Archive for August, 2010

Two Score and Seven Years Ago

About Beck, Palin and Saturday’s Gathering in D.C.

By Thomas Wark

Two score and seven years ago, a black preacher brought forth upon this continent  the profound  dream of a new and better nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are riven with great civil strife, testing whether that dream, or any dream so conceived and so dedicated, can become real and endure.  Some will meet at a great symbol of that dream, there to personify the very antithesis of the dreamer and the man the symbol honors. They and the speakers they honor seek to inter in a final resting place the  ideals that Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln championed for this nation. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should denounce such hateful  views, even as we defend forever their First Amendment right to express them.

But in a larger sense, they cannot desecrate, they cannot dishonor, this ground.  Those who fought to preserve the union and free its slaves have consecrated it far beyond the haters’ poor power to subtract or demean.

The rest of the world will little note, nor long remember, what the haters say here, but Americans should never forget the sacrilege they commit here.

It is for us the rational Americans to be dedicated to the unfinished work which he who spoke here, and he who is honored here, so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored men we take increased devotion to the cause for which they stood — that we here highly resolve that they shall not have spoken in vain — that this nation shall one day have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That one day, the sons of slaves and the sons of free men, shall sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . .

Save the Dream.  Honor the Dream.  Heed the Dreamer.

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It’s not how you play the game, it’s just to win

By Thomas Wark
The American electoral process has become a triumph of tactics over substance.

Those two facets of politics have warred throughout our history.  Tactics gave us  a B movie actor, Ronald Reagan, as president and changed our political landscape as if it were a Hollywood back lot movie set.

Here, as The Economist once noted, was a president who never had to think.  He simply had to recite his lines and play the role of president.  No wonder he could take long daily naps; the government didn’t really need a wakeful Ronnie to function just as it would when he wasn’t sleeping. His advisors’  “government is the problem, not the solution” tactic blinded enough voters to win him two terms and the slavish devotion of generations of right-wingers.

Tactics rose to  utterly dominate our politics, and substance became invisible, when Karl Rove, a tactical genius, created George W. Bush.  As “Shrub,” the addled black sheep son of a powerful politician, Bush was the laughing stock of Texas.  Rove turned him into the the simple Christian warrior, pure of soul if utterly thoughtless. He remade Bush as the lovable alternative to those scary libruls who would have government take over our lives and so weaken the military that we’d have to take up our own arms to fight the ragheads on our streets and in our very neighborhoods.

And so rather than standing on and fighting for the principles that made the Democratic party the force that improved the lives of working -class Americans, the party of FDR and JFK went AWOL and remade itself as GOP LITE.  Go for what works, not what matters.

The ragheads are the best enemy to run against in America since the great Red Menace of the Soviet Union and Commie Ratfink China.  And so the issue of an Islamic center in a vacant building in lower Manhattan pervades political discourse.  When Dr. Kidglove actually became presidential for a fleeting moment and pointed out that Muslims have a perfect constitutional right to do this, the fruitcakes on TV and in the Republican Party went berserk. Tea Party candidates in Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana took up the cry as if the occupancy of a shabby building in Manhattan somehow had relevance to their constituencies. Alleged Democrats like Harry Reid hastened to take the Tactically Correct position.

It defies logic and the laws of chance that an administration could be in office for two years and not propose a single initiative that would be good for the people of the country.  And yet not a single Republican has broken ranks to support legislative efforts to fix things that are obviously wrong with this country; substantive things, like too many unnecessary deaths for want of adequate medical care; an economy that nearly plunged into a second Great Depression; millions of Americans without jobs or even the hope of finding one because there aren’t any to be had. And yet even some Democrats have taken the Tactically Correct position to help obstruct attempts to deal with these substantive problems. This entitles them to be called “moderate Democrats” by the media.

Ah, the media.  They are utterly complicit in the triumph of tactics over substance. Willing diseminator of falsehoods from on high whether in the “justification” of the invasion of Iraq or the myth that real health care reform would kill Grandma.  Remember the early “debates” in the Democratic presidential primary?  A candidate, Dennis Kucinich, bothered to actually prepare substantive proposals to solve actual problems in this country.  One of the performers masquerading as journalists in the TV debates asked him, not to explain one of these positions, but why the hell he didn’t drop out of the race because he had no damned chance of winning and he was just wasting valuable time on the podium.  Another genius asked him about flying saucers.

ACORN.  Shirley Sherrod.  Birthers.  Thank you, guardians of  freedom who perform what passes as “journalism” today.

Dr. Kidglove and his handlers would have us believe that if we elect Democrats in November, it will preserve Social Security from the depredations of the mad Republicans.  Never mind that the biggest threat to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other piece of the safety net for the poor and the luckless, comes from Dr. Kidglove’s own deficit reduction commission, loaded with known adversaries of social security in any form.

Tactics over substance.

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Will Progressives Answer the Call to Arms?

By Thomas Wark

What does it take to make progressive Americans understand that they are unwanted in today’s Democratic party?

What does it take to persuade progressives to form their own party?

If the recent bleating of the official White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, sitting in his office in the West Wing, hasn’t done so, what on earth will?

Gibbs berated the “professional left,” whatever that is.

“I hear these people saying he (Obama) is like George Bush,” Gibbs prattled.  “These people ought to be drug tested.  I mean, it’s crazy.”

Mr. Gibbs, when you come down from whatever you’re smoking, please tell us in precise detail how Obama’s Iraq and Afghanistan policies differ from Bush’s; how his position on executive secrecy, detention without trial and  suspension of habeas corpus  differ from Bush’s; how the appointments of Timothy Geithner and Robert Gates to cabinet posts differentiates him from Mr. Bush; how his justice department differs from Bush’s in failing to reinstate citizens’ rights; how his refusal to consider what he himself acknowledged is the only true health care reform, i.e. single payer, distinguishes him from Mr. Bush; how his authorization of assassination of American citizens differentiates him from Dick Cheney. Other than skin color and hair cuts, how do you tell the difference between the two presidents?

Gibbs said the “professional left,” whatever that is, is “not representative” of progressives  who organized, campaigned, raised money and voted for Mr. Obama.  As one progressive who did all of those things, I find Gibbs’s remarks insulting, arrogant and obscene.

“They,” he said, invoking Glenn Beck’s favorite pronoun, “will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.  That’s not reality.”

Sorry, Gibbs, but reality is the fact that Canadian health care is substantially iuperior to ours, and less costly.  Realty is an unchecked Pentagon  spending us into the poor house and running amok with decisions and policies that should be overruled by the Commander in Chief.

“They,” said Gibbsie, “wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Wrong again, Gibbsie.  I would be quite satisfied if Dennis Kucinich were president; I urged him to run nine years ago, campaigned for him, raised money for him and voted for him in the primaries.

The reason I join the “professional left,” whatever that is, in criticizing Dr. Kidglove’s performance in the White House is precisely that Dennis Kucinich is a friend of mine and, Gibbsie, Barack Obama is no Dennis Kucinich.

The United States is the only advanced democracy in the world that no longer has a political left.  Both parties in our two-party system are right of center — and drifting further to starboard with each passing day.

If Gibbs’s impertinence doesn’t trigger the formation of a new, Progressive Party in the United States, (headed, I hope, by Mr. Kucinich), there will never be a viable left in this country.

When liberal ideals are forever lost to a people, democracy is dead as well.

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You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear

By Thomas Wark

In college and for 50 years thereafter I didn’t have to go far to find a cogent argument against my political views: my roommate and lifelong friend, the late Jack Elliott, was always there with an articulate case from the  Republican point of view, tinged with a healthy dose of Libertarianism.

Even when he pulled out the overcooked chestnuts like “tax and spend,” “socialism” and “welfare state,” he did so with wit or at least wry asperity; his arguments were always to the point and well-researched.

I became accustomed to ignoring voices from the Other Side that didn’t meet or exceed Jack’s standards of civility, integrity and intelligence.  Republicans of the Dirksen, Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Warren ilk made the cut; so, earlier in his political career, did John McCain (one of Jack Elliott’s favorites).

My old roommate is dead, McCain has bartered away his last shred of credibility, and one searches in vain for a Republican voice like Jack’s.  The party has been taken over by such infantile hate-spouters as Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Boehner and McConnell. Their execrative  spiels  are sustained by so-called think tanks, richly funded by right-wing capitalists, whose job is to grind out plausible lies.  The corporate media, their staffs decimated by greed-driven management, their ideologies dictated by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, gleefully render the right-wing think tanks’ propaganda as “journalism.” The political class of Republicans doesn’t even care if the lies are plausible.

Nor, it seems, do the masses of Americans — tea baggers, Christofascists, NRA wingnuts — who buy the lies.  For them, the more outlandish the lie, the greater the enthusiasm it generates.

It is an enthusiasm born of fear, loathing and racism.  Forty-three per cent of Republicans, a recent poll asserted, believe that President Obama is not a native-born citizen.  The vestigial fear of Nat Turner has not faded from the white American psyche.and manifests itself in  hatred of our first black president and his family — which, whether coded (as in the case of Beck’s despicable “Planet of the Apes” rant) — or blatant (as is th case with, and other right-wing websites).

McConnell’s latest contribution to blatant American racism is to attack the 14th Amendment, whose fundamental democratic ideal holds that anyone born on this soil qualifies for the rights and privileges constitutionally bestowed on all Americans.  We were, after all, a nation of immigrants when we ordained that Constitution, and we remain so today.

Why, then, this hostility to immigrants?  Why the new campaign against “birthright citizenship?”  Why the right-wing vitriol against “invasion by birth canal”? Why the rants about women who illegally cross the border “for the sole purpose of dropping anchor babies”?

Fear, loathing and racism.

Dred Scott.  Nat Turner.  Huey Newton.  Barack Obama.  Caesar Chavez.  Shirley Sherrod. The Black Panthers.  Sonia Sotomayor.  ACORN.

The relentless Dark Menace.

Fear, loathing and racism.

The political fuel of today’s GOP.

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