BOB FOSSE WAS BRILLIANT
I try not to talk about it too much these days, but I have something of a bias against musicals. In short, I've always thought they're stupid. Really fucking stupid. I mean, you know, they are. On stage and in film, musicals typically have fluff plots and and one dimensional characters. They're usually about ideas that bore me or, worse, make me laugh at their absurdity. S-t-u-p-i-d. None of this even gets into how I was annoyed for years by young star-struck would-be actors enamored with the form. I'll be happy if I never hear of the movie Fame ever again. There's nothing worse than a teenager or twenty something who wants to be in musicals, who thinks it's his calling or some such nonsense. Gross.
Then, one day in the early 90s, my old pal Vince sat me down and made me watch the anti-musical All That Jazz. That is, it's a musical, loosely based on the life of choreographer Bob Fosse, written and directed by him too, which uses and subverts the form in ways I had never imagined was possible. The plot is not fluff, and the characters are real and sophisticated interesting people. It's totally great. I had to reevaluate my understanding of musicals.
Years later, after much thought, and an embrace of Broadway standards by way of the many great jazz renditions performed by the likes of John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald, I still think musicals are stupid, but that doesn't mean they don't have great value as art. Essentially, the plots and characters really only serve as vehicles for the showcasing of great music, singing, and dancing. If I let the stupid get in the way, I miss out on some of the greatest American performances in history. Sure, West Side Story is fucking retarded, but how about that kickass Leonard Bernstein score? How about those cool Sondheim lyrics? How about that groovy dancing and snapping?
If I hadn't gotten over my anti-musical bias, I would have never gotten into Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. As problematic as musicals are, they are America's one major contribution to world theater as an art form. That's something, too.
Anyway, getting back to the point, Bob Fosse, who died in 1987, was brilliant. Last night the Simpsons, which I now rarely watch because it's not really funny anymore, paid him tribute, which was, this time, pretty funny. Got me thinking.
Some years ago, I sat transfixed in front of my parents' TV screen watching a bit of what I realized was a movie, directed by the great Stanley Donen, based on the marvelous classic childrens' book The Little Prince, which a girlfriend had given me my second year at the University of Texas. I, like many others, love that book. And the moment of the movie I saw turned out to feature Bob Fosse as the Satanic snake, writhing around in the Sahara, exaggerating his S's, singing the marvelous Lerner and Lowe tune "Snake in the Grass," a sort of evil suicide-seduction piece aimed at the title character.
(Aside: you know, The Little Prince is yet another musical that defies the stupid; the more I try to justify my bias, the more problematic my arguments become.)
This number is my favorite of all musicals. Fosse, who Donen reportedly had to beg to join the cast, choreographed the piece himself: it shows him in all his glory, showcasing all his great talent in a relatively short seven minute sequence. And, of course, it's on YouTube. So I figured, why not post it here?
So here you go:
Brilliant, just brilliant. And that's a word I often hesitate to use.
Monday, March 31, 2008
BOB FOSSE WAS BRILLIANT
Posted by Ron at 4:05 PM
I think I'm likely to wear out first...My response:
I'm going to play a little more nicely. Mixing giving Ron crap with trying to discuss some serious issues was making me less effective at both.
On to the rebuttal to the rebuttal:
We're in violent agreement on the human nature issue - the difference is semantics: "Indeed, there is some exciting new neuropsychological research suggesting that such a drive is quite literally hard-wired into the human brain, which makes sense because one easily sees how this aids human survival." I see self-interest broadly, including doing things that make us "feel good" and helping people - as long as that does not contain too high a cost for me. Another broader example would be making sacrifices so that my kids or other people live in a better world. Clearly, different people have different views on this.
"That is, people will do things in organizational structures that they would never even think of doing on their own." So this is interesting to me. I'm a mid-level executive in corporate America. I have worked for 4 companies in my career, including a Fortune 500 company. I've seen how corporate culture can change your point of view and move you gradually to do things you would not normally do. But I don't believe it's an excuse. Ultimately, each person must decide for themselves. And the influence that corporations have is a weaker version of national, regional, racial, religous and other influencers that lead to one group dehumanizing another group. Yes, the Enron traders are scum - but they are scummy people who have no excuse for their behavior - don't let them off the hook by blaming the company.
Boy, it's hard to keep on point in this conversation...
Ah, got it: "Yes, businesses are run and staffed by human beings, but, in some very important situations, businesses behave in very inhuman ways. They are not to be seen as simple projections of human nature." Same applies for governments, neighborhoods, churches, nations, clubs, sports fans, etc. It's a bit like the Frankenstein story - if you try to recreate humanity, you get a crude, clumsy version that exaggerates the
And, ultimately, if your argument is that people are pure but companies make them less pure, companies also let them achieve things they could not. Companies are the best that we can do and the worst we can do. I guess my point is that I think you may focus a bit too much on corporations, when corporations behaving badly are just a cover for people behaving badly.
"As to your second point, if I'm really being honest with myself, I have to admit that my blogging is ultimately more about "self-righteous rhetorical masturbation" than anything else." This came across like a cheap shot on my part. In fact, I actually think of your blog as more than this - you bring together a neat little group of smart, funny, thoughtful, well-spoken (written?) group. You definitely make me think.
"Again, my beef with Obama is that he's trying to get elected, which is a very different goal from changing culture, which is utterly necessary to provoke the kind of change he invokes in his speeches; without the culture behind him, he's doomed to failure, if a real change in political goals and actions is what he's after--the pro status quo forces he will be facing from within the White House have eaten other far more experienced politicians for lunch; think of President Clinton's failed attempt to integrate gays in the military, or his failed health care reform package. Harry and Louise are still out there, stilettos in hand, just waiting for Obama to turn his back."
Ok, here's the crux (I think). I see Obama as putting himself out there to see if there are enough like-minded folks to get him elected. As opposed to other candidates, the sense I get is that he feels like if not enough people go for his message then so be it - he'll move on. His speech on race is a great example of him acting on his principles in a way that any decent political advisor would have told him not to. So, his election campaign is a movement designed to change culture. I
actually believe that he's trying to energize a part of the culture that is relatively dormant, as opposed to changing the existing culture. His change will cme from altering the math of the electorate. As long as his supporters are going to voting booths, DC will have to respond. And unlike Clinton, he's not associating with a side in the 60's culture war - which created an entrenched opposition focused on opposing his every move.
He won't succeed at everything but he might just move the needle.
"However, my sense is that Obama is being intentionally vague simply because his opponents cannot attack what they don't know. If you don't talk too much about what you stand for, but offer some vague good vibes, it's easy for people to project their own desires and hopes onto you. It's all campaign strategy."
If this is true, he's doing it poorly. If he was doing this, he would not have the most liberal voting record in the Senate. But neither of us will know for awhile, if ever.
"That is, I continue to believe that radical change is very possible. We're just not doing what it takes to get there. We're checking with the bar to see if there's Cabernet, but not willing to go to the wine storage locker in back, where we've had a case of the stuff all along."
So clue me in - what is this? Or who? In so many ways your very pragmatic and realistic - how is this not a magic wand? How do we change people's attitudes enough to get this kind of change? I go back to a statement I made several posts ago - this is the most liberal candidate you or I have ever seen this close to the White House. In light of that, how can you not support him?
Ultimately, each person must decide for themselves.
Agreed. To some extent, that's why I got out of the public school system. That, and the anxiety/depression.
And the influence that corporations have is a weaker version of national, regional, racial, religious and other influencers that lead to one group dehumanizing another group.
Maybe. But it's hard for me to avoid thinking about the fact that people are at work at least forty hours a week, even more for white collar workers, sometimes up to sixty or eighty hours a week. That strikes me as having the potential to be much stronger than the ambient culture factors you name.
Yes, the Enron traders are scum - but they are scummy people who have no excuse for their behavior - don't let them off the hook by blaming the company.
Same applies for governments, neighborhoods, churches, nations, clubs, sports fans, etc. It's a bit like the Frankenstein story - if you try to recreate humanity, you get a crude, clumsy version that exaggerates the negatives.
Good points, but businesses, corporations in particular, stand to be much more insidious in that corporations have almost the full array of Constitutional rights that citizens have. To further your analogy a bit, the human Frankenstein monsters known as "business" have super powers and no conscience, a very dangerous mix. Maybe the Jewish golem is a better analogy.
Boy, it's hard to keep on point in this conversation...
But I think you are on point: political and cultural change is a vast topic; it's bound to lead down weird alleys from time to time. This is not a simple, black and white discussion, if we want to do it justice.
...companies also let them achieve things they could not. Companies are the best that we can do and the worst we can do.
I totally agree, which is why I'm so regulation-happy. If we have to have business, which we do, then we must make good faith efforts to limit their swath of destruction.
...corporations behaving badly are just a cover for people behaving badly.
Not a cover, but a social structure that encourages bad behavior, while at the same time limiting individual responsibility.
This came across like a cheap shot on my part. In fact, I actually think of your blog as more
than this - you bring together a neat little group of smart, funny, thoughtful, well-spoken (written?) group. You definitely make me think.
Thanks for the kudos, but you asked a fair question about my blog, and about most political blogging in general. What are bloggers trying to accomplish, anyway?
I see Obama as putting himself out there to see if there are enough like-minded folks to get him elected.
But his rhetorical vagueness makes your assertion problematic. How can he be attracting like-minded people, if people are able to read what they want into him?
His speech on race is a great example of him acting on his principles in a way that any decent political advisor would have told him not to.
Or, more cynically, Scary-Black-Preacher-Gate was such a threat to his campaign that he decided to take really bold action: that speech was the most specific and progressive he's made to date. My take is that both he and his squad of consultants long ago saw this day coming, and have long been prepared for it--I've even read that months ago Reverend Wright actually suggested to Obama that the day may come when he would have to publicly break with his pastor (I think I got that from Democracy Now, not sure which day.)
And unlike Clinton, he's not associating with a side in the 60's culture war...
But these are exactly the issues that need the most attention, racism, cultural diversity, poverty, freedom and civil liberties, the environment, war, US imperialism. If Obama really is a progressive, he has to take a side on these issues. What kind of change is he really talking about?
...how is this not a magic wand? How do we change people's attitudes enough to get this kind of change?
Ah-ha! I came prepared. See yesterday's post meditating on a recent Howard Zinn essay. Really, it's no magic; it's very pragmatic: we change culture the old fashioned way, by organizing around actual issues, educating, and I don't mean indoctrination-called-school when I say that, and good old public agitating. It worked in the 30s; it worked in the 60s. I mean, think about it. Think how extraordinarily different contemporary US culture is now than how it was in the 50s. Racism, while still a big problem, is nothing compared to the days of Jim Crow. It took six or seven years of the Vietnam War before there was any real anti-war movement; in 2003, the movement started before the war. And on and on. This is doable.
I just don't see Obama doing anything to help make it happen.
...this is the most liberal candidate you or I have ever seen this close to the White House.
You know, there is a longstanding radical definition of the word "liberal." It sees liberalism as being essentially pro status quo. The idea is that liberals see the socio-political system as being sound overall, but that it has a few problems that need fixing. In that way, they serve as a bulwark against real change that might threaten the ruling elite in any substantial way. True radicals, of course, want to overthrow the entire establishment and start over from the ground up. I can't say that I want to see anything like that happening - I have no desire to abandon the US Constitution, for instance - but I do believe that the changes this country needs are far more substantial and sweeping than the Democratic establishment is willing to embrace.
The Democratic establishment is, however, quite ready to embrace Barack Obama. That, in itself, is cause for concern.
Posted by Ron at 1:31 AM
Saturday, March 29, 2008
From the Progressive, an essay by radical historian Howard Zinn:
Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.
But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.
Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.
Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.
They offer no radical change from the status quo.
They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.
They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live.
None of this should surprise us.
This isn't just some opinion, either. Zinn, who documents major American social movements and uprisings in his book A People's History of the United States, makes these assertions with the knowledge that virtually all political change in the US favoring regular working people has come under the above described circumstances. Essentially, this is how political change actually functions in America: the united people hold a knife to the ruling elite's throat and say, "Change, or else." That is, "yes we can" simply won't cut it.
As appealing as Barack Obama's change-a-rama may be, he's headed toward Washington without the backing that he needs to face down the ruling elite. In more cynical moments, I must acknowledge that Obama is, in fact, very much associated with and beholden to the very people he must outrage in order to do what he says he wants to do. That is, he's not really an outsider: he's an establishment player, and has only made it this far in his political career by playing the establishment game.
When you get right down to it, as Zinn asserts, a Barack Obama presidency will only offer superficial change. He can't possibly deliver what he's offering, if he even really wants to. Only the citizenry, united in its demand for social and economic justice, can do that. That's always been the case, and that's how it is now.
He's not our savior. He's just a politician. And politics has an annoying habit of being business-as-usual. Of course, I'd love to be proven wrong...
Posted by Ron at 10:35 PM
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
From Frontline's website:
From the horror of 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq; the truth about WMD to the rise of an insurgency; the scandal of Abu Ghraib to the strategy of the surge -- for seven years, FRONTLINE has revealed the defining stories of the war on terror in meticulous detail, and the political dramas that played out at the highest levels of power and influence.
Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the full saga unfolds in the two-part FRONTLINE special Bush's War. Veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk draws on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism -- more than 40 FRONTLINE reports on Iraq and the war on terror. Combined with fresh reporting and new interviews, Bush's War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation's history.
"Parts of this history have been told before," Kirk says. "But no one has laid out the entire narrative to reveal in one epic story the scope and detail of how this war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government."
They ran this in two parts on Monday and Tuesday. I haven't seen the whole thing yet, but I have watched some huge chunks - it runs somewhere between four and a half to five hours in total - and lemme tell ya, it's fucking great as far as I can tell. I mean, it was one thing to see this drama to unfold over the course of five years, watching tv reports and religiously reading newspapers and essays on the internet, but packing it all together in this two-parter creates quite an experience.
Some early observations:
1. We've been in this war for a really long fucking time.
2. The US may very well have failed in the invasion's aftermath if it had done everything correctly; instead, we did everything incorrectly, virtually guaranteeing the rise of the insurgency and sectarian violence.
3. The same White House incompetence that botched the WMD intelligence is pretty much the same incompetence that botched the occupation, the same people, the same decision-making process, the same disregard for facts. (It's also, I suspect, the same incompetence that botched Katrina, as well, but the documentary doesn't go into that.)
4. There is a segment which strongly suggests that all the torture at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib, and elsewhere, was directly ordered by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. They even showed a document he signed. I was like, "Wait a minute, I didn't know this had been proven yet." Apparently, it has: the torture wasn't from the "few bad apples" of grunt soldiers and low-level officers now disciplined for it to varying degrees; it was ordered out of the White House. Just as many left-wingers have been saying for years.
5. Bush isn't really the President, and probably never has been. Yes, he holds the office, but very early on he intentionally ceded a great deal of actual power to Vice President Cheney. What power Cheney didn't possess, he gained by expertly playing Machiavellian games, often butting heads with Condi Rice and Colin Powell, who were often quite literally locked out of important discussions. This is probably the most frightening aspect of this documentary: Bush isn't really in charge of the White House, and probably never has been. Indeed, the absence of clear Oval Office leadership has probably been responsible for the most spectacular of Presidential failures these last seven years.
6. I think the only way to "win" this war, if we really want to, which I don't, is to reinstate the draft and send some 500,000 to a million troops over there to "clear, hold, and build" the country up from the rubble it now is. That means staying there indefinitely while we teach, beg, force, and cajole the Iraqi people to get along and get serious about democracy--this aspect may be my victory plan's Achilles' heel; Iraqis might not actually want democracy.
Anyway, go check it out. You can watch the whole thing online here. It's truly kickass.
Left to Right: Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Vice President
Dick Cheney, then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, President George W. Bush
(photo courtesy of Frontline)
Posted by Ron at 10:31 PM
INTERNET OUTAGE LAST NIGHT...
...which is why I didn't post anything. Truth be told, I didn't have much to say, anyway. I'll have a little something up late this evening.
Posted by Ron at 11:24 AM
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
ATTACK OF THE OBAMITES II
Human Nature and Political Change
Okay, the responses to yesterday's post are starting to trickle in. Matt raised such good points that I'm making yet another main page post out of it all:
Wow, where to start. I'll try to keep it specific by addressing two points:With no further ado, here's my response.
"I disagree with his assessment of "human nature." I believe that most human beings are compassionate, moral, helpful people: social conditioning must make them used to that which is intolerable; changing the culture means changing the social conditioning. A just, fair, and equitable society is possible. But even if it's not, that's no excuse for not trying to get as close to it as we can. Kind of like space travel and the light speed barrier, we can't break it, but we can approach it, and that's pretty fucking fast!"
You're saying here that we are born pure and that social conditioning makes us do bad things. I disagree - we are relatively well-behaved animals, my friend. We have the capacity to do good or evil but mostly tend to act in our own self-interest and have the capacity for great cruelty and destruction. Peer pressure is the best weapon to develop better behavior. Ironically, religion has always been about that but it gets hijacked by those who see its power as a rout to personal power and enrichment.
By the way, part of your contradiction in the above statement is something I see you do with business - you treat it as if it is a creature of its own instead of just a tool of humans and their nature.
Second point: "I totally understand his appeal, and fault no one for supporting him. I just think it's all a waste of time." Why then do you do your blog? Just getting off on self-righteous rhetorical masturbation? Or do you actually think change is possible? Why would you not try for positive change?
By the way, people complain about Obama not being more specific but I appreciate him not getting more specific. I want a president who will look at problems and issues on their own merits and with input from different quarters. We've seen what happens when you come in with your POV locked in - the same square peg keeps getting hammered into the same round hole. Tell me generally how you approach problems, combine that with your voting record and I know what I need to know.
In short: Cabernet is not on the menu, sir, but the Temprenillo can sometimes pack quite a punch. Why not give it a try instead of spending the whole meal complaining about the Cabernet?
Okay, I wasn't clear because I was trying to only touch on the "human nature" argument--it was just too big a can of worms for me to deal with last night, or most any night for that matter. But to clarify, I most definitely do not believe that we are "born pure" and that evil must be imposed by society. You're right; we do have the capacity for both good and evil, but I think good is the stronger drive, and that self-interest isn't as strong as you're asserting. That is, I think we are much more social creatures than we are individuals, as much as I like my own individuality. Generally, humans want to help their group, however that's defined, and will often engage in some kind of self-sacrifice to help others they see as being important to the group or themselves. Indeed, there is some exciting new neuropsychological research suggesting that such a drive is quite literally hard-wired into the human brain, which makes sense because one easily sees how this aids human survival.
But to drive home my assertion that social conditioning, made manifest in specific social situations, will make people tolerate acts of evil or oppression that they would never tolerate when divorced from such circumstances, see these two classic psychological studies, here and here. I see these studies as giving teeth to my belief, which you phrased quite well, that businesses are not simply "a tool of humans and their nature." That is, people will do things in organizational structures that they would never even think of doing on their own. Think of the now-proverbial health insurance claims officer denying claims at will, no matter what the human cost or terms of policy, in order to satisfy organizational imperatives, or the executive at, say, a chemical company or tobacco company who knows his product will kill people, but sells it anyway in order to increase profits, satisfy share holders, obeying the corporate imperative. These two businessmen aren't necessarily bad people - they're really only pushing paper - but their behavior results in real evil: to the best of my knowledge, Adolph Eichmann never personally killed anybody, but his paper-pushing resulted in the deaths of six million Jews, and lower but significant numbers of Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and dissidents.
(According to a corollary of Godwin's Law, I've just lost the argument. Of course, I don't really believe in Godwin's Law.)
Yes, businesses are run and staffed by human beings, but, in some very important situations, businesses behave in very inhuman ways. They are not to be seen as simple projections of human nature.
As to your second point, if I'm really being honest with myself, I have to admit that my blogging is ultimately more about "self-righteous rhetorical masturbation" than anything else. I mean, if I was one of those bigtime bloggers, I might actually think I was doing some real good, but the number of hits I get strongly suggests that I'm simply not reaching the kind of audience that might result in some real change. In short, I really do enjoy howling at the universe, for its own sake. On the other hand, given the corporate media stranglehold on public discourse, I've come to the conclusion that only smalltime discussion, person to person, has any chance of changing attitudes and provoking the kind of cultural change I think is necessary before we can be really serious about political change. That is, I have hope that my chronic masturbation might actually be good for the country. Masturbating is definitely good for me.
Wait a minute: what were we talking about? Oh yeah, political change.
Again, my beef with Obama is that he's trying to get elected, which is a very different goal from changing culture, which is utterly necessary to provoke the kind of change he invokes in his speeches; without the culture behind him, he's doomed to failure, if a real change in political goals and actions is what he's after--the pro status quo forces he will be facing from within the White House have eaten other far more experienced politicians for lunch; think of President Clinton's failed attempt to integrate gays in the military, or his failed health care reform package. Harry and Louise are still out there, stilettos in hand, just waiting for Obama to turn his back.
On the other hand, I agree with your basic belief that politicians need to be pragmatic. After all, Republican slavish adherence to ideology that doesn't work in the real world is probably most blameworthy for the fine mess our country is now in. They just couldn't adapt to a changing situation that their ideology never predicted. However, my sense is that Obama is being intentionally vague simply because his opponents cannot attack what they don't know. If you don't talk too much about what you stand for, but offer some vague good vibes, it's easy for people to project their own desires and hopes onto you. It's all campaign strategy.
No sir, I think this restaurant does indeed have a bottle or two of Cabernet stashed somewhere. I'll tip you forty percent if you can find it and bring it to my table.
That is, I continue to believe that radical change is very possible. We're just not doing what it takes to get there. We're checking with the bar to see if there's Cabernet, but not willing to go to the wine storage locker in back, where we've had a case of the stuff all along.
Posted by Ron at 12:22 AM
Monday, March 24, 2008
ATTACK OF THE OBAMITES!!!
Actually, I mean that I'm now going to be responding to comments left by three of my close friends, all Barack Obama supporters, after my defense of the Senator from Illinois in the wake of "Scary-Black-Preacher-Gate," which also included another explanation of why I won't be voting for him.
Here's the original post.
Here's the comment thread for that post.
And now, here are some of the key points my buddies made, in chronological order, starting with my grad school pal Mark:
To your point of him standing behind Wright's negative sermons, I think he distanced himself from them not because it was a smart political move but because they actually are wrong. Or, more so, they do more harm than good. What's the point of standing there and saying "God Damn America" when he can stand there and make incredibly sophisticated, nuanced and true statements that boldly put the blame on America without being so incendiary? Just as working from within the institution is not going to effect major change, whining about it will not either.Next, my high school and fellow Longhorn chum Matt chimes in:
There is certainly value in raising the ire of a mass of people. But Obama has been able to not only engage people on an emotional level, but a fiercely intellectual one, as well. Tuesday's speech has been the clearest demonstration of this so far.
Obama would be a fool to think he himself can create positive change from within. Which is why he is mobilizing the people (a "movement", if you will though I'm hesitant to use that term). They (we) are the only ones who can do anything. He knows this, and knows that it is in stark contrast to, for instance, the Clinton's cutthroat you-only-need-51% m.o.
On supporting Obama or not supporting Obama and on the bigger issue of gradula change or not - I think you should be careful what you ask for. You want an ideal that is not possible with human nature at this point in our history. There is much I would change about our world and much that saddens me deeply, even more so that I have children. But the world is about as good to as many people as it has ever been and the US has been a big contributor to that. I think we're way off our path these days and need to change - but I don't think revolution is the answer. The result would not be a better world - it would simply be more chaos, fear, death, injustice. Look around the world and see what happens when the walls come down. Except in very few cases, it gets much, much worse for anyone and for almost everyone affected, it's not something they deserved.Finally, another of my grad school buddies, Reuben, inserts his two cents:
Why wouldn't you just say "fuck this shit" in your head and spend that same hour learning and perfecting your mastery of the game?Obamites to the left of me, Obamites to the right of me...where do I start to defend myself? Hmmm. Okay, I'll take these points one by one, and finish off with an overview. Here goes.
Nader running for president has never seemed to be turning over the board but rather bogarting his way into a game that he can never really win.
Yes, there is some political gain to be made by the candidate that can't win. Look at Al Sharpton in 2004. He brought shit up that none of the other cats would touch and people were grateful for that.
But if Nader REALLY wants to drive a wedge in the two-system, which I'm all for, then find someone who agrees with him and can voice third-party ideas in a way that is more accessible for the people. Get more organized. Take five years and raise money. Be serious about WINNING, not just opening the conversation. Good ideas from a loser are just good ideas from a LOSER. And if history is really told by the winners then, dammit, build a third party that can WIN.
Mark may very well be correct to indict the efficacy of Reverend Wright's more controversial statements in terms of catalyzing actual social change. After all, as many observers have noted since the story broke, such rhetoric, going back many years, has not been uncommon in American black churches, which means such speakers may just be flapping their gums, preaching to a choir that isn't ready to make change happen right now. Maybe it all amounts to salving over deep wounds and nothing more.
But then, this kind of makes a point in and of itself. That is, if angry rhetoric about America's many misdeeds is off-putting and counterproductive, and the "sophisticated, nuanced" kind of dialogue Mark favors is mostly confined to left-wing journals and read only by academics and liberal snooty-snoots, what actually is effective? And effective is what we need.
What really concerns me personally is that Wright's statements are off-putting in the first place. Think about it for a moment. The US has at least two holocausts on its hands, the Native American genocide, and the African slave trade. Our government has supported abroad a seemingly endless parade or torturous barbaric dictators such as Augusto Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein. Our government blessed the wealthy white adventurers from New York who stole Texas in 1836 by annexing the young republic and going to war with Mexico. There's Jim Crow. There's the drug war. We're the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons, not just once, but twice. We firebombed civilians in both Germany and Japan. We napalmed civilians in Vietnam. We've tolerated white supremacist groups like the Klan. We deny health care to people who are too poor to have insurance, often the same people turned out of good jobs by centuries of policy that favors the wealthy instead of the people. We torture people in prison. We torture prisoners of war.
I'm sure you get the idea. The US has performed, and continues to perform, heinously immoral acts upon innocent victims. We, as a people, are in deep, deep denial about this. "God damn America" is a rather mild rebuke. In school we are taught how great our country is. The mainstream news media attack Obama for not endorsing such "greatness" by wearing his American flag arm band. The reason Wright's remarks are off-putting is because Americans, as they say, "can't handle the truth."
What I want to know is how Obama, or any politician, can unite us, can change us for the better, can move us into a "post-race" era, when it is controversial to actually reference what the problems are.
On the other hand, Matt has very reasonable fears about my demand for change right now. Nobody should worry about this, at least as far as my being a revolutionary is concerned: I just finished reading Orwell's Animal Farm for the first time, and it strongly reinforced my misgivings about actual revolution. Suffice it to say, I do not support any immediate social change. When I say "right now," I mean that I would be happy just to see the ball rolling in terms of American culture. That is to say, I don't think political change is possible without a preceding change in attitudes. You must have a large majority of the population united before taking on the elite powers who actually run the country.
Right now, many Americans do indeed embrace "change," but it is unclear what that means exactly. Obama, who has a platform centered around some modest but positive policy change, is usually silent about the exact nature of "yes we can." I strongly suspect that, without philosophical unanimity, or something coming close to it, the Obamite movement will be in great danger of falling apart under the intense ideological attack sure to come in the event of an Obama election.
Obama's putting the horse before the cart. In building a large coalition of voters to get him into office, he is necessarily minimizing the most problematic of issues. This will definitely come back to bite him in the Oval Office.
One more point with Matt before moving on to Reuben. I disagree with his assessment of "human nature." I believe that most human beings are compassionate, moral, helpful people: social conditioning must make them used to that which is intolerable; changing the culture means changing the social conditioning. A just, fair, and equitable society is possible. But even if it's not, that's no excuse for not trying to get as close to it as we can. Kind of like space travel and the light speed barrier, we can't break it, but we can approach it, and that's pretty fucking fast!
Last, but not least, is Reuben's indictment of the efficacy of Nader's endless stream of presidential runs. I am also concerned that what Nader's doing will ultimately be ineffective. He is indeed pissing off lots of liberals. He's lost some of his strong supporters from previous runs simply because they acknowledge that, whatever his intentions are, establishment Democrats have essentially turned the Nader factor into a personality thing, as far as actual debate is concerned. Supporting him is, for me, a compromise position.
But, I think you can tell, the game, as it stands, for me, just isn't worth playing anymore. If, against all odds, Nader were elected, he'd be shackled by the same institutional forces currently shackling Obama. They'd throw him out within six weeks of the inauguration. There must be public force behind any agent of change within the government. That simply doesn't exist right now. My take on Nader is that he's going after the greatest institutional power currently rendering liberal philosophy moot, the Democratic Party. That is, in addition to trying to shake up the Democratic establishment, he's also appealing to like-minded liberals, that is, liberals who understand the whole institutional dynamic, showing them that fighting for one's beliefs is still possible in America, and encouraging them to insist that the public discourse be about issues, instead of vague personality differences.
Yeah, it's a long shot, but it strikes me as being more likely to succeed than Obama's inside the system machinations, which I believe are doomed to being watered down at best, to being white zinfandel, when what we need is a helluva cabernet. At worst, we'll get Franzia in a box, and be prompted to call it delicious.
Anyway, the overview:
Here's the situation. We have a public school system that successfully turns off over half the country's population to politics in general. We have a mass news media, which reflects the concerns of the wealthy elite who own the country, manipulating and lying to the people who actually vote. We have a two party political system dominated by corporate campaign cash and lobbyists. We're in an illegal, immoral, and unwinnable war that all three candidates support continuing--further, the US political establishment doesn't even understand what's going on there. We can't talk about the most important issues facing our people in an honest and straightforward way. Racism continues unabated, as the whole "scary-black-preacher-gate" well illustrates. The rich are getting richer, while everybody else gets poorer. People are suffering right now, which is exactly how many powerful Americans want it to be.
Obama's got his work cut out for him. I have no idea how he can pull it off, let alone survive the likely political smears, and possible political violence, coming his way. I totally understand his appeal, and fault no one for supporting him. I just think it's all a waste of time.
Okay, fire back, Obamites!
Posted by Ron at 11:20 PM
Baghdad bomb kills 4, raising U.S. death toll 4,000
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The U.S. military says a roadside bomb has killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad. That raises the overall American death toll to at least 4,000, a grim milestone as the war enters its sixth year.
The rest is here.
I must admit that my outrage about the war has diminished over the years. My personal life, as well as the ongoing nature of our psychotic occupation of Iraq, has pushed my concern into the background to some extent. It's difficult to be angry about something for so long. But the fact that it has now been five years since the invasion, and that we've now lost four thousand good Americans to the whims of the US establishment, at this point, really just make me feel, more than anything else, helpless. Powerless. Pointless.
It would be very nice to jump onto the Democratic bandwagon and really believe that the so-called "liberal" party is going to do the right thing and get us out, but, in spite of both Clinton's and Obama's groovy peace rhetoric, that's just not going to happen. That is, Obama and Clinton are lying. If elected, they plan to keep a substantial troop presence in Iraq for years to come. Probably because they think it's necessary, or that it must continue to be an American responsibility, or some similar kind of bullshit.
The Republicans, of course, are fielding a candidate who wants us there for "100 years" or more. They're no help, to make a gross understatement.
So it doesn't matter that a huge majority of the country want us out. It just doesn't matter. The US power establishment, or wealthy elite, whatever you want to call it, wants us there, and there is where we will remain. For a very long time. Patriotic young Americans who believe they're fighting for democracy and decency will continue to die, continue to be crippled and maimed. Ruined lives for an establishment that wants to control the oil.
Okay, I'm angry again. That's all it took. Thinking about how my opinion, and the opinion of most Americans, the moral opinion, just doesn't matter. Decency and morality just don't matter. John McCain is an immoral and despicable excuse for a human being. Hillary and Obama, I'm sure, have decent motives, but their secret support for an ongoing occupation of Iraq place them squarely in the same moral category as their Republican opponent.
That is, they are immoral and despicable, too.
Because there is absolutely nothing that the US can do to make things right over there. We can't help establish democracy. We can't get the Shia and Sunnis to get along. We can't stop our soldiers from becoming torturers and mass murderers. It's as though the American power establishment were at the roulette wheel, down hundreds of thousands of dollars, still hoping against all odds for the big payoff.
It's all insane, and we just don't matter. Iraqis don't matter. Nothing matters except keeping Iraq as a plaything.
Posted by Ron at 1:01 AM
Saturday, March 22, 2008
2008 REAL ART EASTER BASKET
I hate Easter. Because it celebrates quite a bad thing. But I've been all through that before.
Nonetheless, the Christian world continues to celebrate this bad thing year after year, so I feel like, at the very least, I have to recognize in some way that everybody is celebrating an understanding of the universe that makes God out to be literally insane and all human beings worthy of eternal torment and punishment. Unless they've said the magic words known as "the prayer of salvation," or munched the right wafers, or wet their heads with tap water. Whatever your choice is. It's all crazy and bad.
Anyway, here's some yummy chocolate.
Here's the lecture text by philosopher Bertrand Russell that solidified my anti-Easter sentiment, "Why I Am Not a Christian."
Here's the South Park episode "Fantastic Easter Special" from last year.
Here's a Monty Python tune from their movie Monty Python's Life of Brian:
Here's a fascinating documentary called The Muslim Jesus:
And finally, here's a mash-up video of weird cult leaders like Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and David Koresh, all set to the Doobies' song "Jesus Is Just Alright":
Remember, when you celebrate Easter, you're essentially celebrating the Christian God's psychotic wrath, and a hatefulness so strong that it insists all human beings are worthy of torture for eternity.
We might as well be wishing each other a Happy Holocaust.
Posted by Ron at 10:59 PM
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
THOSE STUPID FLOOD VICTIMS
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Storm toll hits 15 with more flooding on the way
Residents warily watched as rivers continued to rise today from heavy storms that killed more than a dozen people and dumped as much as a foot of rain on the Midwest.
While the first day of spring brought much needed sunshine today to Ohio and other states, authorities warned that many rivers would crest well above flood stage in the next several days.
The death toll rose to at least 15, after authorities said a man drove his pickup truck into floodwaters in southeast Ohio and drowned early today. Two other people died in the flooding in Ohio.
Many areas remained flooded today.
How can people be so stupid? Why do all these people live in places where the rivers swell up like this every fifteen or twenty years? Let me tell you, American taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to rebuild a single building in these devastated areas. It's a waste of money and only encourages these stupid people to continue to be stupid. What they should all do is move to a place where this kind of thing doesn't happen. Pathetic, just pathetic.
Of course, I'm just kidding. All due haste should be employed in getting aid to these people, and no expense should be spared in rebuilding as quickly as possible. It's just that I can't help but remember all those right-wing morons who said essentially the same thing about New Orleans in the days and weeks after Katrina, and right up until today. I'm expecting the same kind of morally depraved rhetoric to hit the airwaves soon, unless, of course, it was all racially motivated to begin with--it's hard not to notice that most of these latest flood victims on television are white.
At any rate, as a New Orleans area resident, and as an American, my heart totally goes out to everyone caught up in this current flood disaster. Here's hoping FEMA gets it right this time.
Posted by Ron at 11:05 PM
OBAMA HITS ONE OUT OF THE PARK
From the Huffington Post courtesy of Eschaton:
"A More Perfect Union"
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
Click here to read the rest.
Finally, in a speech that I'm assuming has been in the works for many months, in expectation of the day that Obama would have to break publicly with his fiery minister, the Senator from Illinois matches substance with rhetoric. And, man, it really was something else.
It's late, I'm tired, and I know I just can't analyze this speech in the way that it deserves right now. For the moment, suffice it to say that I was quite literally blown away. I've never witnessed such a political speech from a contemporary politician in my lifetime. I mean, this really was Obama's JFK moment, the kind of speech that may very well have made history, although it may take a decade or more to see if that's actually the case.
In short, in his attempt to end the "stalemate" in the American racial debate, Obama has created a new conceptual framework which allows both black and white to share grievances without pointing the finger of blame at each other. To be honest, I've been trying to do the same thing for some years now here at Real Art, but clearly without the skill, clarity, and forethought evidenced in "A More Perfect Union." Not to mention the fact that I don't have a chance in hell of my ideas ever going mainstream: Obama's actually got a shot; only time will tell if this new framework takes.
You know, I was honestly moved to tears at several points in his speech. It was beyond brilliant.
Toward the end of it, I was having to ask myself, once again, why I'm not going to be voting for him, assuming he gets the nomination. The answer remains the same as it has always been. No matter how well meaning, no matter how liberal, or how charismatic, or popular, nobody running for president, no president for that matter, can make the changes needed to make America the more just and equitable society which simple morality demands it must be. Back when I was teaching high school, I learned a very basic social truism: once you join the institution, you belong to it. Sure, you can push and pull, nudge, snip, swipe, coax. You can even make some real and important, albeit small, changes, affecting the lives of real people. What you can't do is make radical change from within the institution. The very notion of "institution" itself makes that impossible. You have to play by the institution's rules, and the most basic of those rules is that the institution is above all else concerned with self preservation. If you coax too much, you are no longer preserving the institution, and it will spring into action to slap you down.
This is what political parties do. This is what the US government does, even with presidents. This is what all institutions do. The kind of change America needs can only come from outside the institution, outside the social realm we call "politics." Only the people can change America.
I'm just not willing to wait for decades or centuries for politics to change by coaxing from within.
Think about it for a moment. While I loved Obama's speech, quite deeply in fact, I was greatly disturbed by his having to distance himself from a man who, I believe, pretty much spoke the truth. What if Obama said what I said a few days ago? What if he seconded the statement, as I do, "God damn America"? And that's a fair thing to say: the US really has done many horrible things over its 200 plus year history, and continues to do so today; our country is indeed damnable.
If Obama had spoken the truth, if he had defended Reverend Wright's comments as he should have, it would have been over. Hillary would have won right then and there, and his "yes we can" express would have been consigned to history's rubbish heap. If you join the institution, you belong to it, and have to play by its rules.
Personally, I'm sick of playing by the rules. I'm sick of the game board. I'm sick of the game. I really do want to see Obama succeed, but I just don't see how that's possible. I just don't see how he can deliver. The rules are written to guarantee his failure. To extend the metaphor, the only way we can change this country for the better is to do what a nine year old boy might do in disgust during a Risk game right after his continent's been busted: turn the game board upside down while screaming "Fuck this shit!" You know, kind of like what Nader does every time he runs for president.
Frankly, I think this speech, by itself, has more potential for creating positive change in this country than any presidential action might have. It's all about changing culture, which necessarily precedes the changing of politics.
Anyway, it really was a fabulous speech:
Posted by Ron at 2:41 AM
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Wear a sweater on March 20 to honor Mister Rogers
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
March 20th is being promoted as "Sweater Day" to honor Rogers, who died of cancer five years ago. A sweater was his trademark garb on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
Click here for more.
Cardigan sweaters are way cool. I've been wearing them for years, usually bought for a dollar or so at thrift stores; it's a nice way of adding some classiness to the jeans and tee shirt look, hearkening back to my favorite era in American history, the mid twentieth century, the apex of men's fashion, and when jazz was still relevant. Back when I was teaching high school, almost always in a sweater due to the intense year round air conditioning, my students would often call me Mr. Rogers.
Of course, there was only ever one Mr. Rogers. And we should all honor him by wearing a sweater on Thursday. I know I will.
Here's a speedy delivery on the subject:
So let's make the most of this beautiful day!
Posted by Ron at 7:42 PM
Monday, March 17, 2008
ECONOMIC COLLAPSE-->TAXPAYER BAILOUT
From the New York Times, the latest column from Princeton economist Paul Krugman:
The B Word
Nobody expects an investment bank to be a charitable institution, but Bear has a particularly nasty reputation. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reminds us, Bear “has often operated in the gray areas of Wall Street and with an aggressive, brass-knuckles approach.”
Bear was a major promoter of the most questionable subprime lenders. It lured customers into two of its own hedge funds that were among the first to go bust in the current crisis. And it’s a bad financial citizen: the last time the Fed tried to contain a financial crisis, after the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, Bear refused to participate in the rescue operation.
Bear, in other words, deserved to be allowed to fail — both on the merits and to teach Wall Street not to expect someone else to clean up its messes.
But the Fed rode to Bear’s rescue anyway, fearing that the collapse of a major investment bank would cause panic in the markets and wreak havoc with the wider economy. Fed officials knew that they were doing a bad thing, but believed that the alternative would be even worse.
As Bear goes, so will go the rest of the financial system. And if history is any guide, the coming taxpayer-financed bailout will end up costing a lot of money.
Click here for the rest.
So the collapse of the credit and lending market continues seemingly unabated, strongly threatening, as Krugman observes, the rest of the economy. As each week has gone by these past couple of months, with credit crisis after credit crisis, with each drop in the prime rate, with each federal baby step, my anger has done nothing but grow. We're in this fine mess because of decades of right-wing mythology, embraced by both Democrats and Republicans, that tells us government interference in the economy is always a bad thing, that only the harsh discipline of the market will work in the long run, that it'll all work out for the best: now we're seeing these same ideological gurus desperately calling for that which is always a bad thing, government interference in the economy.
These free market cheerleaders will not learn their lesson, that government interference in the economy is an utter necessity, that such interference would have kept the subprime mortgages, sliced up into bogus and now-failed securities for investors, which catalyzed this crisis, off the table. Instead, ten years from now, when it's well over and done with, these same people will have long been back to their favorite position, insisting regulation is just awful for the economy.
Their gross irresponsibility, their lies, their greed, their willingness to destroy everything in order to maximize profits, is ultimately going to be paid for by you and me. As if paying for the war wasn't enough. We're talking trillions of dollars here. All because the ruling class finds the truth inconvenient for their pocketbooks.
The truth: capitalism, as an ideology, is as deeply flawed as communism. Capitalism, like communism, simply doesn't work in the real world. What works is a mixed model, which attempts to keep the market relatively free, but with government enforced safeguards, protecting investors and businessmen from their own dark impulses, and everybody else from investors and businessmen.
What really pisses me off is that our grandfathers understood this as fact. It took several decades of intense propaganda to make us forget, but forget we did. And now we're fucked.
The economy, whatever that means, won't be getting better anytime soon.
Posted by Ron at 7:05 PM
MORE LIBERAL TOTALITARIANISM
CLINTON SUPPORTERS WALK OUT ON DAILY KOS
From the Daily Kos courtesy of AlterNet:
This is an open letter to the progressive blogosphere...
I’ve been posting at DailyKos for nearly 4 years now and started writing diaries in support of Hillary Clinton back in June of last year. Over the past few months I’ve noticed that things have become progressively more abusive toward my candidate and her supporters.
I’ve put up with the abuse and anger because I’ve always believed in what our on-line community has tried to accomplish in this world. No more. DailyKos is not the site it once was thanks to the abusive nature of certain members of our community.
I’ve decided to go on "strike" and will refrain from posting here as long as the administrators allow the more disruptive members of our community to trash Hillary Clinton and distort her record without any fear of consequence or retribution. I will not be posting at DailyKos effective immediately. I will not help drive up traffic or page-hits as long as my candidate – a good and fine DEMOCRAT - is attacked in such a horrid and sexist manner not only by other diarists, but by several of those posting to the front page.
And this blogger took some 68 of the Kos faithful with her. I'm tempted to be amazed by all this. I mean, based on what I know about the two candidates' backgrounds, that Hillary is a corporatist and Obama is a secret progressive, there are some fairly major differences in political philosophy here. However, based on campaign rhetoric, there's not a dime's difference between them. They're arguing about minutia, and worse, going bigtime negative, slinging all sorts of mud: the public debate within the Democratic Party is about nothing as far as I can see. Nonetheless, the infighting is so intense that Clinton supporters are abandoning the most trafficked site on the progressive side of the blogosphere, and, right or wrong, they feel like they've been driven to it.
I was trying to get into the Daily Kos for a while there back in '04 and '05, but eventually became bored with their posters' wonkiness. I'm still impressed with the community's ability to quickly raise campaign cash, its commitment to engaging citizens in some real democratic action, but I'm just not a Democrat, and find it hard to get behind working within a party structure that has done nothing but disappoint me for over a decade.
Oh yeah, I also hate the way the Kos community has dealt with Nader supporters over the years. That is, they've been total assholes.
That's why I can't say I'm amazed or even surprised by this Kos schism. The abusive rhetoric described in the excerpt above is nothing new for Kossacks. The only thing new here is that it is now being aimed at "good" Democrats. Obviously, this is extraordinarily ironic for numerous reasons, but the biggest is probably that I see some big parallels with how the Republican Party has purged itself over the years of members who aren't part of the Conservative Movement, members who aren't "real" conservatives.
Bottom line: Stalinism comes back to bite you. The Republican Party is now in total disarray because of its ideological absolutism, and if this strain continues within the Democratic Party, it will be sowing the seeds of its own destruction a few years down the road. Look, I don't like Hillary, either, but she is, indeed, a "good" Democrat. That is, she has a definite point of view, wrong as it may be, that's worth debating. Debating, not belittling. Debating, not shouting down. Debating, not insulting.
Save the insults for Joe Lieberman. Because he's a Democrat who's so full of shit that debate is pointless. But Hillary is not Joe Lieberman. She doesn't put shit on a plate and call it fillet mignon--okay, she does put shit on a plate and call it hamburgers...and...alright, my metaphor is failing here, but I'm sure you get the point; she hasn't crossed Lieberman's bullshit threshold, and is worth a serious argument.
To some extent, blame can be given to the two candidates themselves for keeping their rhetoric away from real issues, which is bound to influence the grassroots debate to some extent, but then, the grassroots has a serious obligation to try to force their candidates to keep it real, as it were. In other words, campaign mud slinging should be condemned by the rank and file, not embraced. Rank and file progressives should debate about issues.
And which progressive candidate is it who actually talks about issues? Why, Ralph Nader, of course. But just try supporting Nader over at Kos: they'll give you the Hillary treatment.
Posted by Ron at 1:11 AM
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Obama denounces pastor's inflammatory remarks
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday denounced inflammatory remarks from his pastor, who has railed against the United States and accused the country of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.
In a sermon on the Sunday after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Wright suggested the United States brought on the attacks.
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Wright said. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
In a 2003 sermon, he said blacks should condemn the United States.
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no..."
He also gave a sermon in December comparing Obama to Jesus, promoting his candidacy and criticizing his rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I'm also going to add, just for argument's sake, and because my dad says he heard it on FOX News, that Rev. Wright has claimed that the US government created AIDS as a way to kill black people--to be fair, I don't know that he actually said this, just that my dad appears to think so, you know, the point of view of the average FOX News consumer.
Anyway, I'm finding this latest primary controversy fascinating. Wright's remarks are controversial, but not too terribly far from the truth, either, as far as I can tell. No big deal in the real world, although very dangerous for Obama in the reality-challenged world of politics.
For starters, the US really did unleash mass terror and destruction on the Japanese in WWII, and not just with nukes: we started firebombing civilians in Japan very early on in the war, and continued it until its end. The US has also continuously supported, with weapons, dollars, and rhetoric, Israel's government, no matter how many Palestinians they barrage with artillery. And, yes, the US also supported South Africa's Apartheid regime for decades until popular protests here in the 80s pulled our political class away from its inexplicable endorsement of brutal white minority rule.
Wright is right about the roosting chickens, for many more reasons than listed above: 9/11 happened not for the comic book motivation of "their hating our freedom;" it happened because we've treated the world like utter shit for many many years. It all could have been avoided. Sure, saying so causes controversy, but it's the truth.
But is Wright right to say that Blacks should condemn the US?
I assume that Wright is referring to the US government rather than its people, and he's certainly correct when he says that the government gave African-Americans drugs. (Click here for more on this.) He's certainly right about prisons and Blacks and Draconian sentencing laws. Fuck man, everybody should condemn the US government for this shit. Controversial, but the truth.
Okay, Obama's no Jesus, but so what? A minister should be allowed a little hyperbole. Besides, these preachers are always using Biblical metaphor: better Jesus than Jonah or Job, I suppose.
But what about this AIDS thing my dad says he heard on FOX? Well, I think it's safe to say that the US government did not create AIDS to kill Blacks, but the US government is responsible for Nazi like medical experiments performed on poor Black Southerners as recently as 1972: if you can't forgive a Black man a little paranoia about shit like this, you're as big of a monster as Hillary Clinton.
One last thing: Wright visited Khadaffi in Libya with Nation of Islam kook Louis Farrakhan. Okay, this was dumb. But Obama's already denounced Farrakhan, and you know, a local preacher visiting with Khadaffi really does pale in significance when compared to, say, high government officials visiting with, well, check it out:
Yeah, that's Donald Rumsfeld.
This is all such bullshit.
Posted by Ron at 10:57 PM