Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cuban Missile Crisis Redux

Just read that the Russians are planning Naval exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean later this year, in what seems to me to be a predictable response to US meddling in Eastern Europe.

This is reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which at the time was presented here at home as Soviet aggression in Cuba, but which was actually a reaction to US placement of missiles in Turkey. What finally ended the crisis was not, as popularly thought, simply the threat of nuclear war ("Kruschev blinked") but was rather a quiet agreement for us to remove our missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Russians removing theirs in Cuba.

I can predict that we will read a slew of self-righteous articles in the right-wing press about the Russian insult to the USA (how dare they meddle in our hemisphere!) along with ominous threats from the Bush administration. And, of course, a supporting chorus will be provided by FOX News and other organs of the national stupidity. No doubt, Mssrs. O'Reilly and Limbaugh will demand that we nuke Moscow or something equally helpful.

Kennedy was a hawk, but not as stupid a hawk as Bush is. If Bush were Kennedy, we might see a gradual reversal of our policy of courting the Georgians and the Poles and trying to put missile technology on Russia's border. But, since Bush is Bush, we're more likely to see Ms. Rice sent on a a so-called goodwill tour of other countries on Russia's borders to let them know of our committment to "freedom and democracy," while getting them to sign onto missile (defense) systems for their own countries.

It seems that, in the last few months of his lame-duck presidency, Bush wants to add to his legacy of pissing off the middle east and our former allies in western europe, by bringing back the cold (and maybe not so cold) war as well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It's all over for the special interests

Oh really? I think McCain must mean grassroots groups like MoveOn or People for the American Way, since he likes to bash those sorts of pesky libruls.

As for the special interests that have been in charge of the country for decades, those are his buddies -- I can hardly imagine he is going to repudiate them. And how could he, running, as he does, under the banner of the party that owes everything to the rich and powerful? And why is he complaining about special interests anyhow? After all, in the past 28 years Republicans have controlled Congress, the Presidency, or both quite a bit of the time. Is he dissatisfied with the job they did? Then why not run as an independant or a Democrat or a socialist (haha)? You certianly can't repudiate the direct consequences of Republican leadership while running as a Republican.

Oh, but, here in America, where politics are entertainment, you can do just that. You can espouse the principles of the Republican party, while pretending to condemn all the problems that lead from the application of those principles.

What does this say for the claim that "it's all over for the special interests"? As my mother would say, it's just a lot of hot air.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Beating the Repubs at their own game

My friend Michael sent me a link to an article about why Sarah Palin shouldn't be under-estimated. The aritcle discusses George Lakoff's assessment of Republican strategy. My reading of his argument is that , while the Democrats may have a better grasp of reality, the Republicans are able to connect to the hearts and minds of voters.

I think it's a brilliant analysis, but with fatally flawed conclusion, it seems to me. Having correctly I think diagnosed that the campaign is not about reality but rather about symbolism, he then posits what is essentially a reality-based response, which is encapsulated in his sentence --

Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney.

But that sort of reality-based, truth-invested approach is what he says doesn't work --- and it clearly doesn't where the populace is asleep in a shared dream of Reagan's hometown Amerika.

I don't think people like Lakoff or people like us can really accept what is necessary to nullify the Repubs -- and that is to be as dirty, unprincipled, dishonest, manipulative, sleazy, and generally uncaring about anything but winning as they are. And I don't advocate it either, because I think if you decide you can borrow the Devil as a kind of hired thug -- just for a short while -- the next thing you know you are the Devil.

What I realized last night -- just from hearing second-hand about the Repub convention -- I couldn't bear to watch it -- is that Amerikan conservatism, especially since Reagan, makes me feel ambivalent about the right of free speech and makes me empathize with how authoritarian governments can get themselves into the no-win battle of suppressing dissidents, sending them off to gulags, confiscating their writings, etc. What we have in the Repubs is what the Russkies used to call reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries. I can't help feeling from time to time that a Jacobin-style purge would be a good thing. Much as I know it's wrong (do I?) there would be something at least temporarily satisfying about sending them all to the guillotine. But, then, of course, see my comment about the Devil above.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All pandering, all the time

There's plenty of equine excrement flowing from the propaganda organs of both parties as the 2008 election grinds along. But honestly, what emanates from the Republicans seems to be nothing but pandering. There's not an original idea nor anything that smells like risk-taking (if you don't count McCain's choice for VP, which seems rather risky to me) in their various pronouncements.

Their ideas on foreign policy?
The war in Iraq was a good idea. We need more foreign policy based on waving the national dick in the air.

Their ideas on the economy?
* Americans are taxed too much. Even though, since 1980, American economic policy has been in the hands of neocon economists and the politicians who venerate them. Taxes on the rich have gone down steadily in that time and the economy has gotten weaker and weaker as our national debt has gotten larger and larger. Yet the Republicans still think taxes should be lower.

Their ideas on energy policy?
* Have a gas tax holiday. Even though this would encourage consumption and not make much difference to real people. And, even if it did, how come the public has to take a hit by losing gas tax revenue while the oil companies continue to rake in record profits? Instead of an 18c/gal gas tax holiday, why not an 18c/gal oil company discount? Why is big oil's "right" to make record profits protected by plundering the American people's tax revenue stream? After all, if lowering the cost of gasoline is such good policy, then let the oil companies chip in something, too.

* Drill for more oil in the few places we haven't raped and pillaged yet. Scientists and resource economists have been warning for decades that -- wonder of wonders -- petroleum is not an unlimted resource. Yet Republicans have blocked every effort at conservation or alternative energy development. Now that the stark reality of what should have been obvious for years is smacking them in the ballot box, their brilliant new idea is to drill for more and more of what we will have less and less of as time goes on.

* Improve automobile efficiency. A good idea finally - why then have Republicans blocked every effort over the past 50 years to force Detroit to build more efficient cars? Only when we are in the middle of a crisis do they grudgingly admit that maybe we might be able to have a fleet average mileage above 25 mpg. And, were the price of oil to drop suddenly, they would be back leading the fight against conservation and efficiency.

* Subsidize fuel-efficient cars with tax credits. A good idea, but one that has already been in place for several years.

* Build more nuclear power plants. I'm personally not averse to this, but the Republicans blithely refuse to acknowledge that there might be any risks or problems to solve (such as waste disposal) in doing this.

Their ideas on the unravelling of the American family?

* More religion, less abortion

What is worse than the low-brow, grinding stupidity of their ideas is the sanctimonious manner in which they are presented; any questioning is greeted with "You don't you care about the American family?!"

Do Republicans have their fingers crossed behind their backs when they say these things? Are they so cynical that they know it's all nonesense, but it's what's needed to motivate their voters? Or are they so stupid as to truly believe that ideas which have proven resoundingly to be bad public policy in the past are great ideas now?

I don't know which is worse -- the notion that the Republican party has been hijacked by cynical sleazebags or simply that they are well-meaning idiots.