George McGovern

October 17, 2012

I caught a few seconds of a favorable recap of George McGovern’s life on the TV in my office lobby (Whaaa Favorable?) and checked in, only to find out that he is near the end of his life.  McGovern is generally dismissed these days as an out of touch super-liberal who was buried in a Nixon landslide.

Well, let’s see:

  • He wanted to end poverty in America, and guarantee all working people an income sufficient to live with dignity.
  • He wanted to end the stupid and murderous war in Vietnam.
  • He wanted to enact a health care system that would ensure that everyone got high quality care.
  • He wanted to ensure that American citizens enjoyed their civil rights.
  • He actually spoke the truth in his work as a politician, as in this bit recounted at Wikipedia: 

“It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.”

The Senate reacted in startled, stunned silence, and some faces showed anger and fury; when one member told McGovern he had been personally offended by the speech, McGovern said, “That’s what I meant to do”. 

So, we got Richard Nixon instead:

  • He was actually a lot more ‘liberal’ on issues of poverty and government support than today’s Republicans!
  • He said he wanted to end the Vietnam War, but he had alread spent four years, conducted several massive expansions and bombing campaigns , ended thousands of lives (hundreds of thousands of Asian lives) on a purported ‘end the war’ policy.
  • He wasn’t interested in civil rights for Americans, especially those who didn’t like him.  So he went and burglarized McGovern’s offices, broke into medical files, bugged people’s lines, made enemies lists, etc…
  • He spoke the truth occasionally, but it may have been by accident.

Oh yes, have we forgotten?  He resigned rather than face certain conviction in an impeachment trial brought up on just some of his sordid mis-deeds.

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Americans Speak Out: We Want Our Welfare State!

October 17, 2012

Posted Image

A recent study queried Americans about their preferences regarding wealth distribution, and found “a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.”  When asked to choose from among three charts representing wealth distributions of unnamed countries, Sweden was the favorite.  But oh, those suicide rates!

Here, I want to go on record as a champion of The Welfare State, so much abused and denigrated now.  Society exists to provide food, clothing and shelter to its members.  Nowadays, it also is supposed to supply medical care and other aids to well being.  I see the welfare state as a higher stage in the evolution of society: it is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the social realm have at least the minimum acceptable level of these social goods.  Very simple.

Critics will argue that welfare states don’t meet those goals, but the Scandinavians certainly are a good counter-argument.  Or, they can argue that that type of society cannot work here – more American exceptionalism, but in a bad way!  And they will say, that ultimately, our free-wheeling system provides more to more people, but those people seem to have other ideas.

Americans – get your act together.  We Want a Welfare State Now!

click for source


Esa mitología cubana viejo…

October 16, 2012

[NOTE – 10/22:  On the news today, I heard a statement that Kennedy “quietly removed several obsolete missiles from Turkey” in exchange for the USSR turning backs its ships with nukes for Cuba.  More jingoistic spin.  If they were obsolete, why where they placed there (and in Italy) just the year before?

By calling them obsolete, the idea is conveyed that JFK gave up nothing significant, only making a gesture to help Kruschev save face. ]

An Op-Ed piece in the times today (The Price of a 50-Year Myth) examines those old myths of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and their destructive effect on subsequent American policy.  I’m not so sure about his teasing out of the policy implications, but the notes on the distortions of what actually happened during the crisis are illuminating.

JFK, for all his ideological bluster and image mongering, was a practical, some would say cynical, guy.  Maybe he was one of the ruling elite who did not believe his own propaganda.  He was willing to cut a deal to avoid a nuclear conflagration, and he did so.  After all, he provoked the crisis by placing nukes in Turkey, right up against the USSR border, something they regarded as threatening – wonder why? – so he took the option of removing the missiles in exchange for Krushchev turning back his ships headed with nukes to Cuba.  The article points out that the boats were thirty hours sailing time away from the US blockade when they turned back – not quite the eyeball to eyeball macho facedown of legend.  The writer thinks that the power-elite believed their own spin, and used it to justify future exercises in destructive brinksmanship. 

Well, brinksmanship was brought to the public eye by John Foster Dulles, and was a well established posture for dealing with the USSR, so the Cuban Missile Crisis was not its source.  And JFK, as William Manchester said, was almost as good at crisis management as crisis creation.  I give him credit for not caving to the militarist lunacy of advisors like General Curtis LeMay (a.ka. Colonel Jack Ripper.)  But the image of an American president who negotiates with a powerful adversary to avoid a crisis, and even backs down from a provocation, is not part of the American self-image of global swagger, so it has been covered over with political pabulum and secrecy.


Slaves of Capital, All

October 10, 2012

 

A few weeks ago, Alexander Saxton died, so I went and read his essay on blackface minstrelsy.  You can read the complete paper here.  I had heard of it, but never actually read it, and it was interesting.

So then I decided to read one of his books, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic.  It contains a chapter that is basically the same content as the minstrelsy essay, and covers the political history of the 19th century USA with a focus on the importance of race, but each chapter can almost be read as a separate piece.  It is not a history of racist ideas, but a political history of the USA, but the depressing fact is that racist ideas are integral to that history.

The book isn’t even exclusively about racism regarding Africans, despite the seismic disturbances caused by slavery in the early Union.  No, the other race, the one that had to be exterminated, the Native Americans, is treated at length, and it is instructive to see how various parties sometimes took divergent views on the two.  The Jacksonian Democrats wanted to liquidate the Indians to get their land, and restrict slavery, and blacks, to the South because they hated the planter aristocrats, and feared black labor competition.  The Whigs, the upper-crust opposition to the Jacksonians, wanted to protect the Indians, all the while hoping they would gradually die off or assimilate, in order to have an excuse to limit slavery to the South.  They were happy to have free blacks in the territories as they had no love for a labor monpoly by the Jacksonian producers.   Besides, they were looking forward to industrialization, and they just wanted free labor, free to accept their wages.

Along the way, a lot of unsavory racial ideology is unearthed and associated with people you might not otherwise think of in the history of imperialism and racism, such as Walt Whitman:

Who believes that Whites and Blacks can ever amalgamate in America?  Or who wishes it to happen?  Nature has set an impassable seal against it.  Besides, is not American for the Whites? And is it not better so?

Editorial in The Eagle, 1858

Yes, the whole thing is quite sordid.  After the Civil War, the northern Republicans went to town on their industrial program, and racism continued to serve handily, and was often employed by workingmen against one another.  Meanwhile, heroes such as Teddy Roosevelt, took up the pseudo-science of race to justify imperialism abroad and oppression at home, although the negroes did do a fair job at San Juan Hill.  And those Indians..?  Now that they were almost all dead, it was time to wax sentimental about them to assuage one’s guilt at having helped along with their massacre.  Thus, Teddy’s statue in front of the Museum of Natural History in NYC shows him mounted like a Roman emperor, aided by his noble and faithful servant, a red chieftain.

And through it all, the driving force of capital remaking our nation, then the world.  Monuments such as the one of Teddy, dedicated in 1940, seem quaint now.  There is no longer any desire, perhaps no need, to cement the image of heroic, white overlords.  In the midst of our multi-cultural society, with its wide tolerance for racial and ethnic difference, the moving power of great wealth does not need to show its face, to justify itself at all! Abstract corporate art serves nicely. Human figures just arouse controversy.

Saxton refers to the 1890s as a hegemonic crisis, during which the ruling elite actually feared for, perhaps rightly so, their privileges.  They had carried on so brutally as to foment a political counter attack.  Now we have a political system that stages ‘debates’ that seem like grade-school reenactments of democracy.  No public interaction – the audience is just for show.  But the debate is the real show, displaying the importance and control of the corporate media.

Just by coincidence, as I was reading the book, I saw the obituary of another scholar of the slave societies, Eugene Genovese.  The author of Roll , Jordan, Roll:  The Lives the Slaves Made, repudiated his radicalism, and died a repentant and fully-fledged Catholic conservative.


Thank you again, Mr. Romney!

September 18, 2012

 

Once again, Mitt Romney tells it like it is!  Could we ask for a better statement of the views of the power elite than his flippant dismissal of 47% of the United States population as self-victimized freeloaders on the government?  Never mind the facts, which have been rehearsed, to his detriment, ad infinitum, in the news, but he has clearly told us what the mental picture of the land is in the hearts and minds of his monied donors.  (And those that give to the Democrats, too, probably!) 

And as for that other 53%?  I’m sure he knows that it is only that top sliver that does any real productive work, making jobs (disappear) and making piles of money, and the like.  Everyone else is just the hired help.  What a guy!  You gotta love ’em!

Uh…but these latest remarks sort of contradict the ones quoted in the earlier post.  No matter, it’s always 1984 somewhere!


Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon

June 17, 2012

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out
the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another
country to be part of

Phil Ochs

 

This is the fortieth anniversary of the Watergate burglary, which eventually led to the resignation of Crook-in-Chief, Richard Nixon.  As Woodward and Bernstein’s summary of the affair points out, it was far, far worse than we knew at that time.  Years of investigation and trials have filled out the picture of the presidency, transformed into a “criminal enterprise,” a racket, not unlike those that festered around the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Milosevic, and other characters happily gone.  When he resigned, my mother danced a little jig for joy – They got him!  They finally got him! – but his rehabilitation was pursued relentlessly by himself, and his hangers-on right from the get-go, not without success.

Read the Woodward and Bernstein piece, or just sing along with Phil:

Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon

Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon
For underneath his borders the devil draws the line
If you drag his muddy rivers nameless bodies you will find
And the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes
And the calendar is lyin’ when it reads the present time
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the schools of Richard Nixon
Where they’re teachin’ all the children they don’t have to care
All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
Oh, there’s nobody learnin’ such a foreign word as “fair”
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the laws of Richard Nixon
Where the wars are fought in secret, Pearl Harbor every day
He punishes with income tax that he don’t have to pay
And he’s tapping his own brother just to hear what he would say
But corruption can be classic in the Richard Nixon way
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the churches of Richard Nixon and Billy Graham
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday mornin’ sermons pander to their lust
All the fallen face of Jesus is chokin’ in the dust
And Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the government of Richard Nixon
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always boggin’ down
And criminals are posing as advisors to the crown
And they hope that no one sees the sights and no one hears the sound
And the speeches of the President are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

This song is a rewrite of his earlier song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi”


La gauche et la droite en France

June 9, 2012

click for article/source

The photo above is from an article about the battle for control of the French parliament now that a socialist has won the presidency.  The woman on the left (ha!) is Marine Le Pen the far-right, anti-immigrant, nativist who has made a career on her papa’s (Jean Le Pen) ideas.  The man to the right is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the left-wing candidate.

I find the slogans interesting.  Le Pen’s is, “Your only defender,” or “The Only One to Stand Up for You,” appealing to the frustrated sense of victimhood that fuels popular movements everywhere, often with a fascist tinge. It would not be out of place in a Tea Party setting.

Mélenchon’s is “Take the power.”  Can you imagine such a slogan in the US?  What I find intriguing is that it recognizes that there is power to be taken!  Here, we assume that we have it already, people-power, democracy, all that.  His slogan would amount to class-war heresy here in the US.