politics


 

 

Well, at least she didn’t promise them coal mines

 

It was no surprise to anyone that Hillary Clinton would win the Moutain State, West Virginia yesterday in its Democratic primary contest. She beat Barack Obama by well over 50 percentage point and demonstrated once again that when it comes to appealing to ignorant, embittered, maginalized white folks, she can beat the Senator from Illinois.

There is a compelling case that many are making that due to the fact that Sen. Clinton does so well in rounding up votes from the rough-around-the-edges crowd (white folks in particular), she should be the nominee. After all, someone’s gotta beat McCain, right?

I wont deny that Clinton does well with lower educated white folks. The polls show it, the history indicates it and even some of the comments made from some of the people who came out less to vote for Hillary but to vote against Sen. Obama. Among their complaints about the man who could become the nation’s first black president, that he’s Muslim, hates America, doesn’t salute the flag.

These of course are all nonsensical. Sen. Obama is not Muslim, has lead the Senate in reciting the pledge (which is of course a pretty empty gesture) and also seems to embody something extraordinarily American, which is that someone from lower middle class origins can rise to prominence here and do well with a good work ethic and a thirst for education. That of course should be a selling point for any candidate, Democratic or Republican. Then again, when you’re dealing with hillbillies, it aint so easy to get these things across.

What should be exponentially troubling to most folks about the Clinton campaign is it willingness (purely Machiavellian) to play to the demographic of embittered, willfully ignorant, racist red necks. By saying that, I’m not implying that people who don’t vote for Obama are racist, but that in those hot under the blue collar contests that the junior senator from Arkansas…errr, New York has one, the specter of race, more particularly, the fear of a black man in the White House, is a factor. Just take the polling done recently. A good portion of those who voted for Clinton over Obama said race was a factor for them. Put simply, “we don’t want no nigger prezdent.”

Of course the polling firms don’t word it so strongly, but it doesn’t take an Appalachian linguist to know what they’re saying out there in West Virginia. Some folks just don’t want a black president.

The Clinton campaign however is desperate. They need to make a compelling case that the party needs to scrap Obama and they need to do it fast. Instead of arguing that the policies of their camp are more sound or that Hillary has a better voting record in the Senate than Obama, they play up their appeal among white voters. Hillary Clinton has come out and said it. She told USA Today last week that she does better not only among whites, but less educated whites. In other words, she polls well among the people that are more prone to believe Obama prays five times a day facing Mecca, that he refuses to put his hand over his chest during the pledge and that he fundamentally hates America. Ironically, however, Sen. Clinton polls way better than Obama among those who she has the least in common with. That is of course unless Hillary really is a stuck-in-her-ways banjo-picking, dirt track redneck. Knowing her penchant for trying to be all things to all voters, it’s not that hard to believe she’s considered that route.


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From the time that he announced he was running for Governor more than three years ago, to his shocking, embarassing political downfall on Monday afternoon, I never cared for Eliot Spitzer. To me, he embodied the type of politician, so ambitious to rise in stature that he would do all he could to crush dissent.

Where he was once described as crusading, tough, principaled and ethical, the words most closely attached with the shamed New York governor are now arrogance, brashness, conceit and hubris. Spitzer’s meteoric rise will always be seen in the light of his trysts with high-priced hookers, rather than any of the good he did or may have ended up doing for his state.

I suspect that Spitzer never really cared so much about the end result of New York State because his eyes were set on other sights; Justice Department, State Department or maybe even the White House. To Spitzer, dealing with the disparate factions of this diverse state were likely an annoyance, he seemed so much the man to look down on others.


When it was announced here in Albany that he was involved in a prostitution ring, even his own party members seemed to chuckle. This was not a man well-liked by many of those who dealt with him. It was just not easy to have sympathy for the “Steamroller”, the “Sheriff of Wall Street”. Down in in the City, the Wall Street traders rejoiced, handing out cigars, buying strangers drinks and giving ecstatic high fives.

Although most of Spitzer’s high-profile targets from his days as New York Attorney General didn’t say it, we know that in their cavernous offices, behind their cherry wood desks they felt free to let loose their pleasure with his downfall.

One who wasn’t so mum, Kenneth Langone, a former New York Stock Exchange boardmember told CNBC he hoped that the Governor, who had once tried to bury him to make some headlines, would roast in the fires of his own hell.

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Is it 2007 or did someone get the flux capacitor in the Delorean working and I’m back in another time? Let me check. Well, my computer calendar says that it’s 2007, July 3 to be exact. Good. At least I know where I am. That said it sure does feel like we’re back in another time altogether, an era of intellectual pre-evolution? Maybe just 2005.

Last month, Rep. John Murtha, the Pittsburgh area Democrat known for his vocal support of an unconditional withdrawal from Iraq turned the other cheek on rationality and sponsored a bill that would ban desecration of the American flag. Murtha is certainly not the first or only congressman to support the unconstitutional attempt to restrict the inalienable right to freedom of speech nor will he be the last. He’s merely one in a chain of legislators from both parties who believe it is their duty and privilege to tell us what is acceptable speech or not.

Generally speaking, when he or she thinks of flag desecration the average American pictures some misanthrope who looks something like Chubaca setting it ablaze at a rally to support some unpopular leftist cause. In fact, defilement of the stars and stripes has become synonymous in the collective consciousness with fire engulfing America’s most sacred symbol.

But let’s hold that thought for a moment. Put on pause the internal video replay of the man with the Birkenstocks turning red, white and blue to ash and consider some other forms of vandalism that can happen to Old Glory.

Several years ago while I was up at Lake George during the Fourth of July weekend there were several women wearing American flag bikini swimsuits to celebrate the event. As nice as a woman in a bikini is to look at, could that not in itself be a form of desecration? After all we’re talking about intimate body parts and the sacred symbol of liberty and freedom making contact. Still, I’ve yet to hear the outcry from congressmen or flag-waving speedboat enthusiasts.

Here’s another case: How often do we as consumers open the newspaper only to be buried in an avalanche of glossy advertisements peddling televisions, menswear, lawn and garden equipment, intimates and sporting equipment? Next time you dig yourself out from underneath the catalogs and fliers that come from between the sports and business sections take stock of how much the likeness of the American flag is used to illustrate any number of sales events, from Memorial, Labor and Veterans days to the Fourth of July. It could be the Ides of March and you’re still likely to find it. Is that not a form of despoliation as well? After all, those of us dog owners use inserts to clean up after our pooches.

Take for example the irony that is lost on the owner of a car on whose tail bumper is an American flag sticker with the empty slogan “These Colors Don’t Run”. Unless he changes it often those colors do something worse than running. They fade into a mucky yellow and brown that is more evocative of an atomic flash burn than the sight that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our cherished anthem. Isn’t that a sacrilegious neglect of our flag?

Everyone knows tattoos can fade. They also stretch and distend too. Depending on how well a person keeps himself in shape his American flag could end up in rough shape on the body of a careless person. It could get pulled every which way by body fat or cellulite until it is a revolting monstrosity. Certainly that is a form of insulting our national symbol.

To convince someone of the fallacy of his position one need only to reduce its suppositions and foundations to absurdity. I propose that in order to demonstrate how ridiculous the idea of banning the flag desecration is, we appeal less to its obvious unconstitutionality and disregard for the principles for which the flag stand (which are strong) and instead to the simple fact that getting up in arms about desecration is about as rational as flying off of the handle over someone wiping sweat on a Coors Light t-shirt.

Plain and simple, the flag is an image. It may stand for lofty things, but let’s face the fact that it’s really just a piece of cloth or sticker, or plastic or ink. In itself it has no intrinsic value. It can be honored or dishonored and either way the world will keep turning. So, if one is not worthy to stand up for his Coors Light t-shirt than why should he stand up for another inanimate object? It’s a flag. In the end it really doesn’t mean anything but what we individually prescribe to it. For some it’s a symbol of freedom, to others a reminder of the Union and for another crowd it’s a living embodiment of a nation in which one is free to drive a huge truck and shoot animals. You may believe the flag stands for inalienable rights but to your neighbor it represents the power to stampede on your rights and the rights of others.

I personally challenge people to desecrate the flag in anyway the see fit. Certainly, it’s tacky, but let’s face it, so is the Bald Eagle tank top or those meaningless yellow magnet ribbons. Desecrate it in your own way, whether that means making it into clothing, a table cloth, dragging it from your car, putting it on a shopping bag or yes, burning it. I love America, but I love America not for the virtue that it exists, but for what it offers us in regards to our God-endowed faculties of reason, introspection and compassion. These are the virtues on which our republic was constructed and ones on which she will rise and fall, not a piece of cloth which merely serves as a reminder of what we could lose if we follow in the path of those who are bold enough to deny our rights of reason and self-expression.

Was it the columnist H.L. Mencken who said that a person would never know poverty by betting against the intellect of the average American? Well, regardless of who said it, one need look no further than the small city of Fairmont, Minnesota for an example of the collective idiocy sadly displayed here in America. It runs rampant particularly in those places known nostalgically as the “Heartland”.

I don’t want to upset the citizens of Fairmont. I suspect that they wont be bothered for two reasons: 1.) hardly anyone reads my blog 2.) I suspect based on listening to this story about the city’s reaction to the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace, many in in Fairmont don’t bother reading at all.

National Public Radio did a fabulous job covering the fallout of the city council’s unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the creation of a Department of Peace. Nearly two dozen cities across the nation have done so, including Detroit, Newark and Chicago, so the small community in southern Minnesota was hardly breaking ground when, spurred on members of the Fairmont Peace Club, the city council passed a resolution supporting HR 808.

Two weeks after the resolution passed, the hue and cry of residents forced three out of five councilors to conciliate and rescind their votes on the non-binding and symbolic resolution supporting a bill that will likely never reach the floor of the House.

But why the furor over something that seems to be quite logical. After all, as Peace club member Judi Poulson pointed out to NPR, in a world of conflict, “peace is strategy, just like war…it takes a lot of hard work and skillful people that have been trained.”

 Turns out Fairmont residents such as Gene Hackett see it another way.

“I grew up under a time when my generation was involved with peace,” Hackett said to NPR. “The things that they stood for with that peace symbol were wrong. It was bad.”

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More than four years after the invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation of a formerly sovereign–albeit corrupt and dictatorial nation–the United States has lost more than 3,100 soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors in the conflict. Compared to the numbers of my father and grandfather’s conflicts, Vietnam and World War II respectively, the totals of American dead are much less. In comparison to the the combined combatant deaths of the American Civil War (1861-65), the amount of armed forces personnel is miniscule, less than 1 percent, in fact.

Taken into consideration that the total loss of American life in Iraq, which includes armed forces personnel, private contractors, public officials and journalists,  is relatively low, Americans who support the war tend to write off the sacrafice that is paid in life.

On their syndicated radio programs, both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have used the comparatively low armed forces deaths as a rebuke towards the anti-war movement.

Limbaugh cites scurilous statistics to conclude that an Army soldier is safer in Baghdad than he or she is in the streets of crime-plauged American cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Not only does this reasoning cheat Americans of a fair analysis of the War in Iraq, it is also wholly irrelevant. Our is a nation based upon the Enlightenment principles of reason and intellect, not simply emotion. Our joy and tears should take a back seat to the objective measurement of cost and benefit.

Wars are not fought with the consideration of the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines fighting them, but of the compelling national interest that would motivate Congress to pay to send people into harm’s way–the Constitution in particular.

As long as a war in Iraq is fought the troops will and must be a consideration. The problem is however, that both sides treat armed forces personnel like children and until they stop doing that an objective analysis of the war and its costs will scarcely be considered.

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