Monday, June 26, 2006

Pride and Prejudice in the 21st Century

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of watching "Pride and Prejudice" on DVD. This is a wonderful film, beautifully acted, deliciously topical despite it's 18th century setting and breathtakingly photographed. (I had to resist the urge to yell "painting" during the opening shot of many a scene.)

However, the thought that stayed with me after the movie was the class system in England as depicted in the film. There are 'good' families with money and breeding, and 'bad' families who are poor or down on their luck. When contemplating marriage between such families, many characters in the film expressed horror and shock at the idea of one marrying "outside of one's station." (This was mostly evident in the rich families.) The core concept was that money equals goodness.

This must be a fundamental human impulse, for it is resurgent today in the United States. The message we're seeing from more and more media outlets is that those with money must be good, while those without are bad.

Our first impulse may be to recoil from such a statement. "We are the land of opportunity," you might protest. "We judge people on their merits, not their riches." While that may have been somewhat true in the past it is certainly under attack today by the right. But the policies of this government indicate the opposite.

Under the leadership of the Republican Party we see allowances made for the rich while the poor and middle class are ignored, willfully neglected or actively cheated. Tax cuts are rammed through which overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. The Estate Tax is under assault in a naked effort to help the wealthy keep more of their money in the family, in direct contradiction to the efforts of the founders to prevent just such an establishment of a moneyed or landed 'gentry.' No-bid contracts fatten the purses of conglomerates chummy with government officials, leading to fraud, waste and abuse while competition is bypassed and small business are ignored. Most egregiously, in the past week we have seen Congress both grant themselves a pay raise while shamefully voting down an increase in the national minimum wage.

On the part of the pundits and megaphones for the 'moral' right, we see plenty of fulminations against welfare mothers, Katrina victims, 9/11 victims and so on. No one wants 'their' taxes to go to pay for easing the problems of 'others.' It's an orgy of selfishness that belies their allegedly Christian faith.

The perverse presumption underlying all this is that if you're poor you deserve it; you're somehow in moral failure. If you're rich, it's because you're a good person, favored by God. Extending the absurdity further, if you're rich you need government help to stay rich and get richer. If you're poor the government must ensure you're not too much of a drain on the rich.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal attempted to counter the inequities of wealth in this country, but those efforts were unable to take wing until the end of World War II, when our unprecedented economic might could be turned to the benefit of the consumer. In the decades that followed, the government granted college educations to military veterans, funded education, infrastructure established and raised the minimum wage repeatedly. The result was a huge expansion in the middle class and a rise in average wealth for US citizens. Most of the country benefited. It was a golden age.

But the trend since 2000 has been to punish the poor and reward the rich. Not only do the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we now have a shrinking middle class as well, most of them migrating downward, not upward. This can only lead to economic and social instability.

We find ourselves back in the 18th century, with the wealthy odiously dismissing the value, the needs, the very lives of those less fortunate, with those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder being thrown into the dumpster, 'where they belong.' This wealthy elite now runs the government and has been in a position to codify this vile set of values into tax policy and governmental operations.

This trend must be reversed. We must raise the minimum wage. We cannot continue to give tax breaks to the wealthy, certainly not at a time when we are running up record deficits and spending billions on military operations. In order to secure the future of this nation we must spend more on education, not less, and increase investment to shore up our crumbling infrastructure to ensure our continuing economic viability.

We cannot continue to treat the poor as a burden to be abandoned, an inconvenience to be bypassed or ignored. Otherwise we'll find ourselves back in the 18th century. No one wants to be the victim of this kind of 'pride and prejudice.'

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Michelle Malkin: WRONG about Liberals

Regarding Michelle Malkin's article about Haditha. I wrote her, and here's what I said...

You make a number of statements that just can't be backed up.

"...there is this incontrovertible fact: There are countless numbers of anti-war zealots on the American Left rooting for failure."

How can you use the word 'fact' and 'countless' in the same sentence? Any poll numbers, hmm? Any one done a phone poll asking specifically "are you hoping America fails in Iraq?" I'd bet you a year's salary that the percentage of yes votes would be in the single digits. If you're going to accuse liberals of 'rooting for failure' you should do better than that, otherwise you're just throwing hate bombs.

"They believe the worst about the troops."

Again, bullshit. I served for six years in the Navy myself. I have utter respect for the hard work and sacrifices these men and women make. But when thrown into an unjust war, undersupplied, undermanned, disorganized and under constant terrorist attack, many are going to snap. I don't believe the worst about the troops, but I believe the worst about those who caused this war and who have utterly mismanaged it. It is at their feet that the massacre of Haditha will lay.

John Murtha served for years. He knows what it's like. Do you honestly think HE feels this way? He wants the truth. He doesn't like what he's seen so far. His experience leads him toward (but not to) certain conclusions. Are you just going to blow him off because you don't like what he says?

"They've blindly embraced frauds who've lied about their military service and lied about wartime atrocities. They've allied themselves with socialist kooks and coddled murderous dictators."

This sounds more like Bush, his father and Reagan, actually.
  • Bush Jr. still seems unable to cough up the truth about his missing 11 months of National Guard service, nor is there any good explanation of how he managed to leapfrog past the hundreds of others waiting and hoping for such service to avoid Vietnam.

  • Reagan and Bush Sr., along with Rumsfeld, are largely responsible for Saddam Hussein's ascendancy in the first place, and lovingly turned a blind eye when he gassed his own people.

  • Don't get me started on how many murderous dictators our government has allied itself with in the years since 1945. And yet you carp about liberals doing this? Wake up.

"They are looking for any excuse to pull out, abandon military operations and reconstruction..."

I don't think liberals want to abandon Iraq. We broke it, so we own it. But the sad fact is that things are getting horribly worse there, not better, and that mismagement, corruption and ineptitude are undermining our efforts to build a democracy. The continuing insurgence is taking a horrible toll on the morale and psyche of our troops, not to mention government contractors. Reconstruction is impossible under such circumstances. We need someone to do better.

"...and impeach the president."

We don't need an 'excuse' to impeach the president. Bush invaded Iraq for reasons that turned out not to be even remotely true. He shortchanged the efforts in Afghanistan to do so. He still hasn't caught Bin Laden. No WMDs were found. The actions of Bush and his administration, which were at worst lies and at best incompetent bumbling, have led to the loss of thousands of American lives, tens (or hundreds) of thousands of Iraqi lives and have cost us BILLIONS of dollars. The eventual cost could end up near a TRILLION.

"They insist on giving suspected foreign terrorists more benefit of the doubt than our own men and women in uniform."

Not true. But they do insist on holding them to the highest standard of military conduct, regardless of the circumstances. Are you saying you don't?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We're Serial Meddlers.

I keep returning to the thought that we meddle too much in the affairs of other nations, usually with consequences that are disastrous in the end. Since WWII we've been undermining or overthrowing governments, installing puppet regimes, engaging in proxy wars and propping up dictators for financial reasons.

When has this EVER worked out to our long term gain? Oh sure, we got some short-term benefits, but the arrangements we set up always end up collapsing in the end. Chile, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Grenada.... the list goes on and on.

The best thing we can do for international peace and security is to stop meddling. Stop robbing, burglarizing, invading, undermining, etc. etc. If someone in your neighborhood kept attacking you at night, trying to replace your head of household, hacking into your bank to steal your money, threatening you with weapons, putting sugar in your gas tank, etc. etc. wouldn't you DO something about it? That's the position the US has put itself in since 1945.

This attitude that we're better than anyone else is utterly inconsistent with this worldview that we're justified in doing whatever we deem necessary to protect ourselves, unilaterally promote our own interests and undermine our competitors.

Eisenhower was right.

We should be ashamed of this government.

Friday, June 02, 2006

O'Reilly Lies about Malmedy. Olbermann BLASTS him.

Bill O'Reilly lies about the WWII Malmedy massacre -- TWICE -- saying it was US servicemen who slaughtered unarmed Germans when in fact it was the other way around. He does so -- TWICE -- while debating General Wesley Clark, as if O'Reilly knew more about war than Clark.

Finally, and most obnoxiously, O'Reilly reads an email on his show, correcting him on the facts, and he does not issue a retraction or correction, nor does he even apologize for the slander he visits on those US servicemen who were slaughtered by the Nazis over sixty years ago.

The most egregious part of this is that O'Reilly uses this alleged slaughter of Germans by Americans to somehow say that Abu Ghraib is not that bad, or that Haditha is not an aberration.

The man is a vile piece of slime. In this video, Countdown's Keith Olberman rightly excoriates and eviscerates him. Video courtesy of YouTube.


You go, Keith.