THE CONTEXT OF THE ASSAULT ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD

11 10 2015

First of all, we have to accept that mainstream American politics has long been about which party’s lies resonate better with the voters.  For most of the last 35 years, the Republicans have had the more popular fantasy, to the point where the Democrats have had to borrow parts of it just to be able to get a hand in the cookie jar from time to time (I’m lookin’ at you, Obama, Bill, and Hillary!).  A delusional belief system accompanied by compulsive lying would be easy to spot and treat if it were the province of only a few isolated individuals, but, since similar delusions and manias have a grip on the minds of millions of people, it becomes tempting to simply accept them as consensus reality and go along with the madness, forgetting that it’s what we once vowed to cure. “Of course American politics is built on ego, selfishness, greed, delusions of grandeur, and overwhelming paranoia.  Of course you’re always going to have to choose the lesser of two evils. Get used to it!”

Lately, however, the Republican side of the duopoly has reached a pitch of madness. There have even been signs that it might be turning into a healing crisis, rather than a fatal spinout.  There are some signs that this same healing crisis has spread into the Democrats, as well.  Part of the Democrats’ delusion has long been that they, as the more populist wing of the corporate duopoly party, offer a real alternative to the Republicans.  “Hey, we’re for abortion and gay marriage!  Vote for us, ‘cos we’re cool!” Get ’em by the short hairs, and their hearts and minds will follow, eh?

I think we can trace the beginning of this particular delusional/manic episode to the 2000 election, when the Republicans turned Al Gore’s wonky, intelligent, detail-oriented personality into a major campaign issue, as if the qualities that might make him a good President were drawbacks, reasons to vote for his opponent, who seemed to embody the very opposite of those qualities. The Republicans, I believe, compounded this by conspiring to steal the election from Gore, a crime which the Democrats chose to ignore, instead blaming Ralph Nader and the Green Party. In psychological terms, that is known as displacement.

That illustrates the fundamental dynamic that has played out between Republicans and Democrats in all the instances I am going to relate:  an unfair contest between the cruel and the clueless, in which the clueless remain clueless about why they keep losing, or even why they keep playing the kind of games they lose. Where I grew up, I was taught that, if somebody says something that seems to be dripping with weird implications, you don’t just play along like nothing is happening, you say what those implications seem to be, letting the chips fall, and the poop fly, where they may. That is what I am going to do here.

We’ll skip over the near certainty that 9-11 was a flimflam and the  absolute certainty that Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was a con, and check into 2004, when the Republicans again turned what should have been a strong “selling point” for Democratic candidate John Kerry–his war record–into a new political verb–they “Swift boated” him, emphasizing

John Kerry redeems himself/why they hate him

John Kerry redeems himself/why they hate him

a version of what happened to Kerry in Vietnam that painted a much more negative picture of him–they said he turned and ran.  His own crew members deny that.  But here’s the thing:  the comrades-in-arms who attempted to discredit him also shared a dislike for his later change of heart–he joined Vietnam Veterans for Peace, and became a major spokesperson for the group. I think that’s where he redeemed himself, but it really burned some of his old war buddies’ bacon.  They did not care for the notion that they had fought on the side of injustice. Sorry, guys. US intervention in Vietnam was wrong, and Ho Chi Minh was right, even if the repressive Vietnam of today is far from the U.S. Constitution-inspired workers’ and peasants’ paradise that Ho envisioned.  I also think that the Democrats’ use of Kerry’s “war heroism” as a selling point shows that, whatever their disagreements, Republicans and Democrats agree on the importance of American imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »





ON, WISCONSIN!

13 03 2011

Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya….who could imagine they would freak out in Wisconsin?

Actually, Wisconsin is one of the more likely powder kegs in the US , a state with a traditionally progressive voter base (the birthplace of the Progressive Party, after all!) that woke up after the last election to discover it had been taken over by Tea Partiers.   Sure, there are states with a more radical tinge to them, like California and Vermont, but both of those states rejected the Republican invitation to self-immolation.

Tea Party governor Scott Walker’s budget proposals, likely to pass in the state’s now-Tea Party dominated legislature, represented a giant step backwards for many of the state’s residents.   As Hannah Arendt observed in her classic book On Revolution, revolutions tend to occur not when the poor are oppressed to the breaking point, but when the middle class, which had something, senses that it is losing its privileges.

Walker’s credibility was tarnished when he got “punked,” as they say these days, into believing that he was conversing with David Koch, when he was actually talking to Ian Murphy, a blogger from Buffalo, New York.  The “confidential” twenty-minute conversation revealed that Walker planned to use layoffs of state workers as a tool to push for getting his way, and also captured him agreeing to quid quo pro arrangements with “David Koch.” Both are illegal under Wisconsin ethics laws–but the state Attorney General is a Republican, so don’t hold your breath.

Since conservative pranksters had been responsible for at least two well-publicized media stunts–the “how do we start a whorehouse?” ACORN video and the spurious trashing of Shirley Sherrod, Republicans could hardly complain about it when one of their own got fooled.  Unlike Republican efforts, Murphy didn’t  have to edit their conversation in order for Walker to make a fool of himself. While Walker  claimed that the tape didn’t reveal anything he hadn’t said in public, it did.  Beyond the potential ethics violations, Walker fantasized about “taking a baseball bat” to his political opponents.  A Deputy Attorney General in Indiana who suggested using live ammunition against the protesters in Wisconsin was fired; why should it be any different for a governor who threatens violence against peaceful demonstrators?

This just in: the same so-called “conservative” who trashed ACORN recorded NPR exec Ron Schiller saying that

public opinion is driven by “this very large uneducated part of the population.”

and

“(Tea Partiers). believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun-toting.   I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

All of that’s true enough, but apparently telling the truth is enough to get you in trouble these days.  People don’t want to hear the truth.  It’s too hard on their precious, threatened egos and lifestyles.  Republicans hope to use this to cut NPR and PBS out of the federal budget, which will save each of us $1.43 a year.  Don’t let the prospect of so much additional wealth go to your head!  Defense spending, meanwhile, is costing each of us  $3,000 a year, but that’s sacrosanct. As so often happens, I digress….there are a million stories on the Naked Planet.

The day-to-day drama of this struggle is fascinating, but let’s take a few steps back from the crowd and get a feel for the big picture.

Much has already been made in the media of the connection between organized labor’s support of the Democratic Party and Republican efforts to destroy union power as a way to undercut the Democrats.   Plenty of commentators have also pointed out that unions have shifted over the last several decades from a blue-collar to a more white-collar demographic.  I would like to take this one step further.  The Republican propaganda machine is whipping up public sentiment against teachers and state employees because they still enjoy the lifestyle and perks that many Americans have lost as the country has been  de-industrialized (and de-unionized) over the last several decades.  In other words, the party of “Christian values” is promoting anger, greed, and envy to bring down the last remaining bastion of middle-class America.  Nice work, guys.  I’m sure Jesus would be proud of you.

At the same time, right-wingers have been horrified by any suggestions, such as Michael Moore‘s, that there might be something wrong with the fact that the wealthiest 40 Americans have more resources at their disposal than the bottom fifty percent.  Yeah, that’s forty people (OK, plus their families) put together who are wealthier than a hundred and fifty-five million of us .  From the Tea Party perspective, it’s class warfare to point that out, but somehow it’s not class warfare when conservatives work to destroy public health care for those who can’t otherwise afford it, unions, community organizations like ACORN, or public service organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Can you say “doublethink,” boys and girls?  Ever wonder how a scenario like Orwell’s 1984 could possibly come to pass?  We may be living it, if things don’t fall apart first.

While I would be the first to admit that middle-class American expectations are, considered on a global scale, immoderately luxurious, it is simply not fair for the wealthy to insist that the middle class take a hit so that the upper class can continue its even more immoderately luxurious lifestyle.  All of us here in America need to come down a few pegs. As with climate change, the problem will not go away if the Tea Partiers succeed in muting the nation’s conscience.  It will return to haunt us again and again, more and more forcefully.

“You can have my money and my guns when you rip them from my cold, dead fingers.”  That’s the deal you want?  That’s the deal you’ll get.

And where has Obama been during all this?  If he were really a socialist firebrand, as the right-wing media love to assert, he would have been in Madison, addressing the rally and reclaiming the base that elected him in 2008.  But no, Obama was nowhere near Madison.  His staff instructed the Democratic National Committee to back off efforts to support the Madison demonstrators, wile he offered tepid words of encouragement, similar to his pronouncements on the revolution in Egypt and the ongoing revolt in Libya, similar to the way Bush I encouraged the Iraqis  to revolt against Saddam and then did nothing while Saddam slaughtered them.  No, Obama’s allegiance is not to the people, his allegiance is to them that bought him.

It’s not clear to me where this movement is going, but I see a couple of  possibilities.

If the protesters’ energy ebbs and the anti-populists, the Republican Tea Partiers, prevail, America will slip further into being a two-tier society.  We will be less organized, less flexible, less able to meet the challenges that will shake us harder and harder as time goes on.

If the protesters prevail, then they will, to a certain extent, be in the position of the dog that chased cars and actually caught one.  There will be plenty of difficult decisions to make, and no “other” to blame for poor outcomes and unintended consequences.   Reinstating the business taxes that Governor Walker abolished in order to create his “fiscal crisis” justification for ending collective bargaining, will, in all likelihood, discourage business, if only because Republican business owners will get mad and find ways to avoid paying taxes.  Freedom to keep all the money you make is, after all, at the head of the list of Tea Party freedoms, right up there with the freedom to ignore compassion, facts, and logic in the interests of having things your way.

So, I certainly stand with the Wisconsin protesters to the extent that I don’t want to see the wealthy win this battle in the class war.  But I can’t, in all honesty, join them in “defending the American dream.”  The American dream is built on the backs of millions of people in the third world who cannot have a decent life because we need their poverty to support our wealth.  We need to wake up from the American dream, but we need to all wake up from it.  The majority of Americans should not be made to suffer more so that the wealthiest one percent can keep on dreaming.  It’s time to share the pain.

Music:  James McMurtry, “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore





STALLING TACTICS

7 11 2009

Last Thursday, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Common Cause had their day in court, and the result was something of a standoff.  While Chancellor Perkins declined to force Hargett to buy optical scan vote counting machines, he did rule that the law as passed does not mandate that Hargett purchase machines that are not in fact available, as Hargett has been insisting.

I found it interesting that, when Hargett filed a brief with the court asking for dismissal of Common Cause’s suit, he did not attack their premises, he just attempted to claim sovereign immunity for the state, and questioned Common Cause’s standing to sue.  For those of you who don’t speak legalese, that means he said he couldn’t be sued over this, and if somebody could sue him, it wouldn’t be Common Cause.  As the first rule of lawyering says, “when the facts are against you, argue the law.  When the law is against you, argue the facts.  When they’re both against you, attack your opponent’s character.”  Hargett didn’t quite stoop to ad hominem attack, this time,  but he definitely had the facts against him., and he knew it.

And I’m betting that, as I was writing this on Friday afternoon, our Secretary of State and his minions were working hard to figure out how to keep dragging their feet, hoping that when the legislature convenes in January, the Republican majority will take them off the hook by delaying implementation of the bill until 2012, a move that failed by only one vote in the last legislative session.  It’s quite a change of heart from the near unanimous, bipartisan support the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which mandated a return to recountable ballots,  received in 2008.  What’s going on here?

I think that a look at a couple of things that happened in Texas will answer that question.  The first is the famous (in some quarters, anyway) Texas redistricting struggle of 2003, when Texas’ Republican-dominated legislature did its best to redraw the state’s congressional districts to insure a permanent Repuglycan majority in the state’s Congressional delegation.  They only succeeded in doing this because the Bush junta disregarded a memo from US Justice Department lawyers saying the scheme was illegal–and not only did they disregard the opinion, they put a gag order on the attorneys who wrote it.  Ah, the Bush years….

And, what do you know…Tennessee will be redistricting after the 2010 census…and the Repugs would sure like to be in charge of that.

The other Texas story that bears on our situation here in Tennessee is what Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator calls “the three percent solution.”  This refers to successful efforts to suppress minority voting in order to shave a few points off likely Democratic vote percentages, insuring Republican victory.  The Repuglycan attack on ACORN and their repeated raising of the straw man of “voter fraud” are just the tip of the iceberg, it seems.

In Texas, the county tax assessor is responsible for registering voters as well, and the position is an elected, partisan office. In Houston, a Republican registrar rejected voter registration forms for such picayune reasons as failure to check a box stating that they would be 18 on the day of the election, even though applicants gave their birth date just a line or two further down the form.

We could jump to Ohio at this point, and recall that the Republican Secretary of State there rejected voter registrations that were not on the right kind of paper.

What am I getting at?  Many Republicans in Houston won their races by the proverbial hair:  50.01%, 50.15 percent–you get the picture.  In effect, they won by denying the vote to individuals they thought likely to vote Democratic.

That’s how we get back to Tennessee, where Republicans are using every delaying tactic they can find to keep using easily-hackable, unrecountable electronic voting technology.  They don’t have to do anything blatant, just switch a few votes here and there, and they can insure that they wil be the ones with their hands on the wheel and their fingers in the till in Tennessee for the foreseeable future.

OK, so why did Democrat-appointed  Secretary of State Riley Darnell pimp for computerized voting, and where was the state Democratic party when he supported what the Repugs are now clinging to?  As for Darnell, he seems to have been enjoying perks from the touch-screen voting cabal–according to verifiable voting advocate Bernie Ellis,

Darnell  served on the board of  “The Election Center,” a group founded with start-up funding by the voting machine companies which continues to promote nonverifiable voting systems that are now being rejected nationally.

And rejected internationally, too.  In a recent decision, Germany’s highest court ruled that electronic voting machines are unconstitutional in Germany because the votes are counted in secret, a story that for some strange reason attracted little notice here in the U.S.

As for why most Dems went along with Darnell on this, it’s the same stupid solidarity that gives us  right-wing wannabes like Jim Cooper, Lincoln Davis, Phil Bredeson, and Harold Ford, Jr. and gets insulted when some of us refuse to support them.  Many of those involved in this fight are active, left-wing Democrats, none of whom have a prayer of ever getting nominated for elective office.  One Democratic functionary told peace activist Chris Lugo, when he offered to be the Democratic candidate for US Senate, to  “go to hell,” and that’s probably the inner circle of the party’s attitude toward my trouble-making friends in the fair election movement, although they will be tolerated as long as the hay they’re making can be thrown at Republicans.

Hey, guys and gals, why dontcha come join the Green Party, where you’ll be appreciated and can be in charge and able to make a difference?  The door is open….

music:  Frank Zappa, “A Lie So Big”








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