September 2010

Government Isn’t Bad, Bad Governance Is.

If you vote Republican, I recommend you move on and not bother reading today’s column. I address my comments specifically to disenchanted Democrats and Independents who are so disgusted with America’s direction that they may not vote in November’s elections.

I’ve been a Democrat since I outgrew my childish high school fascination with the simplicity of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and the chimera of Barry Goldwater’s rugged cowboy individualism. There is a pronounced libertarian streak to my thinking that if we, as Voltaire so humorously wrote “lived in the best of all possible worlds,” I would energetically advocate it. Alas, as good as this life is, we have real problems (of human creation) requiring our collective thinking, collaboration and action.

The Tea Party numbchucks, Republicans by any other name, think all of America’s problems can be traced to government. This is ludicrous. A number of our nation’s problems, yes, can be traced to government. To bad governance.

From the time we are born in America we are indoctrinated with the Holy Grail of divine capitalism. Without a doubt, a market driven economy has provided virtually all Americans with life style choices unimaginable to our ancestors. America’s Right would have us believe that if only, if only we unleashed the righteous engine of capitalism, unfettered by capricious regulation and punitive individual taxation, a new morn in America would arise.

The lifestyle we enjoy today was achieved, however, through a century and a half of social conflict, of progressives demanding from capitalists an eight hour work day, safe working environments, livable wages, a modicum of healthcare insurance, of environmental safeguards, of the right of labor to collectively bargain with management. What we take for granted today as America’s work environment (such as it is) was secured only through the sacrifice of life and limb by everyday Americans, the common man, if you will, pressuring business and demanding from government consideration as equal players to corporations (their owners and their flacks).

Time and time again we see government in the pocket of corporate interests. We see it locally when developers get approval for developments that make no “community” sense, other than specific interests being enriched. We see it at the national level when regulatory reform is watered down such that whole mountaintops are leveled (destroyed) for coal or Iowa chicken farms remain inadequately inspected and 500 million eggs are recalled to stop the deaths and illness from salmonella.

It is easy as a Democrat to be disenchanted with events today. We elected an alleged agent of change yet we continue to war in the Middle East. Obama’s economic team is a revolving door of Wall Street insiders. I could go on with my disillusionment. Yet.

Much of the current economic malaise (and wars) is a direct result of Republican deceit, corruption and misrule. If you sit this election out because you are profoundly disappointed with how our democracy is turning out, well, man-up, it will only get worse with Republican gains. Whether that be local, state or national elections. Government isn’t bad, bad governance is. Hold those most responsible for America’s decline accountable. Be aware of Republican perfidy.

Vote Democrat. The Huns are afoot.

An Idea That Won’t Die.

Poor Johnny one note, yelled willy nilly
Until he was blue in the face
For holding one note was his ace.

“Johnny One Note” by Lorenz Hart

Folks on the right think that if you don’t accept their ideas that you must also think they’re lily-white, raging, aging, racist pudge-balls. I want to assure them that nothing could be further from the truth. Not the lily-white, aging, pudge-ball part—no one really cares—yet that seems to go hand in hand with being a Tea-Party apparatchik. No, it really is your “ideas” that single you out for derision, ridicule and scorn.

Actually, “ideas” is too generous an assessment. They have that one BIG idea: Guberment Bad! That’s it. Guburment Bad! Of course, there is the associated corollary to Guburment Bad! Taxes Bad! Hum now the above “Poor Johnny One Note” lyrics.

It hurts a little bit, it does, to think that my Father’s Republicans have degenerated into zombies. It was a toss-up between vampires and zombies. What with vampires being all the rage, you know, at the moment, well, zombies were not automatically my first choice. Think of the fat cat, special interest, corporate-welfare, drain the nation, bloodsucking vampire as the quintessential Republican standard bearer. But that seemed a bit harsh, too extreme. Besides vampires have brains. Zombies, however, have no brains and are therefore the perfect symbol for the modern Tea Party Republican movement.

Some will chaff that I equate being a Republican with being a zombie but here’s my logic. Zombies won’t die. And similarly, just because an idea won’t die doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. Just because you mouth simple platitudes about the Constitution or repeatedly chant, “Guberment Bad! Taxes Bad,” doesn’t make it so.

Remember Reagan’s “Trickle Down” Economics? Let the rich keep more of their money (Taxes Bad!) and they will invest it in America and a bountiful harvest will rain down, will trickle down on the average worker. Well, there’s a lot of available research on Trickle Down Economics (TDE) and it’s a sham. Slashing the top tax rates doesn’t lead to economic growth, doesn’t lead to job creation, and leads to neither wage growth nor income growth. The only growth associated with cutting the top tax rates is growth in the size of the deficit.

David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director who oversaw TDE (and presciently labeled voodoo economics by the first President Bush) rips today’s Republican talk of tax cuts, “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation’s public debt … will soon reach $18 trillion.”

But zombie-like, it’s an idea that simply will not die. All these goofball Republican Tea Party types are one-note morons. Zombies! Stiff-legged, stiff-armed zombie rantings of the brain dead, “Guberment bad! Taxes Bad!” Sigh. That’s modern Republicanism. The Zombie Party of “NO!”

Oh, and about Republican racism, here’s what former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer recently said about that subject and I quote, “Many within the GOP have racist views.” Imagine that?

Greer is one Republican many Republicans now see as dead. Ew! Zombies! Republicans!

Sandy Adams and Republican Sharia Law.

As a secular humorist, context is everything. One of my favorite jazz albums is “Swiss Movement,” a 1969 classic featuring the trio of Les McCann, Eddie Harris and Benny Bailey. A breakout tune was “Compared To What,” with lyrics that go, “Tryin’ to make it real—compared to what?” It’s a song about context. The album cooks from beginning to end. This election—I offer “A” song for all seasons. What?

I am attempting to place the 2010 election cycle in a context that makes sense to me. One congressional race that is of particular interest is the Florida 24th Congressional District. As you may recall, Tom Feeney while Florida Speaker of the House of Representatives personally created the district after the 2000 census and, of course, it leans Republican. That Feeney lost the seat to Democrat Suzanne Kosmas is as much a testimony to Kosmas’ tenacity as it was to outright voter disgust with the many smarmy dealings of Feeney.

Kosmas wants to continue and is actually in a tougher race than the one she bravely waged against Feeney just two years ago. Her opponent is longtime Tallahassee establishment insider, Florida Representative Sandy Adams. I have been researching Adam’s voting record and nothing particular stands out that would suggest she is anything but another camp follower of shopworn Republican economic banalities. She will attempt to campaign as a political outsider when she is anything but. She will publicize her virtues as a “Christian” candidate, a righteous Republican who reflects real American family values.

Congresswoman Adams swallowed the Kool-Aid years ago when it comes to reproductive choice. I always marvel at those women who would so easily institute the Republican equivalent of Islamic Sharia law when it comes to the reproductive rights of America’s women. Do you have a daughter? Republican Sharia Law would have her handing over the keys to her body, at puberty, to the state. Adams is in that fervent camp.

Adams doesn’t support stem cell research. Why? I hear no rational explanation. But what is the morality of inhibiting research that seeks cures for diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s Disease, a whole plethora of maladies and diseases? She voted “No” in 2006 to support stem cell research.

Oh, Florida’s Gays? Well, Adams considers them second class citizens unworthy of the same rights as all Floridians. Marriage is only between a man and a woman. Why? Because she personally knows what her God thinks in this regard. Period. End of story. Haven’t recent events amply demonstrated that America could use less, not more religious fervor in the public realm? Is more Republican Sharia Law good for America?

What about teaching evolution in our public schools? Rational, factual, modern? Established scientific fact? Not to Sandy Adams. She’d have Creationism, if given her preferences, taught right along evolution. Yet another example of Republican Sharia Science Law masquerading as intellectually sound public policy.

Adams would like to ride the coattails of her religious values, her simplistic, myopic morality into public office to perpetuate the craven (timeless) Republican financial policies of trickle “down” economics. As discredited an economic policy as any in recent history.

That is the real context of this election.

Men. In Small Doses.

I think that if given their druthers, women would rather have less to do with men. Thank you very much.

I know a married woman (with children) who would like to live in a dormitory-like setting with other women and children and simply “date” men. She’d see men when she “felt” like it. She finds men tedious, infantile and needy. Her faithful husband, an incredible, verbally derisive bore.

I know any number of divorced women who are so gun-shy of men that they will have little to do with them. It’s a fear based on a profound disappointment of the male sex. It is hard to refute fact based on personal experience.

History validates their perspective. I’ve read a lot of history and I have always wondered why men have so consistently and universally treated women so poorly? Seriously. When human consciousness first kicked-in and “we” (as a species) started reflecting on the meaning of it all, where did the idea originate that women were little more than breeding stock? Surely, our first attempts at society had to have been more egalitarian but the moment we organized into anything approaching a “civilization” we became increasingly uncivil to women.

I can think of just a handful of cultures that were even remotely different. Interestingly, Ancient Egypt had a more “open” culture as to women and their place in it as did the Etruscans some 1,500 or so years later. But for thousands of years, women were chattel and only through centuries of incremental change did we arrive in the 20th century, a time when women were able to insist that law (and custom) reflect their equality with/to men. I am particularly impressed with the 18th century feminist writer, Mary Wollstonecraft. A fine mind.

The chemistry of life has the sexes hotly desiring one another but after the “bloom” of lust recedes, we’re each (as in male or female) left with our innate qualities to sustain the relationship.

And this, lads, is where we come up short. Being “good” in the sack may get you to home plate, so to speak. A regular homerun hitter. But, uh, to continue the sports metaphor, it does not a complete game make. And, I, for one, do not even know what a complete game consists of today. It’s obvious, it’s not until death do us part, if divorce (or relationship) statistics are any indication.

A lot of women find men boorish. Mix testosterone into the equation and it’s a volatile recipe for disillusionment. It may be that modernity is ultimately incompatible with the male sex, that the qualities that had us climbing out of trees and “successfully” conquering our world (Mother Earth) are insufficient to building and maintaining the more demanding challenge of intimate relationships with women.

Some women actually do like a bit of the “beast,” a wild abandon in bed, but in all other matters (except when home-invaders are at the door), they want consistent male behavior that considers women their equal. Short of that?

“Well, I’ll just have a side order of man. Definitely, sunny-side up, please.” And increasingly, that is the dish of the day.

Men in small doses. Filling but not unfulfilling.