Archive for the ‘Parliamentary cretinism’ Category

Nation Building

June 14, 2014


Why does it seem as though armies trained by the US always turn out to be a joke? The South Vietnamese army (gone, but not forgotten) was famously ineffective, finally collapsing in the face of a North Vietnamese offensive. The US-trained Afghan army has been unimpressive. The US trained the Nigerian army, and they have proven to be useless in fighting the psychopaths that make up Boko Haram. (The US has sent advisors to Nigeria to do some more training. Maybe they will get it right this time.) And now, the Iraqi army, which the US spent $25 billion to train, has fled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, abandoning it to an army of religious fanatics.

At the risk of sounding conspiracist, I can’t help but suspect that perhaps this is deliberate. Making sure other countries have weak armies keeps them dependent on the US. What’s more, it means their armies can never pose a threat to the US. (The logic here is not unlike that of Trotskyist and Maoist sects, which keep their front groups weak, so they can never pose a threat to them.)

The Campaign

August 21, 2012

In a post earlier this year, I deplored the dearth of good movie comedies in recent years. It seems I spoke too soon, for I’ve seen four good comedies this year: Damsels in Distress, Moonrise Kingdom, Bernie, and now The Campaign. Although broad in its humor, this film is nevertheless a shrewd satire of the corruption and moral hypocrisy that pervade our political system.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), a priapic Democratic congressman from North Carolina, is running unopposed for re-election, until he comes into the cross-hairs of the billionaire Motch brothers (Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow), whose factories in China employ child labor. They want to open up similar factories in Brady’s congressional district. To this end, they persuade Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the well-intentioned, but not terribly bright, scion of a wealthy family, to run against Brady as a Republican. When Brady humiliates Huggins in their first debate, the Motches decide to bring in Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), an unprincipled political operator, to run Huggins’s campaign. Under Wattley’s tutelage, Huggins becomes an increasingly ruthless campaigner. Soon he and Brady are in a tight race.

The Campaign accurately parodies the shallow rhetoric of election campaigns in this country, including pandering to religious prejudice, spouting about “family values”, and making cheap appeals to patriotism. This movie’s cynicism, however, goes overboard sometimes. When, for example, Brady releases a video of himself having sex with Huggins’s wife, Mitzi (Sarah Baker), it causes Brady to pull ahead of Huggins in the polls. Would this happen in real life? Obviously not.

This film has a happy ending that seems tacked on and unconvincing. It seems that that the screenwriters, Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, and the director, Jay Roach, wanted to reassure us that “the system works”, despite having just demonstrated that the system does not work. Still, this movie will provide a welcome relief to those who are weary of this interminable and depressing presidential election.

Cory Booker: Mitt Romney’s Best Friend

May 22, 2012

Cory Booker sharing a laugh with his good buddy, Chris Christie, the morbidly obese governor of New Jersey.

The Democrats have always been an extraordinarily feckless lot, but Newark Mayor Cory Booker has set a record for sheer stupidity. The most potent weapon in the Obama campaign’s meager arsenal is Romney’s history of sleazy business dealings. So, what does Booker do? He goes on Meet the Press and says of the Obama campaign’s criticism’s of Bain Capital, “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough.” In almost no time, the Republicans put out a campaign ad featuring Booker’s comments. They also put out an online petition urging people to “Stand with Cory”. What Booker did was the political equivalent of hitting Obama in the knee with a tire iron.

Booker now complains that the Republicans have “manipulated” his comments. Well, duh. Booker attacks his own party’s electoral strategy, and he is surprised when the Republicans take advantage of this. Oh, please.

The Democrats are a joke. Always have been, always will be.

Third party anyone?

So Long, Arnold

January 4, 2011

Arnold the Mighty, fearless defender of wealth and privilege.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term as Governor of California has ended. He leaves that state the same way he found it, mired in a budget crisis. Schwarzenegger could always have solved that crisis by raising the income tax rate on the richest one percent of Californians, but he steadfastly refused, on principle, to do such a thing. You may recall that several years ago there was a lot of talk of Arnold running for president. There was talk of amending the Constitution so that someone born outside the U.S. could become president. That’s all gone now. Arnold sacrificed his political career just so the richest people in California wouldn’t have to pay higher taxes.

What a guy.

You may recall that Arnold was elected as part of the recall of Governor Gray Davis. Peter Camejo ran as the Green Party candidate in that election. He ran on a solidly left-wing platform, and he actually received a fair amount of attention from the media, something virtually unheard of for a left-wing candidate in the U.S. A strong showing by Camejo would have sent a powerful message. However, some on the left started screaming that Schwarzenegger is a fascist – which he isn’t – and that was enough to stampede people back into the Democratic Party’s fold. So leftists wasted their votes trying to save the sorry ass of the corrupt and incompetent Davis. Once again, we see the self-defeating effect of the “lesser evil” argument.

Arnold’s successor is Jerry Brown, on whom Alexander Cockburn has a man-crush. In his inaugural address, Brown said, “The year ahead will require courage and sacrifice.” I assume he means courage and sacrifice on the part of the working class. Isn’t that always the way it is?

Now Arnold can go back to doing what he does best, which is appearing in action movies. Note that I said “appearing” and not “acting”. This is a guy who gets paid millions of dollars just to show up for film shoots. A lot of working class people voted for Arnold, yet it was too much to hope that someone with his background would have any sympathy or understanding for people who actually work for a living.

When Stan Tookie Williams was facing execution, Arnold could have done the courageous thing and commuted his sentence, but Mr. Action Hero is actually a coward. Another example of the gap between reality and dreams in Hollywood.

Alexander Cockburn

November 7, 2010

Alexander Cockburn’s latest post provides further evidence that he is moving to the right. He starts off by making the surprising announcement that he voted against California’s Proposition 19 ballot initiative, which would have more or less legalized marijuana use. Cockburn says he did so because “I didn’t see legalization doing our local Humboldt economy any favors, and I never liked the way the Prop was written anyway.” I take it that what Cockburn is referring to here is that the measure would have allowed the state and local governments to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. Well, I would rather have that than people being thrown in jail for possessing the stuff. The measure was not perfect, but it was a step in the direction of eliminating this country’s draconian anti-drug laws. Cockburn is apparently less concerned about this than he is that pot growers in Humboldt County might be inconvenienced.

Cockburn then announced that he voted for Jerry Brown, and he “felt good about that too”. Brown is a rabid supporter of California’s obscene “Three Strikes” law, which has resulted in people being given life sentences for petty, non-violent crimes, and which has helped turn California’s prison system into a vast warehouse of human beings. He justifies this by saying that Brown was not as bad as his opponent, Meg Whitman. Cockburn used to be a critic of this sort of lesser evil argument. During the 2004 election, he inspired me and many other people with his steadfast resistance to the “Anybody But Bush” hysteria that was sweeping the left.

Cockburn’s website, Counterpunch, still carries some good articles, such as one by his brother, Patrick on Al Qaida, as well as one by Joseph Ramsey that rightly skewers Michael Moore. Yet Cockburn himself has become increasingly problematic. What’s more, he has become increasingly quarrelsome towards the rest of the left, as when he lashed out at Louis Proyect, who had rightly criticized him for his global warming quackery. One can only hope that Cockburn doesn’t go off the deep end the way Christopher Hitchens did.

The Oregon Elections

November 5, 2010

Six more years of this.

Here in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District, the Democrat, Pete DeFazio, beat a bizarre Republican candidate, Art Robinson, by only six percentage points. Robinson, who has a PhD in chemistry, has called for abolishing public education. (Robinson sells home schooling kits over the Internet. I’m sure this is purely a coincidence.) Robinson denies global warming and claims that low-level radiation can be good for you. He spent an enormous amount of money on his campaign. His signs were everywhere. He even paid people to drive around with his signs stuck to their cars.

DeFazio has a reputation for being one of the more liberal members of Congress. In a liberal district, why did a right-wing nutjob like Robinson get such a large percentage of the vote? During the campaign, DeFazio made much of the fact that he voted against Obama’s stimulus bill, citing this as evidence of his “independence”. I don’t think this was too bright, considering that many people (myself included) got bigger refund checks because of Obama’s tax cuts. DeFazio should have voted for the stimulus bill and against Obama’s fraudulent “health care reform” bill. (DeFazio is terrible on immigration. He opposes amnesty and calls for beefing up “border security”.) God save us from “liberal” Democrats like DeFazio.

Ron Wyden, another Democrat, was re-elected to the Senate. Like DeFazio, Wyden had the cajones to vote against the bank bailouts, but, like DeFazio, he meekly went along with the health care flim-flam. Wyden’s opponent, somebody named Huffman, was an idiot. Huffman mailed out a campaign flyer that showed a picture of a toilet bowl. The caption read, “This is the state of Oregon’s economy.” Below that was a picture of a roll of toilet paper made out of $100 bills. The caption for this read, “This is Wyden’s plan to save it.” (The color scheme of the flyer was red, white and blue. Get it?) My mother became visibly upset when she found this in her mail. She held it out to me and said, “This is the most vulgar election ad I have ever seen.” She was so angry that she could barely speak. I took the thing from her hand and threw it in the trash. My mother is eighty-one years old, so that tells you something.

Much to my surprise, a measure to enable the medical use of marijuana was voted down. This is in a state where cannabis is a major cash crop, and where I have seen some people brazenly smoking pot in public. I’m still trying to figure out the reason for this defeat. I will write about it in a future post.

Democrats Fall Down, Go Boom

November 3, 2010

I had been planning to write another snarcky post about the stupid e-mails that the Democratic Party keeps sending me, but it began to seem to me like kicking a dead mule. It was clear the Dems were going to take a drubbing, and tonight it has come to pass. The Republicans have taken control of the House and have picked up seats in the Senate. The Democrats have nobody but themselves to blame for this. After controlling Congress for four years, they have nothing to show for themselves but a a fraudulent health care reform bill and a fraudulent finance reform bill. They made no effort to punish the banksters who wreaked the economy. They did not deserve to win these elections.

What’s sad about all this is that the Republicans truly deserved to lose. Their behavior was utterly contemptible: whipping up hatred of Mexicans and Muslims, claiming that unemployed people are lazy, and so on. They subjected us to the shenanigans of the racist and ignorant Tea Party. We can find some comfort in the fact that some of the dumber Republicans lost, such as Sharron Angle, who claimed that they have sharia law in Dearborn, Michigan. (She says she knows this because she read it in an article somewhere. So far as Angle is concerned, Dearborn might as well be on the dark side of the moon.) Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller also lost. (However, the despicable Rand Paul appears to have won.) Perhaps this will finally lay to rest the idea that Sarah Palin is an important political player in this country, but I fear that the media will find some way to spin it as a victory for the Mooseburger Lady.

Another sad note is that Russ Feingold, the only Senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act, has apparently lost.

What remains to be seen is what effect this will have on Obama. He has been in office for less than two years, and he’s already beginning to seem as irrelevant as George W. Bush did during his second term. Forget the oil spill, Obama’s Katrina was the health care bill. He used all his political capital to pass an insipid piece of legislation that will actually hurt many people. From that point on, he has been completely out of touch. Last summer he and his family went on expensive and much publicized vacations, while the country was stewing with a 20% unemployment rate. He talks about going after Social Security and Medicare, the two most popular government programs.

With the Republicans controlling the House, my fear is that Obama may be tempted to do something rash in order to regain the initiative, such as attacking Iran or something equally stupid. Whatever happens, it’s not going to be fun.

Republican Sleaze

August 31, 2010

The cynicism of the Republicans is just amazing. Not content with whipping up hatred of Mexicans, they’re now whipping up hatred of Muslims as well. They’ve decided that the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan is a convenient straw man to use as a target for people’s anger and frustration. If this means trampling on the First Amendment and inciting violence against Muslims, so be it.

The Republican strategy really is to run as the party of “no”. They don’t even pretend to have anything to offer voters. They can’t even come up with a clever gimmick, such as the “Contract with America” that they touted in the 1994 elections. So instead they’re going to appeal to all of people’s worst instincts. In a rational world, this would be a recipe for electoral disaster. Instead, the Republicans may well win control of the House of Representatives. Why? Because our electoral system is set up so that voters have no choice but to go back and forth between two parties that don’t represent their interests. Two years ago the Republicans suffered a crushing defeat because of the recession. Now, because that recession is still with us, the voters will put these same Republicans back in office. Nobody in the media bothers to point out the obvious absurdity of all this. Instead we’re told that this is “proof” that our democratic system works. Well, yeah, I guess it does work for the bankers and for Wall Street. But not for anybody else.

Update: Newt Gingrich is to the right of Mussolini on Islam.

More Thoughts on Rand Paul

May 22, 2010

In an article that not quite defends Rand Paul, Alexander Cockburn puts forth a sophisticated form of the “lesser evil” argument that he used to reject. He points out that Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway, is a neo-con Democrat of the worst kind. He argues that because of his libertarianism, Paul is more likely to be a “wild card” in the Senate, one who might do such things as filibuster a bank bailout. I can’t really buy this. Since Paul has been willing to defend BP, I think it’s a bit optimistic to expect him to stand up to the banks. He will more likely devote his energies to trying to pass anti-immigrant and anti-abortion legislation and to shredding what little is left of the social safety net. Having a wild card doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a winning hand.

This latest argument by Cockburn is related to one that he has made from time to time over the years: that there can be a “left-right” alliance. If I remember correctly, he first brought up this idea during the 1996 election. Cockburn got all excited when Pat Buchanan made some vaguely populist noises during the primaries. He started to suggest that Buchanan could be some sort of ally. This idea was a non-starter, because of Buchanan’s rabid anti-immigrant stance, not to mention his hatred for the left. It’s absurd to think that immigrants and minorities can march side-by-side with racists and xenophobes.

Cockburn says that “liberalism is in awful crisis”, which is true. However, that is precisely why the left doesn’t need to make any cynical deals with the far right. Now more than ever is the time to put forward a genuinely left program.

A Bitter Pill

March 21, 2010

Somebody once defined a fanatic as someone who redoubles his efforts after he’s forgotten what it is that he’s trying to do. I suppose that by that definition the Democrats and their supporters qualify as fanatics. The only important thing to them is that Congress pass a health care bill. The question of what the bill will actually do is irrelevant. Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean all say that we must support this legislation because… well, because it’s labeled “health care reform”. Isn’t that a good enough reason for you?

Supporters of this bill would do well to ask themselves why the bill is designed so that most of the provisions won’t take effect until 2014. (Interestingly enough, this will be after Obama stands for re-election.) Could it be that the authors of this bill realize that when the full impact of it is felt, people won’t like it?

Thirty-three states are planning legal challenges to this bill. This could be significant. (You may recall that it was lawsuits by states that stopped the Bush administration from going through with its plans to issue national id cards.) Of course, most of these states are probably opposed to the legislation for all the wrong reasons. That’s the sorry state of U.S. politics today: we have to rely on reactionary state governments to defend us from reactionary legislation that’s been gussied up to look “progressive”.

Update: I have since learned that the quote is from George Santayana. His exact words were: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.”

I watched some of the final debates on TV. They were about abortion, as if the health and welfare of Americans were matters of secondary importance.