Monday, October 17, 2011


Am I the only one who has noticed how effeminate that pastor is - the one who said that Mormonism is a cult and then went on to throw his arms out toward Rick Perry in a gesture that must have been the envy of drag queens everywhere.  I am guessing we are just about one lacy ruffle from our next clergyman scandal; I only hope drugs are involved.  It's just more fun that way.
I listen less and less either to the news or to any of the talking heads, but there are a few things I have noticed lately from the little I have seen.  One is that those who are not raging against the Occupy Wall Street folks with small flecks of foam flying from their lips, are nonetheless baffled at what it is, exactly, that "those people" want.  I have also heard comments that ranged from gleeful gotcha-type snark to rueful bafflement as to why these folks who "can't be that poor" because they have iPhones or iPads (or both) seem to have so little resentment of Steve Jobs since they are "against the wealthy".  
It is clear to me that first of all, the idea that they are against not the wealthy per se, but rather against those wealthy people who have not earned their wealth, or those who use their wealth to unfair advantage.  Steve Jobs is eminently not among those.  Old Habakkuk said it well in his own little book of the bible: "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain".  Looks like Habakkuk had more going for him than a cool name.
In general there is now, as there always has been in the USA, three things going on.  There is the legitimate disagreement about social issues - the place of religion, abortion, gay rights, marriage, parental rights and responsibilities, crime and punishment, gun issues, the role of schools and so forth.  Secondly, there is the issue of spending - how much and whence the money to pay for it, and on what to spend public money.  These are two separate issues - fiscal and social - which are constantly being conflated so that many people who have strong feelings about social or 'moral' issues find themselves willingly or otherwise, allying themselves with people who have a particular stance on the spending issue, and vice versa.  Anyone who is socially liberal but fiscally conservative or socially conservative but fiscally liberal is reviled as a moderate, a fraud, or what have you.  Many people who feel strongly about social issues but less so on fiscal issues, or those who feel the reverse, must actually become frauds to be heard or elected by espousing strong positions they do not actually care about as much, in areas they find secondary in their beliefs about how to 'fix things'.  
As I said there are three, not two, things going on all the time.  The third thing is the growing power of those who win either way and who make every effort to keep the public focussed on emotional issues and acrimonious debate: the gotcha commentary, the 'assault' upon 'our rights' or upon the poor or upon those who 'earn their money and don't go looking for a handout' or the decline of the middle class or whatever resonant phraseology is current.  If every single congressman and senator were replaced by his or her chief opponent in the coming election, the effect would be miniscule.  There is no difference, really, between George Soros' political spending and that of the Koch brothers.  
In the antebellum South a small group of landowners oppressed both the poorer whites and the enslaved black population.  After the Civil War, this group - with a few desertions by leaders who fell from power and a few additions from both Southern and Carpetbagging Northern opportunists - pivoted smoothly into the Jim Crow era, where the poor whites were kept in line by threats of what would happen if blacks got rights and the blacks, poor or otherwise, were kept in line by what they had to lose from the little they had if the 'poor white trash' gained control.  The degree to which the poor whites had some awareness of their lack of real commonality with the aristocracy is reflected by the number of poorer mountain folk from slave-holding states who chose to join the Union army - there were rather a lot of these.  In Virginia, the poor mountain people seceded from the Secession majority in the state and formed the state of West Virginia, which remained with the North.  The passionate hatred between the "white trash" and the blacks was subtly stoked by those few who profitted either way; these poorer folk found themselves consistently supporting the lesser of two evils, as indeed we all find ourselves doing today with almost every vote we cast.  The problem is that the lesser of two evils is increasingly not all that much different from having to decide whether you'd prefer to be murdered by a serial killer or by a guy who just lost his head that one time.  Hmm; still dead.
It matters who wins an election in regard to the outcome of social issues, in regard to fiscal issues it matters somewhat also, in terms of where the money will come from and where it will go - although things will be far more the same, no matter who wins - than the rhetoric implies. However, it makes much less difference - almost none - in terms of how much money will be at issue.  In order to support our social beliefs we are sadly forced to accept the status quo politically and fiscally.  People who vote Democratic lose, people who vote Republican lose, and people who proudly proclaim that they never vote because it makes no difference lose.  
There is only one thing that would make any difference. It is something that the wealthy government officials - which includes every Justice on the Supreme Court, all the decision makers in the White House and Cabinet and all of the Congress - (although a few of the newer Congressmen may not be wealthy yet, their future wealth is guaranteed by their ability to slide smoothly into lobbyist firms or to start charging four, five or even six figures for a single hour of speaking at various venues for the rest of their life).  And that one thing is to add an amendment to the constitution divorcing the idea of spending unlimited money from the right of free speech.  There is no seat in Congress that isn't beholden to some wealthy person(s) or other.  None.  We all know this.  These wealthy few may be disguise themselves as interest groups or PACs or charities or any number of things, but in the end the money comes from people who had money to spare.  It is obscene how much it costs to run for office, and how much time most office seekers and office holders must spend seeking funds.  So much time is spent thusly that even the most conscientious of men or women must leave their research or decision making to a staff that has been largely chosen on an ideological basis or to a friendly lobbyist who will help him or her out by writing the legislation which he or she is to present or vote on.  
There will always be crooks in government but increasingly everybody is forced, by the cost of running for office and of countering expensive misinformation campaigns, into compromising independence and integrity if not into flat out dishonesty.  Whether it is hope and change or 9-9-9, no candidate for President will ever deliver, because Presidents do not make law, Congress does; and Congress won't because no Congressman is entirely free of indebtedness to the wealthy, and by wealthy, I am not talking of those who have five or ten million socked away, I mean those few families wealthy enough to buy a state.  Term limits don't help because two crooks are not better than one.  Campaign reform laws are useless, even in the rare case where they are meaningful, because the wholly-owned Supreme Court routinely overturns any real reform.  The one hope is a Constitutional amendment, because (so far) even the Court cannot declare an amendment unconstitutional. Unfortunately no amendment can be passed because the legislatures which would have to ratify it consist of men and women who are also beholden to the same wealthy few.  
What the Occupy Wall Street people are reacting to is the complete powerlessness of most of us to get out of this awful bind.  One of the last times such an all-powerful establishment was truly reformed a guillotine was involved.  The longer reform is suppressed, the more cataclysmic the reform will eventually be.  That is the way it has always been. 
It is not envy of the wealthy that is fueling this latest protest.  As I said, I have heard of few who begrudge the wealth of Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, or any of the others who actually DID something to earn what they have.  It is the CEOs who get seven, eight or nine-figure bonuses and payouts when they ran their firms into the ground, or wealthy people who are using money they never earned to demonize poor people for using, or trying to use, wealth they never earned - i. e. welfare.  People who do nothing but live well off the money some ancestor made should not be so quick to castigate people who receive medical care they cannot actually afford.  It is disheartening that those who rob a bank of billions are all over the society pages while those who rob the same bank of a couple of hundred dollars are, if caught, doing hard time.  
Poor people are notorious for not bothering to vote, but for whom should they vote?  They should, perhaps, run themselves, but they'd only be spending money to do so that they don't have or can't spare - and if they raise the funds to run, they will be raising them from rich or at least richer people, and then here we are: back at square one.   
I don't expect any improvement; I think it quite possible that we have passed the point where real reform can occur.  But I shall be watching the protest movement with great interest.
By the way, the Blogger KING OF NEW YORK HACKS has talked to a lot of different folks in the Occupying crowd and has published some excellent pictures and commentary showing who's there.


  1. Great essay, David; I tend to agree with you on most of what you've written.

    I'm not up to offering more than my appreciation for some solid reading matter for my bedeviled brain to digest; I've burnt-out on politics and would just as soon ensconce myself in some remote Buddhist monastery somewhere, if they'd have me.

    Been awhile since I've been around to touch base with everyone; haven't had much to say and little inclination to share what I have had. Sad? Maybe. Permanent? Nope.

    I'll be back around when I start feeling the pangs of homesickness again; visiting you and the other good souls in the old neighborhood keeps me in touch with my own better angels.

    Hope you'll stick around a good, long while; when my brain is starving, this is one of the first places to which I run.

    Thanks for being here.


  2. I think the future here in the US is polarized. The most likely outcome seems to me to be totalitarianism. There is a small chance of revolution and heads rolling ala the Russian Revolution or French Revolution.

  3. @Marge - Thanks for the compliments, but I can't tell whether you are prolific on your own site or not - you won't let me in! How does one achieve entry into that select group allowed to view your blog? I'd advise against a monastery, there is always some awful religious requirement - how about a remote spa?

    @Laoch - I think the outcome you mention is a possibility - in fact, I think we might be there and not notice it. People talk about totalitarian states as if life is somehow suspended for the ordinary people and they are somehow locked in their homes or something. I have been to totalitarian states, for most people life goes on - it is only the strivers and the unlucky who feel the pain. The difference between England and the countries you mention is that each time the rulers became too out of touch, somehow some reformer gave them just enough shove so that the pressure was released. It will be interesting to see if that happens for us. At least in the countries you mention, people knew who the powers were; people here mostly don't have a clue who has the power and even when they do know they think some are on their side, because they are gulled into thinking that winning on a moral issue or having the nation's money go to one group rather than another makes everything OK.