blue Dogs. They watched the base perform erratically, to the extent that a media personality is an icon one week for saying the right thing, and a felon the next for disagreeing with the accepted opinion de jour. Our way or the highway.

I was raised to believe that as a liberal or a Liberal, we of the Left were tolerant, open-minded and inclusive. These days, I'm finding none of that in what purports to be the Democratic party. Instead, I'm finding intolerance, obdurance, close-mindedness, a strong authoritarian bend and a whiff of racism. And hatred. Lots and lots of hatred. Hatred for the Republicans, I can easily understand; but hatred of people within their own party, hatred of other types of Democrats on an equal proportion of that of the opposition, is unfathomable to me. The Blue Dogs are to be hated and defiled, the Obamabots, even the President, himself, and Southerners - there's a special hatred for Southerners. Why, we're all toothless, illiterate, shitkicking inbreds, who are all unreconstructed Confederates, who should have been left to secede. (Never mind the fact that most of these so-called intellectual effetes have trouble discerning "secede" from "succeed" and often end up inadvertantly wishing that we so-called "unreconstructed Confederates" had actually won the Civil War.)

It's more than an oxymoron that these same people deride the Republican party for marching lockstep, yet almost demand the same subservience within the Democratic party, whilst at the same time crowing about how diverse and individual our viewpoints are and how proud we were of that fact. Go figure, because I can't.

And I won't. Not anymore.

I'm done with the Democrats, done with politics and done with America. The Democrats have fucked themselves and played right into Karl Rove's game plan of GOP dominance. The so-called liberal media feed the lie to their viewing/listening public that the President is a poor communicator, when, in actual fact, the only way he has to communicate his program is via the media, who choose not to emphasize his successes, but dwell overlong on what they perceive to be his failures. They're part of strategy too. A Republican president would give them scores of angst-ridden material. Imagine Keith Olbermann counting the days until a President Palin would be up for re-election.

I'll vote in one more election. I'll vote for Obama in 2012, or whoever the Democratic candidate will be - which means, if there's a primary or he's forced into not running again, my vote will be as wasted a vote as my father cast for McGovern in 1972. And that reminds me of something else my father believed: That if you move too far to the Left, you find yourself on the Right.

After all, neocons are lapsed liberals. Ask Arianna Huffington. She should know.

Good-bye. It's been real.