Making a Difference

April 27, 2010 at 1:07 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Political cartoonist-author, Ted Rall wrote a critique of the Tea Bagger movement in which he wonders why African-Americans would vote Republican. In fact, he goes so far as to compare it to Jews voting for the Nazi party. How can I disagree? Although the GOP was largely founded in the 1850’s upon the idea of abolition of slavery, after Lincoln’s murder in 1865 they rapidly threw concern for the former slaves overboard and morphed into the party of big-business. 150 years later they have more in common with the car than with the Great Emancipator.

Certainly anyone other than a rich, white, middle-aged, heterosexual, fundamentalist Christian, male who votes Republican is likely suffering from a form of self-loathing (and the remaining Republican voters loath other humans). So, they either go Republican from self-hatred, a kind of long-range ethnic suicide, or they are trying to “fit-in,” to gain admittance to that good old boys club of wealth & power.

Whenever I see the spectacle of a black Republican, my mind goes back to memories of when I was 15 years-old and helping bale hay on a farm owned by the father of one of the girls in my school class. The rural town outside Dayton where I grew up was all-white, so being around a member of any minority was extremely rare. There was a crew of about a dozen of us baling hay that hot summer. And all of us were white except an older black man (That is, he seemed old at the time. He was probably in his mid-40’s) called “Cousin Jim.”

Jim was not really a cousin of anyone at the farm, he was a hired-hand who had been with them a long time. He was wiry and worked like a pack mule. He did not talk a lot (none of us did, it was too hot & dry for much talking). But what surprised me was when he did speak it was usually some unsolicited put-down of his own race:
“Most n—–s don’t want to work!”
“You can’t get them lazy n—–s off their behinds and get ’em to do an honest day’s work!”
“They oughta ship all them lazy n—–s back to Africa if they don’t wanna work!”

Some of the others on the work crew seemed delighted with Cousin Jim. They would cackle as he entertained them with his comments. I was repulsed by him. I judged him as an “Uncle Tom” who debased himself to curry favor and avoid conflict and I openly said-so. Of course, I was younger, smarter, and less forgiving back then. Now I know much more about how hard it can be to swim against the tide or risk your job and sometimes your life by being different in the wrong-way.

Having been born in 1958, I voted for the first time in 1976, registering as Republican because my parents & grandparents were Republican even though they were all blue-collar workers. My family had voted for Nixon against John Kennedy and Goldwater against Johnson. The tale is told that, during the Great Depression, my maternal grandfather was enraged to learn that my grandmother had (gasp!) voted for FDR. My parents were disgusted when I voted for Jimmy Carter. But through the years, even though I called myself a Republican I almost always wound-up voting for the Democratic candidates.

At dinner one night during the 1984 election, my brother-in-law finally asked my assembled family the logical question, "Why would any working person vote Republican?" then he explained in detail the differences in the way the parties treated the common American. He showed us that nearly everything that made-up the special “American way of life,” like great wages, civil rights, owning your home, had all been supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. He made so much sense that by the early 1990’s nearly my entire family had switched to voting for Democrats or Independents. And almost without fail, during every election season someone in the family still brings up that question of his and reaffirms that he was correct. It just goes to show that, sometimes, one person speaking-up can make a difference.


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April 25, 2010 at 4:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through news and opinions this morning, I happened across an essay that piqued my interest. Well-known political dissident, Professor Noam Chomsky, gave an interview to Truthdig wherein he compares our present dire U.S. political situation to the Weimer-era Germany. Quite correctly, Professor Chomsky turns his vitriol loose upon America’s liberals & conservatives, both camps being utterly contemptible. Unfortunately, comparisons to Weimer-and-Nazi Germany are wearing-out from overuse just when we most need them; but it is difficult not to use the comparisons because they are so darned applicable to our time. The short, sad days of the “Weimer Republic” and its immediate successor, Nazism, have become historical shorthand for extreme denial of reality in the face of mounting danger, a wimpy inability of liberal politicians to stand-up for what is good & right, a “fiddling while Rome burns” mentality of dithering during crises that frustrates citizens to the point of sweeping democracy away and replacing it with pure evil just so someone will deal with the nation’s problems.

However, I disagree with the Professor in his assessment that FDR could not be elected in today’s political atmosphere. Well, back in the fall of 2008, I heard many people say that is exactly the type we hoped we elected. But we not only didn’t get FDR, or Carter (as Prof. Chomsky says), we got Buchanan (who stood irresolute as the nation slid into civil war). As one of the dupes who voted for Obama and now I see that his candidacy was an invention of the hidden powers behind the curtain that are hell-bent on taking this country down the road to complete ruin at the hands of mega corporations.

Unfortunately, the historical moment has passed. Obama’s revelation as neo-conservative while being labeled a “liberal” (like a wolf in sheep’s clothing) has fast spoiled any remaining national fondness for “liberal” solutions. Now we appear to be stuck between right-wing monstrous solutions and Obama’s very slightly less monstrous solutions. Just like the above-mentioned hidden powers figured. Obama’s election de-fanged the anti-war, anti-corporatist movements and he will provide cover for dismantling Social Security, unemployment, and the other components of the social safety net. In that way he resembles Clinton who provided cover when he “reformed” welfare and gave us NAFTA. I have come to regret voting for Clinton and Obama, but looking at the Republican alternatives… what choice did I really have?

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Wall Street Gets the Goldmine & We Get the Shaft

April 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In spite of my best efforts, America’s casino economy hums-along in its happy, fraudulent, and bonus-filled way. Meanwhile, the needs of the real economy and the hundreds of millions of citizens it supports are as ignored by the Washington crowd as coal mine safety.

Our wise “leaders” in business, media, and government grasp at every straw, twisting statistics to fit the “prosperity is just around the corner” scenario they need to keep us from rising-up & demanding the rotten system really be changed. For instance, they blew their trumpets loudly to announce that, Heaven be praised!, 162,000 jobs were created in March. So the economy is on the mend and Wall Street can go back to handing-out bonuses. Sounds good… but whoa wait a minute!, it turns out that at least 150,000 jobs must be created every month just to absorb new people coming into the workforce (like all those eager young people and immigrants). Well, ok, that leaves 18,000 jobs to chip-away (for 361 years!) at that nasty 6.5 million “long-term unemployed” number. But, oh my gosh! 88,000 of those 162,000 jobs were temporary work, such as working on the U.S. Census. The truth is that real job growth is still going in reverse.

And that does not even address the fact that America’s jobs increasingly lack wages & accompanying benefits that allow workers to share in their nation’s prosperity. Livable pay, health insurance, retirement, and vacations are all things taken mostly for granted by our Capitalist elite, Socialist Europe, and in the “mixed-economy” days of post-Great Depression-pre-Ronald Reagan America. But they are vanishing quickly in this country. The only real solution I can see is a turn to Socialism or at least a return to its milder cousin, the “mixed-economy” of the 1930’s-1970’s, wherein government’s main job was to make sure the playing-field is kept level by keeping a tight rein on big-business and helping the common citizen to flourish.

Back in November, when this blog had almost no readership, I posted the essay, Bring Back the Red Menace!” Now, I wish to re-print it, with apologies to those who would debate finer distinctions between “Socialism” (an intermediate step between Capitalism and Communism) and “Communism” (the ultimate destination in the flight from Capitalism), I use the terms interchangeably.

Bring Back the Red Menace!

We Americans are brought-up to believe that genuine, vigorous competition is the life-blood of our great system. Vying against one-another for victory, with the winner taking all the spoils and the loser conceding any claim is what makes social Darwinism tick. And so it is drilled into our red, white, and blue brains from cradle to grave until it becomes second-nature to believe that non-winners deserve to have nothing. Gaining or losing it all motivates us to try our best. Striving against a rival makes us strong!

Who would deny that in the 1970’s, our domestic auto makers had become bloated, complacent, and inefficient. They were insensitive to and exploitative of their customers; building increasingly lower-quality and higher-priced products designed for “planned obsolescence.” They were improved by stiff competition from foreign car companies that gave customers an alternative. Likewise, the United States Postal Service was improved when other carriers appeared. I could fill pages with examples of industries and organizations that were increasingly out-of-touch with their market, all of which were raised-up by vying against tough, strong, viable opponents.

That lack of competition is exactly why a monopoly does not function well. There is no rival to keep said monopoly under control so sooner or later hubris, greed, and decadence set-in (note that this is why government regulation is used to control these tendencies in monopolies). In modern American, Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Obama-nomics, monopoly is a diseased thing that must be cured through competition. If the schools, the airlines, or the electric company can’t face the challenge, then that’s too bad because it’s sink or swim for everyone (except for banks and Wall Street tycoons).

And now I come to my point. And here I am relieved to know that no one actually reads this blog, so I will not be hounded by threats and cat-calls for the assertion I’m about to make: The worst thing that happened to the average American citizen in the past 100 years was the collapse of the Communistic Soviet Union. Why? Simply because we now have no competitor to which we can turn when we are abused by the monopoly known as American Capitalism. And so that monopoly becomes increasingly abusive of its captive customers.

Apparently, I am the only one to notice that there was only one span of time when conditions consistently improved for American workers and citizens: the years from 1920 until the mid-1980’s while the Soviet Union existed and, in the minds of America’s leaders, there was real danger of a (cue-up the scary music) Communistic revolution in America.

Before that window of time, laissez faire Capitalism was firmly in the saddle and there was very little progress in the treatment of the vast majority of the population. Things didn’t really begin to improve until the Great Depression of the 1930’s caused a large percentage of Americans to start considering the alternative economics of Communism/Socialism/Populism (all close cousins). This scared the bejesus out of our political and business rulers who then reluctantly agreed to allow a little of the wealth to be spread around. And for the next 50 years, more and more wealth got spread in America so that the people were kept happy and non-Communist.* Overall, things kept getting better all the time for Americans across the board: the old, the young, all races, both genders. The poverty level crept down a little at a time and literacy rates kept going up.

Then in the late 1980’s, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell-apart under the weight of its leaders’ corruption and greed. The threat by the Communist menace was over. Sure there were still a few other Communist nations around, but none of them posed a real threat to Capitalism. American Capitalism boasted of being the only superpower remaining on earth. And, immediately, (actually it had started a few years earlier when the Soviet collapse could be seen on the horizon) American Capitalism no longer had to try to keep our hearts and minds. The tide turned against the average American. And it’s been downhill for us ever since.

So today we Americans are seemingly stuck with a bloated, uncaring, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful, unfair, and unresponsive system that is typical of any monopoly. But we are not stuck! Having no competition allows Capitalism to dismiss the needs of the citizens. There is only one solution: We must pick-up the threat of Communist revolution off the ash heap of history and, at the very least, pretend to be considering it as a replacement for Capitalism. That will scare the elite into once again being willing to share some of our nation’s prosperity.

* And contrary to what neo-conservative ideology teaches, in spite of having to share prosperity with the bottom 95% of the nation, there was still plenty of money for the upper 5% to stay very, very, very, rich.

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The Glenn Beck Experience

April 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Laugh-master Glenn Beck keeps on rolling and keeps his audience rolling in the aisles! Now, in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ retirement, he imagines President Obama’s upcoming selection of a replacement. Beck’s fevered brain visualizes a “gay-handicapped-black woman who’s an immigrant” as being B.O.’s dream appointment, because it would be the “radical” thing to do.

And in the zany universe Beck has created, President Obama is a radical. He is a Marxist. Yes, Barack Obama. The man whose policies have, so far, been virtually indistinguishable from his predecessor, George W. “Silver-Spoon Cowboy” Bush. Beck’s avid following eats this stuff up, much like fans of other fantasy tv programs like Lost.

The Glenn Beck experience is high-comedy of unparalleled genius. One after another, he spins hilariously surreal takes on current events. Does he write this stuff himself or use a staff of joke writers? Either way, he certainly deserves the $32 million he raked-in last year.

My only concern is: how can he possibly keep topping himself? Eventually he will reach a point where he runs-out of new humor material and then what? Perhaps having himself hauled-off to the nuthouse in a straitjacket at the end of the broadcast?

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Ha, Ha, Suckers!

April 10, 2010 at 12:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Not all that long ago, Myrtle and I were having a pleasant dinner conversation with a couple who had lost their business in the economic crash. They seemed rational-enough until, about 20 minutes into the visit, they revealed their admiration for Glenn Beck. “He just makes good sense,” said the husband as he echoed Beck’s opinion that America has been bankrupted by the poor. We responded at first with gape-jawed bewilderment, then tore into the stupidity of that theory.

Well, my long-held suspicions about Glenn Beck are, at-last, confirmed by an interview in the latest Forbesmagazine, wherein Mr. Beck verifies that he is only in it for the money and does not give “a flying crap” about politics or the effect his insane antics have on his tiny-brained listeners. His audience believes what he says and gets all worked-up when he cries on his broadcast, while he secretly laughs all the way to the bank.

I am not the least surprised to learn that Beck views his job as purely business. And what a business; he raked-in $32 million dollars last year! He is a maestro who plays his followers like a cheap fiddle. And I have absolutely no doubt that Rush Limbaugh is Beck’s soul-mate in perfidy. Some day, when America has come to its senses con-men like Beck, Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich and their Froot Loop-followers will be in the history books as cautionary tales.

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