Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The GOP Trifecta of Fear: Terrorists, Gays, and Mexicans

A cursory inspection of demographic reports from the US Census bureau reveals that the white majority of this country is quickly losing its traditional preeminence. In 1990, people considering themselves "white" were 80.3% of the total population of the United States. By 2000, that portion of the population had shrunk to 75.1%. When one considers that, by all accounts the US Census Bureau has a significant undercount, and that said undercount is more pronounced for racial minorities, the current political dominance of those who consider themselves "white" would seem to be condemned to dwindle and eventually disappear.

This is very bad news for the GOP. Any examination of the voting trends of racial minorities shows a clear and significant preference for the Democratic party, and that that preference is only becoming more pronounced over time:
How, then, shall the corporatists and power-brokers at the upper echelons of the Republican party, the "conservative" party, maintain the status quo? How can they perpetuate the current distribution of wealth and power, without which they might be forced to share the bounty of this country, no longer able to skim the cream from the top? If the movers and shakers in the GOP cannot hold together enough of the white majority, how will the all-important hierarchy be preserved?

In their increasing panic, they have formulated a desperate, last-ditch plan for holding on to their shaky hegemony: unite as much of the white majority as they can through the age-old fail-safes of hatred and fear. Scanning the cultural landscape of the nation, they have landed upon three convenient labels that they can present to their under-educated and bigoted rabble (for this is truly how the GOP elite view the less-than-affluent Christian evangelicals in their party) to arouse the latter's primal emotions:
  1. Terrorists - a nebulous, undefined entity that can be used to point a shrill finger at any convenient target. Scare the hoi polloi with "al Qaeda in Iraq," "Islamists," or thoughts of having to "fight them here," and they will fall in behind whoever is the Republican Daddy-of-the-moment very quickly.

  2. Gays - the ever-present menace that psuedo-Christians just know are lurking in the public restrooms and classrooms ready to convert their children and destroy their marriages. The GOP exploited this particular prejudice to great effect in the 2004 election, by shrieking about mild and moderate reforms taking place in San Francisco, Massachusetts and elsewhere. Rabid homophobes from all corners of the country flocked to the polls to stop the "homosexual agenda," and, oh, by the way, cast a vote for Junior Bush while they were at it. Of course, sexually-repressed homophobic Republicans are likely exhibiting some perverse form of subliminal self-loathing in their fear and hatred of homosexuals, since studies have indicated that the most vehement homophobes may, in fact, be closeted homosexuals. It is almost enough to evoke pity toward them, in much the same way that one feels pity toward the slug that slimed its way into a bag of iodized Morton's salt.

  3. Mexicans - alas, this entity is a double-edged sword which the GOP, shaken by its recent drubbing at the polls, cannot decide how to effectively wield. On the one hand, the illegal immigrant label (which, of course, is a code phrase to mean "Mexican") is low-hanging fruit for bigwig demagogues in the GOP: the influx of south-of-the-border immigrants (both documented and undocumented) is readily visible and threatening to the ignoramuses and thinly-disguised racists that compose a good share of the Republican proletariat. These are the people who can scarcely manage their grasp of the English language; the thought of others around them speaking in another language (and possibly laughing at them) sends them into a blind panic. But, on the other hand, the GOP intelligentsia are not unaware of the demographic and voting trends I cited earlier in this post. They know that the long-term fruits of beating up on Latinos will be electoral extinction. (And, besides, the corporatists sure do love that cheap labor!) Thus, we are treated to the spectacle of Junior Bush and certain "far-sighted" Republicans taking relatively lenient positions vis-a-vis immigration, while the more rabid, demagogic wing of the party (which derives from the Republican untermensch) screams about "border security" and promotes fantastical visions of a fence running from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas.
The lesson here, it would seem, is that while fear and hatred can be stoked for short term gains, in the end, they are conflagrations that can quickly grow out-of-control and consume the arsonists that stoked them. If the trends indicated by the US Census Bureau are real (and there is little reason to doubt it), the capos and consiglieries in the shadowy backrooms of GOP headquarters must live every day in the kind of destitution that comes from knowing that, ultimately, all their best efforts are in vain.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What manner of creature is George W. Bush?

Oh, the countless hours I have spent pondering (obsessing on) George W. Bush!

After all, how can one not be fascinated by a man who seemingly has so little regard for human suffering (ignoring soldier's funerals) that seems to delight in destruction ("I feel good") and the accumulation of power (signing statements); that displays such bravura in flaunting brazenly obvious lies (a list of some of the most obvious); that appears impervious to the hostility and contempt (ambassador of bad will) directed at him by so much of humanity?

Is he a visionary, as many of his supporters believe, who holds to his principles in spite of it all? Is he a responsible elected official, doing what he believes he must to fulfill his public duties, as his apologists in the punditry insist? Is he a fool, as many of his detractors believe, unable to grasp the manner in which he is being manipulated by the evil geniuses around him?

George W. Bush (henceforth referred to as "Junior") was born into a wealthy family. As the son of a former President of the United States and the grandson of Prescott Bush, who made his fortune arming the Nazi war machine, Junior's success (or, rather, his immunity to the consequences of failure) was assured. The Bush family built a huge fortune on war and oil, and Junior has been guaranteed his inheritance, not only of wealth, but of fame and power, by virtue of having been spawned within it.

Junior received a first rate education, (which he squandered) by virtue of his family name. He started out at the prestigious Phillips Academy prep school, where he rubbed elbows with other "common folk" who could afford the tuition. He attended Yale and Harvard Business College despite mediocre marks in prep school and on his SAT scores, by virtue of the tacit legacy policy of those institutions which had also educated his father. By his own admission, Junior's efforts were lackluster and unspectacular, yet he was able to complete his studies in these elite, premium institutions.

How would someone without the Bush family name have fared with a similar academic performance?

After school, in 1978, Junior took advantage of an education trust fund to start up Arbusto Energy, an oil and gas company based in west Texas, which promptly failed despite Junior's attempts to revive it. Junior was, nonetheless spared financial ruin by a timely bail out in the form of Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation, which reportedly viewed the acquisition as a tax shelter. Junior was awarded the CEO position in the newly merged conglomerate, and was given another chance to make something of himself. But this was only the first in a string of failed business ventures, each of which terminated in a bail out by family friends (including the Saudi royal family) and, after which, Junior was promoted to a position of more power and wealth. Throughout his business career, there were allegations and accusations revolving around insider stock trading and illegal filings (or lack thereof) with the SEC. The long list is documented by John Dunbar in his A Brief History of Bush, Harken and the SEC.
Would someone lacking a family fortune to rely on have been able to avoid financial ruin with such an abysmal display of business and ethical acumen?

Then, of course, there is the issue of Junior's military career. A firm supporter of the Vietnam War, Junior managed to jump over the waiting list to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard, with the help of Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes, thereby avoiding any possibility of being drafted for duty in Vietnam. His spotty record of absenteeism and early release is set forth in a time line created by Mother Jones.

This record speaks for itself. Over 50,000 young men and women who died in Vietnam attest to the potential consequences that Junior avoided by virtue of having friends in high places.

I will refrain from going into Junior's political career, beyond saying that, as a man who had never suffered any consequences for his failures (beyond, perhaps a stern admonishment from his father or (worse) his mother), it is only natural that he would attract sycophants (Harriet Myers, Condoleeza Rice) and flatterers with their own agendas (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove) to his cause.

Also, there is not much point in going into the arrest for drunk driving, or the alleged cocaine use, or the alcoholism. These maladies and mistakes occur every day in each of our own worlds. It is rare, however, when we are able to evade the consequences as completely as has Junior.

So, in answer to the questions I posed at the beginning of this entry, I've come to the conclusion that George W. Bush is a sociopath. That is, he is a man who cannot conceive of the commonality of mankind, of the shared condition that defines what it means to be human. He views himself and those whom he considers to be part of his social class to be above the proletariat, a modern day Marie Antoinette. The lower classes, including those (ignorant and largely uneducated) few of the proletariat who support him, are fodder; resources to be used to achieve his ends.

He often refers to "destiny" when he speaks of his presidency and his mission and especially of the wars he has wrought. In his mind, he is part of the wise bourgeoisie that will lead the world into its bright future: a world where each person knows his or her place and willingly accepts the role for which he/she is destined by virtue of birth and ancestry.

Friday, July 27, 2007

My advice: travel!

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. –- Miriam Beard

This quotation hit me in the bread basket, as it were. Miriam Beard hit upon something that I have struggled to articulate ever since I took my Grand European Tour in 1999. Travel is, indeed, more than just the seeing of sights. It is the catalyst that invokes transformation. It is food for the growth of the mind and the spirit.

Setting forth on the Grand European tour

In 1999 I was four years divorced, somewhat established in my career as a technical writer, and, although lonely, more or less happy. Life was ambling along nicely. Then, in May, two close friends, Carey and Tena Cardon were killed in a climbing accident on Mt. Hood. This was certainly not the first tragedy I had experienced, but it affected me deeply. I suppose it was a stark reminder of my own mortality that brought about the soul-searching and painful examination we all experience from time to time. (Well, at least those of us that are not sociopaths. A future post will discuss my thoughts vis a vis George W. Bush).

Existential crisis ensued, causing me to arrange for a leave-of-absence from work (with the blessings of my fantastic supervisor and dear friend, Cindy Easton), sell my house, drop my cats off at Mom's place, and head to Europe, guitar and Eurrail pass in hand.

The following 10 weeks took me through a good part of Western and Central Europe, in a more-or-less clockwise direction, starting and ending in Amsterdam.

Arrived in Amsterdam

Over the course of those 10 weeks, I encountered a myriad of people and places, and gained a perspective of humanity that I'm still assessing to this day. It was a magical time and an experience that I hold as one of the most rewarding in my life.

From time to time, as this blog matures, I'll hearken back to this trip, and to others that I made before and since. But for now, let me just sign off with this advice: the rewards of travel are immense and immeasurable. Be forewarned! Travel will change you. Don't be afraid of it; embrace it. Once you've beheld the temple, conversion is assured...

Inside the Red Fort, Delhi India

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kleptocracy in action

Five years ago, I was in the strident minority that had no faith in the motives or principles of the Bush administration. It was a lonely time for progressives. We were ridiculed, discounted, and scorned. Today, as the consequences of Bush administration policies have begun to manifest themselves, the national zeitgeist is very different.

Alas, there is small satisfaction in being vindicated when the price is this high. Our nation is in grave peril. But this danger does not come from terrorists, but from corporatists and robber barons, and from the poorly-educated religious zealots that believe in them.

There is a certain type of business person that develops an expertise for extracting money from the federal government. It is how some careers are made. And, of course, as most of us can readily attest, whenever there is a big pot of money somewhere, there will be individuals who scheme to get it for themselves.

At the end of the Clinton presidency, there was a federal surplus: an enormous pot of money. If we look at a crude timeline of events since that time....well, I'll leave it to you....
  1. With Dick Cheney as its CEO, Halliburton was on the verge of bankruptcy.
  2. George W. Bush appointed Dick Cheney to head up an exploratory committee to find a running mate.
  3. The committee chose Dick Cheney.
  4. Upon assuming office, Dick Cheney convened an energy policy task force, the members of which remain hidden from public knowledge.
  5. Shortly thereafter, White House rhetoric was aimed at Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
  6. Our country was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001.
  7. Key members of the Bush administration (including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, and Rice) began advocating an invasion of Iraq to "protect" the United States from terrorist attacks.
  8. George W. Bush ordered the United States military to invade Iraq in March, 2003.
  9. Halliburton was awarded multi-billion dollar federal contracts without being subjected to competitive bidding.
  10. Dick Cheney (who was still being awarded a deferred salary from Halliburton) and his cohorts got rich(er).
If a reasonable person were to apply Occam's Razor to this set of facts, what might that person conclude?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A beginning


My name is Dade. I'm a native Oregonian, an amateur guitarist, a humble writer, and a fierce liberal/progressive. This blog is meant, primarily, to be a creative outlet. I'm not sure, at this point, if I know even how I will use it, but it is here nonetheless. Drop me a comment if you like.

The title of this blog comes from Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5). The soliloquy is delivered by Macbeth upon learning of the death of Lady Macbeth, whom, it is obvious from the desolation in his words, he loved dearly:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word;
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death;

Out! Out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow,
A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And is heard no more;

It is a tale, told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Anyway, come on by anytime and say hi. I imagine I'll be here.