Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Surge Worked

The Russians are retaking the Caucasus. John McCain senses a chance to show his leadership, given to him by our vacationing (permanently) Commander-in-Chief. The Russians very appropriately waited for the most symbolic time to begin their surge into Georgia: the start of the world games. Very clever of them because they are racking up the gold. And to all those in the West who lecture to Russia about acting civilized, the Russians can point to their success last week and say, "Hey, the surge worked."

So here we are in 2008, at the end of the Bush years with our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan and a resurgent military power in Moscow. And, as a bonus for playing the game, we get to wonder where bin Laden will strike next as well. Good going, Bush administration. John McCain will carry on where you leave off.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Modern Slavery

A dear friend expressed her hope that one day we Americans will live as free men under capitalism rather than as slaves under socialism. I find this to be a very peculiar meme, but it is a powerful one in this country, attaching itself, as memes do, wherever it finds welcome. That real slavery exists, slavery for labor and slavery for rape-oriented sex, and that it is common in the world even today, is something I think that she knows and deplores.

My friend has so many choices, so many perks for just being born in the United States. For her or for anyone in her position to complain that living under an active but benign public sector is akin to living in slavery just strikes me as wrong. It is an instance of how our chosen predispositions cause us to open and allow certain dogma to enter our minds and stick there. And I think that we do choose our predispositions and through them the meme parasites we allow to enter us and tag along.

When untold numbers of women, children and men are held under duress and forced to work or forced to open their legs for someone who purchased them for that purpose in a commercial exchange, it takes deep self-involvement to equate the pressures of living a middle class lifestyle in the United States with slavery. But that is a very American thing to do. We get frustrated easily in this country, especially the better off we are. It does not take much to make an American feel put upon. I know. I am one. I have felt the road rage.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cynical, Not Racist

As a likely Obama voter, I would rather that the Senator had never made (much less repeated) the remark about how McCain's campaign would remind us that he, Obama, does not look like the other Presidents, the ones on our money. The statement was unnecessary because anybody can see that Obama is black and because it gives McCain and his surrogates another excuse to scream at the public through the pliable media, the right wing's favorite megaphone.

At the mercy of an AP reporter's integrity, Obama is quoted as saying that McCain is cynical, not racist. The Illinois Senator speaks well and softly and I can imagine him saying such a thing and believing it. I believe it, too. Still, this race is all about the black man who is the Democratic contender for the White House. And no matter the colossal price tag of our Iraq adventure, and no matter how distorted the system has become by the redistribution of income and power from the middle and working classes to the rich and already powerful, it will be upon the issue of race that the election will be decided. I hope that I will be proven wrong, but I think that I will not be. We are still in America, after all.

I happen to believe that Faulkner was right to assert that the past is not dead, that it is not even the past. For all that I would like to see an Obama victory, which I feel would be a watershed event in the country's social history, I can see inertia winning out. Inertia wins most of the time unless a strong enough force intervenes. Supposedly, a majority of Americans believe the country to be headed in the wrong direction; will that belief create a force that defeats inertia and channels our efforts more in the right direction?

The dissatisfaction that people express with current policies and their outcomes should be enough to drive change in those policies. After all, losing homes, jobs, insurance and overall security are painful. But McCain and his people plan to counter that pain with a stronger pain, one induced by the daily shouting of innuendos, lies and inanities at the public through their coopted instruments in the traditional mainstream media.

Note: for a sample of such a coopted instrument in the traditional mainstream media, see Morning Joe on MSNBC.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Just Asking

If government is as incompetent as the Defenders of Liberty on the right would have us believe, can it make sense to surrender 4th Amendment rights to that government for the sake of national and personal security? Why would we surrender our rights against illegal search and seizure to a government that cannot really protect us? Government is incompetent, remember? But, then again, even if the administration just manipulated us (yet again!) into giving up Constitutional protections, we do get the psychological relief of believing that we did something to protect ourselves.

Right, Senator McCain?

But at least it was the 4th Amendment we sacrificed and not the 2nd. We are never arbitrary about these things. So now when your name is accidentally added to a watch list for terrorists, you'll still be able to blow those government agents away when they come to search your house without need of a warrant or just cause.

Waltzing Matilda All Over

Today's New York Times featured an editorial about the continuing disgraceful health care the Army (and by extension, our government) provides to returning wounded and half-destroyed veterans. But the Times is a leftist rag, so, yeah, we can ignore their whining. Except it's kind of hard to do that because I don't want Dick Cheney or that cute little Tokyo Rose of right wing talk radio Rush Limbaugh to support the troops more than I do. And so, it doesn't seem right to ignore the fact that it takes New York Times reporters doing an article to remind the Army that it promised to take better care of our soldiers.

I keep hearing John McCain belittle Barack Obama about the war in Iraq, apparently the ONLY war that matters, to hear the Senator from Arizona talk about it. Apparently, Obama really wants to lose the war so that he can go mess around in Afghanistan or some place. McCain reminds us every fifteen minutes or so that he was right about the surge. What about your earlier predictions, Senator? The ones about how short the war would be and about how few casualties we would take? Were you right about the surge, Senator? Well, if a politician makes enough predictions, sooner or later he'll get one right. Maybe. Besides, who would have thought that the Iraqis would shoot back? The temerity! Didn't we already bomb those overmatched Arab boys back to the stone age and deafen the hell out of them back in 1991? They probably did not even hear us coming this time.

And anyway, the soldiers coming back in tatters and flesh rags are learning a valuable lesson that the Right has been trying to get through our silly heads at least since the 70s, which is that government can't do much of anything right. As a matter of fact, government is the enemy and stands in the way of political liberty and all human progress. Government is the enemy, period. That's what our shell-shocked and limb-truncated and brains-shot-away troops are finding out as they return home to the medical care they were promised. Or not as they were promised.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pro-Obama Bias and the Mythical Liberal Press

Just went to Lou Dobbs' website to vote No on whether the media is biased toward Obama. The Yes votes outnumber the No votes by a large margin, but there was a reminder that the poll is not scientific. Nor, is it serious. The media panders and miseducates us and then asks us what we think, based on the mind-deadening pablum they try to shove into our mouths.

The observable fact is that the press mounts 24 x 7 coverage of every Obama mistake or every Reverend Wright outburst while barely covering McCain's retinue of plutocrats and gunslinger lobbyists or his incomprehensible economic policy. And this constitutes a pro-Obama bias? I think it lends credence to those who argue that the press is protecting McCain. But that's not the intuitive take. The "mainstream press" is liberal, right? Except that the mainstream is FOX News these days. More people watch FOX than any other news network and by a good margin. That would make FOX the most mainstream of all the news networks. In recent years, CNN has moved further to the right just to survive. But none of the networks show me a liberal bias. Keith Olberman's Countdown at MSNBC is not typical of anything on that network or on any other. One show is not a bias.

No one in this country knows what a real liberal or pro-Obama press looks like because no such thing exists in this country.

Friday, July 18, 2008

McCain's Karma and the Genteel 2000 Republican Primary Campaign

James Carney resurrects fond memories of the 2000 Republican primary race in South Carolina. One does have to admire McCain's restraint at the time while at the same time marveling that the Senator ever thought it would pay off to embrace Bush as enthusiastically as he has the last couple of years.

After he upset an overconfident Bush by 19 points in New Hampshire, it appeared that McCain might take South Carolina too, ending Bush's bid. In a Greenville, S.C., hotel room the day after his New Hampshire loss, Bush's high command agreed to attack McCain as a double-talking Washington insider and closet liberal. They also discussed the help they could expect from outside groups not legally permitted to coordinate with the campaign. Said a Bush adviser: "We gotta hit him hard."

They did. While the campaign itself launched a fusillade of negative attacks, a network of murky anti-McCain groups ran push polls spreading lies about McCain's record. They papered the state with leaflets claiming, among other things, that Cindy McCain was a drug addict and John had fathered a black child out of wedlock, complete with a family photograph. The dark-skinned girl in the photo was, in fact, the McCains' daughter Bridget, whom they adopted as an infant after Cindy met her on a charity mission at Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh. It was, even by G.O.P. standards, unusually foul stuff.

Up to that point in the campaign, McCain had been more or less ambivalent about Bush personally. "He thought Bush was a lightweight but a nice enough guy," says a close McCain associate. That ended in South Carolina. During a commercial break in a debate there, Bush put his hand on McCain's arm and swore he had nothing to do with the slander being thrown at his opponent. "Don't give me that shit," McCain growled. "And take your hands off me."