Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Sweet Carolina, what compels me to go..." Obama Trounces Clintons

Obama wins South Carolina, a state where 61% of the voters were female, by fighting and wisely staying positive, leaving Hillary and Bill wallowing in the mud and muck of the low road, a place where in very early returns they were mired in 18% to Obama's 70%, complete and utter devastation and a resounding rejection--by blacks, whites, women, everybody--of the type of slimy politics that the Clintons and their cult of personality embraced. Bill and Hillary's act has become one of genuine pathos.
The bumper sticker in South Carolina was humorous and prophetic: "I'm not going to vote for Monica's ex-boyfriend's wife." It's hard to feel sorry for either Clinton in the aftermath of their destruction of their own reputations and the likely end of Hillary's chance for the presidency, which is all they got out of their race baiting tactics and outright lies that they desperately tried to ride to victory in South Carolina. One can only imagine the Machiavellian nature of their discussions behind closed doors, as the ambitious Hillary prodded her attack dog husband to go for the jugular:

MacBill: "If we should fail?"
Lady Clinton: "We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place,/ And we'll not fail"
MacBill: "False face must hide what the false heart doth know." (Macbeth 1.7.60-83)
Unfortunately for the Clintons, Obama showed in the Monday debate that he's no Duncan who is going to let MacBill come into his room with his pride, ambition and daggers to do his wife's dirty work. Long term, the Clintons may have achieved their goal of defining Obama as a black candidate, but at what cost? That cost will be clear in November if Hillary wins the nomination, when many of us will search for any viable alternative to voting for the Clinton co-presidency. It was an unpleasant spectacle to see Obama and Clinton trading sucker punches in the middle of the ring, but that's what the Clintons needed, to bring Obama down into the mud they wallow in so gracefully, to strip the aura of hope and optimism and make him look like another hypocritical fringe black candidate. Obama, to his credit, had to engage in the fight; he simply had no choice but to respond forcefully against the two-headed Clinton monster or lie down and fade into the dustbin of history. In essence, he did what he had to: When a fighter is pinned against the ropes he either covers up, holds on, or comes out swinging: Obama wisely chose the latter, as James Carville observed if he had taken a different path, "Obama runs a risk of being wussified."(NY Times 1-25-08) Indeed, he would be more of a "wussy" if he left the heavy lifting of attack politics to his capable and perhaps too articulate wife, Michelle, who has been deemed too "edgy" by his campaign. Translation in political speak: She tells the truth too much.

As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in 1796, "No man will ever bring out of the presidency the reputation which carries him into it." Indeed, but Bill's demise into the orange tie wearing, red-faced blowhard who sleeps through Martin Luther King Day speeches, only to wake up refreshed for a new round of lies about Obama--radio ads that say he loved Reagan, supported the war, is a closet Muslim extremist, was a street level drug dealer, is in bed with a slumlord(the one who posed for a picture with Bill and Hillary at the White House of course)--is surely the most disconcerting image liberal Democrats have had to digest in years. When Bill Clinton is basically being told to shut up by party elders such as John Kerry, Pat Leahy, and Ted Kennedy, one would think a moment of reflection and self-analysis is in order, yet Bill carries on, cynically blaming the media for bringing up the race issue, when it was his own wife who stated the obvious by saying it "took a President" to get civil rights passed. Bill's own lead lawyer who defended him in his impeachment case came out and endorsed Obama this week, and in today's New York Times Bob Herbert claimed Clinton "has at times sounded like a man who's gone off his medication. And some of the Clinton surrogates have been flat-out reprehensible."
In Obama's words, Bill has essentially been reduced to "bamboozling" voters. Supporters are fleeing the Clinton campaign at an astounding rate, as some of us actually have principles, actually believe in some of the equality, justice, and unity themes that the party we support used to stand for, at least we thought it did. The New York Times reported that "Mr. Clinton is deliberately trying to play bad cop against Mr. Obama, campaign officials say, and is keenly aware that a flash of annoyance or anger will draw even more attention to his arguments...Mr. Clinton has treaded onto far more combustible ground, like race."(1-25-08) Hillary Clinton entered this campaign with the highest negatives of any major candidiate in recent memory, and as those negative feelings expand exponentially, the end result for the Democratic Party comes into clearer focus: If Hillary gets the nomination, the Republicans--even with their horribly flawed candidates--have to be favored to win in November beacause, unlike the Democrats, they will be united and galvanized by three words that strike fear into their hearts: President Hillary Clinton.

It's hard not to feel like Buckingham in Richard III, who pauses before responding to Richard's request to kill the two innocent children(one the rightful king) in the tower. He had followed Richard in all his devious plots to that point, but everyone has his or her personal limits, a line we simply cannot cross and still retain our personal sense of morality and values. In Shakespeare's play, Buckingham makes a run for it because he knows that he will literally lose his head if he sticks around.

In South Carolina, for many of us, the only possible way to avoid the downward spiral of racial bigotry and divisive politics was to flee the Clintons for good, to close the chapter on a legacy that made the 1990s an era that this country can and should celebrate: Bill Clinton was an outstanding president, despite his personal flaws. Humanity is flawed--that is the reality of human nature. It always puzzles me how much more enlightened Christ was than his generally ignorant followers: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The Bible is full of excellent advice and principles to live by, but by and large the Bible has become no more than a primary source for fanatics who take a phrase and paste it to their forehead, claiming they know "the word." Bill Clinton's personal flaws aside, he did much to help this country rebound from 12 years of tax and spend Republicans, who created a tremendous budget crisis that Clinton managed with acuity and a good deal of common sense. Thus, it is with a tangible and profound sense of sadness that I see this man I supported as leader of the free world wandering around South Carolina in his obnoxious suits, providing cover and engaged in full-on attack mode for his wife, the one who claims she is ready to lead from day one but cannot even fight her own battles, the one who is afraid to utter the nonsense that she assigns to her presumed "first lad" husband and his odious henchman. As Bob Herbert asked in the NY Times today, "What kind of people are the Clintons?" When a respected liberal black writer is left to ponder this question, what is the country left to think? I no longer know these Clintons, and frankly, I have no desire to know either of them anymore--not now, not on Feb 5th, and certainly not in November. To millions of free thinking, liberal-minded Americans, the Clintons have become strangers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

1-20-08: One Year from Today, Our National Nightmare Will Be Over. Let's hope...

"I'll read enough, When I do see the book indeed
Where all my sins are writ, and that's myself..." (Richard II)

George W. Bush took office under an ignominious cloud, hiding in his limo, being pelted by eggs and tomatoes, after losing the U.S. popular vote and being installed as President by a 5-4 Supreme Court vote, swung by politicos appointed by his father and Reagan. It was perhaps the most disturbing day in modern American political history, and a year from today, it will come to its logical conclusion, as W will leave Washington as the worst President in at least the last 80 years, if not ever. That point is not really contested by any serious student of history; indeed, even the common man can appreciate the incompetence Bush has displayed, from Katrina to Iraq to the English language itself, which has endured a continuous and unmerciful beating at the hands of Bush, to the point that the parents of Miss Teen South Carolina should really demand a DNA test to make sure that she is not Bush's kid. The only appropriate conclusion would be to tar and feather Bush and Cheney and ride them out on a rail, like the Duke and King in Huckleberry Finn.

"One man came in the name of love..."
Today is MLK day, a good time for reflection on where the country is and where we have arrived from. There is a profound sense of optimism today, knowing that the idiot Bush will only have another year to destroy our country's economic system, our standing in the world, our military preparedness, and perhaps most importantly, our sense of values and respect for the freedom that is embodied by the Constitution. On this day of reflection, it is especially sobering to recall that several months ago all the major Republican candidates(except Huckabee) for President of the United States in 2008 refused to even participate in a debate hosted by an African American university. This, my friends, is the real state of race relations in the GOP: Outright hostility towards all but rich white males, as the 10 rich white males who originally ran for the nomination indicate, as they embrace xenophobia that is certainly unAmerican and anti-families that the GOP seems to care so much about. One would think that in a multicultural country that finally seems to be confronting worn-out assumptions about race and gender, the democrats would pounce on this opportunity to define the GOP as the bigoted, narrow-minded minority that is has become in contemporary America, yet here they are engaged in a blood-letting that may very well lead to deep divsions among racial fault lines that will open the door to the type of divide-and-conquer politics that Rove used to miraculously get a dullard such as Bush elected in the first place. With the state of America heading into 2008, it truly seems almost incomprehensible that a Republican can once again win the White House, but if the democrats do not redefine their priorities and consolidate their fragile power base, the inconceivable is exactly what will happen in November.
Nevada was a chance to see the raw, opened wounds of racial politics, as the Clintons successfully played the race card. Let's be honest about this: The only possible reason Hillary would have to make the LBJ-King comparison, which essentially started the race baiting, was to accomplish the Clintons' cynical goal of "blackening up" Obama so that they could take away his coalition by peeling away white and Hispanic voters, which is exactly what happened in Nevada. Obviously, there is a long and painful history of Hispanic racism against blacks in the West(and vice-versa in some cases, obviously), a history that many like to deny, while claiming that whites are the common enemy; however, one need only look at the transformation of South Los Angeles--and the racial hostility that has and continues to accompany it--to see that there is a tangible issue between these two groups, who far too often have competed at the lower economic levels of society. The brunt has fallen on blacks simply because they are far outnumbered in a city such as LA, which is a majority Hispanic city. Regardless of any real or preceived tensions between the black and Hispanic communities, Los Angeles political history has made it very clear that the groups have often supported each other, from Tom bradley to Maxine Waters to the current Mayor. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who claimed Nevada union workers were being threatened to work shifts that would prevent them from voting if they did not support Obama, which is illegal of course, but where was the follow up media report and investigation? Nowhere, because he made it up--another divisive lie, as the vote tallies showed, with Clinton getting plenty of union support, enough to win the state, in fact. Indeed, Bill has simply shown that he has another Sister Souljah moment in him(his 1992 pandering to the Southern white vote by comparing some second-tier rapper to KKK wizard David Duke). He didn't get it then and he doesn't get it now, but it worked in '92 and whether or not it will work in '08 remains to be seen, but since Bill has promised to go door to door in Carolina many of us are hopeful that black folks will get in his face and call his bluff: He's not running for president; he's a spouse and should know his role, and someone, since Hillary seems unwilling(which is troublesome if she wants to be president) needs to tell him to check himself and his ego. Clinton's campaign director's assertion that Bill is a "huge asset" is laughable when he should be excoriated for acting like a "huge ass."
The obvious truth is that Obama AND Clinton care more about the needs of BOTH groups than any GOP candidate, but Clinton knows that the only way to win the nomination is to leave Obama with a relatively small core group consisting of blacks, young voters, and educated white males. Thus, she sent out the red-faced Bill, angry and whining, to attack Obama, while now inadvertently portraying himself as some kind of bad tempered soccer dad, calling for fouls against his child's team. Indeed, it strikes one as childish and un-feminist for Hillary to have Bill out there doing her dirty work, fighting to protect his little lady, even while tacitly ignoring push polling phone calls that said "We cannot take a chance on Barack Hussein Obama," a clear echo of Bill's own words in an interview last month,as well as clear voter suppression efforts in Nevada. I knew those tactics would emerge in the general election, but in the primary, and from the Clinton side? How far have they fallen...And what does this mean if and when Hillary gets the nomination? I would force myself to support whomever the democratic candidate is simply because the GOP is so far outside the mainstream values of our society that I cannot justify staying home and not voting, but does anyone really believe that Obama's young, proud, hopeful, independent coalition is going to forgive and forget and run to the polls to support someone whom they view as smearing their candidate with racially divisive politics? And why should they?

"What news in this our tottering state?"
"It is a reeling world indeed" (Richard III)
Our national psyche has been the most troubling collateral damage in Bush's war against the middle class, as average income per taxpayer in this country--adjusted for inflation--is actually $4,000 LESS than it was in the 1970s(NY Times 1-20-08). Much has been written about the increasing gap between rich and poor, and the only thing Bush has accomplished is making the top 1% much richer, while middle class has seen wages stall and jobs leave the country. Bush has become so irrelevant that he is reduced to sword dancing with our great allies the Saudis, hat in hand, begging for lower oil prices and help with the mighty power Iran. And even those requests were rebuffed. Really, how much worse can his image overseas be? How can anyone be puzzled by the collapse of the housing market, the dollar, and the stock market? When a country sells its soul to make stockholders rich by sending $20 an hour jobs to countries that pay 20 cents, leaving $10 an hour jobs for our own workers, guess what the predictable result is: Stocks increase because of higher profits, credit becomes easier to procure, and housing expands, but then the house of cards falls because the average worker--with his or her lower paying job--cannot meet the payments when the easy credit dries up. This country is facing severe economic realities that anyone with a basic understanding of economics can appreciate. Many of us wrote about it at the start of the year, and the serious bad times are yet to come, as the desperate Bush stimulus plan is too little, too late. The real way to stimulate the economy is to cut military spending(10 billion a month in Iraq alone) and spend money on infrastructure and building things other countries will buy, not waste all our money on a hapless war. Radical thought? That's exactly what Clinton did in the 1990s to eliminate the federal deficit and stimulate the largest sustained economic expansion in the history of the country--tough medicine to swallow for the hummer-obsessed neopuritan hypocrites presiding over the economic and spiritual collapse of the nation.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

No Need to Play this Backwards: Paul IS dead...

"I come to bury Caesar[Paul], not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them." Julius Caesar( 3.2.76)

Indeed, "the fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves."(1.2.140-1) I do not want to spend too much time and space focusing on a candidate who is fading fast and irrelevant
but because Ron Paul raised $20 million and has thousands of well-intentioned lost souls who can grasp his bumper sticker ideology but evidently cannot access his own very public record, it's time to acknowledge the reality that the novelty of an anti-war Republican has turned into yet another right-wing fanatic with views on race that place him in the infamous company of his peers who deny the theory of evolution. The charade is over, Paul supporters.
I owe an apology to the Republicans. In an earlier post I said that they were treating Ron Paul like the crazy old man in the attic. Now I see why: He IS the crazy old man in the attic, actually the conspiracy-minded bigoted old man who doesn't even deserve the attic, or the basement for that matter. James Kirchick's article in The New Republic--"Angry White Man"--is devastating not because of anything Kirchick says, although his astute observation that the "Ron Paul Reports" published by Paul's supporters "reveal decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics," but because of the words attributed to Paul himself: Read the reports themselves, especially you myopic apologists who claim The New Republic is liberal etc. Forget the article, simply follow the link to Paul's documents. They speak for themselves: Blacks as "Animals Take Over DC Zoo" ; "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming." MLK holiday as "our annual Hate Whitey Day," support for KKK wizard David Duke and on and on.
All the typical code language that racists use all too well permeates the "Ron Paul Reports": AIDS was created in a World Health Organization lab; Israel setup the 1993 WTC bombings; "I miss the closet" for gays; all the black welfare mothers who take all our hardworking white folks' money(even though the FACT is that more whites collect welfare than any other race). The Paul apologists are already out there with their, "Dr. Paul would never condone this type of racism" etc. Obviously, it's difficult to have one's dreams shattered but such is life, and especially the cold, calculated, cynicism of Republican political discourse. In America there are LAWS against publishing words under someone else's name without his approval, so where is Ron Paul's libel lawsuit? Isn't that what they say about the steroid athletes: Why don't they sue these guys who say they took steroids? Good point, so what is Paul's excuse if he had nothing to do with all this hateful garbage published with his name splashed across the top of the pages in large, official-looking words? Obviously, he either wrote these hateful diatribes or approved of their publication. Otherwise, he would be screaming how he didn't know about them and that he was going to sue everyone involved, but Paul has offered only a meager and insincere attempt to disassociate himself from his own newsletters. As Kirchick noted, only stating the obvious, "it is diffcult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it."
He knows it's over and it can't happen soon enough. As Macduff said, "Fit to govern? No, not to live."(Macbeth 4.3.102-3)

As for the democrats, the unfortunate race war is brewing in Carolina, as I suggested it would well before the media understood the gravity of both Clintons' ill-chosen comments before New Hampshire, and Hillary continued to dig herself a deeper hole by implying that it was wonderful LBJ who actually got results in 1964. The problem is, Hillary, that 1964 was a decade after black leaders had been fighting the real war in the streets of America, often with little help from politicians from either party. Remember, this was the time period when all those racist Democrats fled to the Republican party in protest of integration and established the racist GOP that now dominates the South. It sure isn't the party of Lincoln anymore... No one should know that better than the Clintons, so what is the point in saying something as ill-advised as that? Yet there was Hillary Clinton on Meet the Press, awkward and uncomfortable, trying in vain to rationalize her husband's literally ignorant assertion that Obama had been given a free pass by the media(Russert reminded her that he himself questioned Obama about his war stance during his interview on the same show on November 11th, 2007). Moreover, the juxtaposition of Hillary's speech on the Senate floor and Obama's prophetic anti-war speech in 2002 essentially destroyed any notion that Clinton has better judgment, for in her zeal to be a strong woman, she allowed herself to be manipulated by the most dishonest administration in history: She showed herself as no more than another enabler for cowboy George and his reckless march to war against an insignificant country that had no tangible connection to the real war on terror, if there can even be such a thing. Obama's perceived paucity of legislative experience is insignificant compared to Clinton's reckless disregard for the truth and her inability to analyze the machinations of an administration defined by fraud and incompetence.
So why did Obama lose New Hampshire? Some suggest voter fraud, but it's more likely that Obama simply was overconfident and decided to get on his bicycle and run around the ring during the last few rounds instead of digging in and going toe-to-toe to earn the knockout. Playing Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" at a concession speech was a painful reminder of a campaign that was looking past this fight and ended up losing a close decision. Personally, I think it was Bill's slump-busting that probably saved the day. While Hillary's supporters worked the phone banks and drove voters to the polls, Bill worked the slump-busters(a little side joke for the Jim Rome "clones"). Anyway, it was a monumental mistake to underestimate the Clinton political machine, and Obama's arrogant line at the debate may very well have struck a nerve with many women who have been treated dismissively by men. The wise move at that moment was to keep his mouth shut and let Hillary wallow in self-pity, not throw her a lifeline with an off-hand remark that would surely be viewed as offensive. It was not Obama's finest moment but losing New Hampshire by fewer than 3% is not anything to be too concerned about: The nomination is still Obama's to lose; he needs to show that he's a fighter, and he'll have plenty of chances to step it up as the race heads to the South. It's called the "Dirty South" for a reason, Barack, so get ready to get down in the mud and take it away this time. Be a closer. As David Mamet famously said, remember your ABCs: Always Be Closing. "Coffee's for closers", Barack, so close the show in Carolina, Nevada, and on to Feb 5th for the big showdown...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Primary

The sad spectacle of Hillary losing her cool(both Saturday and Monday) and Bill destroying the goodwill he earned from African Americans is an ominous portent of where this race is heading: Saying that "President Kennedy was in the Congress for 14 years and he was a war hero"--as Hillary did--smacks of desperation, as Bill was a draft dodger who had no more experience to be President than the laughable Huckabee, just two hicks from Hope. And for the record, I voted for Clinton twice and thought he did a much better job than Bush, who has brought the country to the brink of economic collapse. However, Bill Clinton is positioning himself to exit the stage like Nixon waving goodbye on the jet to oblivion and disgrace. His calling Obama a "fairy tale" was highly inappropriate and offensive, especially in the black community, suggesting that the uppity young black man should know his place, despite the fact that he is a Harvard-educated man of integrity who has spent his entire adult life in public service. The message is clear: How dare Obama have the audacity to think that he would be a better President than a woman who couldn't even manage her philandering husband while she was in the White House. It's sad to see an excellent leader like Bill Clinton stoop to the level of Bush by implying that his wife's last name makes her somehow more deserving to be elected. No wonder that the backlash is building against the Bush-Clinton monarchy of the last 20 years. Suddenly, people seem to be genuinely interested in real leadership change, and that is bad news for basically everyone except Obama. Let's see how Clinton holds up outside of the vanilla states and their 95%+ white populations, as the race heads into the real America--South Carolina(50% black), Nevada(heavily Hispanic) and Super Tuesday and let's see if Obama has enough fight in him to take off the gloves and land a knockout punch on Hillary's glass jaw.
Obama's political credentials are equal to those of either Clinton at this stage in the process, and his academic and intellectual qualifications dwarf those of Bubba Bush. Hillary Clinton has no tangible foreign policy experience, and the fact is the Clintons just don't get it and cannot accept the reality of American politics in the American Idol world: Star power and personal qualities own the day, not the "experience" and "we know better than you" smugness of Clinton and his other relics that stood on that Iowa stage while Hillary regurgitated her stump speech. Bill, Hillary, Albright and Wes Clark looked like what they have become: Hopeless museum pieces in a country that is quickly saying, "thanks for coming..."

On the Republican side, the forces of reason finally made their voices heard, but McCain's victory was hollow for several reasons: First, look at his competition: Huckabee is woefully unqualified, and Ken doll Romney is finding out just how intolerant the Republican base is. Those great social conservatives he has been courting would rather swallow their anger and vote for McCain than support the Mormon. That's the reality that no one is talking much about and it will become very clear in South Carolina, where Romney will be destroyed by both Huckabee and McCain. As the old Southern saying goes, lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas...
Romney made the huge miscalculation to cast his lot with a group--social religious conservatives--whose religious intolerance is such that they would rather vote for someone like McCain, who called their beloved leaders Falwell and Robertson "agents of intolerance," (which was entirely accurate) than vote for a Mormon. It's that simple and it will not get any better for Romney. He's essentially finished unless someone makes a huge mistake that lets him and his money back in the race. Really, what chance does he have if he couldn't buy an election against someone like McCain, who is despised by most of the base. Indeed, "Mc is back."
Trouble is, in a state that Bush won in 2004, McCain garnered a fraction of the votes of both Clinton and Obama. Uneasy lies the head that depends on independent votes and watched most of them go to the democrats. A fossil like McCain who is out of touch with so many issues that the American people care about doesn't present an overwhelming challenge for someone like Obama, but the reality is clear that he is the best the Republicans have to offer, so they better ride that horse for all he's worth, for look at their other options besides the fatally flawed Huckabee and Romney: "Slimy", er Rudy, is so hopelessly corrupt and unappealing that he can't seem to scare everyone into voting for him because of his distinguished record of mismanaging 9-11, while Thompson, who looks like dead man walking, was struggling to break 2% or 1,000 votes early tonight. So much for the savior of the party, the new Ronald Reagan. He's just a another bad actor. Perhps he can make another Cape Fear...He'll drop out and go back to sleep. That leaves Paul, who has been mocked by the party he represents. They don't want him around and continue to treat him like the little old crazy guy, even though many of his positions are much more honest and lucid than the other candidates. Nonetheless, it's hard to feel sorry for someone who bears the ill will of a group of ignorant and intolerant people otherwise known as the Republican base. You reap what you sow, my friend. Paul should have dropped out of a party that views him as no better than a fringe candidate. Face it, if you can't break 10% the show is pretty much over. In that great Westerbergian phrase, he's become a rebel without a clue.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The American Myth: Republicans favor small government

One often hears that the Republicans support smaller government, lower taxes etc.;however, as the Bush tax policy makes very clear, what they really support are tax breaks for families making over $200K per year, which is hardly the middle class. They are brilliant in their assessment of the average American as someone who cannot analyze much more than a simple bumper sticker, so they get the typical blue collar guy thinking that the Republicans are really looking out for their best interests.
For instance, my representative, one John Campbell, mailed me a beautiful brochure, at taxpayers' expense, bragging about HIS new tax bill that he wrote along with another GOP fraud: The policy would be very simple: a 10% tax rate for families who make under $100K per year and a 25% tax rate for families who make over $100K per year. Think about that: A family, such as mine, who is over 100K but by no means rich pays the same rate as a family making 1million or more. Somehow, I think that that 25% will hit a middle class family making 101K a year much harder than it will hit a family making a million. And does it really make sense to have a family making 99K a year paying 10%, while a family making 2,ooo a year more is paying 25%? That 15% difference is a huge tax burden, nearly $10,000. Is that the way to treat middle class families? Where I live, in Orange County, as Mr. Campbell knows very well, $100K will not even get you into the middle class. My family makes much more than that and still lives in a condo in a county where $1,000,000 will get you a basic 3 bedroom house that would sell for $200K in most parts of the country. These politicans know all this, but they are trying to help folks making 2million a year and they have nothing but derision for the family making $102K. In fact, they want that family to subsidize the tax breaks for the top 1%. That, in essence, is the Bush policy and it has increased the gap between the rich and poor faster than any president in history.
This is the kind of idiocy that characterizes the Congress and the President. It is really common sense. Supporters of the Republicans say that it is the Congress that actually spends the money. True enough, but if you paid attention in 2007 you saw the power of the veto when the Dems wanted to get out of Iraq, which makes it very clear that the President has the power to prevent any spending or legislation he opposes as long as the rival power does not have the super majority(60+) in the Senate. Remember, it was the REPUBLICANS who introduced out of control budget deficits and the expansion of the welfare state. Let's look at a few facts:
Between World War II and the time Reagan took office, the largest budget deficit in history was around $70 Billion, in 1943 and 1977. Reagan's policy of cutting taxes AND increasing spending. most notably on defense, led to budget deficits over $70 billion EVERY YEAR he was president, including deficits well over $200 billion in 1984, 1986, and 1987. In fact, it was Reagan who had more billions in budget deficits than the all the other presidents in this country's history COMBINED. As he used to say, "Facts are stubborn things." (SOURCE: Federal Budget: Office of Management and Budget) Bush has taken Reagan's and his father's budget irresponsibility to a new level. Take a wild guess what the budget deficit will be this year...
How about Welfare? AFDC(Aid to Families with Dependent Children): When Reagan took office there were 11,079,117 individuals receiving welfare, and by the end of the 12 years of Reagan and Bush I, that number had increased to 14,205,484, when Bill Clinton took office and actually developed a welfare-to-work policy. By 2001, the welfare rolls had dropped to 5,362,700(a 67% decline!), in a country where the population increased over those 8 years.(SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families) Moreover, feel free to look at the Clinton budgets and compare them with the fiscal criminal in the White House now, the one whose same idiotic tax policies are leading to the recession that will dominate 2008. His hapless speech on Friday sent the markets tumbling.The collapse of the dollar, the ominous opening days of the stock market, the oil futures trading at over $100 and the continuing financial meltdown related to the mortgage mess are clear indications that this last year of the Bush presidency will be more of the same incompetence that has characterized his entire political career. If his name wasn't Bush, he would be cleaning out cattle stalls in Texas, which would at least be honest work.
Yes, facts are stubborn things...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The 2008 campaign begins for real: Iowa votes...

Watching the results from tonight's Iowa vote, a few things became very clear:

First, the contrast between the Republicans and Democrats could not be more profound:

Huckabee's victory shows just how diminished the core of the Republican party has become: The base is now evangelical homeschoolers? How much farther can they sink? And people wonder why veteran GOP lawmakers are retiring at a rapid pace. The party looks like the Titanic heading toward an iceberg that they'll hit in November, but at least they'll have Old Huck-up to play the music this time, as he can strum his bass as the ship sinks.
Huckabee is the voice of the Republican party? A man as idiotic and clueless as any serious politician I have ever seen. He's laughably unprepared to run a laundromat, let alone a country!
A man "educated" where? Check his education record. I love to hear him speak, just to see what kind of "Huck-up" he'll make, whether it's not knowing where Pakistan is, Iran's nuclear plans, apologizing for the assassination of Bhutto. Talk about a lightweight: The man is two pounds lighter than a straw hat!
A man who held up aid for tornado victims because it was characterized as "an act of God" and seeks to impose his Christian views on a country that has a Constitution in which the word God is NEVER mentioned and was written by deists who wanted a secular government. The ignorant, uneducated historical revisionists would like to somehow claim that this is a Christian nation, but it is a country founded on religious freedom, not the establishment of religion. Thus, Huckabee, and Romney for that matter, are hopelessly out of touch not only with the moderate, rational majority in this country, but the historical reality of this nation, which many of us love. This country is about freedom, not freedom to be a white Christian or a second class citizen, which is the choice people like Romney conveyed in his hapless speech about his religion, saying "part of freedom is faith." Talk about someone who doesn't get it. He learned tonight just how closed-minded his religious Republican friends are, for he lost because of his Mormonism, obviously. The core voters were evangelicals, who nearly all voted for Huckabee, who gave perhaps the most boring victory speech I have ever heard. I was desperate to see even a token minority on the stage as he spoke, yet there was not a single one. Instead, I got Richard the Third up there: "See where his Grace stands, 'tween two clergymen! / And, see, a book of prayer in his hand / True ornaments to know a holy man."Once again, Shakespeare knew very well how cynical and corrupt leaders use religion to sway the ignorant masses.
The Republican field is pathetic: A bunch of middle-aged white men with their plastic white supporters. They are a group of characterized by pathos: The world has passed them by; it's not 1952 anymore...Ron Paul has fresh ideas? What a joke...His ideas are fresh to someone who has had his head in the sand for so long that the libertarian platform is some kind of revelation. Sure, many libertarian ideas are great, especially the anti-government role in personal behavior such as drug use etc., but Paul's foreign policy and knowledge of basic economics and sociology are ridiculously simplistic. Government programs were established for a REASON: Unchecked capitalism leads to the deplorable conditions that existed during the industrial revolutions in Britain and this country. Read Blake, Dickens, Sinclair and the hundreds of non-fiction accounts of the conditions in England and this country before government oversights. This view that we can abolish basically every government agency is the most childish and ignorant idea in a campaign that is full of non-issues. Humanity is defined by greed, and programs such as Social Security, labor unions, regulatory laws etc. were created because of the way employers abused employees; that is why all of you are not working for 50 cents an hour! Wake up! Paul is in fantasy land and that's why he will get his 10% and eventually fade away, as all the other Libertarians have, including the last time HE ran for President. He's got a bunch of internet geeks on his side because he's a Republican who is against the war. Well, you see where that position got him in his wonderfully intolerant party--banished from the Fox debate and relegated to the role of the crazy old man in the attic. It's great how rich old white guys can convince all these middle class fools how horrible the government is, the same government that provided public schools and universities that helped us become educated professionals, rather than peasants in third world countries. Your smaller governments are waiting for you, just head south of the border. I've been to all the Central American countries--go see how their small government works for the lower classes. In the meantime, Paul, the hypocrite, will continue being one of the leading earmark abusers in the Congress, spending the COUNTRY'S money for his pet projects in his backward little Texas district. It's time to wake up Paul supporters, for whatever issues lead you to support Paul will be much more important to the eventual DEMOCRATIC candidate than whomever wins on the Republican side. Your man has been dismissed by a party that, as your man says, simply wraps itself in the flag and carries its cross, talking about freedom...
Rudy is not even worth talking about: Perhaps the most dishonest, corrupt person to ever be a serious candidate, he has nothing to talk about except 9-11, which he made much worse because it was his idea to place the command center in the WTC buildings. What did he do to be a hero? He didn't hide in his office? OK, he was on the scene, being a MAYOR, which I thought was his job, but I guess when the President reads to some children with a deer-in-the headlights look on his face when the country is under the worst attack since Pearl Harbor, that made Rudy look like a real hero. Such is the pathetic reality of low expectations we associate with our leaders that if a marginal mayor shows a basic level of leadership in a crisis he is somehow worthy of being the leader of the free world. Is that what this country's come to? Really, what are Rudy's qualities? What does he have to offer? What tangible policies has he outlined? I know, "Fear is our only God" Rudy. I remember the Rage Against the Machine song, but that was so early 90s. Talk about a one-trick pony...
The only viable GOP candidate is McCain, who is over 70 years-old and is a genuine war hero who somehow lost to a draft-dodging AWOL drug abuser--our President--in 2000. Moreover, he has cast his lot with the "Surge" supporters, who are going to have a hard time defining an endgame and getting our 160,000 troops out of Iraq. Yes, violence is down and that is a great thing, but we can't leave National Guard troops there forever. Let's see what happens when the Surge is over and we need to get down to the business of stealing their oil for the next 30 years, which is the agreement we made with the new Iraqi "government" and is the unspoken reason why we didn't just claim victory and leave after we captured Hussein: We can't just leave because we need troops there to protect our companies(e.g Cheney's crew) who are there to take their oil, which was what this was all about in the first place. I would have much more respect for these politicians if they would simply state the obvious: We need oil to support our economy and we will have to fight wars to procure an oil supply until we wake up and develop real alternatives, as if the oil companies that made $40 billion profits last year will allow those profits to dwindle...
If we cared about democracy we would have troops in the plethora of wars going on in Africa, where our fellow human beings are continual victims of genocide, but poor black people with no oil somehow do not need or deserve democracy as much as those wonderful Islamic fanatics who want to kills us, not have our political system, so we give the Africans some bags of rice and a few rock concerts and focus on the great desire for freedom in countries such as Pakistan. Indeed, when they have democracy, they vote for anti-American extremists. Look at the Taliban, a group that we trained and supported, along with bin Laden, who we armed and trained when he was fighting those evil empire Soviets. Call me when this country is going to invade Saudi Arabia because they educate their children to hate us and attack us and indeed they sent the guys who hijacked the planes, as we all know, so let's go attack them and take THEIR oil, for there's much more of it, and at least there would be a sense that they had it coming, since their backward society and education system led to the attack on this country, but wait, I forgot that the entire Bush family has been in bed with these wonderful people for decades. When the Bush family has made millions off the wonderful Saudis, why would we expect them to actually hold them accountable for killing our citizens in our own country; it's so much easier to find a different Muslim country to attack. And so it goes...Corruption is by no means only a problem of the Republican party. Politics is a dirty business and honesty doesn't get one very far, but both Bush presidencies have been horrific failures and it's simply time to turn the page, but where do we go in a country that has lost any sense of political unity

On to the Democrats and the future:

"There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear..."

When Franklin Roosevelt died, a man was standing by the road crying as the motorcade passed, and a reporter asked the man if he knew FDR, to which the man replied, "No, but he knew me."
For what it's worth, Obama's speech was markedly different than the others because he spoke with passion and conveyed the sense that he cares about people, not simply his own ambition. It was interesting to compare the crowds at the speeches. Hillary's group on the stage looked like a reunion of Bill's supporters(the median age must have been 60), and her speech was flat as day-old beer. In Obama's speech there was actually hope and diversity, with young people, old people, men and women, all ethnicities on that stage, people who believe that a Harvard educated black man may actually be a better President than some backwoods preacher from Arkansas or some plastic Ken doll whose views change with each new opinion poll.
Race: This country has always been defined by it, as most of our history as a country was as a slave state. The economy we all enjoy was built upon the backs of Africans who were forcibly relocated here to create the wealth that we all enjoy. You don't live in a hut in a third world country largely because of the efforts of Africans in this country, as they built the great wealth that enabled the US to develop an industrial economy that allowed us to flourish.
Black men and women helped this country defeat Hitler in World War II, only to come home to a country that would not let them eat at a lunch counter, use a bathroom, or play professional baseball, and now, half a century later, a black man is now a serious candidate for President of the United States. It's a wonderful day in this divided country, as it's obvious that Obama is a solid candidate, although Edwards is also qualified, and Biden had perhaps the most solid credentials.
The intellectual qualities of the Democrats are so far beyond people like Huckabee that it's like comparing a professor to a child. Imagine Obama in a debate with Huckabee. I guess old Huck can just make up some funny one-liners. This was the problem with Bush: Idiots used to say he's the guy they would like to have a beer with, so that's why they voted for him, and therein lies the problem: The last thing we need is someone who is NOT educated about economics, history, world affairs etc. I want a president who is so much smarter than I am that I am amazed. I want to say, wow, that guy really has a handle on things. He knows what is going on! You know, a Harvard guy, perhaps, not someone who got into Yale because of his family connections. I don't want an average Joe operating on me, flying my plane, fixing my car etc., and I sure as hell do not want to put the future of my family and country in the hands of someone as clueless as our current President. Too much is at stake in this world, as we face threats from countries all over the world. We need someone who understands the nature of these threats and has a plan, not someone who doesn't even believe in Evolution. I know, it's THEORY. Yes, just as gravity is a theory and there's something called the germ theory of disease. I also believe in those two "theories". Anyone who doesn't "believe" in Evolution really needs to be living in a cave, not running for President. Read "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" if you need a little refresher course on why your fetus has a tail while it is in the womb... Guys like Romney and Huckabee are guided by superstitions more suited to the Middle Ages than the nuclear world we live in. They actually have much in common with the fanatics that we are trying to defend our country against. Facts are stubborn things.
The next few weeks should be interesting. I have no predictions to offer, as I already was wrong about Edwards winning Iowa, although I found it hilarious to listen to Huck and McCain crying about the dirty ads Romney was running in Iowa. What kind of things do you think the GOP will say about Obama or Hillary if they run in November? All the Republicans have left are their core group of white racists(the religious ones, of course), and a few sincere small government folks, who remember the party when it actually stood for something before it began being the tax and spend party of Reagan, the one who created the largest deficit in the history of the country when he cut taxes and increased defense spending(you can look that up). Anyway, the only hope the Republicans have is to go back to their racist rhetoric that they used so well in 2000 and 2004. You know, the "Southern Strategy" as Rove called it: Unify the redneck racists and the capitalize on the inequity of the Electoral College to win the Presidency. It's all very insidious but effective. Indeed, they surely fear Edwards much more than Obama and Hillary, knowing that the last non-Southerner Democrat to win was Kennedy in 1960!
But with the hapless group the GOP has nominated this year, even they must be a little worried tonight that truth, justice, liberty, and hope may actually be more than hollow words used to win an election. Perhaps that black man who speaks of unifying this country IS someone to be reckoned with, even if his name is Barack Hussein Obama. I'm sure their homeschoolers' textbooks can say his name is Osama Hussein. You know, a little typo...

On to New Hampshire(1-8-08), where things will get rough on both sides...
There's an old saying, "In Iowa they pick corn, but in New Hampshire we pick Presidents," and make no mistake about it, New Hampshire is essentially a must-win situation for Clinton, Romney, and even Obama, who needs to show that Iowa was not a fluke. We shall see...

2007: The Year in Review

Before I turn my attention to the new year, let's look at some of the developments in art from 2007:

It was an interesting year, with the regular flood of garbage films. There were nearly 600 films released this year! I saw 30 movies, all carefully chosen(No Alvin and the Chipmunks etc.)

Top 5 Films of 2007:

No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
The Orphanage

It was not a great year for new music, as the industry remains locked into a routine of releasing vapid, trite hip hop(except for Common), pathetic pop and weak "alternative" bands. The most creative CD, by far, was from the jazz world, as saxophonist Redman produced his most accomplished work of his prolific young career. Check him out!

Top 5 CDs of 2007:

Back East by Josh Redman
Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams
Magic by Bruce Springsteen
Baby 81 by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Road Trips Vol 1 Grateful Dead

It was a great year for live music, and I was lucky to see 30 concerts. Here were the top live shows.

Top 10 Concerts of 2007:
Radiators January 27, Tipitina's in New Orleans
Ratdog February 10th Ventura Theater, Ventura, CA
BRMC May 8, Wiltern Theater. LA
Frank Morgan June 30, Jazz Bakery LA
Ryan Adams July 19 Wilshire Theater Beverly Hills
Bruce Hornsby Jazz Trio August 22, Hollywood Bowl
Bruce Springsteen October 26, Oakland
Spiritualized November 12, Vista Theater, Hollywood
Van Halen November 20, Staples Center, LA
Cracker December 30, Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach