Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ms. Iscol, This Is How I Dare

On May 26, about an hour before I went to bed (I never go to bed that early, but I was worn out by the hellish last leg of my flight home from my vacation), Jill Iscol posted this HuffingtonPost. Clearly, she feels passionately about the Clintons and Hillary's candidacy. I respect her passion.

That said, I don't agree with her logic. I don't speak out when Hillary is called foul names because being disrespected is part of the game of politics and she chose to run for senator and now for president for reasons I don't fully grasp. I've always had the feeling she was more interested in power or status than in any specific agenda, and I have the natural misgivings of someone from my time and place (a second generation Southern California born Californian, even if I do live in Tennessee now) of people who move somewhere new so they can run for office. Maybe, as a man, I find her off-putting, I admit it's theoretically possible... but I don't think so. I think I find her off-putting because, as someone interested in voting on qualifications and issues rather than personalities, she has so carefully trimmed and tacked her answers on nearly every issue and because her campaign rhetoric says one thing about Iraq and her votes in the Senate say something else.

John McCain was accused of fathering an illegitimate baby by a black woman and forcing his wife to consent to the adoption of said baby. Bill Clinton was accused of everything, almost literally. Adlai Stephenson was called an ivory tower scholastic with no understanding of the real world. Andrew Jackson was accused of being an adulterer and his wife was called a whore, they also called him a murderer. George Washington was accused of stealing his step-childrens' inheritance. Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all poured so much abuse on each other in the political spectrum that it made what happened to Bill Clinton look mild. Then Hamilton was actually shot and killed by a political opponent. Slurs, insults, and slanders are part of the parcel when you decide on a career in politics. Hillary knew that and Ms. Iscol knows that too, and her feminist ire regarding the words 'bitch', 'whore', and 'cunt' doesn't change that fact. Worse things can be said.

Ms. Iscol is outraged that that the Clintons have been 'smeared as racists.' I don't believe that they are racists and I will say it repeatedly if desired: Hillary Clinton is certainly not a racist.

Yet she had not received those smears for no reason. Her campaign (and her husband) have stooped to race baiting tactics and pandering to racist impulses. When she tells unemployed or underpaid blue collar, blue-dog white Democrats in Kentucky or West Virginia that she is one of them, what does Ms. Iscol think she means? Senator Clinton is not blue collar, not unemployed, not at all poor, and claims not to be a blue-dog (though her voting record on the GWOT perhaps belies those claims), so what is left? She is white.

As a liberal Democrat seeking radical solutions to egregious social ills and injustices, I never had any intention of supporting Hillary and I did not vote for Obama. Having been raised in a pacifist church and having opposed the Iraq war from the first, I take strong issue with Hillary's anti-war rhetoric when every vote she has cast in the Senate on the issue has been in support of the Iraq war and she more recently voted in favor of a declaration that may be used by a Republican president as an excuse to invade Iran. I may vote for Obama in the general election, but Mike Gravel's proposed third party candidacy may win my vote. My principles may overpower my party loyalty, and I like Gravel. So I am no Obama supporter bashing Hillary for political gain.

The Democratic party needs a candidate and, for good or ill, we have two choices. Neither is a genuine liberal, both are center-left at best. Obama may be a closet conservative, though at least he has genuine ideas that can be described as progressive. Hillary is definitely a moderate, in most of the worst aspects of the word. In time of great moral and ethical debate in politics, moderates make the safe choice because they don't want to rock the boat.

That may be more damning than any 'b' or 'c' or 'w' word out there, and it's why I feel entirely comfortable not coming to Hillary's defense.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Few Random Thoughts

Bear with me.

I usually approach these entries as if I were writing an opinion column and try to adhere to certain standards, and right now I'm not doing that. I'm simply sorting through random thoughts in my head. More column-style entries will follow, naturally, but I just feel the need to purge right now.

As a registered Democrat, I wish our nominee wasn't going to be Obama or Clinton. I respect Obama and the man gives hell of a speech, but for all the 'dangerous liberal' rhetoric from the right, he strikes me as too centrist in a world that requires more radical solutions. I think those solutions will have to come from the left, as the right is unwilling to solve problems. They want to profit from problems. The other choice for Democratic nominee? Hillary Clinton, or as her friends call her since she started campaigning so hard for the redneck vote in places like West Virginia and Kentucky, 'Lyonne.' That's a Lynx and Lamb joke. If you don't get it, Google 'Prussian Blue.' I know Hillary isn't genuinely a racist, but her pandering to racist motivations is disturbing.

Why didn't any of you people who claim to be against the war in Iraq, torture, illegal surveillance of American citizens, and corporate corruption and for national health care and the rebuilding of a just social safety net for America vote for Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel?

That's what people mean by 'blue collar white voters' and 'rural voters', you know. Rednecks afraid of the idea of a black president. Since when did Hillary think we were in a war against the liberal elitists anyway? Isn't she supposed to be a liberal elitist?

I really wish I could bitch-slap John McCain with a rubber chicken. He used to be my favorite conservative and now he's so busy campaigning for the General Robert Toombs vote that he sometimes appears to be to the right of the president who once beat him in a primary by circulating fliers accusing him of fathering his adopted daughter (Bangladeshi, for the record) with a black mistress and then forcing his white wife to take her into the family home.

General Robert Toombs is the man who, in a classic case of 'damn the revolution, don't sully the cause', wrote to Jefferson Davis that offering black volunteers their freedom in return for fighting for the Confederacy should not ever, ever be contemplated because if freedom was an inducement then slavery was morally wrong and of course slavery could never be morally wrong. A true conservative.

I was born and raised in California. I feel better qualified than most of the politicians involved in the debate to have an opinion on illegal immigration. My opinion? Let anybody who wants to come into the country come into the country. If everyone in Mexico comes to the United States, maybe the Saturn factory will move north of the border again.

Regulation of trade and commerce is necessary to ensure free markets. A free market is a competitive market in which the consumer and the producer are as free as the capitalist and the merchant. An unregulated market leads to a monopoly economy in which no one is free. If you don't believe me, ask Alexander Hamilton. Then take a look at the history of the oil industry.

If you're opposed to all corporate and income taxes, what will pay for your corporate welfare and government bailouts?

Now the right is using its own failures as proof the left is wrong. Conservatives are using the Bush administration's total failure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as an argument against the perils of government. What sort of a political process do we have where one side uses its own failures as proof of its argument against the other side's successes and solutions?

What is the last problem you can think of that was actually solved by conservatism? Think about it. Take all the time you need.

Will the Democrats really take advantage of the Republican implosion to implode even more self-destructively? And do I get to blame Hillary for it?

Let's think about elitism for a moment. Is it a really a bad idea to let qualified people do jobs for which they are qualified? Is it really a good idea to let scientific laymen and the clergy decide what science should be taught in schools? Is it really a good idea to elect a 'man of the people' if the aristocrat actually knows what he is doing? Would anyone with an understanding of history choose Cato over Caesar or Wilkie over Roosevelt?

Have you noticed the people who cry out against 'elitism', from Jefferson down to Bush, are all rich aristocrats who've never done an honest day's work in their lives?

Thank you for bearing with me. I'll try to be more coherent next time.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Our Dirty Laundry: Reverend Wright Has A Point

It finally happened this week. It was going to happen, of course. Most of us knew it. Yet it was still a surprise when it happened, because the issue had been bouncing around for so long that there was a good chance it would lose traction.

Yet, last week, Reverend Wright held a press conference defending himself and Barack Obama. In that press conference, he pushed too far. He spoke for the presidential candidate without the candidate's leave, always a big mistake. He presumed to know what Senator Obama was thinking and the results didn't go well for him.

Barack Obama threw the good reverend under the bus.

More than that, he sounded generally angry and hurt that Rev. Wright would go so far. He looked to be a man shocked by the betrayal of a close friend, and his repudiation of Rev. Wright was not merely political. It was very personal. The friendship was over.

I can't condemn Obama. He held on and refused to disavow the man when it was just a matter of controversial political beliefs, but when Rev. Wright presumed to speak for Obama as a presidential candidate then the only choice was to agree (either silently or vocally) with the reverend's statements or to disavow them.

Yet the statements that Reverend Wright has made, as controversial as they may be and as hard as they hit home with white Americans who are either pricked by a guilty conscience or convicted of their own superiority and the perfection of the United States of America, they are not entirely full of shit.

No, the U.S. government did not 'unleash' AIDS on the African-American community... but President Reagan did completely ignore the pain, suffering, and death of AIDS victims for years. Federal funding for AIDS research always lagged in the Reagan and George I years, and the breakthroughs in AIDS treatment finally made are available only to those who can (through government aid, private charity, or personal assets) afford them. Bill Clinton's failure to push a national health care program through a liberal and Democratic Congress in his first term in office meant that the poor and unemployed were no better off than they were before. The government may not have 'unleashed' AIDS on anyone, but it did far too little and too late to help anyone.

As for the statement that the United States brought the events of 9/11 on itself... this is a much more difficult and complicated issue. No country deserves to have its civilians killed by a horrible terrorist act. Certainly we did not deserve to be the victims of 9/11. Yet, ever since the end of the Cold War, the ringing shouts of American triumphalism and imperialism have been heard through the world. Have American capitalists really forgotten the maxims of their own classical prophets? Thomas Malthus noted that for the middle class to be comfortable and the rich to be rich, the poor needed to be poor and exploited. He argued that attempts to ameliorate the plight of the unemployed and of the exploited working class would destroy the entire British economy. Is this far from the cries of the American right that we cannot 'afford' national health care, social security, unemployment, or any sort of social safety net whatsoever? Now take this one step further: for the United States to be a rich consumer nation, the Third World nations who now provide the resources we consume must be exploited and oppressed in the same manner as the Victorian working class of Dickens. Britain's workers got angry. Clearly, parts of the third world are angry too.

Malthus was not necessarily right, but his doctrines provide a warm blanket of necessity to keep the cold of guilt away from the rich, powerful, and corrupt. 9/11 tore through that blanket, and the actions of the rich, powerful, and corrupt certainly contributed to the anger that motivated 9/11.

Louis Farrakhan is a bad guy and I, personally, believe the Nation of Islam to be a protection racket disguised as religion. I don't have any more sympathy for anti-Semites than I do for racists, black men and Jewish men are equally my brothers. Yet, the concept of black militancy is not entirely negative despite the attempts of those uncomfortable with the status quo to frame it as such. The original black militants of the 1920s and 1930s created black businesses, a black baseball league, and black entertainment. They proved that black communities could be self sufficient and that blacks really were equal, whatever the law dictated or racists believed. The sporting successes of Joe Louis, Bill Spiller, Jackie Robinson, and Bill Russell would not have been possible without them. Many of the civil rights gains of the 50s and 60s would not have been possible without black athletes having convinced white America that blacks could be heroes.

When drugs, crime, and the institutional and geographical segregation of the urban north appeared to be even more frightening adversaries than white men with guns and ropes, black militants attempted to encourage self-sufficiency once again. The notion of racial separatism may be abominable, but to many of them it seemed that black communities had been strongest when racism was strongest and that too many African-Americans were failing to take action to improve their own lives. The idea that we should all take action to improve our own lives has another name: 'The American Dream.'

I don't know if Reverend Wright loves the United States of America, but if he is truly as 'anti-American' as the Clinton Democratic Establishment and the Republican Party would paint him then it is possible he has some cause to be. Perhaps we should solve the problems, instead of condemning the men who call our attention to them, however misguidedly.