Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fruitcakes I: Ayatollah Dobson and Christo-Fascism

Dr. James C. Dobson is a doctor of pediatric psychology. He has made it clear that he is not an ordained minister of any denomination. He has stated that he is not a theologian. He comes by his religion via his father who never bothered to study theology either but made his living as a “preacher”. But, though he disavows theological learning, he is awfully quick to interpret the Bible. Of course his interpretation leans heavily on the Old Testament and even more heavily on passages that reinforce his many and deep bigotries. In point of fact, Dr. Dobson is simply an ultra-right wing bigot who couches his hate in slightly less incendiary language than say, Rev. Fred Phelps. Dobson is, since such coinages are de rigueur these days, a Christo-Fascist (not crypto-, nothing crypto-fascist about him) whose ravening hunger is political power. He simply conceals his voracious ambition for power under a thin cloak of religion to fool the rubes and, just incidentally, get a tax exemption or two.

In his Dictionary of the English Language, Dr. Samuel Johnson, a man of great faith, defined patriotism as “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” About 140 years later, the American writer and humorist, Ambrose Bierce, a man of far fewer delusions, noted that Dr. Johnson was incorrect because patriotism is the first refuge to which the scoundrel runs. Bierce, apart from being correct, did not see fit to cite anything as that “last refuge.” A long list of jailhouse conversions by criminals including Charles Colson, Eldridge Cleaver and Manuel Noriega have served to point out what Ayatollah Dobson confirms with every breath, that the true last refuge of a scoundrel is religion or, rather, religiosity.

To digress for a moment, I really haven’t any argument with people who are religious. I’ve known many good people in many religious groups who express their faith by making the love and mercy of the gods in which they believe manifest in our world. They work with the poor and homeless, with the sick and lonely and with all manner of the least of these, their brethren as their gods direct. Religiosity, however, is a cathedral wide and a communion wafer deep. Religiosity uses faith as a cloak for hate and bigotry and, sometimes, insanity. As examples of that religiosity I would cite Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, the Heaven’s Gate Cult, the Worldwide Church of God and Focus on the Family. Religiosity is, at best, the faith of the lazy and ignorant. It has no depth, learning or understanding associated with it and puts its emphasis on the fear of god and the word of a preacher whose ignorance may be greater than that of his congregation. At worst, religiosity is the mask behind which bigotry, hatred and fascism hide from well-deserved prosecution. Ayatollah Dobson’s brand of religiosity is of the worst.

But to return to the most recent ex cathedra statements from Ayatollah Dobson, he has injected himself into the 2008 U. S. Presidential race by attacking Barak Obama’s understanding of the Bible. He’s called Obama’s call for a sensible view of the Bible “a fruitcake interpretation.” Understanding that if anyone should know “a fruitcake interpretation” of scripture based on acquaintanceship since birth, it’s James Dobson, this is an extraordinary statement from a self-confessed non-theologian. Dobson’s political fatwa against Obama is actually revealing. It strips from Dobson the cloak of religion to reveal his true interest which is in unelected political power. Indeed, Obama’s crime in the view of Ayatollah Dobson is not just an humane interpretation of the Bible, it is being humane itself. If Barak Obama’s faith, with its emphasis on Matthew 25 were to prevail, it would expose Dobson’s pusillanimous, hate-filled interpretation of scripture for the noisome perversion it is. The best we can say about Dobson’s most recent ravings are that they are the outcry of a simoniac, exposed and abandoned by the public he’s heretofore deceived.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Money Matters I: Pay Back’s a Bitch

Barak Obama is not going to limit his fundraising by taking Federal matching funds for the general election.

How dare he!

How unfair!

Poor little Johnny McCain with his stunted fundraising abilities will get just under 85 million dollars in Federal matching funds for his run at the presidency while Oprah can find that much by cleaning the change out of her couch.

Quel horreur!

Maybe Johnny will have to hit up his wife, Cindy, for some cash if he can get away from calling her names not usually used by husbands who expect to stay married very long. And it will mean that the neo-fascist and racist cash cows of the Republican Party and the up-and-coming Karl Roves and Lee Atwaters (including Karl Rove?) they have under contract will have their Willie Horton/Swift Boat ads answered within one news cycle.

That Obama sure plays dirty. He won’t even let the ultra-rich far right and the Natzionalistiche Republicanische Partei scuttle his candidacy. Damn! Not fair!

I actually believe that the public air waves are public in consequence of which broadcasters must provide free coverage of political events and free political advertising. I also believe that all elections must be totally, publicly financed. But I feel about Obama’s decision on public financing much the way I felt about the execution of John Wayne Gacey: I think that capital punishment is wrong but for him, I’ll make an exception. I’m willing to give Obama a pass on this one.

Ultimately, Obama is correct. The current public financing system is broken. The allegedly unconnected interest groups like the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004 can be set up quickly, financed anonymously by one or more rich neo-fascists and skew the results of an election. Obama has shown the ability to raise huge amounts of money, most of it in relatively small donations, and is not going to allow himself to be hamstrung by the party of wealth. In fact, one can argue that Obama’s fundraising has been more democratic, more populist than any Republican’s since, quite possibly, Ulysses Grant.

But I was struck by an interesting but of serendipity. On the same day, June 19, 2008, that Obama announced that he would forego public financing of his campaign two hedge fund managers from Bear-Stearns were arrested for bilking investors out of millions. The most important term in that sentence is hedge fund. The Investopedia defines a hedge fund as “a mutual fund for the super rich”.

And your point is?

That no one who’s bilked a family out of its savings and home with an unaffordable mortgage is going to jail. The big mortgage companies that were constructing mortgage applications out of whole cloth and pixie dust are still in business. But two guys who lied to millionaires and cost them a few percent of their trust funds are headed for jail.

Mathew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi probably each deserve a cell in Attica, preferably each will have a huge cellmate who hasn’t seen a woman in about 15 years and won’t be seeing one anytime soon. They have committed crimes for which they should pay but their arrests demonstrate that money matters. Those who bilk the rich are headed for court. Those who bilk the poor and middle class get a pass once they insinuate that the families they cheated should have been aware that they were being cheated. That’s the blame-the-victim argument just as surely as is “if she didn’t want to be raped she shouldn’t have worn a sexy outfit". But the mortgage companies’ attempts to blame the victim aren’t the only similarity between their actions and rape.

The case of the Bear-Stearns managers and Barak Obama’s refusal of Federal matching funds for the presidential election likewise are similar. They are flip sides of the same issue: money matters. Those who have money get what they want whether it’s the presidency of the United States or the arrest of the con men who cheated them. The rest of us can go suck wind. In the case of the Bear-Stearns hedge fund managers we have all the trappings of the sacrifice that will distract everyone from the real criminals amongst us. In the case of Barak Obama we have the first indicator that those of us who truly want change and a more just America will once again have our hearts broken. Unfortunately a broken heart is not anywhere near as lethal as the bloodsucking that we’d get from continuing the neo-fascists in power.

Continued Vilification: McCllellan vs. the Army on the Potomac

It all goes to credibility, doesn’t it?

I’m no defender of Scott McClellan as you can read in the post below. He continues to defend Dubya as a good man, an evaluation that holds less water than a sieve. He also continues to defend the right wing despite the bankruptcy of their ideology that our experience of our national decline and whose inner corruption he himself has now brought to light. He has also not adequately explained why the outright lies and defamations he fed to the press in his daily briefings shouldn’t damage his credibility now. Yet I believe Scott McClellan’s current account of his time in the White House despite the man himself. My reason for this belief in spite of my suspicions is that the people speaking out against him are even viler than he is.

It’s not quite an “enemy-of-my-enemy” situation as much as it is that I can’t help noting the viciousness of the neo-fascist attacks on McClellan must mean something. Those attacks are bitter, vile and continuing…and loud. It’s as if the whole neo-fascist right-wing were sticking its collective fingers in its ears and shouting, “La-la-la-la-la-la! I can’t hear you! And neither can anyone else.”

Yes, McClellan was chief liar-for-hire at the White House before Dubya hired the even more odious Tony Snow, but the array of voices set against him only makes him more, not less credible. The neo-fascists who are trying to drown out some level of truth in McClellan and his book by protesting so disproportionately much are making him more, not less credible.

The mole rats are calling Scott McClellan ugly. That doesn’t make him the handsomest man on earth but it does rub a little of the tarnish that he spent many years acquiring off of him. I’m not sure whether the shine we’re beginning to see is gold or brass but it’s certainly cleaner and more worthy than any of his critics.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Says it all, doesn't it!

Generally I like to rant on about topics that interest me but a friend sent me the following link that is hilarious largely because it's so dead on. People, except in West Virginia, it appears, have learned to use euphemisms so that their ignorance and bigotry won't be glaringly visible. Yet strip away the linguistic acrobatics and this is what you get:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Failing On Her Own: Hillary Out

Ultimately Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t deserve to be President. She has the fortitude and experience and the energy for the job. She even started out with a good deal of respect but it was exactly that respect that she forfeited as the primary campaign progressed. She proved herself willing to say and do anything to win which, in turn, proved the suspicion that I and others had about both her and Bill: that everything, without exception, is fungible in the interest of their own power. She couldn’t be trusted and squandered that considerable fund or respect all by herself.

A lot of women would like to believe that Hillary was done in by sexism. Hillary made that argument herself as she found her campaign foundering. There unquestionably was some sexism voiced in the media and amongst parts of the electorate. Yet Hillary proved in Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia that racism trumps sexism every time. And Hillary exploited that racism when it suited her.

The most specious argument that she put forward during the campaign was that she won the primaries that mattered and Barak Obama carried the insignificant caucuses. She was trying to turn her own failing against her opponent. Hillary initially fell victim to her own publicity and her inherent hubris. She believed that she was the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination and that she should be. She bought into her own publicity and failed to organize effectively in the caucus states. In the meantime Obama, a community organizer from the get go, organized the pants (you should excuse the expression) off her.

In February when I went to my precinct caucus I was amazed to find that the Obama people had out organized Hillary’s campaign. There were nearly 3 times as many Obama supporters at the caucus as Hillary supporters. In fact there were more than 5 times as many Democrats of all stripes at those caucuses as there had been in 2004. There was no reason for the lopsidedness of the caucus attendance other than that Hillary hadn’t organized. If she had, she would be the presumptive Democratic nominee today and Obama would be a hopeful for the nod as vice-president.

And before some mourning Hillary supporter calls me out on it, there is no sexism in calling her Hillary. Go back and look at her campaign literature and signs. She styled herself as Hillary and then had the temerity to foster the nonsense that it was sexist to call her what she called herself. If she’d wanted to be called Ms. Clinton, Sen. Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton she should have put that on her bumper stickers.

Despite the protestations of Clinton pit-bull, Harold Ickes, Hillary was not deprived of anything that she won fairly by the Democratic Rules Committee. The whole rules fight was an embarrassing attempt to change the rules that she’d whole-heartedly endorsed last fall. She was losing and so she reversed her earlier position and tried to re-roll the dice in her own favor. I will not dwell on the resemblance of that tactic to her sudden conversion to Iraq War opposition. Suffice it to say that this attempt only further cemented my inability to trust her. Hillary has issues that she’s long supported but no core principle that isn’t for sale if the price is an increase in personal power.

I started out this campaign supporting Bill Richardson. I still think that he would have been a fine president but his campaign never grew legs. But early on I was impressed by Obama’s oratory. I was then impressed with his good humor and coolness under pressure and, finally, by his intelligence. Yet above all I was impressed by his consistent instinct to take the high road in competing with Hillary. I’d been won over to Obama well before Bill Richardson left the presidential race.

By contrast, Hillary never failed to take the low road. She whined about the order of questions to her and insisted that she was the candidate of “good, hard-working white people”. She even blurted out the revealing remark about Robert Kennedy’s assassination.

I am a Democrat. There is no Republican for whom I would vote and no Democrat for whom I would not vote. Joe Lieberman is a special case. He’s a Republican in everything but name. I kept telling people right to the end that I would vote for the nominee of the Democratic Convention regardless of who that might be. Even Mike Gravel would have been infinitely better for the nation than any Republican. Yet as the primary campaign ground on to the final showdown between Obama and Hillary I found myself getting edgier and edgier whenever I considered Hillary as the nominee. I all goes back to 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform bill. I didn’t care who cleaned his pipes, how or where but I would have impeached him for signing that bill. I was left impressed with his abilities as a politician but appalled by his willingness to toss the poor of our nation overboard in the interests of his reelection campaign. Hillary constantly proved that ambition trumping principle was not solely Bill’s problem in the Clinton family.

No Hillary shouldn’t have won this race and, thank heavens, didn’t. She should not be on the ticket with Obama either. Hillary has had her time in the sun. She can go back to the Senate and do as Ted Kennedy has done by making herself an important voice for good in the nation. She might even make a good appointment to the Supreme Court. But she doesn’t and shouldn’t move into higher office. Worse yet, were Hillary to become vice-president Obama would be saddled with two vice-presidents, Bill included, one over whom he would have some control and a second, unofficial VP over whom he’d have no control whatever unless he had Bill spirited off to Guantanamo Bay in the wee hours of next January 21st. Consider the problems that Hillary’s campaign had with Bill’s logorrhea and he ostensibly was trying to help her.

At the end of the day, Hillary Rodham Clinton did herself in regardless of what diehard supporters would like to believe. Those grieving for her ambitions are weeping over a suicide and not a murder victim.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Untruth In Advertising I

You’ve seen them, those Visa Check Card commercials. The whole world is an harmonious, well-oiled machine. Everything is running in sync with the music, varying from Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse or Ary Barroso’s Aquarela do Brasil to Danny Elfman’s Breakfast Machine from PeeWee’s Big Adventure, until someone pulls out…

a) cash
b) a check
c) something else that most people actually have.

The consequence of this implicitly anti-social act is that the music slows and stops, things fall from the sky, disasters ensue until someone with a Visa Check Card comes along and sets the world to rights again. The music swells, and everything resumes moving harmoniously.

I’m going to gloss over the paradigm implicit in those commercials of regimentation and conformity, a society that cannot run smoothly if it admits of any individuality at all and go straight to the point that we all knew from the beginning: they’re a load of crap.

A day ago I was in a local grocery store. As is my wont, I found the shortest checkout line. There was a mother and daughter team who had a huge, combined grocery order that ultimately totaled $486.77. The cashier was moving the order right along so I unloaded the dozen or so things from my cart and awaited my turn to pay.

I could almost hear Powerhouse playing as the items went over the scanner. The $486.77 total came up on the register and mom pulled out her Visa card. She wanted to use it as a debit card.

First there were problems in running the card through the machine. It didn’t read. It wasn’t swiped in the correct sequence. The third time was the charm or, rather, the curse. The transaction was rejected.

It seems that mom’s card didn’t process transactions of more than $200 all at once. What? What would have happened if she were buying furniture? But we hadn’t figured that one out yet. Oh, well. Mine not to reason why. Mine just to stand and wait. So the manager was called over, the transaction voided and there was a second try. Still no good. Another transaction voided. Both the cashier and manager were giving me apologetic looks. I was actually enjoying the process and mentally working on this blog entry. Well, next they broke the transaction up into a pair of $200 and $286.77 pieces. The $200 was good. The $286.77 didn’t make it. Again a transaction voided.

Now they broke the $286.77 into two pieces of $200 and $86.77. The second $200 went through as a charge rather than a debit once the attempt to do it as a debit resulted in voiding another transaction. The $86.77 didn’t go through. She was now over limit. Well, that’s o.k. Just write a check. The check processes as insufficient funds. As if that hadn’t been obvious already when the last debit failed.

By that time my milk was past its “sell by” date.

As the mom and daughter began sorting out things that they could do without to reduce the bill to $400, the manager took me to another register and arranged for me to get a $3 credit for being so patient and good humored about it.

Let me be clear that I have great sympathy for that mom. We’ve all been there. The card is rejected. The check bounces. We forgot our wallet or don’t have enough cash in it. We knew our balance but underestimated the cost of the things in our cart. It’s an embarrassing moment that we don’t wish on anyone and I certainly wish that the mom preceding me through that checkout line could have been spared that torture. Still, the next time you see one of those Visa commercials, think of that mom and don’t be conned into thinking that you need a Visa Check Card. You’re an individual person, not a cog and the only machine for which that card provides the grease is Visa itself.

Finally, you’ll notice that this is the first installment of “Untruth in Advertising”. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a very long series.

Friday, June 6, 2008

1968 II: The Day Hope Died

In high school we’d had local radio stations in the Waterbury, Connecticut area sponsor students in Junior Achievement. I’d worked for a couple of them, call letters that, I believe, are now long gone: WATR, WBRY. The last was WOWW. “Radio WOW! 1340 (AM) on your radio dial. Red Carpet Radio in Naugatuck, Connecticut.” I worked there during my senior year in high school and was invited to stay during the summer of 1967 and back for the summer of 1968.

I was scheduled to work in the afternoons each weekday and on Sunday mornings. On the morning of June 5th my mother knocked on my bedroom door and announced that Robert Kennedy had been shot. It was hard to believe. After Martin Luther King, Jr. to have an assassination of another major American leader seemed impossible. That began a deathwatch that lasted until June 6th, 40 years ago today.

I went to work and spent far more time than ever before running back and forth to the AP news printer. This murder did not affect me as deeply as had Dr. King’s. I think that I was a little numb after April 4th. And I was not as invested in Robert Kennedy as I had been in Dr. King.

I couldn’t support Hubert Humphrey despite his long and strong record of support for Liberal causes. He was, just as John McCain is today, tied, nay, shackled to the, wrong, insane, pointless Vietnam War. I did support Eugene McCarthy but had little hope that he’d be elected. Though I viewed Robert Kennedy as an opportunist and Johnny Come-Lately to the race, I was convinced that he was the one Democrat who could take the party nomination and rally the country to its better, more hopeful nature. The Kennedy name and power, the residual good will from his murdered brother could overcome the stark divisions in the country and lead America into a positive direction.

It was already clear that George Romney of Michigan was not going to get the Republican nomination and the ultra-right wingers who’d managed to nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964 were not going to allow Nelson Rockefeller of New York to win the nomination either. James Rhodes of Ohio, the man who would later order his National Guard to murder student protesters at Kent State University, hadn’t killed enough people yet to gain any real chops with the neo-fascist Republicans. It was already clear that the Republicans would nominate the psychologically unstable, blindly ambitious, pathological liar and criminal Richard M. Nixon. He was, in a very real sense, the essence of the Republican Party and “the new Nixon” (really a repackaged old Nixon) would run again for President.

Had Robert Kennedy lived to contest the general election, we would have had a second Nixon versus Kennedy contest resulting in a Kennedy win, this time by a far wider margin. In that sense, Robert Kennedy had to be killed lest he keep the Republicans out of power for 16 straight years.

I am not a conspiracy theorist but I believe that the elections of Reagan, Poppy and Dubya Bush are the culmination of insidious action by the neo-fascist underbelly of America for whom assassination would be a tool rather than a horror.

I kept running to the AP printer until the afternoon of June 6, 1968 when the bulletin came that Robert Kennedy was dead. I went back to my disc jockey’s console and pulled down the record I’d had beside me for 24 hours. I put on the last cut on the original cast recording of Camelot and out came Richard Burton’s sonorous voice reciting Alan Jay Lerner’s poetry:

Each evening from December to December,
Before you slip to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember,
Of Camelot.

Ask each person if he’s heard the story,
And tell it loud and clear if he has not,
How once there was a fleeting wisp of glory,
Called Camelot.


Don’t let it be forgot,
That once there was a spot,
For one, brief, shining moment,
That was known as Camelot.

At the end of the cut the chorus swells for those last 2 lines. I took the turntable out of gear and let the record slow down trailing off to nothing.

The Kennedy loyalists tried feebly to rally his delegates behind George McGovern of South Dakota but that came to nothing. It was over: the dream of Camelot, hope for America. The dark night of Nixon’s rule and our long slide to the neo-fascism of today would soon be upon us but there was another horror to come before that horrible year descended to Nixon’s election.

In August, I’ll write more about Chicago.