Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prognostications on politics

Here's how I see things going -- for the long haul:

-- The "tea-party" movement will be history by 2013, if not sooner. I say that for one reason: It's really a religious movement masquerading as a political one, which is why you have so many evangelical Christians involved. Of course, "religious" movements by their very nature reject outside counsel, so even if you try to "talk some sense" into such people no matter how nicely they will cry persecution; on top of that, tea-partiers don't talk or listen to anyone else or participate in the actual political process of give-and-take with those not with them. The result is that they will eventually turn people against them because they simply can't deliver what they promise.

-- The anti-abortion movement will finally gain steam when, and only when, the modern conservative movement collapses. Since the latter's inception it has hypocritically split abortion from other legitimate issues of the sanctity of human life, which leads directly to its general ineffectiveness in reaching folks who might be allies, specifically African-Americans disproportionately affected by abortion.

-- I'm somewhat surprised at the showing of Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania, my state. The races for governor and senator, in which the Republicans once held commanding leads, have shrunk to dead heats, with Democrat Joe Sestak even slightly ahead of Republican Pat Toomey in one poll in the Senate race. But that points to a basic weakness in the GOP platform that the Democrats have exploited: Lower taxes on businesses don't necessarily or automatically create jobs, so the Democrats have been hammering the Republicans on "derivatives" and outsourcing. It's working.

-- For some of the same reasons I've mentioned above, should Barack Obama decide to run for president in 2012 he will walk to victory. The Republicans will again try to catch lightning in a bottle by conjuring up the spirit of Ronald Reagan and trying to find his doppelganger; the trouble is that they still haven't figured out that people voted for him, not necessarily them. Every candidate the GOP can come up with right now is either insufficiently conservative for its base or revolting to the rest of the country; however, because of its insularity and unwillingness to consider other viewpoints it can only drive people away.

-- If you oppose the health-care insurance bill passed in March, tough luck because it's not going to be repealed. Ever. A number of things to be considered: First, even if a bill were up for a vote and passed it will never survive a veto. Second, by the time some of its provisions kick in folks won't want it repealed anyway. Leading to the third point: As I mentioned, Obama will be a shoo-in for reelection anyway.

-- Lately the conservative movement has promoted Alveda King, niece of the late civil-rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., as his rightful heir, even having her speak at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They often ask the question: Why don't people support her? Well, let me give you two things to think about: Her uncle was very, very critical of "Northern right-wing whites" in general and, after the 1964 presidential election, called defeated GOP candidate Barry Goldwater "the most dangerous man in the country" at the time. (That should put the lie to the statement that he was actually a Republican being persecuted by Democrats.) Furthermore, I met his son Martin III, then a commissioner in Fulton County, Georgia, which incorporates much of Atlanta, in 1992 -- when he was stumping for Bill Clinton.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Creating conditions, taking responsibility and double standards

An episode of the classic television situation comedy "All in the Family" featured Edith slapping Archie over his playing the horses and Archie demanding an apology in the process. She gave him one, all right -- one that he had written to her years previously repenting of a gambling habit that cost them their car that he ended up signing again.

I was reminded of that when the news broke that Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence, had left a message for Anita Hill, who had testified during his confirmation hearings that Thomas has sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, demanding an apology for giving him the business. (Hill, who said that one would not be forthcoming, called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.)

It's a mystery why Mrs. Thomas even made that call, after his 19 years on the bench -- because it turns out that Hill wasn't the only person who made that accusation. A segment of ABC News "Nightline" identified three other women to whom he had made lewd comments. Recently, a woman Mr. Thomas had previously dated came forward with additional information. Going further, the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article, "Strange Justice," that was so detailed that, according to David Brock's book "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," it caused Ricky Silberman, one of his patrons and wife of right-wing activist judge Laurence Silberman, to freak out, roaring, "He did it, didn't he?"

Contrast that to Bill Clinton, whose sexual peccadilloes while president caused his enemies to impeach him. What was the difference? Well, for openers, Clinton knew that no meant no; when Paula Jones turned down his request for oral sex, she said no and -- as far as he was concerned -- that was the end of it. (In fact, it later came out that she was possibly interested in being his paramour.) Let's also remember that his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was consensual. Anyway, for what it's worth, Clinton apparently sought counseling for his inappropriate actions and hasn't been in trouble since.

Don't you find it interesting that Clarence Thomas complained about a "high-tech lynching" while never addressing the allegations against him? Perhaps he was trying to rally folks, especially the African-American community that he basically had abandoned, to his side; as it was, he was confirmed as an associate justice by what I think was the closest vote ever. But his wife's action, just like Archie's, spoke of entitlement, that there's a different set of rules for her side of the political fence. That won't fly.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A culture of hoarding

As per usual, political campaigns make a lot of noise about why their candidates will promote policies that will induce companies to "create jobs." This is especially the case with Republicans, who blame the Obama administration and the stimulus package for not doing what they promised.

Aside from the inaccuracy of that statement, the rhetoric is basically irrelevant.

You see, the problem goes much deeper than that. More accurately, what creates jobs more than anything else is companies and other entities willing to invest for the long haul. Which means, in essence, taking risks that you won't get your money back. It's not happening -- and, if the folks with the bucks have any say, it never will happen. Reason? Because they're afraid of just that.

Today we're dealing with what I call a "culture of hoarding" -- basically, a form of social Darwinism focusing almost exclusively on the bottom line; someone I knew about 20 years ago called it the syndrome of "can what you get and get what you can." Whatever makes to most amount of money the quickest has to be good for everybody -- except that, in the long run, it isn't.

In our country, this goes back to the period immediately following World War II. The American economy was going great guns because ours was virtually the only economy still standing. Here in Pittsburgh, the steel industry had no problem keeping people employed and its plants were humming. However, attributing to its shortsightedness, it didn't invest in new technology; companies in other countries built more modern plants with which the Americans just couldn't compete. (And then the companies blamed union contracts for their demise.)

In the 1980s, "supply-side economics" became quite the fad, the idea was that were businesses to have controls taken off them they would invest the profits to employ more people. At the same time, however, anti-trust rules were relaxed, which allowed companies to swallow each other, building more of a economic engine for the folks at the top but costing jobs for those in the middle. (The resultant recession pushed then-president George H.W. Bush out the door.) Anyway, today's economy is based more on speculation rather than on making quality products, which is why, for example, large pharmaceutical and health insurance companies maintain high costs for whatever they produce -- for the sake of maintaining stock prices. That's were the easy money lies.

Unfortunately, the church of Jesus Christ has been compromised on this issue, in large part because industry has gotten its tentacles into many of its media outlets. One of the first episodes of the 700 Club I ever watched featured a segment promoting what turned out to be sweatshop labor (called "working at home"), and I understand that a top executive of the Halliburton Co. sits on the board of Focus on the Family!

Basically, we simply can't afford for too much longer to have such economic imbalance, where those with the money figure out how to make more while the rest of us suffer. While I don't expect our nation to adopt consistently Biblical principles, it might be a good thing for wealthier Christians to model less-greedy behavior by hiring more people and being more socially responsible. For if you bankrupt your customers, eventually you'll go out of business.