Monday, June 30, 2014

Smells like ... Lysistrata

A left-wing tea party? You have my attention. This link will take you to a article about such a possibility. In the last paragraph author Elias Isquith states, "If the left is going to have a Tea Party of its own, it’ll have to do it by making its peace with the Democratic Party and supporting grass-roots candidates willing to change it from within." I beg to differ, sir. If the left wing is to have success it must ensure that it is the Democratic Party that must make its peace with the left. They must see that, in order to win elections, they must offer viable solutions to the Republicans and the Tea-Party nuts. This in addition to supporting grass-roots candidates.
I venture to say that the left-wing version of a Tea Party should avoid dressing in goofy costumes and spouting out-dated axioms that most young people won't get the full meaning of. In fact, it wouldn't hurt if the we old geezers button our lips and allow the young to speak more.
Far from shying away from third parties and embracing Democrats as our only hope, we must deny our votes as Lysistrata  denied sex. I certainly oppose the very concept of not voting at all. No, everyone must vote. Never vote Republican; they brought us to the brink of bankruptcy and despair. Do not vote for a Democrat unless you truly agree with them; no more 'oh she's better than...' And, you know, when all else fails and you just can't support any candidate, vote for Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A rough place on Election Day - a county polling station out West

Two days ago I turned a corner and surprised a man who I instantly saw had a gun holstered on his hip. I was surprised, too, but this is the Four Corners (New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah). To his credit he hardly flinched and to my credit, I instantly smiled and said, “How you doing?” He said something like ‘fine, thanks.’ It didn’t have to end that way did it?
         Even if open carry laws were not a ‘happening thing’ out here, and even though I’ll keep using my parent’s thoughts on a place where people wore guns – “That’s a rough place” – I could see myself becoming accustomed to the occasional sight. I don’t think that’s good for my country.
         The ‘rough place’ where I saw the armed man? Why it was a county building, a polling station, and it was election day.

         The fact that we can’t count on a clear demarcation between the two domineering political parties on this issue is enough for me to end my days of knee-jerk voting for Democrats no matter how bad the Republican opponent is. They must step up now or lose, I say.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Patriotism run riot

         Patriotism is the United States has run amok and it will ruin us. I mean more than we are ruined now; right now we’re just on the track; it’s still a long ways to hell. I can think of no stronger argument that could be used right now by Democrats in the upcoming elections from 2014 through 2016 than that George Bush and Dick Cheney’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong – wrong for all countries involved, a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars, a tragic loss of life and limb of American troops, a tragedy for the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan. But Democrats can’t make the argument because they played the role of lapdogs to Bush and Cheney. The blood is on the hands of the Democratic Party, too. They play war games, too.
         Republicans have gained tremendous political ground by merely being the party of NO. From Bill Clinton onward they simply oppose Democrats – and by God they win in the Supreme Court and Congress even when they lose the Presidency. And they still win elections at all levels from counties upward. Of course, all Republican initiatives are cloaked in “reason” as cooked up by their think tanks. Republican initiatives are always cloaked in both the flag and Christianity, the dual harbingers of American fascism as Sinclair Lewis warned. And Democrats can’t wait to wrap themselves in that same cloak.
Democrats could not have done worse throughout the Obama years if they had taken that page from the Republican operatives. They should have taken the advise of that West Point officer who prepared a report back around ’08. He said, “Declare victory and leave.” But we stayed and now the efforts are blowing up in Democrat’s faces. Hell, I think Democratic policies of backing up Republican wars will actually help Hillary into the White House. I await Ms. Clinton’s review of “Obama’s” foreign war policy. I predict that, at some point, she will state that the biggest mistake in US policy since ’08 will be that we didn’t send ground troops into Syria where they would have been handy at repelling the Sunni/ISIS war machine. She will tar President Obama with the brush prepared by John McCain.
I know it’s too much to think that Democrats would have had the nerve to declare the truth: that Bush/Cheney/ were war criminals. Too many Americans don’t give a s*** about the rest of the world. Torture smorture. They would be fine with the utter destruction, I mean the complete ruination of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and every Muslim country. But, by God, Democrats should at least have come out and said that our troops are too precious to waste. They should have wrapped themselves and the American military machine in the flag.
Instead, they reinforced the idea that to “support our troops” means to continue fighting until some semblance of victory, a la World War II, is achieved. I like this analogy: If you have a big picnic going on in the park and some of the silly boys throw rocks at a hornets nest you don’t stay put as everyone is stung. You don’t keep sending your children into the cloud of hornets. You leave. Didn’t a huge number of Americans know that Iraq would fall apart as soon as our troops left? Really? I think of quotes from two Viet Nam vets I know. In both conversations I was expressing opposition to the war in Iraq. One said, “We keep sending troops here and there, but WE CAN’T WIN A WAR.”  I asked the other one, “Well, what do you think we should do?” He yelled, “Kill ‘em all. They’re not over here. Kill ‘em all.” It’s simply a continuation of the idea that we could have “won” in Viet Nam if we had simply been more violent. You know the quotes: “Let’s bomb them back to the Stone Age.” “But sir, they’re already there.” So, then let’s kill them all.
All these people who talk about the “lesson of Viet Nam” – I never hear them say the lesson was to allow people in other countries to run their own business unless they attack us. That’s the lesson. Who makes the argument in today’s political climate? Rand Paul. I believe his argument will resonate with voters in 2016, especially if a seasoned, well-connected political veteran like Jeb Bush joins forces with him (and so far he has, just not yet on that particular issue). U.S. troops donated more money to Ron Paul than any other candidate in recent years. They voted for him. And they, with their boots on the ground, are the Americans who see first hand the insanity of our policy. They are the ones for whom Democrats should stand up and say, ‘you wasted their lives.’ That would be patriotic.
However, where are the Democrats who say it? They are few and far between and local Republicans are working hard to gerrymander their districts. Who in the United States has the influence to turn things around? I believe we need a massive influx of Iraq/Afghanistan vets in politics.
American patriotism is akin to high school spirit. To hear the talk during sports season one would come to the conclusion that every city and hamlet in the country is divided into camps and that they hate each other. I grew up in Amarillo, Texas. I went to Tascosa High School. We were the Rebels (we flew the Confederate flag back then and our mascot was clearly a “Johnny Reb.”) True Rebels hated the Amarillo High School Golden Sandstorm, the Sandies. But, in the end, we were all from Amarillo. We were all Texans. Hell, some of those Rebels married Sandies! Before a game the Sandies might have stolen our school cannon, but after we won they didn’t fire it at us! They gave it back. And we didn’t “kill ‘em all.” In the long run we knew we were all in it together. But now my country is infused with hatred and distrust. We are divided in our tribal camps and we are endangered by our own ‘school spirit.’
The lesson of Viet Nam was learned by some folks. Viet Nam learned it, that’s why they won. Jihadists learned it. The lesson is this: If you have enough people who are willing to die you can defeat the United States in the sense that they will leave eventually. And you do not have to spend anywhere near as much money as the US will spend. The US will spend itself into oblivion in the process of losing.
Terrorists now know that a successful strike within the United States will repay the costs a trillion times over. Hell, why should a country attack the US? Just fund a terrorist group. Ask our “friends” Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Now, any country that actually attacked the US in the US would lose. Period. Duh. But the threat is not from countries anymore. It is from organized fanatics. We were not attacked by Iraq or Afghanistan and we are clearly leaving those countries in positions of chaos and revenge that will cause them to be more of a headache in the future than we could have even conceived of before 9/11/’01. And we Americans, too, are in a position of chaos and revenge and we are turning on each other. That’s the legacy of a strong Republican Party and a weak, unfocused Democratic Party.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Heart of Texas

Lampasas County, Texas, 1875

“Where are you goin’ Daddy?”
“I’m goin’ to a meeting, Sissy.”
“That meeting like the one you go to late at night?”
“How you know about that, girl?”
“Oh, Daddy, I lay in bed awake when the dogs carry on, and I hear you leavin’.”
“How you know it’s me then?”
“Oh, Daddy you think Mama’s goin’ sneakin’ out? Or Bubba and “Charley? You sayin’ that?”
“No, honey they wouldn’t sneak out. Your Mama’s too good a woman and your brothers know I’d tan their hides and hang ‘em in the smokehouse with the other hams.”
“Oh, Daddy, go on.”
“I’m goin’. And honey, I won’t be goin’ to those late meetings any more. They got too silly for me. Anyway, this meeting’s way more important. We farmers are going to ban together into one great Union.”
“But we’re Rebels, Daddy.”
“ ‘Course we are. No, all us white farmers are goin’ to fight the big boys who don’t work, but sit around all day thinkin’ a ways to steal our money.”
“You mean the banks, Daddy?”
“That’s good Sissy. Yes, banks, railroads, combinations, and those ranchers with their gun-totin’ killers they pretend are cowboys.”
“I know, Daddy. I’m more scared a them than I am your n…ers.”
“Sissy, I’ve done changed my mind about them boys and I’m through usin’ that word and you are too.”
“Why, Daddy?”
“There’s no use in stirrin’ up the hornet’s nest, Sissy. We lost the damn war. Old Sam Houston warned us and we didn’t listen. Now the Republicans and their government paid boot-lickers are the enemy.”
“I heard you say the other night you’d vote for a yaller dog before you’d vote for a Republican.”
“That’s right, honey. They don’t work. They just use our taxes to pay for the army and railroads and banks. They let the ranchers use thousands of acres of land that ain’t theirs. And the damn ranchers own the water. Water put on this earth by God Himself! And they think they can own in and kill us for bein’ thirsty. I’d like to take their big war hero General Grant and stick him down here in Texas on a dry land farm.”
“He’d try to grow tobacco for his cigars. Cigars make people sick.”
“I hope they make him sick, Sissy. I surely do.”

And Daddy went out into the clean air of Texas, the beating heart of Texas where people work for their money and stand by their beliefs. And, by God, did not their beliefs make eternal sense? That night he and his neighbors formed the Texas Alliance, the first of the Southern Alliances, the precursors of the National Farmers’ and Laborers’ Union of America. In 1889 a convention in St. Louis formed that one great Union which, in turn, evolved into the Populist Party.
The present day, Austin, Texas

“What are you readin’, Daddy?”
“Why, Sissy, I’m reading the Cross of Gold Speech.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s a famous speech in American history, Sissy. We studied it in high school back in my day, but it’s probably illegal to teach it now in Texas.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Only a little. You don’t know it, probably, but Texas has outlawed a lot of history. At least the teaching of that history. It’s like they passed laws against ideas the damn Republicans don’t believe in. It’s not just like that; that’s exactly what they did. They passed laws against the teaching of the truth!”
“Oh, yes. The truth. Just like in China or the old Soviet Union or Cambodia. Texas is not the same place I grew up in. It’s not a free country anymore.”
“My teacher says Texas should be a country again. Could we drop out of the United States?”
“It feels like we already have. But, seriously, no Texas would be crazy to try it. This country fought a Civil War the last time. And Texas lost that war just like Sam Houston warned we would.”
Sam Houston was against the Civil War?”
“Oh yeah. Your granddaddy taught me that.”
“The one who named his daughter Sissy?”
“Yep, you know. That’s why we call you Sissy.”
“You loved your granddaddy.”
“You better believe it. Why I grew up thinking all old Texans were like him. There’s so many things he believed in that have changed since George W. was governor. The old Texas died is what it feels like. You know, Granddaddy was against carrying guns around. He didn’t like gun racks in pickups and he’d never believe that a Democrat, a woman, a mother, no less wants to bring back the Wild West days and let people walk around with guns.”
“You mean Wendy Davis?”
“Yep. She is for something that your granddaddy once bragged was a sign of Texas’ growin’ up – that a man could walk anywhere in the state without facing down some gun-toting thug.”
“But I thought she was the great hope of Democrats winning back the state.”
“Honey, if that’s what Democrats want to do, I’m through voting for Democrats.”
“Who would you vote for?”
“Hell, I guess I’ll have to write in names, probably Jim Hightower.”
He’s funny.”
“Yeah, and he’s right on, too. No, it’s another thing your granddaddy wouldn’t believe. That I could not bring myself to vote for a Democrat. He was a yellow-dog Democrat.”
“What’s that?”
“Someone who would vote for a yellow dog before even thinking about voting for a damn Republican.”
“That’s pretty funny.”
“Thing of the past. There ain’t a dimes bit of difference between a damn Republican and a Democrat on the issues that matter most.
Present Day, Austin, Texas
“Dad? Yes, Sissy.”
“This is Emily, the friend I told you about.”
“Oh, yes. Emily, are you enjoying UT? Political Science major, right?”
“Yes Sir. I like UT a lot. It’s such a welcoming place. There’s so much more diversity than I expected to find down here.”
“Yes, you’re a Yankee from Hudson River country, I hear.”
“Yes Sir. From Beacon, New York.”
“Pete Seeger country.”
“Oh yes, he was my neighbor. You know about Pete then?”
“He’s no less than my number one American hero. He stood up to the most insidious threat our nation has faced – the McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities. Committee.”
“Have you read what he said to them? I read the transcript again for a paper.”
“Oh yeah. I remember he told them that to ask him about his politics or his religion was wrong. He wouldn’t tell them who was present when he gave concerts, and he refused to verify that he may have sung at Communist Party meetings. Instead he offered to sing the same songs then and there.”
“That’s sure the gist of it.”
“I grew up listening to my Dad sing union songs.”
“She sure did. Sissy could sing along with “Hold the Fort” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” while she was still in kindergarten.”
“I got in trouble in Junior High singing class for telling the teacher about Woody Guthrie after we sang “This Land Is Your Land.”
“Ha. She sure did. Her mom and I faced down our own little Un-American Activities Committee on Parent-Teacher Conference Night.”
“I didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance for two years in Junior High.”
“Oh she sure didn’t. Another conference. I pointed out that she had always said it before her teacher questioned her family’s patriotism. And, I informed them that I wouldn’t stand for anyone forcing her to say it either. Her teacher’s ignorance temporarily robbed her of the feeling she used to get from saying the pledge. If a Junior High can’t inspire love of country and instead try to bully her into saying the Pledge, they can go to hell.”
“Ha Ha. You guys are sure not what I think of as Texans.”
“Dad, Emily has to write a paper about William Jennings Bryan.”
“Ah, the ‘cross of gold.’
“Yes, and of course the Scope’s “Monkey Trial.” I watched “Inherit the Wind” last night.”
“Oh great. Well forget that tired old man. That’s a sad epilogue for Bryan. His grand moment was the fight of the common man against moneyed monopolies. But, it’s interesting note that a part of Bryan’s religious makeup was that making money simply by using money instead of work was a sin. Hence the cross of gold analogy.”
“So is the analogy literal?”
“Yes, it’s literal, inerrant truth, just like the Bible.”
“That’s what Bryan believed. God made the cosmos in seven days.”
“So, who is on the cross?”
“The working man, but the focus was on farmers. They were in hock to the banks. Money was tight and it was backed by gold. Silver was being discovered in the West, some big deposits. So, if the government forced silver into the money supply interest rates would go down. Farmers could sell more and get out of debt. So to not loosen up the money supply was crucifying the common man on a cross of gold.”
“Okay. I have some reading to do.”
“Yeah, let’s forgive Mr. Bryan for his ignorance on evolution and welcome him back to the good fight.”
“The government messes with money supply and policy all the time.”
“Yes, Emily. And the money filters up from you and me and trickles down through banks and large corporations. We need a new William Jennings Bryan.”