Category Archives: News

Two steps forward, one step back?

I’m all for nostalgia. I admit, I think music really died in the ’90s after MTV forgot what the “M” in their name stood for. I go to Renaissance Faires where I can indulge in the fantasy of being Ragnar the Smelly, Viking chieftain or some such.

Some flashbacks we can do without, however. Recently, we got a really nasty trip in the WABAC, back to the bad old days of Jim Crow:

In Philadelphia, a group of black schoolchildren were taken to the Valley Swim Club, an exclusive (but allegeldy “open membership”) pool. These were inner city youths, whose parent organization had ponied up nearly $2000 for access to the club. The moment the children got into the pool, all the caucasian kids were yanked from the pool by their parents. Then, an attendant, according to the local NBC affiliate, told the children they had to leave — explicitly telling them the pool was whites-only.

Mind that I mentioned this happened in July of 2009. Almost 50 years after legislation and court cases put an end to the farcical “seperate but equal clause” mandated by the Plessy case. Some 44 years after “I have a dream.” Some 40 since meaningful steps were made in civil rights. A bare  9 months after a majority of Americans, black and white, elected the first black president in this nation’s history. This was unAmerican. Pure and simple. This is the antithesis of the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands over the course of this nation’s history. 

Of course, going to the other extreme, the racism industry led by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are now going to come out of the woodwork and pontificate on how this proves that all caucasians are nothing but sub rosa members of the Klan, and how this proves that blacks still need preferential treatment in all walks of life. Does racism exist? I think this disgusting incident proves that it does. Is the country as a whole racist? Ask Barack Obama, who would not have been elected if not for a large number of caucasian voters (and asian, and hispanic…). If Sharpton, or Jackson, or whoever drops by to coattail on this ugly incident is smart, they would tell Valley Swim Club to get a life (and I hope the trogolodyte WASPs there are protested into the Stone Age for this), but remember that we’re not all horrific racist bastards, and not turn this into another chorus of “oh woe is me, give me money.”


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Don’t like Obama, you’re a terrorist?

I am about to say something that will probably get me labeled as a terrorist: I am sore tired with the conduct of the Barack Obama administration.

In a normal universe, that sort of speech would be met with supreme indifference. Anyway, who says “sore tired” these days? But in this brave new world under the banner of the Obama Administration, such speech could tar me as a “right-wing extremist.” Me, who has no party (if both the Democrats and the Republicans were to disappear overnight and take their most obnoxious supporters with them, I’d be hard pressed to shed a tear) and couldn’t be motivated to choose a wing. 

According to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Anaylisis Assessment,

Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.

While I’m sure that there are some unreconstructed rednecks who think that Orville Faubus was a great leader who are put out of joint by the fact that we’ve finally been able to elect a black man president, it’s one thing to spew racist screeds (and I’ve heard some distressing doozies — can we finally all agree that whatever the man may be, he is not a crypto-Muslim? Or a secret Muslim? Or a sub-rosa-Muslim? Or any sort of Muslim at all?) and another to take pot shots at his motorcade. The former is, as far as I remember Constitutionally protected. Slimy, disgusting and utterly devoid of rational thought, but Constitutionally protected.

Here’s where the report starts to get worrying, however, as the light is seemingly turned on anyone who has a political opinion that doesn’t track with the current Administration:

The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovreignty by other foreign powers. (p.2)

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the percieved loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors and home foreclosures. (p.3)

Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new Presidential administration and its percieved stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities and restriuctions on firearms ownership and use. (p. 3-4)

Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico) and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes and same-sex marraige. (p.4)

Rightwing extremist views bemoan the decline of U.S. stature and have recently focused on themes such as the loss of U.S. manufacturing capability to China and India, Russia’s control of energy resources and the use of these to pressure other countries… (p.7)

See a theme there? Many of those same concerns are held by a large majority of people who would never join an extremist group. I’m concerned about the very concrete loss of jobs to Mexico — the drywall business, according to Doug McIntyre (KABC‘s morning drive-time host), used to be a lucrative industry for African Americans. Then, with the Reagan amnesty, suddenly black drywall installers found their jobs and paychecks dwindling till they were completely driven out of the market by Mexican day laborers. This is not some white-supremacist claptrap — there are many blacks who had to leave a high-paying industry because of illegal immigration. Am I or Doug McIntyre suddenly to be called “rightwing extremists” because we state a quantifiable truth? I can assure you, that the Catholic Church (which is anti-abortion and anti-gay marraige) is not populated with neo-Nazi skinheads ready to blow up a black church. And not supporting the current administration is no hallmark for fascist sympathies.

Of course the KKK should be vehemently gone after when they commit hate crimes. I would like nothing better than to see Tom Metzger and his filthy W.A.R. organization brought up in front of a judge for the mayhem they’ve caused. I cheered when the Aryan Nations was destroyed in a lawsuit brought by a woman whose son was murdered by those thugs, and Idaho is better for their absence. The American Nazi Party and its descendents should be labeled for the traitors they are — their ideological forefathers took a very good try at killing some of my relatives on the beaches of Normandy.

But that’s not what this is about. This is not about extremists. This is not about white supremacists. This is not about Militias, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, no matter how many times those references are thrown about. This is about political payback. This is about Monica Lewinsky, and Jeremiah Wright, and the fact that people won’t just sit down, shut up and let the Messiah run the country, because he knows what’s best for everyone. This is about the impeachement of Bill Clinton, and about the so-called “power of the conservative media” (though I’d gladly give that droning gasbag Limbaugh a nickle if he’d cork it for a week) and the “us-vs.-them, rah team” mentality that’s unfortunately reasserted itself in politics since the end of the Second World War.  This is about Tea Parties, and protests, and rightful, controlled anger at a nation that many people feel is slipping away into something they want no part of. These are not people about to bomb a Federal building. These are not people who have an interest in retreating to the hills and forming some farcical “resistance force” or “guerilla militia”, play-acting that they’re the loyal Maquis under an occupier. These are not people who have some delusional, paranoid notion that “the Jews”, or the Bilderberger Group, or the Freemasons  are conspiring to take over the world.

They’re just  people. 

People who are tired of “stimulus packages” which are throwing their money down ratholes and given to men who put us into this economic situation.

They’re tired of politicians cramming values, whether those are liberal or conservative, down their throats.

They’re tired of seeing their paychecks diminished by taxes, taxes not going to run the essential functions of government, but to a myriad of social programs that they likely do not or cannot use.

They’re tired of seeing us kowtow to governments who hold ideals foreign, nay — diametrically opposed, to our own, because they hold a marketable commodity that we want.

They’re tired of being told that we have to allow waves of people from a foreign country who, while in a deplorable state, are overburdening an already thinly-stretched  social safety net, and who are taking jobs that unemployed Americans could be doing.

They’re tired of seeing politicians, many of whom have never run so much as a lemonade stand, demanding a direct hand in major corporations. Particularly when those corporations would be better served by just collapsing into dust and letting others take their place. 

They’re tired of being told someone else knows what’s best for them, particularly if that someone is a faceless, nameless functionary in the bowels of government.

They’re tired of the parade of self-serving politicians, so eager to aggrandize their own power and base by taking our money and giving it to worthless projects that just coincidentally happen to be lavished on their home states.

They’re tired of legislators who try to work in secret, drafting reckless spending bills, wasting our money, and then say that the bill must be voted on, sight unseen — that any delay, or even debate, would irreparably harm the nation.  

They’re tired of politicians who demand one code of behavior from us, and then willfully hold themselves to a much looser standard.

And calling these people “extremists”, or trying to tar them all with the brush of “terrorism” is only going to make them that much more annoyed. It seems to be “coincidental” that this report was released a couple of days in advance of April 15, when numerous “Tea Party” rallies are to be held across the nation, by people fed up with a government that is stuck at the feeding trough like a prizewinning pig. It can only be that this report was timed to make people think that the Tea Party protestors are aberrant individuals, focused on the ruination of the country, beholden to a “right-wing hate machine” that seeks to impose a Nazi-style totalitarianism, bring back slavery, force Southern Baptist Charismatic Christianity on us as the state religion, and kick puppies for good measure.

Because this is how it starts. Don’t dare engage with your opponent. Demonize them. Make them less than completely American. Question their patriotism. Question their sanity. Question their capacity for rational thought. Rip them down, deconstruct them and build them back up into a straw-man image of their former self. It’s so much easier to fight a straw man.

So much more one-sided.

So much easier to demolish.

And we’ve been down this road before, too many times, from both sides of the political spectrum. No, the Republicans are not blameless either, when they were tarring anyone who questioned Bush’s polices with the brush of being “unpatriotic” or desirous of a terrorist strike against this nation, and drowned out criticism with the chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” as if that mantra made them more patriotic than the critic. Even now, Marc Levine talks of “socialism.” Sean Hannity fears “marxism.” And Glen Beck is concerned of “fascism.” I don’t see the Swedes taking over, nor the dread hand of Ulyanov hovering over this nation, nor jack-booted, black-shirted thugs force-feeding enemies castor oil. I instead see mediocrity, imbicility and cupidity in government. I also hope to only see four years of it.

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Did he really say it?

There is a quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero that has been making the rounds at blogs for a few years, mostly on the side of the hard right  and Libertarians, usually invoked in the context of an imposing Marxist or “one-world-government” takeover with the occupant of the White House being in on the plot:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.  For the traitor appears not a traitor – he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.   He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

 On the face of it, it sounds possibly authentic. the cadences are there and the use of trios of phrases that was a hallmark of the Ciceronian style. If it wasn’t written by him, it was written by someone who at least superficially knew his style. Further, the subject matter of the passage is similar to some attested Ciceronian work. Cicero was known to use the disease metaphor in dealing with specific traitors, in 1 In Catilinam 31 he likens the Republic to a man delusional with fever, the pathogen in question being Lucius Sergius Catilina and his partisans within the city of Rome, and in the other speeches does discuss the danger of having men like Catilina within the city walls. (Catilina was accused by Cicero of having tried to destabilize the Roman Republic in 63 BC, the results of a bitter election battle for Consul the previous year.) For instance, 2 In Catilinam 5:

As for these men [Catilina’s remaining men including Publius Lentulus Sura] whom I see flitting about in the Forum, standing in front of the Senate-house, even coming into the Senate…these I would have preferred him to have taken with him as his soldiers. Remember that, if they remain here, it is not so much his army we have to fear as those who have deserted it. They are all the more frightening because they are unmoved in spite of the realization that I know their plans.

— (from the Loeb Classics Library edition, tr. C. MacDonald. Emphasis mine.)

 But did he actually say it? I can’t find any links to the quote that provide a cite beyond the date it was supposedly said (about which more below). In the speeches that I have read of Cicero’s, the phrase does not appear. The phrasing also seems a bit off from Cicero’s style. It seems to be too conspiratorial, too paranoid, too whispery for a man whose speeches usually are more ringing and showy — his speeches against Catilina are a bombastic denunciation, laying bare everything he knows about the Senator’s plans to destroy the city. Cicero did not do much of anything in sotto voce, if his biographers are to be believed. And that quote looked like it was meant to be read in sotto voce.

 If the quote were genuine, it is a passage that would have stood critical scrutiny in journals and scholarly works — Cicero has been a wellspring for scholars since the days of Macrobius’ Saturnalia (which cribbed liberally from de re Publica and de Legibus and from which many passages from the fragmentary works were recovered). Most other Cicero quotes are featured not exclusively in blogs and reader comment sections, but also in academic works, and in legal texts, and in speeches unto this day of politicians. Nowhere does this quote seem to appear in any work of the sort.

Most of the cites claim Cicero made the statement in 42 BC in a document called “Speech in the Roman Senate.” Two things are wrong with this. I’ll handle the lesser point first.

Cicero was not known for giving nondescript titles to his speeches. “Speech in the Roman Senate” does not appear as a work by him in any known list of his works, mostly because the nearest Latin equivalent, in Senatu habita, literally meaning “delivered in the Senate,” was a tag on such speeches to show the circumstances of the work’s provenance, for instance In Catilinam prima in Senatu habita. His speeches were instead directed for, or against, or on something, like In Catillinam (“Against Catilina”) or Pro Murena(“For Murena”) or De Imperio Cn. Pompeius (“On the Military Command of Gnaeus Pompeius”). The closest thing to such a speech title was Post Reditum in Senatu, which was Cicero’s first speech in the Senate after his exile at the hands of Publus Clodius Pulcher was abrogated, though this was in 57 BC. The quote does not appear there, thought it would have been a prime opportunity for Cicero to have made the remark. 

The more important point follows. There is no way he could have conceivably given a speech in 42 BC. He was not in a condition to speak in 42 BC, having been murdered on the orders of Marc Antony on December 7, 43 BC. Some bloggers, realizing the problems of having a dead man give a speech in the Roman Senate, backdate this to 45 BC, but that presents other problems for authenticity. In 45 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar was still firmly at the helm of the Roman ship of state, and probably would have, given his stated clemency campaign, thought a “traitors in our midst” hysteria counterproductive. There is no real evidence that Caesar, outside of a few troublemakers and recidivists, bothered to enact a purge on the model of the Marian/Saturninian massacres or the Sullan Proscription.  Cicero himself was despondently sitting out much of the Senate proceedings, devoting his time to philosophical works like De Re Publica and De Legibus, and writing a treatise on correct behavior to his son Marcus. He was also in mourning that year for his beloved daughter Tullia, and history records that this was another reason for his somewhat uncharacteristic silence. He did make a few fawning speechs on Caesar’s behalf and in Caesar’s interest (one of Cicero’s failings was that he proved to be a moral coward when faced with overwhelming authority or force — for instance his collaboration with the Triumvirate, which he politically loathed), but for all intents and purposes,  Cicero didn’t return to full public life until after Caesar’s assassination and the delivery of the 14 Philippics against Marc Antony (the speeches that sealed his doom) in 44BC.

Even charitably attributing the quote to his son, also Marcus Tullius Cicero, doesn’t work. The younger Cicero was away from Rome in 42 BC, having fled Antony’s armies after the disastrous Battle of Philippi of that year. And Cicero junior was not known for having the rhetorical genius of his father — there are few, if any, surviving works of his. He’s arguably best known for being the target of de Officiis (“On Obligations”), the above-mentioned treatise that Cicero was working on at the time of his death as a “kick in the pants” to his son, who was spending much of his time in Athens carousing and slacking on philosophical and rhetorical studies (much to his father’s chagrin).

Given all of this, I can only assume that the quote falls in the same category as the infamous “Franklin Prophecy” (an attempt to put in the mouth of — of all people! — Benjamin Franklin an antisemitic rant) or the faked “quotation” from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesarthat surfaced, unbidden, after 9/11 as an indictment of the Bush Administration, or Lincoln’s supposed warning about capitalism.

The dead cannot contradict or deny the words we put into their mouths. But let’s get an expert opinion on this:

Quidem concessum est rhetoribus ementiri in historiis ut aliquid dicere possint argutius. (Indeed, rhetoricians are permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly).

  • M. Tullius Cicero, Brutus 42.

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Governor Girlie Man Strikes Again!

Herr Governer Schwarzenegger, warum haben Sie uns in Stich gelasst?

 Arnold Schwarzenegger, der Ahnold, once was the epitome of badass masculinity, with his gigantically chiseled physique, and “ve vill krush you” Teutonic accent. He was buff. He was bad. He was not someone you’d want to be on the bad side of. He was known for playing men of action in the movies. Conan. The Terminator. John Matrix. Mr. Freeze — OK, scratch that last one.

But he went and found politics. After the disastrous governorship and subsequent recall of Grey Davis, Schwarzenegger was voted in as his replacement, mostly on name recognition. Conservatives thought they were getting the second coming of Ronald Reagan — hey, he was an actor, and a Republican, and had become Governor of California, so completely the same, right? Everybody else thought that Schwarzenegger would hold a hard line with the legislature and perhaps set off some verbal, political fireworks on the level of his movies — after all, his Predator co-star, Jesse “the Body” Ventura, was known for his combativestance to government (and damn near everyone else) as Minnesota’s chief executive.

Wrong on both counts. After a brief attempt to impose fiscal responsibility on the state (that found no traction with the Legislature or, sadly, the voters), he bent over completely, and went on a spending spree the likes that can only be imagined.

Now, courtesy of the economic downturn, the bill has come due, and it’s not pretty. This state is $11 to $15 billion in the hole. This was the gap that caused the budget fiasco over the summer. And even though after the commedia delle arte was over, they still could not find a good way to close the gap between income and spending. 

Schwarzenegger has proposed a 1.5 cent increase in the state sales tax (with the stated hope being raising $4.4 billion). That means that in some areas, such as here in Los Angeles County, where we just voted for to add a half a cent to the sales tax, the sales tax alone will come out to over 10 cents per every dollar. And Schwarzenegger wants to see that tax applied to more products and to services. So that we can subsidize and bail out the Legislature’s bad behavior. Just as our illustrious Congress is using our money to lay out the safety net for mortgage lenders who took the economy down a rabbit hole thanks to their criminal stupidity? No. I say no!

What California needs to do, immediately, is STOP SPENDING. We just voted ourselves a shiny new bullet train which the state’s going to borrow $9.95 billion for, a $980 million payout to childrens’ hospitals — even though the bond money from the first ballot initiative of a few years ago has largely gone undisbursed, and a $900 million bond to give veterans low-cost housing loans. This is on top of billions voted in past elections in recent memory for such things as stem cell research. And this also on top of grasping, greedy state unions who abuse the fact that the same politicians who are supposed to negotiate labor contracts are bought and paid for by them to run up ridiculously expensive salary and benefit tabs — and with clauses that make it almost an act of God to fire a state employee. (I, for one, am surprised Schwarzenegger was able to sew his balls back on long enough to threaten to cut all state employees down to minimum wage, a sublimely stupid and pointless movethat merely ended up shaking the hornet’s nest that much harder.) For years, and years, and years, we have spent money and raised bonds until our coffers havebeen drained and our public credit is hovering just above junk-bond status. We havebeen bled white. We cannot give any more. And it is a shame, because children’s hospitals and veterans are worthy, noble causes for the state to aid.

When we have the money. When budgets have been busted due to union greed, lawmaker cupidity and our own fiscal foolishness, something then has to give.

In Los Angeles, as KABC’s Doug McIntyre is eager to point out, trash feesin the ‘burbs have been raising steadily since Antonio Villaraigosa took office, with the stated aim of hiring 1,000 new police officers. In August, the fees were raised yet again, to a whopping $38 a month. And yet no new officers have been recruited as far as we can tell. Yet Villaraigosa can find money to plant 1,000,000 trees around the city. Yet Councilwoman Gloria Molina could find enough money in the civic coffers to build a Mexican-American cultural heritage center. Villaraigosa and Molina and the rest of the City Council are not merely fiddling while Los Angeles burns — they’ve formed a friggin’ orchestra! And yet, city revenues go down, businesses bolt (thanks to the fact that many places in LA are just not safe — good luck getting businesses and jobs into Watts and South Central Los Angeles, where they are desperately needed to lift the long-suffering populace out of their economic and gang nightmare), taxes go up and the Crips, Bloods, Aveneidas, Mara Salvatrucha and other gangs still rule the streets of the inner city.

Even the Los Angeles Times realized this in a recent editorial against a city measure that would have placed a $36 hike on city parcel taxes to go into gang-diversion programs. While a noble goal, the Timesconcluded, the players in the plan, including Villaraigosa and the now-defunct and trouble-plagued LA Bridges presented too much of a risk of a money hole to be given the funding. This is how the Times— usually leading the parade for Villaraigosa, put it:

 It is far too early to add new taxpayer funding to programs that may or may not work. It would be like trusting that a drug-dependent friend has kicked his habit based on only his promise, before he has even completed his first stint in rehab.

Pink Floyd said it best — “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” It’s time to cut what spending we can — where bonds have already been sold, shikata ga nai. Outside of that, we need a governator who is man enough to start slashing spending, and perhaps even bust unions when he can to get spending down to a reasonable level. Before the Golden State becomes the Pyrite State.

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President Obama, it’s time for your closeup!

History was made last night, and don’t you think that the supporters of Barack Obama are going to let anyone forget that for quite some time. From Washington DC all the way to the town of Obama, Japan, celebrations have broken out across the globe, hailing the first black man to become President of the United States (no. Bill does not count, no matter how much he billed himself as “the first black president.”). That in itself is an amazing, epochal, foundation-shaking event. Only 50 years ago, within a human lifetime, blacks were refused seating in restaurants across the south, were told to sit at the back of buses — they even were forced to use separate drinking fountains from whites. Less than 150 years ago, blacks could still be legally kept as property. And now, a black man is president. In an election won in a majority white nation. I do not agree with President-elect Obama on the issues, and did not vote for him, but I salute, congratulate and celebrate him and his achievement. He’s earned his place in the history books.

A few things to remember though:

For the Democrats, remember that “all glory is fleeting.” Obama has won the presidency. The Democrats have also consolidated their hold on both houses of Congress (as of this writing, they still have, if four razor-thin-margin races go their way, a shot at a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate). They essentially rolled back the clock to the pre-Newt Gingrich status quo, where the Democrats had held a majority in the Senate and House, and had even wrested the presidency away from the Republicans — in effect this was the delayed Democratic answer to the Reagan landslide of 1980, when it seemed that were were on the cusp of a perpetual Republican ascendancy through Ronald Reagan.  Before Bush the Elder, Clinton and Bush the Younger.

Now, it’s Obama’s turn, and he has a job that nobody should envy. Iraq is improving, but both we and the Iraqis see a need to stick around, at least in the short term and it can still get messy. However, with anti-war groups seeing him as the last best hope for a full withdrawal immediately, he is going to be pulled in two directions at once, especially once the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) between Iraq and the US is finally settled. The economy is still in shambles from the sub-prime mortgage fiasco (if I were advising Obama, I would suggest he order criminal investigations of Lehman Brothers, AIG, Bear-Stearns, Countrywide, and the other subprime lenders, and then introduce bills in Congress geared towards making sure this disgrace never happens again), and it will fall to Obama to start picking up the pieces — Lord knows Bush hasn’t had a run of particularly good luck or competence in repairing it — the $600 stimulus giveaways were a joke, and the bailout only seemed to reinforce the perception that the Bush Administration was only interested in helping out well-heeled donors and corporate grandees (it didn’t help that AIG turned around and sent its top execs some of the same people who got us into this misshive in the first placeto a spa resort for pampering). The bailout did nothing to fix the problems with selling mortgage-backed securities, particularly from those at risk of default, that was the powderkeg that exploded the crisis. 

Obama undeniably benefited from this groundswell of anger at a Bush administration now widely seen as incompetent, and it showed. Here, in California, for instance, numerous counties that had gone for Bush in 2004 (while the president was still riding the post-Iraq high)  flipped to Obama, including San Bernardino County, which has seen a drastic increase in foreclosures since the crisis hit.  People were not voting for the Democrats. They were voting for change, as represented by Obama. He could have worn a ferret or a marmoset or a Thompson’s Gazelle on his lapel instead of a donkey — so long as it wasn’t an elephant, he was golden.

Since much of the vote is coming down to the pocketbook, we still have to see which Obama is going to be the one in office — the financially secure if governmental expansionist Obama who will lay on a new New Deal or the “marxist,” “redistributionist” Obama who will raise taxes on the rich (whatever his definition really is) to try and float all boats equally. If we get the latter, whether from a desire to be that or through his being goaded by radicals who want to see implicit promises carried through, it could end up backfiring if the economy suffers.

And to that, remember that the electorate is fickle. They want to see a quick turnaround (even though such may be impossible, and even Obama acknowledged that in his victory speech, pleading for patience by saying that solutions may not take effect in one year or one term) and if the situation does not improve to their satisfaction, 2010 is right around the corner, hanging like the sword of Damocles ready to drop on the Democrats.

For Republicans and conservatives who may be on suicide watch right now, the message should be “don’t panic.” The sun rose in the sky this morning, even if it be over a America that elected Obama. The world is not going to tilt off its axis. This is not a sign of the apocalypse. It’s just an election. Take a deep breath and realize that Pennsylvania Avenue is NOT about to be renamed Red Square or Arafat Boulevard or some such nonsense like that. And, let’s call a spade a spade — John McCain was about as electrifying a candidate as a soggy paper towel, which is a let-down because the man showed cojones of brass while a guest of the NVA in Hanoi. He chose not to forcefully fight Obama, carrying on a bizarre campaign that would play things close to the vest and then suddenly lunge out and mention Bill Ayres or Jeremiah Wright, while not attacking Obama’s use of private contribution funds after publicly stating that he would eschew them to qualify public money. His plans were often non-existent and poorly articulated, and his attempts to suspend the campaign and get back to Washington, in the hopes that it would make him look like a statesman still on the nation’s clock while Obama blithely continued on with business as usual, backfired hugely, as it both tied him with the pork-laden abomination as well as make him look panicky by going when there ended up being little to do.

 So, suck up, buck up and come back with a new plan if you seriously want to retake either Congress or the White House.

And stop with the sour grapes nonsense. On the radio today, I heard some callers talk of how Obama’s not “my president.” It doesn’t work that way. Whether or not you agree with him (and I don’t), Barack Obama won the election of 2008 fair and square. He earned it. He is our president, or at least he will be on January 20, 2009. To say otherwise is to strip him of his rightly-deserved laurels and to strip the office of President of the respect it deserves. I dislike George W. Bush for a great many things. But he is my president. I distrusted Bill Clinton. But he was my president. I will likely disagree with Barack Obama on a great many things. But he will be my president. We do not have the luxury in this country of setting up a “government-in-exile” every time an election goes awry (or when the candidate, as here, just seems to say “screw it”). There will always be another election. But for now, it’s time to deal with President Obama.

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British Councils banning Latin words.

UK Councils: No Latin Lovers…

There’s only one thing to say about this — “It is un-American. It is un-British. It is French.” — Mark Twain.

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Smoke Choking the Fire

By Patrick Payne


This columm, in a slightly altered and shorter form, first appeared in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News. The edit you are looking at now is the product of edits made by me after the original publishing. 


          There are days, in my more morose states, that I almost believe this country deserves a short spell of dictatorship. We Americans have never seriously lived under a tyranny. Not even when one trots out their pet “evil president” (such as on Bush or Nixon on the left or Roosevelt or Clinton on the right), can we compare our excesses to North Korea or “Fortress Europe.”  We’ve, blessedly, no experience with such totalitarianism. In some ways, that’s a blessing, and a curse. I’ve no love of tyranny, but those who have had to fight for their liberty tend to cherish it more by the dint of having had to sacrifice to earn it.

           Today, we hold our freedoms so cheaply — take them for granted so blatently – that only our own personal free speech is worth protection, not our fellow countrymen’s. We are choking the tree of liberty off by mangling the very essense of the word to mean “I’ll defend free speech for me, but not for thee.”

            Our forefathers risked their very lives to establish the freedoms we enjoy. The words “we pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour” were not mere fripperies or rhetorical flourishes by a Congress desirous of sounding erudite. By signing the Declaration of Independence, the Founders had collectively signed their own death warrant. Had the Revolution failed, all we’d remember of them – of Jefferson and Adams, of Franklin and Livingstone, of Hancock and Sherman — is their hanging outside London for treason. 25,000 men died to win those freedoms. And yet we abuse their sacrifice, repeatedly spitting on the liberty they purchased, and crowing self-righteously as we do it.

            We abuse them when journalists, reporting on potential political corruption, are arrested when they are doing lawful work on a public sidewalk.

            We abuse them by challenging and, in some instances, burning books that may go against political or religious mainstreams.

We abuse them through corporations in this country who, paying lip service to the First Amendment, are all too happy to kowtow to more repressive governments by restricting information – Google’s censoring out Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the Falun Gong to Chinese Internet users, and YouTube’s removal of videos critical of the King of Thailand are mere examples.

            We abuse them during campaigns by destroying the yard signs and posters of candidates with whom we disagree.

            We abuse them through attempting to shout down speakers, by disrupting and dissolving speeches by those we disagree with – sometimes even through violence— and then when arrested, claiming our own free speech rights are being infringed.

            We abuse them when, under the pretext of a peaceful demonstration, rioters instigate violence to silence and intimidate opponents. 

            We abuse them by an endless stream of attackladen ads, ones that do little to advance the cause of the American political process or American liberty, but bog us down in the minutia of “unrepentant terrorists” and “by the way, did I mention he’s black?”

And, we abuse them when once-respected journals, established newspapers and TV news organizations, fall so nakedly into advocacy for a political candidate that all their reportage becomes suspect.

            Listen – your forefathers cry out. “How could you do this?” they ask. “Was the tree of Liberty watered with our blood, sweat and tears so that it could be chopped down for your political and economic expediency? Was our sacrifice all in vain?” They call to you to disagree, even vehemently, but to always remember those who fell at Lexington, Gettsyburg, Chateau-Thierry, Normandy, Inchon, Hue, and Fallujah. Remember why they fell – the ideals that propelled them to give their lives for this country – for freedom. Honor their sacrifice by treating free speech with the respect it deserves.

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