31 May 2007

Pin the War on the Democrats

I have been more or less a Democrat for most of my voting life. There, it's out in the open.

My main reason for this is that I've always looked to the Democratic Party to be the voice of and for lower to middle income people, and that's where my income has mostly been throughout my life. Furthermore, I believe in the ideals of humanism and liberalism, and American Civil Liberties, specifically as they are written in the Bill of Rights. And in spite of his deplorable behavior and status as a slaveowner, I have been an admirer of Thomas Jefferson. These things have made me a follower of The Donkey, the Party of the People.

In truth, I've felt more attracted to such "third" parties as the Liberal party, the Greens, and the various Socialist and Communist manifestations that decorate some of our ballots here in the Land of the Free. But there are always problems with this, under the reality that what we have here in Columbia the Gem is a Two-Party System. A vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George Bush. And apparently in some places it really, really was a vote for George Bush. And furthermore, there are a lot more local elections than national ones, and the local ones tend to be mostly Elephants, Donkeys, Initiatives, and Judges.

So it is to the Democrats that I turn for hope, most of the time. And although I can hear the howls and groans as I say this, my life was better during the 8 years of Mr. Clinton than it was before or after. So it is unsurprising if not exactly logical that I find myself looking wistfully toward the ranks of the 2008 Democratic hopefuls, peering intently, trying to find some glowing ember that could be fanned into the flame of Victory. And it was more than a little uplifting last November when "my" party won back the majority in Congress.

But now that Mrs. Pelosi and her entourage have had 5 months in office, and the Primary Contenders are revealing themselves, what golden ideas, what inspired message, what hopeful platform have they constructed on which to build that new shining ideal USA in the Post-Iraq Debacle Peak Oil Environmental Disaster Era?

What hopeful platform indeed.

Cindy Sheehan, that unfortunate and brave lady who lost her son in the Oil War, did her best to carry her message to the country. John Nichols, writing in The Nation, quoted her thus:

"...when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of 'right or left,' but 'right and wrong.'"
Sheehan asks too much of our Elected Representatives: she asks that they actually take a stand and do something. Something that might be unpopular, could have repercussions, could actually be wrong. That's the thing, in my mind, the old saying that us working stiffs have: "People who don't do anything never make mistakes." Sheehan asked that the Donkeys, elected to the majority in the Congress of the USA by a people sick of a senseless war for the Last Drops, fulfill their implicit promise to their constituency and begin the end of Bush's Folly.

So what did they do? First, they bravely presented a Bill to His Shrubliness that he had already promised not to sign. The boy from Crawford kept his promise. And they didn't have the votes to override the veto. So they caved. Yep. They voted another $120 Billion with a B to keep it going just a Little Longer. Because, after all, you can't just abandon our boys and girls over there.

Mrs. Sheehan, quoted by Laura Flanders in The Guardian:

"There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage.

"... What stakes do they have in keeping this occupation going?"

And that's how I'm feeling, too. Who are these people? Why do I vote for them? In what way do they "represent" my interests? This isn't about politics, or your phony "careers," or the Glorious Democratic Party, either. It's about not killing hundreds more people in the (slim) hope of preserving some semblance of stability in the Middle East so that we can continue draining it of crude to keep our Suburbans and Tahoes and Navigators and (God Help Us) Hummers on the highways. I don't care if millions of ignorant morons will send you badly spelled emails calling you lackeys of Satan. I don't care if you don't get re-elected. I don't care if you have to duct tape a piece of rebar down the middle of your back because you don't have a spine. We elected you worthless bags of wind to End The War so get busy and end it.

And I am not fooled by the "no" votes of the Presidential Hopefuls. Bad news, Dems: I am not the smartest guy in the USA, either. So probably a few million other Americans noticed that your "No" votes didn't mean a damned thing in the foregone conclusion of passage of the $120 Billion Bill to Kill some more American boys and girls (and a few thousand more Iraqis, too, incidentally). You keep your voting record, put it on your wall or something. If one of you people had stood up in the House or the Senate, screaming bloody murder, promising to resign her or his post and party affiliation if that bill was passed, and then gone through with it! Ah, then we would have seen something like America! America, the land of the Free and the home of the Brave, where people stand up for what they believe in and hang the consequences.

I know, I'm irrational.

No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter, or any heroism it may inspire. Our legislators have not yet learned the comparative value of free-trade and of freedom, of union, and of rectitude, to a nation. They have no genius or talent for comparatively humble questions of taxation and finance, commerce and manufacturers and agriculture. If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations.
From Civil Disobedience, Part III, paragraph 18, Henry David Thoreau 1849

20 May 2007

A Plausible Explanation

Kurt Vonnegut is dead, but his wisdom is not. In The Nation, Robert Scheer writes about Vonnegut's theory that there are Psychotic Personalities (PPs), "the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences." Scheer's article is entitled The Scum Also Rises, and focuses on the recent Paul Wolfowitz debacle, but he points out that many others in the present administration, and many of the so-called neoconservative movement, fit this personality description rather well.

This brings up the question of blame: is a person who is pathologically devoid of morality responsible for his acts? When he knowingly brings pain and adversity to others in the world is he excused by virtue of his "problem?" Scheer answers this question in pointing out that Vonnegut said quite clearly that such personalities would be fully aware of the suffering that they cause, that they simply do not (can not?) care, and so have no mental mechanism whereby to control their own actions simply because they are damaging to others. Knowing this, is it not logical and sensible that we would keep such PPs as far away from positions of responsibility as possible? Asking whether or not they are to blame is beside the point: to avoid the destruction that the Wolfowitzes, the Bushes, the Rumsfelds, the Cheneys, and other PPs both identified and unidentified, cause and will continue to cause, these misfits must not again be elected or appointed to the type of positions they occupy today.

Piece of cake. All we have to do is inform the American Public (or actually the 40% of it that votes) and at the same time insist on accountability from all elected representatives such as Senators and Congressman who investigate and approve executive appointments at all levels. Yep. That's it.

But seriously, one finds oneself wondering about this phenomenon. Is it new? And if so, from whence cometh it? Nature or nurture? Are we perhaps breeding PPs in our acquistion-crazy competitive football videogame culture? To greatly oversimplify (skipping over matters of class, environment, ancestry): perhaps some of us become Homer Simpson, some Mr. Burns. There are more Homers, but that's the way of the world. And it only takes a handful of PPs to search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an oil-rich country ruled by an unpopular dictator, bully a law through Congress that makes a mockery of the Bill of Rights in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in US history, illegally imprison an unknown number of foreign nationals in a US military base on an island in the Caribbean, illegally and unethically commit a wholesale firing of civil servants, i.e. US Attorneys, because they failed to toe the party line and investigate "voter fraud" complaints vigorously enough, etc., etc.

On bad days, I think that we have exactly the leadership that we deserve.

At other times, I think that the tyrants of today gave up old-fashioned tyranny a few decades ago. They probably chuckle at the antics of Kim Jong Il and Senior General Than Shwe (of Burma). Our new, 21st century totalitarians are believers in that timeworn cliche from Sales meetings immemorial: "Work smarter, not harder." Why bother ordering all those people around, controlling their hearts and minds, regimenting and directing their lives? It's much easier to control the masses by manipulating the economy and starting a phony war.