25 August 2008


FORTY ONE BILLION DOLLARS! That's what China spent on the Olympics. Sure the country has the biggest cash surplus of any country on the planet at the moment. But it's also got 800 to 900 million people who live on two dollars a day or less.

I enjoyed watching Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and the Brazilian women's volleyball team as much as anyone. But I would have happily foregone those pleasures if that FORTY ONE BILLION DOLLARS had been spent on something that benefited at least some of those impoverished, oppressed Chinese people.

And these figures don't even account for the cost to a number of farmers who lost this year's crops due to diversion of water from their farms to the creation of the sailing and kayaking venues; or the fact that the fancy new facilities were built in the same way that most government building projects are built in China - with near slave labor.

Sure the Chinese got to wallow in national pride. And now Beijing has some pretty new sports venues. And here in the U.S. we got some great TV to watch - albeit with really inane commentary for the most part.

But I'm sorry, the Olympics isn't worth it. IT WAS DISGUSTING.

And speaking of stupidly expensive exercises; the Democratic Convention kicks off today.

This is, of course, to anoint one of the two men who are going to spend OVER A BILLION DOLLARS trying to get elected by telling us, among other lies, how responsible they are going to be with our money.

Before I start excoriating the Democrats (I'll excoriate the Republicans during their convention) for being fuckwits, let's get a couple of things straight.

I'm a registered independent.

I mostly vote for Democratic Party candidates - although I have voted for a few Republicans over the years and once or twice when I really couldn't stomach voting for either, I voted for third party candidates without a hope in hell of winning in the hope they'd get enough votes to stir the pot up a little. (I never, by the way, voted for Ralph Nader. I think he was a fine consumer advocate. Other than that, I think he's a cretin.)

I am going to vote for Barack Obama, and happily so. I think one more term of a Republican administration at this point will seal the deal on the destruction - for at least a generation to come - of many of the things I love about this country.

We cannot afford any more of this nonsense about cutting taxes at the same time as boosting spending enormously to pay for ill-advised, in the long run unwinnable, wars justified through lies.

We cannot afford any more of the remarkable culture of financial malfeasance without at least some effective oversight - that the Republicans have been more responsible for than the Democrats. I'm all in favor of free markets, but at a certain point certain unregulated economic activities, even so-called "free market" ones, can skew the free market in ways that make it not work. There is a difference between "free" markets and "anarchic" markets where the strong have free rein to cheat, lie, steal and generally crush the weak.

We desperately need to repair our relations with the rest of the world. Barack Obama is far better positioned to accomplish that than John McCain.

And, maybe most importantly, the next president is going to appoint, minimally one, possibly as many as three, Supreme Court justices. The current court already leans further to the right than is good for our civil rights and liberties, as well as the environment. Balance needs to be restored. A Republican president will - and candidate McCain has already said that he will - appoint similar justices to the appointments made by GW Bush. That will complete the transition of the court to the right wing, for a generation or more. No American who loves the ideals that this country was founded upon, could possibly want that.

OKAY, SO IT'S CLEAR - I WILL VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA. I might even contribute some money, maybe a little work, to his campaign.


The recent kerfuffle over McCain's failure to know how many houses he owns, is a case in point. McCain, stupidly, admitted to not knowing. Obama then blew a perfectly good opportunity to take the high road, cut off any attack response from the McCain campaign, and put his message across.

Because Obama attacked McCain for being an out of touch rich guy, he opened himself up to being attacked back: "Wait a minute there, buster, you too." (At the current rate, it's going to take me somewhere between sixty and eighty years to earn the four plus million bucks Obama took in last year. And I'm above the national average.)

The fact is, anyone who gets as far as the two final candidates, is going to be out of touch with the daily lives of ordinary people. They're not going to the grocery store to shop. They're not pumping their own gas. They're not wondering if they can afford to take their family to a ballgame.

But that's got nothing whatsoever to do with their ability as president to deal with the problems of ordinary people. Franklin Roosevelt, arguably the American common man's greatest friend of the Twentieth Century, came from a life of fabulous wealth and privilege. Hell, if you're a leftist and you're still worried about it; Frederich Engels supported his poorer pal Karl Marx with the wealth from his family's textile mills.

What Obama could have said is something along the lines of: "Sure McCain's out of touch [a nice little dig there], neither of us is living the day to day life of the average American. The difference is in what we plan to do about it. My plan is better. Here's why..." He would have cut off any counterattack at the knees and he could have taken an opportunity to get one of his most important points across.

But, he didn't. And that's because politics in this country has been distilled down to attack and defend. Usually it's the Republicans attacking and the Democrats defending - which is one reason the Democrats have been losers so much in most of the years since Richard Nixon. A charge, which is leveled first and usually easy to sum up in a few short words, is always going to be better remembered than a response, no matter how well reasoned, which comes second and more often than not requires a more complex or nuanced explanation. The whole point of an attack is to get it in first and make it simple. That's nearly as effective with a lie as it is with the truth. The Democrats have lost over the years by playing the Republicans' game.

Maybe I'm naive, but I think there might be an argument to be made in favor of "promote."

>>>Sure, us pampered candidates are out of touch with ordinary Americans, but I'm a good study, I've got good advisers and here's what I plan to do about it. What's the other guy got?<<<

>>>Sure I'm more charismatic than my opponent. But I'm smart, too, because here's how I plan to use that to get things done that need doing and here's what I'm going to do. What's the other guy got?<<<

But, what's going to happen, and is already happening, is that the Democrats are going to fall into the Republicans trap just like they always do. Obama's plan actually lowers taxes for a whole lot more people than McCain's does. But because McCain's plan lowers taxes on the wealthy - who make the biggest stink about taxes - he's trying to pass himself off as the tax cutter of the two. And since he made the charge first, it is more likely to stick even though it's total bullshit.

What happened to: >>>Hey, eight years of huge expenditures at the same time as big tax cuts have left our country in a terrible financial position. We are going to have to raise some money. That's going to mean some higher taxes for some people. I plan to squeeze some of that from the pockets of the people who can most easily afford it and ease up on a lot of you who are being most hurt by this financial mess. What's the other guy got?<<<

But, unfortunately, this one, like all elections, will deteriorate into the usual politely veneered name calling - with surrogates permitted to strip off the veneer and outright attack the other guy.

If that's the case, I suppose - SIGH - the Democrats ought to start doing it first, fastest and most viciously so as to put the Republicans on the defensive for a change. And that's going to make me like them even less than I already do. But I'll still like them better than the Republicans.

1 comment:

suzanne said...

Hello Eric,
I can't believe how much sense your thinking still makes to me. What? Some 30 years later? I was dozing on the couch when you popped into my head and I thought to Google you. Wow! I hope you have the time to write back. My email is suzanneg880@gmail,com. Your meanderings make sense to me as I battle daily the lack of funding for public education because of those ill spent war dollars. I am an assistant principal of a middle school in Ventura, having moved here with my husband 6 years ago. I love my work, especially with underpriveleged kids, and English Learners and their families. Got to go now but I wiil write soon.
I am inept at Facebook and MySpace so far. I need to take lessons from my middle schoolers.