Posts from — November 2011
It looks as if President Obama will face either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich in 2012. If I were Barack Obama I would be mortally insulted. It is humiliating to have such unworthy opponents. But – here’s the rub – he could lose!
In Jamaica we would call Mitt and Newt ginnals. Americans know their kind as “con artists.”
And there’s a perverse appeal in a clever con artist.
Take Brer Anancy, the beloved Jamaican (and West African) folk hero (depicted above in an Oregon Shadow Theatre presentation).
He originated with the Ashantis of Ghana, where his name is spelled with an “s” – Anansi.
According to Wkipedia:
Anansi ( /əˈnɑːnsi/ ə-nahn-see) the trickster is a spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore.
He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man. The story of Anansi is akin to the tricksters Coyote, Raven or Iktomi found in many Native American cultures.
The Anansi tales are believed to have originated in the Ashanti people in Ghana. (The word Anansi is Akan and means, simply, spider.) They later spread to other Akan groups and then to the West Indies, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. On Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire he is known as Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria.
Romney is not as adroit as Brer Anancy. He is best described as smarmy. You know what I mean: He would say anything to seduce us.
But Newt is the genuine article – a trickster and a consummate hypocrite, the kind of sam-fi artist who will hug you with one arm, while picking your pocket with the other.
I am sure I don’t have to tell you about Newt.You must have read or heard about his salty life – his affairs, his financial skulduggery, his brazen, in-your-face hypocrisy… The man actually had the face of brass to seek Bill Clinton’s impeachment for the Monica Lewinsky affair while carrying on an affair with an intern himself.
In a truly Machiavellian maneuver, he has confessed his sins and sought forgiveness. He is a born-again Roman Catholic and I’m sure he goes to Mass regularly. After all, the religious vote is essential, especially if you’re a Republican.
If there’s one thing devout voters love it’s a penitent seeking their forgiveness. (Consider the parade of televangelists who sinned and were welcomed back into the fold.)
My guess is that Republicans will choose Newt as their standard bearer – despite the avalanche of negative publicity that’s sure to follow him. The bad publicity might even evoke sympathy for the guy.
But American voters beware! Newt is no lovable trickster. He is closer to Richard the Third than to Brer Anancy. There is no redeeming content in the man.
Like Romney, he represents the vultures who feed on society’s corruption.
Both are rolling in ill-gotten wealth, Romney through taking over companies and “downsizing” them and Newt through “lobbying” and various exploitative publishing ventures.
There’s nothing beguiling about either of them.
November 30, 2011 5 Comments
It could have been one of the dirty tricks those Republicans resort to in their struggle for political power. They will stoop to anything. The latest ploy is erasing signatures from the petition to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. I’m not sure how they do it but they’ve been going online and sabotaging sites that collect the signatures.
And lately, my blog site has been mysteriously going down. Could it be sabotage? You know how I’ve been lambasting those right-wing nut cases. So when a series of minor disasters prevented me from writing a blog yesterday, I wondered…
Here are the facts as I know them.
I was working in the garden when Sandra screamed that some “creature” was making rustling sounds under the computer desk in the den. So I ran to see what was going on.
I was just in time to glimpse a bushy tail disappearing behind the wastebasket.
“It’s a squirrel,” I reported.
“Quick, shut the doors,” Sandra shouted. “The cats will get it!”
She rounded up Katy and her kittens, Xandy and Bonnie, and shut them in the house, while I tried to get the squirrel to safety.
But there was no sign of the creature.
We had to find it and get it out of the den because Katy and her kittens eat and sleep there. One of them had probably caught the squirrel and brought in inside, and they would be only too eager to finish it off.
So, instead of writing a blog, I spent the whole day helping Sandra move every piece of furniture, looking for the squirrel. She decided she might as well sweep and dust in the process.
But the squirrel had disappeared.
Trust me. It had vanished.
So we moved the furniture back in place and left.
I was halfway between the bedroom and the shower, when I heard Sandra yelling at Bonnie. The squirrel had reappeared and Bonnie had spotted it.
“It’s just a baby,” Sandra shouted to me. “Come quick!”
I scrambled back into my clothes and headed for the den. We managed to get Bonnie out of there.
Now, to find that squirrel…
Not a chance. It had disappeared again.
We opened the door to the breezeway and left, hoping the squirrel would leave of its own accord. And it did. Or at least it tried to.
But before it could reach the door, Katy – who had slipped out of the house and was roaming around outside – was upon it. I was just in time to snatch the baby squirrel away from her claws as it tried to scamper up the bookcase.
I know squirrels bite. I had seen this movie – or something like it – before, and had the scars to show for it. But desperate times require desperate measures so I cradled the squirrel and stroked its little head in an attempt to calm it. As you can imagine it had almost died of fear.
This squirrel did not bite.
At least, not until I had carried it through a chilling drizzle all the way to the shed at the back of the garden, where it would be safe from the cats.
It was when I was releasing it inside the shed that it sank its teeth into my right index finger. It took me forever – or what seemed like forever – to pry its jaws loose and get my finger back.
I rushed my wounded finger into the house, leaving a trail of blood and yelling for Sandra to come and help me.
“Wash it off and I’ll put Polysporin on it,” she advised.
I stuck my finger under the tap in my bathroom sink as instructed. But the blood would not stop flowing.
So Sandra doused it in hydrogen peroxide and alcohol and smothered it with toilet paper… Two band aids later, the blood had slowed to a trickle.
Then it struck me. The last time I was bitten – by a cat on that occasion – the doctor had given me a tetanus shot… Rabies shots, too, but that’s another story.
“You think I should get a tetanus shot?” I asked Sandra.
She called Dr. Hernandez, and his nurse said yes, I should get a tetanus shot, but they didn’t have the vaccine there.
We ended up driving miles through the darkness and the rain to a walk-in clinic, which had just run out of the vaccine, and then searching for another one for hours…
Anyway, I did get the shot. But not before filling out the forms the county makes you fill out when you are a victim of an animal attack. Rabies, you know.
But the doctor assured me I wouldn’t get rabies from a squirrel. So the tetanus shot – and a prescription for antibiotics – sufficed.
I wonder about that squirrel, though. I’ve been reading about those experiments the Pentagon does with attack animals, and you know how conservative those military types are.
UPDATE: As I was finishing this blog, a Sheriff’s deputy arrived to make a report on the attack. He even took a picture of the wound- and of me in my robe and with my hair standing on end. I guess I am now in the suspicious characters file and the Pentagon will be watching me. Or maybe it’s just Animal Control bureaucracy. You think?
November 29, 2011 1 Comment
The signs will soon start popping up, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and there will be ads urging us to “put Christ back in Christmas.” Who puts up these signs? Who pays for these ads? I suspect they are the same people who contribute to the “Christian” organizations that shell out millions to lobby Congress.
A Pew study released this week shows that religious advocacy groups in Washington spent nearly $400 million last year to influence public policy. By far, the biggest spenders are “Christian.”
Four hundred million dollars!
Imagine what that amount of money could do to alleviate the suffering so prevalent in America today.
Last year, a record 17.2 million American households (nearly 50 millions people) did not have enough food. Of these 3.9 million households included children.
So what could be of such urgent concern to Christians that they would rather spend the money lobbying Congress than on feeding starving children?
Marriage for one thing.
According to the study, the National Organization for Marriage had the biggest budget increase “in percentage terms.” That’s the group that wants the government to prevent men from marrying men and women from marrying women.
So, these “Christians” believe that’s what Jesus would be most concerned about? Funny, I don’t recall reading anything about Jesus forbidding gays to marry each other. I recall Him telling us to feed the poor, especially hungry children.
What is it with these “Christians”?
Why can’t they live and let live? Why are they so devoted to ordering the rest of us about?
Why do they care so much about political issues and so little about the suffering of their fellow-citizens?
I am also bemused by the fact that so many “Christian” groups support conservative economic policies.
How on earth can they find anything in the teachings of Jesus that would justify the current assault on unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public education, food stamps, school lunches and every other government program that “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb”?
How about some signs this Christmas that say, “Let’s put Christ back into Christianity”?
November 27, 2011 3 Comments
Once again, conservatives are “outraged” by something President Obama has done – or rather- has not done. He did not mention God by name in his internet address this Thanksgiving.
A comment by columnist Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review-Journal sums up the hue and cry that ensued:
Holy cow! Is that one screwed up or what?
“Holy cow” is a nice touch, don’t you think? It highlights the sacred cow nature of the complaint.
On the Fox News Radio web site, commentator Todd Starnes put it this way:
His remarks were void of any religious references, although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God. The president said his family was “reflecting on how lucky we truly are.” For many Americans, though, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on how blessed and thankful they are.
The London’s Daily Mail took the issue global on its website, under the headline:
What a Turkey! Outrage as Obama Leaves God Out of His Thanksgiving Address.
It wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. Although the president did not belabor the point in his internet address, he explicitly thanked God earlier in the week in his written Thanksgiving proclamation.
Here’s what the president wrote:
As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.
The brouhaha over President Obama’s failure to include an explicitly religious reference in his web address illustrates the shameless way in which conservatives often exploit the name of the Almighty.
The Constitution of the United States seeks to guard against this kind of blasphemy by separating church and state. But that has not prevented the hypocrites from exploiting voters’ most private and sacred beliefs.
Jesus warned us not to emulate these “whited sepulchers.”
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matthew 6: 5-6)
I wonder what He will have to say to the sanctimonious sleazeballs who parade their religiosity in public while committing the grossest iniquities in private?
November 26, 2011 1 Comment
It may be the fact that I am in my own twilight that makes me see America’s decline so clearly. The robust land that I read about while growing up in Jamaica is no longer. I came to America in 1979 expecting to find an exciting society, bravely going where no man has gone before. And I found it – 33 years ago. Back then, this was the country that put a man on the moon. This was the country where teenagers could earn enough to buy a car. And they knew how to keep it running, too.
Young people all over the world envied Americans. We all wanted to put a dollar down and buy a car. But by the time, I got here, I was in my forties, and America would soon be growing old, too.
In the ensuing years, Uncle Sam has changed from an adventurous superhero to a crotchety old codger.
Put a man on the moon? Are you nuts?
America is no longer the envy of the world. Recent studies show that young people have a better chance of beating poverty in several other countries. They’re more likely to be stuck in an economic rut here than there.
The ruling class is firmly in control in America. Power and wealth have become concentrated in relatively few hands, and those hands are extremely tightfisted. The elite are not about to share the wealth, they’re using their clout to subvert democracy and keep the rest of us down. Life in America is no longer an exuberant game in which everyone – or almost everyone – has a chance to grab the brass ring. It’s a game of Whac-a-mole; if your head pops up, look out, there’s a mallet waiting to smash it.
The reasons for the change are complicated. But globalization is number one. When American capital was freed to move to low-wage, no-regulation countries and make goods there which they could export to America without a penalty, America’s middle class was on its way out. Now, there are few manufacturing jobs in the United States, and the ripple effect has wiped out much of the professional class. Outsourcing has spread to the highest levels of the workforce. It’s futile to graduate from an American college when the white-collar job you were hoping for has been outsourced to some place like Singapore.
So there you are with a massive student loan to pay off, and the only employment available is picking peaches for a few cents a basket. Or flipping hamburgers for minimum wage. And they don’t even offer courses in peach picking or burger flipping at MIT. So you probably don’t have the credentials to get those jobs.
Even if you take Newt’s advice and go have a bath.
I lie in bed and watch the golf on TV. They’re playing in China. I understand the Chinese are building 10,000 golf courses for their mushrooming middle class. I bet the same kind of thing is happening in Korea. And who knows where else?
Meanwhile, golf is dying in America. Courses are closing.
You can’t play much golf on $8 an hour.
Bye, bye, Miss American pie. I click the remote and roll over. It’s time for an old man to go to sleep.
November 25, 2011 3 Comments
A California campus cop has become the face of the America that so many conservatives are striving for. He is all over the Internet, featured in parody after parody. He is Lieutenant John Pike, the now-iconic figure pictured pepper-spraying a group of protesting students at the University of California’s Davis campus (above).
The scene can only be described as un-American: Police in paramilitary gear line up in front of about a dozen students peacefully squatting on a pathway. Lieutenant Pike starts casually spraying the students. Others cops join in. The students wheeze and cry but they refuse to be moved away.
When they move, it is to advance resolutely, shouting “Shame On You! Shame On You!” . Shamed at last, the policemen retreat.
The photo of Lieutenant Pike spraying the students has inspired an avalanche of satire (click here for examples).
But what he symbolizes is no joke. As Abraham Lincoln observed, we laugh because we must not cry.
We must not cry even with pepper spray in our eyes. Even with pepper spray in the eyes of American democracy.
We are witnessing the militarization of American law enforcement. We are witnessing a new authoritarianism in America. As the ruling class becomes richer and more powerful, they are taking harsher measures to protect their property. Law and order will prevail. Riffraff will not be tolerated.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tells the Occupy Wall Street protesters to take a bath and get a job. Of course, there is no job to get. But what does Gingrich care? He is the male reincarnation of Marie Antoinette, who said that since French peasants could not find bread, they should eat cake. He is a mouthpiece for the new dictatorship. Cold and uncaring.
This is the society conservatives yearn for. A society in which the upper classes can enjoy their loot in a tidy world, where the peasants are clean and well behaved.
And if they forget themselves, if they dare to clutter the sidewalks or get in the way of decent, law-abiding, God-fearing (in other words, rich) American citizens, why there’s always pepper spray.
And there will always be someone like Lieutenant Pike to use it.
November 24, 2011 1 Comment
Mitt Romney says this and Mitt Romney says that and never the twain shall meet. But every once in a while the Republican presidential candidate says something we should pay attention to.
At one of those multitudinous debates, he said:
If Barack Obama is reelected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon; if Mitt Romney…- if I am elected Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.
I don’t recall the moderator asking him what he meant by that. I took it to mean that this mild-mannered Mormon was promising to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
Now, I know you don’t take Mitt Romney’s remarks seriously. He is like the weather these days – wait a minute and it will change. But I don’t think he’s going to flip-flop this time. As Rachel Maddow pointed out on MSNBC the other night, he has surrounded himself with “advisers” from the neoconservative phalanx that persuaded George W. Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. So it looks as if he’s hell bent on another war.
The prospect of more war makes me want to curl up in a corner and stick my thumb in my mouth.
As an American taxpayer, I just hate the thought of any more people dying and being maimed in my name. These politicians are supposed to represent me, and the last thing I want them to do with my taxes is kill unfortunate civilians and their children – who probably did nothing more sinister than get born in a foreign land where America’s leaders don’t like the government. And, left to me, U.S. troops would stay home to guard their native land, not travel all over the world killing and getting killed.
And I cringe at the expense. America has spent about $1.3 trillion – so far – on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I don’t propose to debate the justification for those conflicts. Some people insist they’re “just wars.” But don’t you think we could have found a better way to spend that trillion-plus in these hard times?
Yes, I know the defense industry provides jobs. Thousands of jobs. But doesn’t your blood grow cold thinking of the price of those jobs?
How many children must go hungry to pay for the wars? How many war widows must cry themselves to sleep? How many orphans must grow up without knowing their parents? How many parents must grieve the loss of a son or daughter?
I wonder whether these thoughts bother Mitt Romney. He seems so unperturbed.
Is he like Rick Perry who has never lost a night’s sleep over the possibility of signing the death warrant for an innocent person?
Or Ron Paul who regards the death of an uninsured accident victim as the “price of freedom”?
Or Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain who are eager to bring back water boarding?
Or Newt Gingrich who served his cancer-stricken wife with divorce papers as she lay in her hospital bed?
The thought of having any of these heartless humanoids as America’s president fills me with dread.
November 23, 2011 No Comments
I should not have been surprised to read that First Lady Michelle Obama was booed at Homestead-Miami Speedway yesterday. Disgusted yes. But surprised, no.
The First Lady and the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden (photo above), were there to promote their charity supporting military veterans and their families. But that didn’t stop them from getting booed.
There’s a lot of the Old South left in Florida – the Confederate flag in the rear windows of those pickup trucks, for example. And racism is rampant. Most of them will probably deny it’s because they’re racist, but white Floridians vote Republican. In my part of the state, the Democratic Party is nothing more than a group of black people trying – in vain – to get their piece of the pie.
And auto racing is by far the most popular sport hereabouts.
I think its popularity is an expression of racism. You won’t see many black drivers in the sport. Spectators, either.
Black fans go to basketball games.
Just goes to show that sports are not yet integrated. In America there are churches for black people and churches for white people. And it’s pretty much that way in sports, too. Boxing is basically black – or at least “non-white.” So are basketball and track. In fact, so is just about everything besides auto racing, swimming, tennis and (now that Tiger’s been eclipsed) golf.
In the South, white “athletes” drive cars. Why that makes them athletes beats me. Seems the cars are the athletes. But whatever…
There is no reason on earth to boo the First Lady. Even Republicans… even Floridians… should realize that.
Michelle Obama has been the most perfect first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. She has put the emphasis on “lady,” conducting herself with dignity and aplomb. And she has devoted herself to the welfare of the American people – especially the troops and the young.
But some people are too mean spirited to acknowledge her picture-perfect performance. And I suspect it’s because she’s black.
That’s too bad. It shows this society has a long way to go before it can claim to be civilized.
November 21, 2011 6 Comments
Call me a conspiracy nut but I see a vast global conflict raging. Granted, I have read or heard nothing in the media describing current events in those words. But I smell a rat. And here’s why.
Suddenly, one developed country after another is in “crisis” – not just the United States and Britain but also European countries like Greece, Italy and now Spain.
And the cure?
In other words, shredding the social safety nets painstakingly woven together piece by piece over my lifetime.
When I was born, President Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House, Europe was heading for World War II and the Marxist revolution had turned ugly in Russia.
As I recall, throughout the western world, there was a ruling class and “the masses.” The “middle class” was the lower segment of the ruling class, the clerks and bureaucrats who implemented the elite’s policies and the merchants who served them.
We weren’t that far from the society Charles Dickens depicted and George Bernard Shaw lampooned. If you were one of the lucky few, you lived well, really well. But if you were so unlucky as to be born into a lower-class home, you were subject not just to lifelong poverty, but – worse – to any injustices or indignities your superiors chose to heap upon you.
In the decades since FDR, the “developed world” has changed.
It would take a book – and a fat one at that – to describe the change… But I would ascribe it to ideas that many Americans call “socialist.” Throughout the United States, Britain and Europe, the academic and journalistic climate became receptive to trade unions, government intervention in the economy, Keynesian economics and so on.
Perhaps even more influential, Hollywood turned out movies that rooted for the underdog and railed against bullies. Newspapers and magazines glorified the virtues of the ordinary Joe. It was the era of the “liberal press.”
In earlier blogs, I described the right-wing propaganda crusade that followed the Vietnam protests. A cadre of enormously wealthy and powerful individuals set to work to change public opinion. They relentlessly captured America’s sources of information, buying up the media and the entertainment industry, funding think tanks and establishing “conservative” academic departments.
They also bought up the politicians.
I have no idea whether this crusade included other countries, but I suspect it did.
I suspect that a global propaganda campaign has been under way for at least the past half century as the “masters of the universe” (as they call themselves) sought to counteract the “liberal” ideas that followed World War II.
Now, the crusade is bearing fruit. Public opinion has changed to the point where they feel able to beat back “liberal” policies around the world.
Now, the global elite are ready to reclaim their omnipotence. And to do that, they are destroying the middle class in the developed countries – which they no longer need. (With globalism, China, India and many other once poor countries have developed to the point where corporations are no longer dependent on the developed nations for customers.)
The consequences of implementing this austerity doctrine would be disastrous, according to the United Nations economic think tank UNCTAD. But not to the masters of the universe. They are planning to build a golden empire on the ruins of the existing world order.
The “masses” might not be aware of the global crusade, but they know something nasty is going on. That’s why they are taking to the streets. That’s why they are being clubbed and pepper sprayed and arrested.
That’s why we have to support them.
November 19, 2011 1 Comment
Sometimes I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. Or like that tree falling in the forest – soundlessly.
But today I feel that I am being heard.
I received an invitation from a group called Democracy for America to participate in a survey on how best they could support the Occupy Wall Street movement.
They asked whether they should:
- Run an aggressive campaign asking regular citizens to run for Congress (I voted yes)
- Run a “pledge to shop local” campaign for next week’s upcoming Black Friday (I voted no because I think that would be a waste of money; people will go where the bargains are)
- Support direct actions at major banks like sit-ins, picket lines, or move our money (I voted yes because I think we ordinary folk should put our money in a credit union or community bank, not in some financial juggernaut)
- Organize 99% house parties to plan their strategy (I voted yes)
- Organize food banks and other community service projects to help the 99% (of course I voted yes)
The survey included space for my own suggestions. Here’s what I wrote:
Despite the subversive activities of right-wing activists backed by huge amounts of money, America is still a democracy. But urgent action is needed to save the system. Perhaps the most critical is counteracting voter suppression laws. Help voters get the identification they will need to register, help them register, help them understand the issues, help them get to the polls not only on election day but also in the primaries.
The recent Ohio elections show that the people can win if they get out and knock on doors. The pro-union activists knocked on a million doors, and the anti-union forces spent millions of dollars. The pro-union activists won.
Where are the liberal lawyers? They need to rally to the defense of the thousands being arrested for exercising their civil rights. Get hold of as many lawyers willing to donate their talents and time as you can.
I feel a lot better now. Someone with some clout has heard what I have to say.
Of course, it could be a ruse to get me to donate to their cause, but I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Democracy for America is a reputable organization. Perhaps they won’t just throw my responses in the trash. Perhaps I will make a difference after all.
Here’s a link you can click if you want to take the survey:
November 18, 2011 1 Comment