Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plumbing Joe

October 30, 2008

In the dwindling days of this election campaign, it's astounding how much mileage the McCain/Palin Republicans are still wrenching out of Senator Obama's comment about "spreading the wealth around."

Maybe it's all for the best that the Dems do not take the bait and mount any major response to this sinister distortion of Obama's words and their meaning. Why waste precious time at this point? The brain-dead GOP base will dutifully dismiss any thoughtful deconstruction (huh?) of Obama's words and react with conditioned knee-jerk outrage to any such red herring McCain might pull out of his butt, no matter how absurd.

McCain knows this as well as anyone. Which is why he has the gull to go on and brand Obama as a secret socialist after already smearing him with the secret muslim, secret terrorist and secret whatever labels.

Now, in breaking news, the BBC reports that the McCain campaign has uncovered yet another shocking Obama association with a controversial figure: Rahm Emanuel has been named as a possible Chief of Staff in the Obama administration. "The Illinois congressman is considered a highly partisan politician who served in Bill Clinton's White House."

Finally, the deepest darkest secret comes out: Barack Obama is secretly a... Democrat!.

It might be hard to make this last one stick, what with so many big name Republicans rushing to endorse Obama at the last minute.

Meanwhile, in a feeble deperate defense of his socialist smear McCain will tell you it is, in fact, based on Obama's own words. In response to Joe the Plumber Obama did say we should "spread the wealth around."

McCain says this "is one of the basic tenets of socialism."

But as Tom Brokaw even pointed out in his questioning of McCain last Sunday, the tenets of socialism also include governmental bailouts and takeovers of a nation's banks and industries, which McCain himself strongly supports as a way to save our failing economy.

In fact, central control of those economic engines by a country's government is more than just some vague conceptual idea that motivates socialist states: it is one of the solid operational mechanisms of socialist state governments.

As has been seen in those countries that operate under such a system, governmental intervention into the business of banks and industries - taking control of the economy - has only ever enriched those in power - and their friends - while the socialist working classes always only floundered.

"Spreading the wealth around," on the other hand, is only a tenet of socialism in the sense of being a mere conceptual premise from which to begin. Every government that has imposed income taxes on its citizens or provided Social Security can be said to be experimenting with socialist concepts. They do so, of course, in order to provide for those who cannot work and to support public services, work, infrastructure defense and, of course, war.

McCain/Palin Republicans are clearly far ahead of the Obama-led Democrats in the race to establish a socialist state in America and they totally side with those who already hold all the wealth. Those wealthy people will only gain more under state socialism than they have as capitalists. Which may explain a lot about the turn this economy has taken of late.

No wonder McCain doesn't want the wealth to go spreading around: he wants it to remain concentrated in the 2.4% of Americans who alread possess 95% of it!

And what is this "Wealth" of which we speak?

Well, I know it has nothing to do with the kind of money I have access to. It's not about the resources needed to meet a person's basic needs or even provide for a relatively comfortable existance.

Inarguably, "wealth" is just another word for "excess."

You cannot think in terms of wealth if you have trouble making ends meet or are worried about your financial future. It is a brazen insult to argue that we should not tap into the heaping excesses sitting in a relatively few millionaires' accounts - just earning them greater personal fortunes - to give a little relief to those of us currently struggling and suffering under a treacherous global economy.

What should by rights be taken as the outrageous affront it is to those regular Joes and hocky moms who crowd the McCain & Palin's rallies, instead flies right over their hot little angry heads.

What Obama said to Joe the Plumber was that he "should have gotten a tax cut years ago."

If he and all the working/middle class had been cut a break already - instead of having it all go into the pockets of the super-rich - some of that excess wealth would have been spread to him years ago and he would not now need to worry so much about whether he could afford to take over his plumbing business, as Joe said he wanted to do.

That's what I think Obama was saying and I believe it is true.

McCain prefers to keep all our country's excess/wealth concentrated in the hands of a relatively few individuals like his good friend Bill the Billionaire.

To add injury to the afore-mentioned insult, McCain apparently trusts his elite profit-driven friends to make better decisions about how to spend all those excess millions in a good or bad economy - more than he would trust Joe the Plumber or you.

They are the ones who have their hands on it all this time and just look where they have gotten us!

Why doesn't that point ever sink in to the mostly white trash knee-jerk McCain/Palin supporters?

Probably because it's so much easier just to seize on the latest diversionary label that McCain is trying to make stick to his Democratic opponent (who has the nerve to run for President as an openly black man!) rather than risk themselves being labeled racist merely because they have no rational reason to vote against their own self interests...

McCain Utters the "R" Word

Appearing on Larry King's show last night, John McCain is said to have acknowledged that racism still exists in America (duh!), but that it is only likely to be a small factor in people's decisions about whom they will vote.

Well, what did you expect him to say?

If he were to engage in any real "straight talk" McCain would have acknowledged that, yes, racism exists and he is counting on it to win this election.

He and Palin obviously have little else going for them.

If he had any principles at all he could have said that he does not want anyone to vote for him or anyone else primarily on the basis of race.

And if anyone is thinking about doing so anyway he should make it clear he does not want their vote.

If McCain weren't so desperate he could couch his words in terms of also rejecting the votes of those who would vote against Obama or him on the basis of race alone. To soundly condemn such negative voter motivation would be a strong statement that he is not counting on people to let their racist tendencies determine the politics of this great country.

But the Republicans cannot afford to offend their white racist base.

As they stand McCain's words are little more than a wink and a nod to those Americans who he acknowledges may still be racist.

At best, they convey the message: "you know you shouldn't, but I can't stop you if you do."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ACORN Bashing

From the top down, Republicans have desperately been trying to paint ACORN as the greatest threat to US Democracy since, well, since Karl Rove and the Republican Party if they were honest about it.

I have been aware of ACORN as a local activist organization in Philadelphia for as long as I can remember. The public impression they always made on the Philadelphia scene was through their presence as a group at most rallies, demonstrations, and marches usually staged and usually organized by some coalition of progressive activists rallying around various, anti-war, pro-peace, leftist and LGBT and Quaker causes.

The ACORN signs and banners seen at these events are most striking for their obvious home-made noncommercial appearance which only validates the group's authenticity as a real-people powered grassroots low-funded volunteer organization. The often rag-tag appearance of the people seen carrying those signs and banners identifies them as low-income and poor, and even homeless supporters out for justice and basic human rights.

So it is incredibly shocking to see such an gigantic well-funded and politically powerful Goliath as the National Republican Party picking on this grassroots organization, inventing a bogus national crisis (to distract from those real national and international crises they have caused) and blaming it on such a defenseless little-guy group as ACORN.

For background on this desperate move by the threatened RNC giant, read the article posted at Philadelphia's City Paper web site.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Identity Politics

by Al Falafool

By now it is just old news that the Republican strategy in naming Sarah Palin to the ticket was all about their need to shore up the party’s fundamentalist base.

Earlier this year the radical right was steadily drifting away from the GOP with little more than outright indifference. Even though John McCain had already proved he was more than willing to say and do whatever it takes to appease them, he failed to convince anyone that he does not still hold such views as once prompted him to call Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan “agents of intolerance.”

As the primaries came to a close last spring, Republican strategists apparently put their heads together and concocted the most extreme composite of a personality that would best offset McCain’s perceived shortcomings as a true extremist for the general election. Then, incredibly, they found the perfect embodiment of that outrageous caricature in Palin.

Sarah Palin’s deceptively simple appeal to the GOP base and those dubious “undecideds” comes from her assumed identity as someone who is “just like you.” Never mind that it’s an utter lie spoken in an exaggerated Fargo accent by a total phony. She has the nerve to stand up and say it out loud to all those disgruntled and disaffected right-wingers who had been feeling abandoned by the party they had long been sucked into supporting.

But although they still eat up and spit out those lame old “Joe Sixpack” and “Hockey Mom” sound bites, the truth is that nobody believes that Sarah Palin is just like them. If she were, how could that be enough, even for the least ignorant among them? Would anyone who knows they couldn’t possibly run the country think that someone like them could possibly run the country?

Now, I am not the most intelligent person I know. But at least I know better than to hope that any President-in-waiting should not be way smarter than me, or anyone at my level. Any of the Palin zealots who have seen and heard her in action - and can still identify with her - must surely also recognize that it would be better to have someone at least slightly smarter than themselves in charge.

I believe that Palin, herself not the brightest bulb on anyone’s Xmas tree, is actually smart enough not to identify with any of those loonies who show up at her rallies. She is not really like them and they are not like her. The only thing they can all agree on is the kind of people who are “not like us.”

This is the one common denominator among Palin and her backers: what they tell themselves she is not.

For religious fundamentalists, she is not someone who is anything other than Christian: least of all a secret Muslim and certainly not a - gasp! - atheist.

For the embittered female demographic she is not a man.

For staunch conservative Republicans, she is not one who has failed to toe the party line even as little as McCain ever did.

She is definitely not a socialist or a lesbian. Or a big-city sophisticate. Or particularly intelligent.

Most of all, she is not black.

On this last count Palin leaves no room whatsoever for doubt or equivocation. Her exaggerated folksy manner and upper Midwestern nasal twang convey a covert racial bond between her and those hordes of resentful white Americans who, like her, harbor deep irrational phobias about people who are not as white as “us.” Palin’s overall persona is so lustily appealing to them because it is farther from black than any white person would ever feel comfortable owning up to in mixed company.

This is identity politics at its most insidious. Sarah Palin’s cutesy little winks, virile/feminine posturing, and droppin’ off the g’s from the ends of her gerunds have tapped into the mother lode of latent white supremacy. Those deepest shared feelings are only obscured by any number of things that are still generally acceptable, unlike outspoken hatred based on race.

Like some convoluted secret code Palin’s mannerisms resonate deeply with anti-Obama voters who don’t consider themselves racist but are.

And John McCain clearly expects to ride this undertow of racism right into the White House.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Witch Hunts in America: Making a Comeback?

I remember the election of 1994..

For the first time in 42 years, Republicans finally re-gained control that year of both houses of the US Congress. It was not since the election of 1952 that Americans gave them the majority and with it free reign to do their evil worst.

In 1994 I openly fretted and feared a swift return to the era of McCarthyism, HUAC, red-baiting and blacklisting Commie witch hunts that had long been the hallmarks of that party's Congressional agenda. They had been out of power for so long I was sure they were just itching to get back in there and pick up where they left off.

With the midterm election of 1954, after the Republican Senate had been driven to censure Joseph McCarthy for his outlandish pursuit of their extreme agenda, the country was finally pushed to the point of soundly routing them as the ruling party. Having seen the despicable things they are capable of, we kept their authority in check for nearly half a century. By 1994, however, we seemed to have either forgiven all that or been fooled into believing they had reformed their ways as a party.

When the country bought into the new Republican "Contract on America" and restored them to power 14 years ago, their first order of business was payback.

In the intervening years, as the minority party, they had suffered the humiliation of numerous scandals and defeats including Watergate, Nixon's impeachment hearings and his 1974 resignation in disgrace as well as the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade. So it did not take long before they poured all their energy into taking down President Bill Clinton through impeachment and steping up their so-far unsuccessful campaign to re-criminalize free reproductive choice while stacking the Courts with far-right judges.

As bad as thing have gotten under Republican rule we can be thankful that they did not get further along in their hateful agenda over these last 14 years. As the country now seems to have reached the point of disgust with them once again, however, the worst of them seem to be spinning out of control desperately trying to save their asses.

One reason for their ultimate ineffectiveness in the current era has been the neo-con's need to couch their frankly fascist agenda in terms that do not explicitly rekindle the outrage that thinking Americans would recognize as the extreme language used by Joseph McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

Back in the 50s you could still call a commie a commie.

But until very recently they have been cautious not to invoke the language and images of those televised hearings that blew the cover off their bogus witch hunts that finally brought on the demise of their party's rule. That sort of thing had fallen apart in 1954 after Joseph Nye Welch famously stood up and rebuked Senator McCarthy on the Senate floor. It was during one of McCarthy's typically extreme Senate hearings on supposedly "Anti-American" activities in the US military when Welch, head attorney for the Army, blasted McCarthy wih the remark, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

While we no longer have a Joseph Nye Welch to stand up and shame the likes of Sara Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, those two have been doing a good enough job of it themselves lately by shooting off their big mouths with McCarthyite rhetoric about "Real Americans" and the like.

Perhaps the Welch moment came this past week when several Republican big mouths crossed the line of decency and resorted to outright inflammatory labels like "Socialist" in reference to Barack Obama, Joe Biden and anyone else who doesn't toe their fascist party line. They have finally ripped the cover clean off the real Republican agenda in their desperate attempt to escape another routing and avoid 50 more years of exile after the upcoming election.

If you need one more reflection on famous quotes from American history in order to steel your nerves when you go to the polls in two weeks, remember the ominous 1935 quote from Sinclair Lewis who said, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Monday, October 20, 2008

John McCain's Jungle Fever - The Dark Side

This late in the election season the McCain campaign has the nerve to raise the ominous question, "How much we know about Senator Barack Obama?"

I think you also have to ask, "How much do we really know about John McCain?"

Of course we know that John McCain is a war hero.

This is the sacrosanct claim that has long been one constant in the Arizona senator’s life as a career politician. We all know the routine: acknowledge that McCain is a war hero or else. And we all know the story of his five-year captivity in Vietnam some 35 years ago. He will never let us forget it. And, today more so than ever, every opponent he faces feels automatically compelled to genuflect before his glowing heroic halo.

Conventional wisdom holds that to question McCain’s war hero status is totally out of the question, as to do so would call one’s own patriotism into question. No one can afford that politically. In today’s climate any threat to a candidate’s carefully constructed veneer of patriotism is too much to risk.

Obviously, if you choose to run for office you must always wear your flag pin prominently on your lapel. But Mr. McCain has the war hero card and never fails to play it. This handy invisible status symbol always trumps any American flag broach no matter how many precious stones you have set in it.

Well, I'm not running for anything. 

Still, McCain’s old gold plated heroic aura serves him well in blunting any criticism of his more recent erratic politics. But I ask again, what do we really know about John McCain the war hero?

What I really want to know is how has McCain's POW experience affected his life: his inner life – his psyche?

Does anyone doubt that he may be hiding something behind that war hero label? That he may be using it for reasons deeply personal and troubling that involve more than base political gain?

Combat has long been glamorized in movies and legend, but in real life and in better movies it has never been regarded as something a person easily gets over. In fact, the horrors of Vietnam continue to haunt many veterans of that era who still suffer the lasting effects of PTSD. Those who survived capture and long-term imprisonment by the Viet Cong would seem likely to carry even more serious and long-lasting baggage. It stands to reason that they must have way bigger issues stemming from the trauma of their experience than those who made it out with their platoons.

We can presume that POWs like McCain who were held by the Viet Cong for five years or more were subjected to varying degrees of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” previously known as torture (Since McCain supports the Bush Administration’s revision of what amounts to torture and what doesn’t, the treatment he endured never actually rose to the level of torture. But that doesn’t stop him from using the term to score political points.)

Given that the former party boy survived four combat plane crashes and harsh prison treatment over five years -- two of them spent in solitary confinement -- and was reportedly driven to attempt suicide twice during that time, the man has had plenty of trauma to deal with.

What do we know about how John McCain managed to work through the psychological issues that must plague him as they would anyone who had lived through such extreme life-changing events?

I’m just asking. Could McCain's self-revisionism as the consummate war hero also shroud a deep inner turmoil? How could it not? The American people have a right to know. What kinds of demons have bedeviled John McCain all through these years after he first encountered them in the jungles of Vietnam?

Even after three and a half decades, it has often seemed to me as though McCain’s mind never left the jungle prison that held him during the war. Or maybe it has just wandered back there in his old age. In any event, it is clear that he believes we should have stayed in Vietnam until we scored a "victory" there. Just as he says we need to be "victorious" now in Iraq. In neither case was it ever clear to the rest of the world what a victory would look like.

And in both cases he is one of a minority of Americans who could see any sense in fighting on.

He seems disturbingly delusional to me.

Here is a man who must constantly reassure himself that having been held in a Vietnamese jungle cage somehow made him a true war hero. And he demands that everyone else kiss up to his stale delusion of grandeur or else be damned. Such stern denial of reality and overcompensation does not indicate to me someone who has effectively conquered his inner demons. 

If anything, it seems that McCain has convinced himself that he can perhaps achieve ultimate vindication and personal aggrandizement as President by appeasing those pesky ghosts rather than fighting against them.

Now if he can only get enough like-minded delusional voters to buy into his cockamamie hallucinations…