Friday, March 27, 2009

The Un-Civil War

Michele BachmannCyberspace was all abuzz a few years ago when a certain self-described time traveler by the name of John Titor began to post on several sites. Although he was careful not to predict the future, he did reveal why he was here: to retrieve a certain IBM computer that was needed in the future.

Perhaps wittingly or unwittingly, he revealed a few other things that we will have the opportunity to confirm over time.

One of those things was his insistence that this country will embroil itself in a civil war:

"The civil war in the United States will start in 2004. I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse. The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII."

He said other things that were born out, but we're still waiting to see if Titor's civil war prediction will become a reality.

Now, I'm not saying that I believe Titor's predictions of a civil war, as it might have occurred on his worldline, instead of ours, if you believe him at all.

I bring up Titor because of the current hint of a civil war in the air since Obama became president. The volume on it is slowly increasing, and at the rate it's growing, especially with the recession and the possibility that we might descend into the quicksand of a depression, Titor's prediction is beginning to take on the brilliant sharpness of reality.

Certain people are peddling some rather dangerous language. Consider the following:

"Controversial Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said this weekend that she wants residents of her state "armed and dangerous" over President Barack Obama's plan to reduce global warming 'because we need to fight back.'

"Asked about the White House-backed cap-and-trade proposal to reduce carbon emissions, Bachmann told WWTC 1280 AM, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us 'having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,' and the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States."

FoxNews, and in particular Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, are seemingly operating as vanguards for this civil war, and, by so doing, are doing the country a disservice and possibly stirring a pot of discontent that could spill over into something that could be dangerous for the democracy that we have carefully crafted in this country. More here.

Even the actor, Chuck Norris, has gotten in on the act:

"How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution? We the people have the authority according to America's Declaration of Independence...."

Glenn Greenwald has written for an intriguing article looking at this new American phenomenon.

Now whether republicans wish to have a real civil war is immaterial. That they would bring up the possibility at all speaks volumes. Are they telling us that a two-party system is bad for America? Are they saying that only conservatives should be in charge of the government?

Why are they using such inflammatory and un-American rhetoric as a "civil war" in their talking points regarding their proposed take back of the country?

For many these are scary times. And scared people can be talked into doing some rather desperate things.

What is needed is calm, not talk of "civil war," nor talk of not following the leadership of the commander-in-chief, and other such self-destructive and divisive talk.

Obama ran his presidential campaign on the theme of One America. Some republicans are seeking to destroy this new-found American unity--racially, and socially--by exploiting what divides us, and throwing in the ultimate act of civil disobedience, which we call a civil war, or a coup.

When historians look back on these times, they will undoubtedly speak glowingly of a country that grew up enough to elect a black president, and not so glowingly of a certain segment of the country that chooses to meet that adult progress with juvenile behavior--if we can't win by using the rules in place (the U.S. Constitution, and the rule of law), let's do away with the rules, and take by force what we can't take through fair play.

John Titor may or may not be real. He may or may not have seen a civil war for this country. But a war of the magnitude he predicted is still being waged in the hearts and minds of many in our midst and that's a shame.

Let's hope that the war remains in the realm of fantasy, and not in the alleyways of our nation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Stuff Happens"

Bush and GangIn case you thought former vice president Dick Cheney's unhinged interview with Politico six weeks ago was an aberration, along comes more of the same.

John King did the honors, live, on Sunday. (Here's the video.)

Cheney again accused President Obama of making the nation less safe -- without providing a stitch of reliable evidence. He also ducked responsibility for the financial crisis his team left behind, declared victory in Iraq, and confirmed
earlier reports that he found himself at odds with former president George W. Bush after failing to secure a pardon for his onetime chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

Cheney said that in rolling back some of the Bush administration's anti-terror tactics, Obama "is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."

King then offered him the opportunity to back that statement up. "I want to give you a chance -- and take as much time as you want -- to prove it....I know some of this is classified intelligence, but now that you're out of government, to the degree that you can, tell the American people, because of those tactics, because of those, yes, sometimes extreme tactics, we stopped this."

More here.

People who know that they're wrong try hardest to convince others of their rectitude. In this case morality is less the issue than actions that were unconstitutional and violated international treaties.

Bush and Cheney spied on Americans, and condoned torture. In this they violated the principles they swore to uphold. Yet, Cheney refuses to leave the stage, an actor who ad-libs horribly, hour upon hour, after forgetting his lines.

He should have adhered to the customary practice of presidents and vice presidents and not speak ill of the current president and his administration for at least two years.

But Cheney couldn't wait two months before he stomped on the replacement team, accusing them of all sorts of behavior that he believed would ruin the country.

To hear him tell it, Obama inherited a country that had been soundly run for the past eight years. Thanks to Gitmo, the war against al-Qaida in Iraq, and enhanced interrogation techniques, America is now safer than it's going to be under Barack Obama and his appeasement policies.

Translation: We violated the rule of law, the constitution, and international treaties, but it was for a good cause. We kept America safe.

And if President Obama is going to keep America safe, he needs to do the same. Closing Gitmo, suspending rendition, talking with the enemy, leaving Iraq before victory is won--these actions are putting this nation at undue risk for another attack. And for Cheney that's unacceptable.

In Chaney's own words during an interview we have this:

"In an interview Tuesday with Politico, Cheney unyieldingly defended the Bush administration’s support for the Guantanamo Bay prison and coercive interrogation of terrorism suspects.

"And he asserted that President Obama will either backtrack on his stated intentions to end those policies or put the county at risk in ways more severe than most Americans—and, he charged, many members of Obama’s own team—understand.

"'When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al-Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,' Cheney said....

"'The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.'"

This appears to be a preemptive strike from the former vice president, not unlike the one leveled against Saddam and the Iraqi people, using "shock and awe" to demoralize the enemy and reduce their level of resistance.

It had mixed success against the Iraqi military, but it may prove more successful against the new president and a democratic majority congress.

Although conceding that he supports the rule of law, Obama believes that he should be looking forward more than backward at this time when the nation is in the midst of an economic crisis of almost thirties-level depression-era proportions.

Initially I agreed with Obama, but the rhetoric from Cheney has grown louder and more strident, the actions of a man that's calling the president out, challenging him to a dual of a sort.

"Yes, I supported enhanced interrogation techniques. Yes, we achieved our goals of bringing democracy to Iraq."

We went to Iraq ostensibly to disarm Saddam Hussein, and to destroy his weapons of mass destruction. We didn't go there to give Iraqis democracy, nor to stop the brutal killing of Iraqis at Saddam's hand.

Bush and Cheney are forcing a legacy where none exists.

In addition, Cheney is taking credit for winning a war that shouldn't have been waged in the first place. It's like saying, "I killed a man because he looked liked the man who raped my sister."

Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9-11, and the Bush administration's efforts to connect the Iraqi-al-Qaida dots, and a supposed collaboration between the two, ended up being laughable, and downright foolish.

Cheney will continue to taunt Obama with the misdeeds of the Bush administration, hoping to make a case in advance of an Obama legal action, hoping to convince the American people that he acted with this nation's best interest at heart, and did the only thing that could be done to protect us from another terror attack.

Although congress is threatening hearings, probes, and other actions, we'll have to wait and see if it has the will to make Bush and company answer for war crimes, and other domestic irregularities.

This hubris from Cheney should be met with equal hubris from the Obama administration, but I don't think Obama wishes to use his presidency in that way--to open up his administration, and that of future administrations to legislative and legal second-guessing.

Answer Quest:

What action do you believe President Obama should take against Bush, Cheney, and others, regarding torture?

Should congress appoint a special investigator to take a deeper and wider look at the Bush years, with a directive to bring criminal charges, in concert with the Attorney General, if they're warranted?

Should we dismiss legal and constitutional constraints in our efforts to defeat terrorism?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Home Is Where The Heart Is, Or Where It Was

AP) — The NAACP is accusing Wells Fargo and HSBC of forcing blacks into subprime mortgages while whites with identical qualifications got lower rates.

Class-action lawsuits will be filed against the banks Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, Austin Tighe, co-lead counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told The Associated Press.

Black homebuyers have been 3 1/2 times more likely to receive a subprime loan than white borrowers, and six times more likely to get a subprime rate when refinancing, Tighe said. Blacks still were disproportionately steered into subprime loans when their credit scores, income and down payment were equal to those of white homebuyers, he said.

Both Wells Fargo & Co. and HSBC are receiving federal bailout funds. Messages left after hours with the banks were not immediately returned.

Amara Weaver of Milwaukee bought her first home in 1984, receiving a 6.25 percent fixed-rate mortgage. She says she had a steady job as a human resources director for a social services agency, never missed a mortgage payment and maintained excellent credit.

In 2004, she wanted to buy the house next door for her son to live in. She said the bank promised her a low fixed rate for a $40,000 loan, but at the closing, when reading the fine print, she noticed that the rate was actually 11 percent.

"I was blown away," said Weaver, an NAACP member. "I didn't have any choice (but to sign) ... it made me feel violated."

We've all heard the oft-repeated saws: A man's home is his castle. There's no place like home. And my favorite: Home is where the heart is.

Yet, it's hard to see your home as a home when in your heart you know that you have been ripped off by a refi scheme.

More than a decade ago I purchased a home with a mortgage interest rate "price tag" that seemed a bit exorbitant for the times. When I considered refinancing it after a few years of shouldering a mortgage interest in excess of 13%, my loan had been peddled around, and sold so many times that it seemed, almost yearly, I was being notified that I would have to make my payments to yet another mortgage banker.

This happened so many times, I actually forgot who it was that gave me the loan in the first place.

Even after going through reams of paperwork, documenting my net worth and all, I still ended up with a mortgage interest in excess of 8%. And I knew that my credit rating was exceptionally good, because I took great pride in paying my bills on time.

The rate was to be lower than 8%, but at document signing time, I learned that the interest rate would not be as advertised but would be considerably higher. Like the woman in the story above, I felt trapped, and signed because the new interest rate was still lower than what I was paying (around 13%), and I would harbor a resentment that lasted until I sold the house several years later.

Today, with the Internet, and Homebanking, I take a more active control over my finances, my credit score, and my credit worthiness.

At least three times a year I review my credit report for any irregularities, and participate in one of the nationally advertised identity theft insurance programs.

I signed up for the identity theft program because I do so much of my purchasing now online, and although I've installed software to minimize such theft, I still think it's prudent to pay a small fee annually to have that extra layer of consumer protection.

Now, I'm not surprised to learn that some lending institutions have been sticking it to blacks by charging them sub-prime interest rates when they qualify for lower rates.

Although redlining, where loans are actually not given because you live in certain areas, is illegal, I'm sure that it still exists to up the interest rates for those living in so-called "high-risk" areas, despite a person's credit worthiness or ability to pay back.

I would like to see the NAACP be more proactive in protecting black American consumers from predatory lending, as well as acts of redlining.

For years I haven't thought of the NAACP as a relevant organization at all. Where was the organization after Katrina?

Someone talk me down on this one!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The Honeymooners"

This iconic television series, recently made into a movie with an all-star, black cast, taught us a great deal about ourselves as Americans, our values, and how we interacted one with the other.

We have Ralph Kramden, always the wily schemer, drawing his perennial friend, dimwitted Ed Norton, into those schemes, just as Kingfish in Amos 'n' Andy often drew in his dimwitted sidekick, Andy.

In both shows, the Norton character and the Andy character often outwitted their supposedly more intelligent friends and overturned their machinations.

No this blog entry is not about The Honeymooners, nor Amos 'n' Andy, but it is about a honeymoon, and those "honeymooners" that now make up the new administration, and about the criticism that is now being leveled against President Obama's first sixty days in office, as he attempts to maximize his efforts for what will be, after all, a quickly passing four years, without assurances that he will have a second term.

From Republicans feeling a little dizzy from Obama's whirlwind pace, we hear: "You're moving too fast!"

The question of his moving too fast came up early for Obama and his new administration, actually after only his second full day in office.

Polls are mixed as to what pace the new president should set, ranging from 59% saying he's moving at the "right speed" to the 10% that says he's not "moving fast enough," with 25% saying that he's "moving too fast."

The polls wouldn't matter all that much, but for Republicans grousing of recent days urging President Obama to slow down and focus on the economy, an economy, by the way, that they believe shouldn't be focused on at all, but allowed to find its own way, to seek its own bottom, and to find "sea-level" without much government meddling.

“During the campaign we called him 'No Drama Obama' -- the picture of cool, running on his own timetable and refusing to be rushed or thrown off stride. He often seemed to have all the time in the world. But once the election was over, and especially since Inauguration Day, the same 47-year-old has been moving at the political equivalent of the speed of light. Now he seems to have not a moment to lose.

And if this was the extent of the criticism, I would have stopped writing at the last period, but what we hear echoing from "sea to shining sea" is the following:

"For those who reflect further, the question soon becomes one of cost. Can all these rescues be done as the economy weakens dramatically? Are we burdening ourselves and future generations with debts that will come back to beggar us?

"And for the more immediate present, is this any way to accomplish such a historically ambitious agenda?"

Obama has been urged: "One thing at a time, all in good time. Regular order. Slow and steady wins the race."

And for the record, he has summarily ignored his critics and have, through his bold (and some would say reckless) actions, seemingly channeling Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, who yelled, when disaster loomed, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

"Most of us would lean toward a more conventional approach. Tackle the most pressing problems first -- the credit system, the banks and the home mortgages that dragged them both down. Then perhaps more time could be devoted to a tax-cutting, job-creating stimulus plan and a budget that propped up demand while the consumer took a breather."

And some have observed: Obama's path might not be the best path to take in this crisis. Yet, if he doesn't multitask, he may lose the patient altogether, especially if he puts all his efforts into administering a blood transfusion, while disregarding the patient's need for oxygen.

"Solve the economy first? No, says Peter Orszag, the new budget director and another of the Obama wunderkinder. The single biggest obstacle to restarting the economy is the cost of health care, says he, and that means you can't do the one without the other."

So we have President Obama moving with a pace that would test the endurance of lesser men. If this was track, he would give Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt the run of his life, but this is politics, and we see the hurried pace of a president that seems on fire to find a way to put out the fire that he inherited from eight years of a Bush presidency, and six years of a congress dominated by Republicans.

"But once the election was over, and especially since Inauguration Day, the same 47-year-old has been moving at the political equivalent of the speed of light. Now he seems to have not a moment to lose. Deadlines close in from all directions. It is as though he can solve no problem unless he moves to solve them all at once."

Obama knows that the honeymoon won't last. Right now he's America's darling, and despite a little grumbling from the in-laws, he knows that lady politics is fickle, and will be looking elsewhere for a suitable replacement, if he fails in his bid to keep her happy.

He has her affections for the moment, but if he doesn't move quickly with his agenda for the nation, it may be too late, once his poll numbers begin to shift and decline.

If I had the president's ear, I'd tell him to run faster, do more, multitask, do whatever he believes is best for our nation with due haste and deliberation.

I would tell him to ignore his critics. They merely wish to delay his actions until the tide turns, to frustrate his efforts until fortune finds another suitor, and abandons him.

They believe that they can turn your failure into their success, and use your bones to build their monuments.

Don't let them.

"There is an old adage that if you want a job done you should give it to the busiest person available. Busy people tend to be more task-oriented, more efficient and effective. They invite responsibility because they respond to it. People with little to do and time on their hands may in fact have all they can handle.

"Right now this country has committed itself to testing the wisdom of that adage. And a great deal rides on the outcome."

Mr. President the Honeymoon is still in full swing. Your new bride is still blushing, and the Champagne is still chilled.

This is no time to let either go to waste.

Are We Dreaming Or Is It Real? An American Report Card

More than two-thirds of African-Americans believe Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for race relations has been fulfilled, a CNN poll found -- a figure up sharply from a survey in early 2008.

The CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey was released Monday, a federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader and a day before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as the first black U.S. president.

The poll found 69 percent of blacks said King's vision has been fulfilled in the more than 45 years since his 1963 "I have a dream" speech -- roughly double the 34 percent who agreed with that assessment in a similar poll taken last March.

But whites remain less optimistic, the survey found.

"Whites don't feel the same way -- a majority of them say that the country has not yet fulfilled King's vision," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. However, the number of whites saying the dream has been fulfilled has also gone up since March, from 35 percent to 46 percent.

In the 1963 speech, delivered to a civil rights rally on the Mall in Washington, King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

"Has that dream been fulfilled? With the election of Barack Obama, two thirds of African-Americans believe it has," CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said."

In light of this poll, I thought I would investigate the dream myself to see how close we've come to making it a general reality. I thought I would take it one dream at a time and do a kind of metric to see just who has it right, white or black, whether we've seen with Obama's ascension to the presidency, a realization of Dr. King's dream.

I won't be using any hard data, but will be relying on my own observations to reach whatever conclusion seems appropriate.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

This is still a mix bag. Some places have extended equal protection under the law to the lesbian-gay community (permitting marriage), while some states have sought to thwart and suppress those efforts.

Although segregation exists in places, we still see too much de facto segregation to truly say that all men, including women are created equal, when women are still trying to get equal pay for equal work. All in all, I would give America a 'C' in it's efforts to realize this dream.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

Given what little I could find on this subject, it appears that some hopeful signs are occurring on the horizon. Although many would concur that some progress has been made regrading this dream, I believe that I can safely assume that this part of Dr. King's dream hasn't been fully realized, so I would give Georgia a 'C+', fully aware that Georgia was a kind of barometer for racial progress during Dr. King's life.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

Well, I don't have to research this dream, because if the state of Mississippi had been "transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice," it would have made the evening news, and we surely would be in the end-times, and, I might add respectfully, with the second coming right around the corner.

Is that cynical enough!

No, Dr. King's dream has not been fully realized in the state of Mississippi, and I give that state an 'F' in terms of realizing Dr. King's dream. Barack Obama did win Mississippi's Primary thanks to the black vote there, but he lost rather sizably in the presidential race, 56.4% for McCain to 42.8% for Obama. Now if anyone has evidence to support a higher grade, meet me after school, and we'll discuss in in my office.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I'll have to go with my gut here, and say that we're beginning to make some progress in realizing Dr. King's dream. The election of Barack Obama as this nation's first sitting president gives me some hope. I think that by and large this is a reality, but I'm only given the nation a 'B-' here, because we haven't seen a full-court press to up this grade beyond the election of President Obama. I want to see a little more progress before I'm willing to say this is a dream realized.

[I wrote this blog entry some months ago, prior to the Town Hall meetings, gun-toting demonstrators, Birthers, and Deathers, and those folks clamoring for a return to the past. You know who they are--the "I want my country back" crowd. Originally I gave this category a "B-" but with recent developments, I can barely manage a "C," but I'm still hopeful.]

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is a dream not only for our nation, but for the world, and although I'm certain that we can give this nation and the world an 'F-' in this dream category, I'm still hopeful that someday--perhaps sooner, that later--we will rejoice at the realization of this dream for this nation and for all mankind.

So I would say that the whites overall have it right. Dr. King's dreams haven't been fully realized. There's still work to do. But I can also understand black folk's euphoria over the election of Barack Obama as this nation's first African American president, and see his election, if not the culmination of Dr. King's dreams, at least the beginning of them, and that's a good thing.

I would welcome your opinions as to whether Dr. King's 'Dream' has been realized, whether you think we're making progress, or believe that we still got a 'long row to hoe,' and a lot of 'water to carry' before we can say in the words of Dr. King:

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And Dr. King saw progress by the metric of freedom, for he knew where freedom was allowed to thrive, progress would follow. Where freedom was allowed to flourish, our differences wouldn't be as pronounced as those things that bound us together. He saw freedom as the grand leveler, the grand uniter, which this country had to embrace, if it wished to remain great and become even greater.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The One-Drop Rule

On his pre-inaugural visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark for Washington’s African-American community, President Barack Obama was asked by a cashier if he wanted his change back.

“Nah, we straight,” Obama replied.

The phrase was so subtle some listeners missed it. The reporter on pool duty quoted Obama as saying, “No, we’re straight.”

But many other listeners did not miss it. A video of the exchange became an Internet hit, and there was a clear moment of recognition among many blacks, who got a kick out of their Harvard-educated president sounding, as one commenter wrote on a hip-hop site, “mad cool.”

On matters of racial identity, many observers in the African-American community say he benefits from what's known as “dog-whistle politics." His language, mannerisms and symbols resonate deeply with his black supporters, even as the references largely sail over the heads of white audiences.

This is part of the reason that as a candidate, Obama won intense support among African-Americans while never being branded, in the fashion of a Jesse Jackson, as a candidate defined by race.

There's a language spoken among black folks that transcends words, inflections, cadence, or what have you. Blacks can hide their intentions, and their meaning from whites, but when it comes to those of their own race, there's no tree big enough to hide behind.

Perhaps this phenomenon has a white correlation, but I just don't think it's as developed, or as fine-tuned as among blacks.

For most of us, we have spent a lifetime studying whites, their mannerisms, their facial expressions, the manner in which they speak, for any hint of racism or hostility.

Survival dictated that we do this, and it spelled the difference between getting our butt kicked, or worse, lynched, or getting fired, or arrested for shoplifting, when all we wanted to do was challenge the boss' decision, or purchase a pair of Levis.

So when it comes to our new president, when he speaks, no matter how eloquently, how persuasive, how grammatically precise or erudite, we hear ourselves.

When he walks across the White House lawn or through the halls of Congress, strolling with that familiar black gait, with that familiar swagger, we see ourselves walking.

The "one-drop rule" used to carry the day, and no matter how much white there was genetically to offset it, it didn't matter--you were still considered black.

I'm beginning to think that something like that still prevails, but in a different way. One drop of black blood can "color," pun intended, a person's behavior, attitude, and mindset, their biracialism notwithstanding.

And that seems to hold up well, unless of course, you, as a black, make a herculean effort to suppress, misdirect, and eradicate these natural black tendencies.

And many do. I won't call out any names here. We all know who they are. And their names don't rhyme with heel or llamas.

Okay, I know I've taken a rather controversial stand here, but I do think there's something to it.

Obama's wears his blackness (not color) well, it accessorizes his Harvard suit, and playfully peeks from behind his King's English. It's like wearing a white tux with a black cumberbon, shoes, and bow tie.

There's contrast, but not so much that it brings mouth-dropping attention, or appears sartorially inappropriate.

While whites are checking out Obama's spotless white tux, we blacks are nodding our head, and checking out the black shoes, and bow tie, thinking to ourselves, "Sh*t, that brother's looking good! He makes those shoes, cumberbon and tie look damn good!"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Strange Days

A movie came out a few years back, starring Angela Bassett, as a member of this partly all-star cast, called Strange Days. No it's not the movie I wish to review here, nor to critique Angela Bassett's performance in this Science Fiction look into a future where technology is used to capture experiences for later viewing and reliving as though they were just happening.

It's the title that intrigues me.

We seem to be living in Strange Days, a departure from those saner days when we could pretty much predict with some certainty how people might behave.

During the last few days, I caught a little of CPAC, not because I'm a Republican, or even a conservative, but because it's good to know what the political parties of our nation are contemplating.

Now a days, politics is shaping not only our economy, but some of our social interactions.

Strange days, indeed.

Rush Limbaugh's speech before CPAC resembled a pep talk of a sort, receiving so many standing O's that the people were standing more than sitting, with the ovations more than rivaling Obama's first address before a Joint Session of congress.

Rush restated his unequivocal position, "I hope Obama fails," as a way to further defy opposition from the left, and from some members of his own party.

In an equally defiant tone, he gushed, "I hope liberalism fails. Liberalism is destroying the country."

That's going to be hard sell. But then gullibility thrives because too many of us prefer the laziness of ignorance over the industry of knowledge.

You don't need that much of a fact check to learn that Republicans not only controlled both Houses of Congress for six years, but own the presidency for eight.

It wasn't liberalism that was in charge during that time, but conservatism, and it was this conservatism, this laissez-faire approach to the economy (few or no regulations in the financial sector of the economy), that led to our economic meltdown.

We're told: "Greed is good for the country. Capitalism flourishes under Greed."

Perhaps, but unregulated greed has only led to disaster for most, and has plunged the world's economy into a "black hole," one that is sucking up the light of opportunity, and the world's financial stability.

Strange days, I tell you!

Limbaugh called for a taking back of the country, "We can take back our country," he insisted, with a hubris that suggested that it belonged exclusively to Republicans, and we must do it because of our love of country.

(Of course, only Republicans love their country.)

Liberalism was equated with "socialism," that insufferable evil and anathema to capitalism, despite the recent foray into it with the TARP funds, and years and years of flirtation with it in our economy through subsidies of one sort or another.

Most Republicans believe that the party failed, not because it failed to articulate its advantage over its opponent's, not because it has become irrelevant to a growing number of Americans, not because it has been unwilling to distance itself from the failed policies of the Bush years (we're seeing some of that now), but because Republicans strayed from their center, their core values.

And if the party succeeds it will be because of its willingness to reconnect with those values. They believe that in a showdown, liberalism fails. When conservatism is compared with liberalism, the differences of the two will be blatantly obvious, and the superiority of conservatism over liberalism will be self-evident.

In that case, why all the urgency to supplant conservatism with liberalism. If liberalism is the self-evident evil that conservatives insist that it is, then, why do anything?

Liberalism will die of its own accord. And Republicans can be the vultures to pick away at the little flesh that's left on our economic bones.

Yet, this is not what Rush and company want: They want to destroy liberalism, to take back the country, to save the country from this liberal evil.

Republicans tell us that they can't allow liberalism under Obama to succeed. If it is allowed to succeed, the country, as we know it, is doomed. The statement, in and of itself, is contradictory. Liberalism, according to Republicans, can't succeed, since it carries within it the seed of its own destruction.

So what is it that Republicans and conservatives are afraid of? They're afraid of this: They're afraid that if Obama is allowed to succeed, then that success will spell the end of the Republican party as it is now constituted, and will signal their eventual demise, as it will be all but assured.

If Obama succeeds, they fail. It's as simple as that.

So the party has to root for the home team, rather than for the league, the league being the country.

Better the country goes down along with liberalism than allow it to stand strong under it.

Strange days, to be sure!

And what is the Republicans' prescription for fixing the economy? It is their "core values," of course, those values that we hear so much about these day, those principles that should govern the actions of every Republican, those "core conservative values" that will clearly, once and for all, show the country, and indeed the world, just how evil, and destructive (of human happiness, success, and enterprise) that liberalism is to the economic, social, and political landscape.

Some conservatives identify so much with what they call their "core values," that I don't think that they can survive without them. Those values are linked indelibly to their self-image, and their self-worth, and is the cornerstone of all things holy and righteous for them.

This self-identification is intractable, it can't be compromised, can't be modified without damaging a holy allegiance, or a Mount Sinai handing down of godly commandments filled with Thy Shalt Nots.

Here are the conclusions I've reached: Republicans and conservatives cannot allow, will not allow, Obama and liberalism to succeed, because it will steer the country further and further away from those core, conservative values that are quickly becoming the party's new/old identity, and prescription for saving the country from itself.

They see their mission as a holy, and just one, because we Americans just don't know what we're doing by our flirtation with "socialism," and the supposed direction that the liberals are taken us--perhaps Marxism, or outright communism.

And they point to the class warfare that Obama is fomenting between the haves and the have-nots, the rich, the middle class, and the poor, by taxing those who earn more than $250,000 more severely than those making less than that amount (not taking into account that it's merely reversing "top-down economics" with "bottom-up economics" that has favored the rich at the expense of the "working poor," and not taking into account that the gap between the two are still growing exponentially), as proof of their claim.

Robert Reich's Blog discusses these two models on his blog, not to say that those making $250,000 are being punished for their success, and are in the same boat as corporations, but that the models underscore a difference in the tax direction that's been prevalent for many years in our flagging economy, along with all its assumptions that rich corporations and individuals will take care of those who work for them, as long as corporations and individuals are doing well financially.

I said earlier: These are strange days. And I can only imagine just how strange they must seem to some Republicans and conservatives who are now seeing their "core conservative values" under attack by the liberal party in power who're pushing a so-called liberal agenda.

And if Republicans have any hope of seeing more days to their liking, and of their making, they have to hope that the country fails under both liberalism and the Obama administration--fails economically, politically, and perhaps socially (there's a great deal of talk about overthrowing the government these days). And Republicans have already signalled, with their unwillingness to sign on to the Economic Recovery Bill, that their party will do whatever it has to, to assure that.

I don't think it gets any stranger than that!