Sunday, August 31, 2008

Green Eyes Cryin in the Rain

Vermont must have been empty last week, because it seems that every Green Mountain State political blogger was in Denver....

Great Posts abound at Green Mountain Daily, Five Before Chaos, and of course, Vermont Daily Briefing. Most everybody bought a video camera, so the number of You-Tube videos (already substantial) just trebled.

Am I jealous? You bet!

McCain Plays Fair- Restores My Hopes for Obama

I was concerned about the choice of Joe Biden as VP. Although he brings a great deal of experience to the table in foreign relations and political longevity, I was cautious about the shadows of plagiarism and crony-ism that lurk in the darker corners of his history.

The more I watched him next to Obama, however, the more I started to enjoy the contrast between the two...Joe Biden makes Barack Obama look damn good...reminding me as I watch, that Obama is a cut above the rest as a speaker and a motivator.

And now, McCain has played fair- he also has chosen a running mate who brings many problems to the table. You say Obama is young? Well, Palin just dropped off the turnip truck! Two Republican strategiests, quoted in the Washington Post said:

"I would rather be arguing with conservatives about abortion than with the Democrats about a lack of experience on our own ticket."

"She really destroys the 'not ready' mantra,"

According to another Post article, they call her Sarah Barracuda- both because of her tancity, and her record of turning on her political patrons. Starting with the politician who first urged her to run for City Council to the Republican Governor of Alaska- all have befriended her, and all have been thwarted or defeated by her.

Still, the record is a bit more complicated than that. In each case, it seems from a brief first reading that she turned on these sponsors and mentors because she found them not pure enough.

She certainly seems like that rare political animal: Someone who practices what they preach.

  • She's against Abortion. However, when her own child was diagnosed with Down's Syndrom, she acted in accordance with her beliefs and had the baby.
  • She is a fiscal conservative, and as Governor she sold the jet plane of the previous Republican Governor. And she opposes large federal projects, even though it would mean money and jobs to her state.
  • She is of Bush's war party, and yet, unlike most senior politicians, her son is actually off to war.
Americans are so used to hypocrisy from their politicians that, when they meet one who actually says one thing, and does the same thing, they tend to be dazzled- respecting the character of the person so much, that they overlook the fact that the things the honest politician believes and stands up for are not, actually, possitions with which they agree at all.

(I remember friends in 2000 who liked McCain because he was a "stand up" guy- yes, I would answer, he is-- but what's he standing up for?)

For all of her advantages, like Biden, she has a weakness...She's a Woman, but she is against Freedom of Choice. She's a Christian, but a hard right evangelical one, attractive to the base but frightening to those of us who value our OWN religious freedom. She's Upright, but a Barracuda.

And maybe just a bit of a hypocrite after all, it seems she may have tried to get her ex-brother-in-law fired, and then fired the man who wouldn't do it. Like Biden, however, there is enough ambiguity here, however, to cast doubt, but possibly not to condemn her- some reports say this ex-brother-in-law was a cop who tazered his step-son, and other unpleasant things....

All in all, by chosen Sarah Palin, McCain has leveled the playing field again...and that gives me good hope, because I believe that, in fair fight, we can take the GOP this time...

...and the consequences for the country are unthinkable should we fail.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Fairly Fair Approach To Biden

The New York Times ran an article today on Joseph Biden that I read with interest this morning.
I was less than thrilled about the choice of Joseph Biden as running mate for Barack Obama. Still, it is worth thinking about what Biden does bring to the table.

The Times story is entitled "A Senate Stalwart Who Bounced Back" and makes the case that, following his abortive 1988 run for the presidency, Biden settled into the role of Statesman and has conducted himself (for the most part) admirably.

He does bring age, and experience with world affairs to the table, and he can be a pretty good fighter....

We'll see.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

PSSSSssssssfffffttttttttttttttt- there goes my chances for a fun November.

I almost feel like a traitor for writing this entry, because, so far (in all the news articles I've read) I'm the first one to bring this up (I haven't read fellow bloggers yet)...but what the hell? Rip and Read has about 3 readers anyway, and besides Republican Sharks and Corporate Media Piranhas will start in soon enough, so here goes.....Biden


Woof. My heart kind of caved in today and I got all squishy and cold inside...I think we're going to lose.

I can't understand this choice at all. Biden...the plagiarist? The guy who's introduction to the national scene was cribbing a speach, word-for-word, from a British Labour leader, in which he appeared to steal the other man's life story? THAT Joe Biden? That was Obama's big secret? Holy Crap...I think I want my money back.

(Of course, he's got a cover: all the OTHER times, he attributed the quote...but just that one time...oh, yeah, and the time in law school...well, he didn't know the rules about citing sources...and then....)

Biden has made some great speeches through the years, has held the line against Bush in the Senate, to be sure, but, at the end of the day, when I hear him speak, I just wonder who's words he's using. I can't help it. And I'm a LOYAL Democrat. Imagine what the Republicans are going to do to him.

As of yet, the plagiarisms thing hasn't started, it still seems to be all roses in the national press....but you can bet your butt the Republican attack animals are going to have a field day with this.

And, while Joe Sixpack may not be very concerned about the ins- and- outs of a little law school borrowing...at the end of the day, I fear it will be "all too easy" for the Republicans to use the dark-side on this guy.

After all, Biden was not forced out of the 1988 race by Dark Lord Lee Atwater- hell, no, the Ghouls never even got a crack at him....No Sir, Biden was taken out by the vicious attack chihuahuas of Micheal Dukakis! That's kinda like loosing a fight with a pillow.

I hope I'm wrong....but it sure was a tough read over the morning coffee this morning. You see, I really wanted to win this one, and I think Obama would make a Damn Good President. But it feels an awful lot like the guy just shot himself in the foot to me.

I'm going to check some other bloggers now....maybe I've missed something (hear me hoping?)- Maybe someone has a better angle on it all....

Oh, I hope I'm wrong, I hope I'm wrong, I hope I'm wrong........

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time to Change the Rules
America Must End Depedance on Oil

Just read a interesting opinion piece in the The New Republic. Written by Paul Berman, The Death of 1989 postulates the consequences of a Russia acting out of paranoia and makes a convincing case that the world has become a more uncertain place following the Kremlin's push against Georgia.

The entire piece is well worth reading, but, in the end the issue comes down to Oil plain and simple. Oil is the lifeblood on which almost all persons in the world subsist. It brings us our food, it heats our homes, earns us our living, it is as important to modern life as water in a desert, or food in a famine. It is something that people will kill for.

And yet, of course, unlike food and water, Oil is an artificial staple. Our dependence on it is real, the economic laws and realities of the world revolve around it. But this need not be so.

Berman writes in his piece:
We will have to recognize that, for the moment, questions of democratic principle, national security, and the energy crisis have decisively merged. We will need a newly combined policy, then--a reaffirmation of the principles of democratic solidarity, together with an urgent, national-priority effort to develop alternative-energy industries in order to weaken the Putin dictatorship and a series of other petro-enemies of democracy. Now, yes, after the invasion of Georgia, we will end up confirming one aspect of the Russian paranoia. Our goal should be to undo, on environmentalist grounds, the central element of Russia's rather primitive prosperity. An alternative energy program will require a turning away from free-market dogma--one more way in which a new policy cannot be traditionally conservative. The lurch will have to be leftward.

Under normal marketplace conditions, the advantages of Oil now accrue to Russia, and the Middle East. Following its present course, the United States will continue to fight wars to secure Oil, even as the sources of Oil move further from our reach...inside Russia's boarders, or under an Iranian Nuclear Umbrella.

It is as if the whole business were a giant ball game. As Americans, we are good at the game, but at the moment, the field we play on is not favorable to us.

Through a concerted effort, the United States could engage the massive economic engine of its government to change our society's relationship with the natural laws of the market place (just as an airplane engines changes our traditional relationship to the laws of gravity).

By providing artificial stimulus to the "Anti-Oil" energy business- the Government could literally "move the playing field"- the laws of the marketplace, or the rules of the game, would be the same...but the field on which we were playing would be OURS and not theirs.

An entire new industry would be born, one in which we, as a nation, took the lead. Our people would work, our coffers would be full, and, as an added bonus, the world would be cleaner.

I do not agree with Berman that this is a "leftward" idea at all. A true leftest would instead plead that we search for ways to abandon the "Zero-Sum game" of capitalism, and seek instead a cooperative, inclusive approach. While I applaud the sentiment, I can not agree that the human spirit has reached a plateau of maturity that would allow us to take the high road.

It has, after all, worked for us before. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal began it, but the full mobilization of our Government in the cause of World War Two lead our nation back to near full employment, a leading position in manufacturing, science and technology, and the living standards that went with it.

As we look at the present world situation, which shows us ever loosing to those who have the Oil, it's time to hearken back to Roosevelt's words: "For us, this is an emergency, as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, with the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain Leads Obama in New Poll

McSame Rubs Hands With Glee

(Don't look for much rational thought into day's post...to be honest, I'm just ranting- I'm so mad.)

I have to admit to a great feeling of frustration at this morning's story (by Reuters): McCain in 5 Point Lead Over Obama.

According to the article, there is no one group that Obama needs to win over (or has lost), there is no one issue that has lost it for him.

Instead, people just see McCain as the better choice to "stand up to Russia" and, unbelievably, lead the nation on the Economy.

This, to me is unbelievable (but of course, I do believe it, the story of the American electorate since 1968 has largely been one of a people who have turned away from facts and chose to embrace illusion.)

In what sense, I wonder could McCain be "better" on any of the issues of primary concern to the American people.

1) On Gasoline? Off-shore drilling will show NO results for YEARS and George W. Bush squandered every opportunity to use the Post 9-11 mindset to declare true American Independence from Foreign Oil.

2) On Foreign Policy? Our troops are too committed to an unnecessary war (Iraq) to successfully wage the NECESSARY war in Afghanistan...McCain claims he wants to stay committed to Iraq...how then, may I ask, does the man plan to DEAL with Russia? With WHAT will he deal with them? We've broken our big stick in Iraq, and we'll need to fix it (and hell, we weren't even speaking softly.)

3) On the economy? Americans have seen a decline in real wages since the 1970s. The policies of Reagan and George W. Bush have plunged this nation into deficit spending - eight years of conservative pull backs under Democrat Bill Clinton merely stopped the downward slide...two years of Bush, and the Republicans were able to re-start their stated agenda of "drowning" America's Government (including education, social security, law enforcement and military spending) "in a bathtub".

And, yet, again and again, American's turn to the smiling face of the Republican party- because what they "say" is so different that what they do.

Another Republican Administration will break this county, I fear, beyond all repair. And we seem to be falling for it...hook line and sinker.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Getting the Jump on Fear- time for Democrats to act on Suburban Crime.

In a recent interview with Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, the National Review ( founded by the late ueber-conservative, William F. Buckley) noted that: the notion that is still prevalent among the left is that somehow Reagan and the religious right sprung from the skull of Athena fully formed in 1980 and there wasn’t a lot of movement conservatism preceding that.

Nixonland tells a different story. Barry Goldwater may have been the first to tap into it, and Governor Reagan of California may have refined it, but it was Richard M. Nixon who exploited the fear of the "great silent majority" of Americans who watched in rising panic as cities exploded in flames, crime rates rose, and the values that they had lived by, hard work, faith in God, trust in their Government were eroded.

Perlstein tells the story of an "American proletariat" who had become "middle class" and would, in the words of Stewart Alsop, "defend their property 'as ferociously as the classic capitalists of Karl Marx's day.' "

Hisotrical change had favored them, lifting them from the inner-city (or rural) poverty of their youth and into the paradise of suburbia. Average voters not only had no desire to go back, but they were terrified that the haunted inner city they had left behind would follow them into their new suburban safe havens- traveling on forced busing, in forcefully integrated neighborhoods, bringing crime and fear.

A rightward shift began, of which we are still feeling the effects today, some 40 years after Nixon's presidential victory in 1968.

As we stand looking back at the results of 40 years of Republican Rule, we note that our nation has gone from being a creditor to a debtor nation, that we have managed to loose the respect of the world, and that, perhaps most importantly, that middle class of Americans who OWNED in the 1960s is again shrinking back into the working poor.

To many of us, it seems self-evident that Democrats MUST win this election- for the health of the nation and for the health of the middle class. All things being equal, they probably would.

But the Right still has it's most powerful weapon ready to hand: FEAR.

And, in today's New York Times, and in the July/August edition of the Atlantic Monthly are to articles which describe a rising trend in America- a trend which will breed fear, and more fear...

The titles tell the story almost by themselves. "As Program Moves Poor to Suburbs, Tensions Follow" says the Times. The Atlantic Monthly is a bit more lurid: American Murder Mystery

The "Mystery" referred to in Atlantic's title is this: Why is it that, as crime rates fall or hold steady in America's inner cities, crime rates in America's smaller cities and in suburbia are going UP?

There is a growing suspicion that this is because the Federal Government, through its Section 8 housing program that allows inner-city poor to rent in the suburbs, is exporting the drug, crime and gang problems of the inner city into the more quiet neighborhoods of suburbia.

While the causes may be debatable, the problem is not. Crime rates are rising, and they are beginning to affect, once again, that "Great Silent Majority of Americans" - perhaps even more directly than they did in the 1960s when Newark burned.

Democrats are going to need to get out ahead of this problem, and FAST- before the Right Wing forces of Fear begin to own it and make it their own.

If the early suspicions are correct, that social programs have simply shifted crime from one locale (where it was contained) to another, where it is freer to infect an even larger percentage of the population at large, then Democrats are going to have to face some interesting challenges as they try to solve the problem.

We may have to face the fact that Government alone cannot provide the answers to all questions. We may have to find ways to form alliances with faith based groups, for example, who can help instill the social values and traditions that knit a community together and provide a structure. To head off fear, we may have to redefine our relationships to ideas, we may have to draw new maps to reach old destinations.

Worst of all, we may have to learn to be patient as we attempt to solve these problems...I do not say this lightly, one of the great things about the Democratic Party is that we are people who try to live our political lives as those who "who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."

We believe in change now...the blistering fact that the dirty work of 400 years may not be undone in 40 is one that will hurt, but one which we might have to face as we fight for solutions.

One thing, however, seems certain. If Barak Obama and the Democratic Party do not find ways to address this rising problem, then John McCain (disciple of Goldwater, prophet of the Republican Age) will find a way to do it for us, and we will find ourselves living in Nixonland for sometime to come.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Cousins' War & Nixonland

A Fourth Cousins’ War?

According to the Washington Post, Barack Obama enjoys a two to one lead over John McCain among low wage workers. But that level of support, especially among white members of the group, is not deep. In battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio and Florida if McCain can pry these votes away from the Democrats, he has a chance of winning another four years in the White House for the Republican party.

Many, if not most Americans, are expressing thoughts that would lead one to believe that they would not support this. My dad recently emailed me from Central Florida:

“We have a Bush Countdown Calendar in the shop” (my family runs a bait and tackle shop- just a few years ago, a calendar like this, openly displayed, would have brought about the death of the business among the hyper-patriotic working white males who also make up the majority of the fishing population- if he’s lost this group, then Bush’s halcyon days are truly over.) “Most people think it’s really funny,” my dad wrote, “but I still think McCain is going to win here. People just can’t bring themselves to vote for Obama.” My father went on to mention how people where in debt, how businesses were folding and how bad things were.


We Democrats pride ourselves on being the party who fights the cause of the common man…and yet time and time again in recent years, that man has turned against our party at the polls and voted (as we see it) in diametric opposition to his best self-interest…both long term and short term.

In fact, if Rip-and-Read could chose only one question to focus on, this paradox would be that question. Why does it happen, and, how can it be reversed without selling out everything we, as Democrats, believe in? (Meaning, not to put too fine a point on it, how can Democrats regain the trust and votes of the white working and middle class while not throwing blacks, Hispanics, women and other minorities under the bus.)

I’ve always believed that the answers to most questions about the present lay in careful study of history, and over the last few years, I’ve found myself looking to history for the answer to my question.

In particular, I’ve found myself drawn to two books, each very different from the other. The authors’, too, are very different from one another. And yet I found myself wondering if they weren’t telling different aspects of the same story.

The first book, The Cousins’ Wars, by Kevin Phillips, postulates that three separate conflicts, The English Civil War, the American War of Independence, and the U.S. Civil War are actually three chapters in one long story of conflict between two opposing camps and their allies about what the words freedom and progress meant to the English speaking people of both Great Brittan and North America.

The second book, Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, tells the story of how Richard Nixon managed to find a great silent majority of ordinary Americans who felt alienated by the Revolution of the 1960s. Nixon used this resentment to capture the solid South (which remained solid even as it shifted loyalties) and middle America and white working class voters for the Republican party. Although Nixon himself fell from power in disgrace, his political heirs, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, have picked up his mantle and managed to retain control of the White House for the better part of half a century.

The Cousins Wars tells the story of how one camp, based first in East Anglia (England) and later in New England, and then later in what Phillips refers to as Greater New England, battled against the other camp, based first in the North and West of England, and later in the states of the Old Confederacy, and finally (perhaps) in what has been called “The Sun Belt”.

Each side (both with deepest roots in the old English factions of Cavalier and Roundhead) needed to confront the existence of other peoples within the sphere of the conflict (Scots, Welsh and Irish in the case of the English Civil War; Irish, Scots, African American, and German in the case of the two American Wars.) In each war, the importance of these other, non-English, groups grew.

As I began to look at the maps of the conflicts and loyalties in Kevin Phillips’ book, I began to wonder if there weren’t parallels to what was happening in today’s politics. The Confederate States and the Union States look very much like today’s Red and Blue States…the political battle lines in the undecided states (Pensylvania and Ohio, for example) not very far from the old border line between North and South.

This is certainly not a new idea, and it’s obvious the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s reopened the wounds of the Civil War of the 1860s. But I’d always assumed that the make up of the sides (or at least of the Northern side) had changed too radically for the parallel to be taken much further. After reading Phillips’ book, comparing the charges made by Cavaliers against Puritans, Loyalists against Patriots, and Rebel against Yankee (and vise versa) I’m not so sure- the comparison may have been even more apt than I first thought.

In each of the Cousins' Wars one side embraced new economic realities, the other clung to the past. In each of the Cousins' Wars, one side tended to romanticize the state while the other saw it as a means to a more individualistic end. And each side deeply held that the other was engaged in a conspiracy to take away freedom from the other.

If a case needs to be made that the 1960s represented something very close to a Civil War in the United States, complete with violent killings, inability to compromise, or even discuss, and deep divisions within families, and communities, let alone between regions of the country, Perlstein’s opening chapter of Nixonland puts that case very well- his narrative crackles with the sounds of angry words and angrier gunshots.

As I read the Perlstein’s description of the rhetoric flung by “conservatives” against “liberals” (and vise versa), I found that, again, each side felt the other was engaged in a conspiracy to take away freedom from the other.

Kevin Phillips labels the U.S. Civil War “the final Cousins’ War”, but after I started Perlstein’s book, I’m not so sure any more. I already believed that America has been in something very like a Civil War since the mid-sixties, but I am now starting to wonder if we are not still fighting the same old fight, between the same two camps that we’ve been fighting since 1642. The great divide in American Politics which is presently costing us so much may not be entering its fourth decade, but rather may be entering its fourth century.