Sunday, November 18, 2012

Assessing the 2012 Presidential Election

Women can be emancipated only when she can take part on a large social scale in production and is engaged in domestic work only to an insignificant degree.
~ Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

I have not written in a while, mostly because I was waiting to see how the 2012 elections would pan out in the belief that the huge infusion of super PAC cash would have discernable results that could be dissected and bemoaned. Fortunately, the younger, non-white male coalition that elected Barack Obama in 2008 was able to show up again in 2012 and fend off not only the avalanche of rightwing PAC money, but a truly reactionary Republican pairing of CEO arrogance and Ayn Rand misanthropy. Not to mention a slew of patriarchal Christian nutcases running for the U.S. Senate.

The biggest takeaway was that representative democracy triumphed over campaign cash this time, with the exception of extreme gerrymandering of many House of Representative districts to favor Republicans. Much of the Republican defeat could be attributed to what Paul Ryan refers to as the "urban vote" which realistically includes women, young, African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters. Threats of reducing this vote through intimidation and reduction of early voting only served to increase the determination of the targeted voters to turn out and vote, no matter how unnecessarily difficult the process was.

The Tea Party clown car, the juggernut of the 2010 mid-term elections, ran out of gas or more precisely, the gassy old men at the wheel drove it off a cliff. They did this by making the huge mistake of opening their mouths and letting voters, specifically women, know what they thought about the issues that affect them. The comments they made about rape were quite remarkable for being so far out of mainstream thought even in a society that is as domineeringly patriarchal as this one. Indeed,they revealed a belief system rivalling that of a Taliban-like theocracy. Life of the unborn is sacred to the point that rape can be thought of as God's will. The logic behind this thought was quite well lost on the vast majority of voters and they soundly repudiated them, negating hundreds of millions of dollars of rightwing PAC money in the process.

So where do we go from here? It is obvious that the angry, white male vote is not going to carry the day for the Republicans if more than 40 percent of the electorate actually comes out to vote. Will the Republicans adopt a new line to woo other groups besides the mono-color, mono-sex rainbow they currently pander to? Perhaps an even bigger question is will the Democrats actually reward the people who voted for them?

I feel that although the Big Money Republican donors came up mostly empty this election and the demographic tilt is going to increasingly favor the Democrats, the ability of truly democratic principles to take root in this country will continue to be hampered by the rigid confines of our social and economic system. Indeed, the immediate way forward is full of land mines as a "grand compromise for allowing tax cuts on the wealthy to expire may include more sacrifice for the most vulnerable members of society. Women voters, who had a huge role in deciding this election, may not fully reach equality until traditional gender roles are transformed, no matter which political party is at the reigns.

This election could signal a trend away from the type of government that seeks to keep large segments of its population as second class citizens. Many countries in this hemisphere have recently elected champions of the traditionally under-represented majorities. Or it could be an illusion where the hope for a transformational change of conditions proves to be nothing more than a temporary mirage.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Handicapping the 2012 Presidential Election

I'm a bit late with this but, since the Republican contest is still going on as their primary voters are apparently deciding which one of their candidates would have the worst chance of winning the general election, here goes. Four years ago I based my prediction on the hair-dos (and hair-don'ts) of each of the 2008 presidential candidates. That worked out well, except for Mitt Romney's classic televangelist coiffe being bested by McCain's no-nonsense, grumpy old combover.

So this time I will tweak the forecasting algorithm and look a little deeper into the issues to try to predict how things should evolve through the course of this election cycle. With the Democratic side set, unlike the wide open race of 2008, we can focus on the Republican primary fight. It is an interesting battle, but it is even more rigged in favor of big money sponsors than four years ago, thanks to the obscene and treasonous behavior of five crooked court justices who decided that the system wasn't rigged enough. So Romney sponsor's will buy the nomination and the only mystery is whether the system is rigged enough for them to also buy the election.

If the economy continues to recover, the conventional wisdom is that President Obama will have an edge, but the real story will be how much Obama's Super Pacs can raise to fight off the bottomless pit of cash that any Republican nominee will have access to as long as the law of the land is set by the Felonious Five judicial whores of finance. This is the simple math that decides who governs the "land of the free". This is the "freedom and democracy" that our leaders' rhetoric calls for being spread across the world. This is the price we pay for disengaging from political discourse.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Checks and Balances

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. ~ Peter 2:19

Encouraging signs have developed in the long time since I last added an entry here. The popular movement to remove corruption from government that began in Tunisia and spread across northern Africa and the Mid-East finally washed up on these shores. Ignored, then mocked and now repressed by the lackeys of the oligarchy...we wait for a system (that has spectacularly failed to self-regulate in the recent past) to either save itself from within or face a final collapse.

All of the problems of capitalism are, of course, self-imposed. The system of competition will leave behind those less capable of fixing the rules to affect the outcome. This is no boon to society in the long run, though it may be successful for periods of time if heavily regulated. Inevitably, monopolies develop and the regulations are either gotten rid of or poorly enforced. The end result is the robbery of the many for the benefit of the few. We are at the point where the system has been too rigged for too long to be of any use for virtually anyone. Except those that own the government.

A tragic microcosm of this perverse evolution recently ended in the immolation of another supposed paragon of virtue as the big business of college football was given a chop block to its knees. State College, Pennsylvania is a small college town surrounded by farms only a few miles away on every side. In the spring and fall, the farmers spread manure on their fields and the smell wafts over the campus when there is a strong wind. That smell can't compare with the smothering, putrid stench currently hanging over that campus.

The sordid and unecessarily extended period of sexual child abuse in "Happy Valley" occurred because there was a complete breakdown of the systems of checks and balances over a period of time. This was to accomodate the whims of one Joe Paterno, and made possible by the legions of fanatical followers and the tens of millions of dollars of business they generated for the school and local area. I went to grad school there and saw firsthand the cult of personality. Penn State was the church, football the religion and Paterno the combined Pope and King. To tempt fate, his supporters erected a statue of this man while he was still living, unaware that it was built on a foundation of sand. The sand was slowly, grain by grain, falling away and marking time before the revelations of past discretions would come to light.

When the sand finally ran out, the King had just attained one final triumph. He had broken the record of Eddie Robinson of Grambling University for most college football wins in the history of the sport. Little consolation now, one would hope. Defiant, incredibly insensitive, and tone deaf to the bitter end, Paterno had to be forced out, while his brain-dead legions rioted. These incredibly dense "students" were the reason I had hoped the football team would lose every Saturday that I went there, so that the sidewalks would be relatively free from the vomit that was deposited there on nights when they won. They proudly advertised their ignorance of who the actual victims were, lost in the herd mentality that is so carefully cultivated in this country.

Which brings us to Veteran's Day. Reactionary thinkers fail to grasp what should be obvious nuances in separating wars of liberation from wars of agression. You cannot honor a warrior without cursing the sham of the war. Please don't congratulate me on my service without excoriating those who would and so blatantly have used the military for the material gain of the ruling class. To all those who served, honestly ask yourself what you served for. To those currently in the military, get home soon and in one piece and to hell with those who would make you heroes for no good cause!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The People United

Bayonets cannot weave cloth.
~ Joseph Etter, IWW labor organizer commenting on the Massachussetts governor's decision to send in the National Guard to crush a strike by textile workers.

It has been interesting watching the conglomerate-owned media covering the revolution in Egypt. It has also been interesting hearing the Obama administration telling one of the many corrupt lackeys of U.S. foreign policy to not crush the will of the people over there, while the war against the peasantry intensifies on U.S. soil. The union busting threats made by governors of New Jersey and Wisconsin are similar to those of 100 years ago. We are stuck in a reactionary time warp.

Both Republicans and Democrats seem to be on the same side lately. Perhaps this is due to the racheting up of the campaign finance corruption enabled by the judicial activism of five ultra-right members of the Supreme Court. In order to play the candidate game, you now have to be able to raise vast sums of money AND not incur the wrath of those who can raise vast sums of money against you. All this leads to policies that will support the very top of the economic pyramid at the expense of everyone else.

It doesn't take a lot of predictive power to see that this will end badly if a radical change of course does not occur. The attack on the public workforce and unions, along with environmental and safety regulations, the continued reliance on fossil fuels, the neglect to educational and physical infrastructure...all of these things will have negative consequences, many of them dire, to everyone. The least powerful will, as always, be most negatively impacted. It won't stop there, however. Those in charge seem determined to find the limits of popular revolution in this country. At some point, the left-right divide will have to be bridged and the recognition of the common enemy must occur. The appropriation of "not gonna take it anymore" by right-wing corporate stooges will seem rather quaint compared to when the shit actually hits the fan. I hope our government follows its own advice to foreign countries when it happens here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Korean Conflict: A Historical Perspective

"General Bradley said that we must draw the line (against Communist expansion) somewhere. The President stated he agreed on that. General Bradley said that Russia is not yet ready for war. The Korean situation offered as good an occasion for action in drawing the line as anywhere else."

~ From the official minutes of President Harry S. Truman's meeting with his top military and foreign-policy advisers at the Blair House on the evening of 25 June 1950

Here we go, again. Another opportunity for people halfway around the word to die, en masse, for the United States to demonstrate its uncanny ability to enforce a global double standard. While Israel, judging from its recent and not so recent actions, is as reckless and dangerous a government as they come, is allowed to keep its nuclear arsenel without sanctions (and indeed without any mention at all in official U.S. diplomatic circles) while other countries who we don't share a "special relationship" with, are not. In this case, North Korea, representing one third of the Neo-con "Axis of Evil", and already being slowly starved to death by economic sanctions imposed by a U.S.-domininated U.N., is about to take things into some very dangerous territory. Namely, they are about to become the noisy focus of the "Loud Little Handful" of Neo-cons. These are people that would like nothing better than to follow Douglas MacArthur, their ideological ancestor, down the rabbit-hole of nuclear abyss. This is history that could repeat itself, hopefully without a brand new, glowing and radioactive ending. So let's look at that history and clear up in advance some misconceptions that will no doubt be foisted on us again in the coming days by the usual suspects.

At the end of WWII, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated and the world became the domain of the two "liberating" powers. The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Even before the last shots were fired in that war, a new ideological war between the two remaining large military powers was beginning. The "Cold War" in which the aspirations of the people of the world were boiled down into capitalist/communist ideological doctrine, would continue to cause turmoil and divert resources from the basic needs of humanity and towards the existance of massive armament stockpiles.

One of the key points of revisionist history is that this massive weapons buildup was able to "keep the peace". In fact, while nuclear war was avoided, dozens of "lower intensity" conflicts raged and millions died. Korea would be joined by a long list of places where Cold War brinksmanship would result in proxy wars, bringing foreign troops, advisors and armament into conflict with eachother.

Most U.S. history books will state that the Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The true origin is murkier, as offensive actions on both sides of the 38th parallel were occurring ever since this border dividing one country into two was established at the end of WWII. The border was in effect a dividing line between the influence of the two superpowers who had divvied up the Korean peninsula after removing the Japanese army, similar to the military occupation of Germany.

Syngman Rhee, the U.S.-approved ruler of South Korea, suffered an electoral setback a month before the war started as popular dissatisfaction with the pace of reconstruction grew among the South Korean population. The tenuous political position he faced seemed to force his hand towards diversionary tactics, such as increased belligerance towards the North, something we may see happening again if Obama tries to get his groove back after the mid-term elections by proving his foreign policy toughness to the incessant cry of the Neo-cons as amplified by the war-hungry corporate media. The Cold War never ended for these people, it just morphed into another War Without End.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capitalism: The Silent Killer

"The streets and people of New York are devastated for the second time in a decade. This time, the culprits behind the wrecked lives and ruined livelihoods are not foreign extremists, but homegrown. And rather than receive appropriate retribution, the perpetrators receive billions of government dollars for their demolition job."

~Tom Engelhardt

Capitalism. A word that should be at least as well known as Communism or Socialism. Or terrorism for that matter. Yet a word that is strangley missing in most debates about or descriptions of U.S. government. The word is often replaced by sunny sounding proxies such as "freedom and democracy" or "liberty". One wonders about the taboo nature of this word in the imperial lexicon of corporate media. So let's break it down.

This is a system primarily fueled by the most base of base human nature; greed. Yet, this engine of exploitation and inequality is exhorted as instrinsically good and pitted against the intrinsically evil-by-association Socialism. We are thus being sold the idea that greed and selfishness and ranking priviledge by the amount of excess accumulated property is more noble, natural and godly than an egalitarian and selfless existance. What would Jesus do if faced with this assumption? As we are faced with it every day.

And it has been more in our face than usual these days as the system has collapsed in a massive tangle of crooked deals and unstaunched bleeding of outsourced jobs. All of this mess made possible by politicians on a legalized bribery binge pushing continued de-regulation of industries irrevocably driven to excess. Some very public dirty dealing was seen in the last few months as the Democratic congress and president attempted to tackle the most vital issue facing us; health care. We saw how crooked and gamed the legislative process is. The health insurance and pharm lobbies strangled the best option, single payer, in the crib then kneecapped even a weak public option. We saw our lives and well being quite literally given less priority than industry profit. It was there in all its naked, destructive glory, this god called Capitalism, the magical hand of the marketplace that decides whether we live or die.

It also decides where we live and the quality and conditions of our life. One of the sadder stories I have read recently is that of the children affected by the foreclosure tidal wave sweeping the country. This will not be a good holiday season for them, and neither may be future ones as the emotional scars of being uprooted remain for a long time.

So when you hear about the evils of Socialism and Communism or when you hear about the great goodness of freedom and liberty, remember the premature death, suffering and misery of the most dangerous and deadly "ism" out there: Capitalism.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death By Corruption

"The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

~Justice John Paul Stevens, dissent on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

The 2010 elections are done and spell further doom to anything resembling the American Dream. The lukewarm, mild, tepid support of the New Deal safety net by the Democrats was swamped by a scalding-hot tea mess of ultra-right nutcases parading as populist reformers. The tea they served was brewed from an ocean of money provided in part by the Koch brothers, savvy businessmen who want a return from their investment.

They spent millions on attack ads, robo-calls and other forms of nefarious disinformation and now expect billions from the U.S. treasury to be provided by their army of looters soon to be sworn in to congress. This will come at the expense of anyone hoping to retire before the age of 80, anyone not raking in more than seven figures a year, and anyone trying to go to college without being saddled with debt for the next 30 years after graduation.

The campaign finance system is no longer just broken, it has been pulverized by corporate cash into a shadowy, toxic fog that cannot even be traced. Anywhere there is dissent from the corporate agenda the fog rolls in and blankets the airwaves with poison. The dissent is killed and replaced with a compliant tool to accomplish the further dismantling of FDR's social contract. This wave election may be the wave of the future if the walls between corporate money and fair elections are not rebuilt. Expecting the politicians to fix this is like expecting a drug cartel to police themselves and a drug addict to come clean without any type of intervention. It is up to we the people to get a constitutional amendment to fix this mess. That's the only hope of stopping the slide back to the Gilded Era of robber barons.