Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fitting end of the Dubya era?

Feels like a rather awkward one to write, even painful. Kind of an obituary of a relationship? Not really close enough to call a friendship, though maybe I just don't know what friendship is supposed to mean. Most clearly a former employer, but we also had more than a few drinks in the local bar over the years, and I recall being invited to his palatial house one time. Even one of the few people I saw on both of my trips back to the States...

However, I'm deliberately attempting to protect the identity of the person I'm writing about here. Just a privacy thing for me, but I'd be uncomfortable if someone wrote this sort of post about me by name, so it's intended as a philosophic courtesy... For convenient reference, I'll call him Mr X.

The unique aspect of Mr X that motivates my writing is that he was the only Dubya supporter who I both personally knew and personally had high regard for. Actually, I was quite surprised, almost shocked, to find out that he was supporting Dubya Bush. There aren't many Dubya supporters around here, and the few I knew mostly seemed obviously flawed in ways that made me regard their political leanings as part of a flawed package. (For example, a Dubya-supporting moralist who admitted that his morality justified cheating on his wife, apparently because he felt everyone did. He was on his second or third wife by that time...) I've kept in touch with a number of old friends and acquaintances, and none of them were supporters of Dubya--but this one fellow stood out.

My recollection is already rather fuzzy, but I think I asked him a few years ago about what was going on in the States these years. It was a kind of open-ended query, but I was quite surprised to find that he regarded support of Dubya as a normal thing. At first, I figured it was just a Texas-local business thing, since most of his customers are in the rich or super-rich classes that Dubya describes as his base. I thought he was just playing along to make money. Such a well-educated and intelligent fellow couldn't really be drinking the koolaid, could he? However, he eventually managed to convince me that he meant it.

There was a lapse, and then we started discussing it again. I don't remember all the details of the discussion, but I never felt like he offered a rational defense of his position, and I suppose he felt the same way about my side of it. I remember that he wanted to make some kind of a wager about a prediction on the anti-Saddam war--so I referred him to my long list of predictions, written around 2001, but he evidently wasn't interested. Sadly, those were predictions of harms and damages that Dubya might do or at least be responsible for, and it turns out that all of my worst fears were realized--with compound interest. Worse than that, I missed plenty of other areas of harms I couldn't even imagine--and even though I was painting with a very broad brush there.

A couple of his later email messages finally convinced me there was no point to the discussion. At one point he tried the extremely weak argument of Dubya as the fellow you'd like to have a drink with. Fundamentally a flawed argument if you believe that Dubya is a teetotaller and if your idea of "with" means you aren't drinking alone. He actually approached it sideways, however, citing as his evidence a video of Dubya's self-deprecating humor at the White House Correspondents' Dinner a few years ago. That was the same year that Stephen Colbert did the extremely funny and rather devastating closing presentation that showed the actual limitations of Dubya's sense of humor--when Dubya stalked off in a huff afterwards.

At that point I felt that there wasn't much sense in continuing the discussion, so I blew it off. It's one thing to disagree about what is funny, but I really felt like asking how Mr X felt about Dubya's earlier attempt at humor at the same dinner a few years earlier. I was thinking about the extremely tasteless video about searching for Saddam's missing WMDs. Thousands of Americans and far larger numbers of Iraqis have died for that sick joke--with a running tab of something like $600 billion to date (for the direct and acknowledged costs). Or should I have commented about all the unintended humor of Dubya? Not much basis for discussion there, since I think the options are incompetence, stupidity, or a simple lack of respect for his audiences. Having nothing good to say, I said nothing.

Later he followed it up with some pretty crazy stuff about a gun-related lawsuit resulting from Katrina. My fuzzy recollection is that he was happy some policeman had been successfully sued for trying to disarm potential rioters in the aftermath of the disaster. Church of the Second Amendment, eh? Sorry, but I just don't see the relationship to the well regulated militia" there. Actually, I see the Second Amendment as having a very clear intention--that was completely overturned by the American Civil War. It was written in the context of a recent and successful insurrection, and it was their intention to make sure the federal leadership wouldn't do exactly what President Lincoln did do. The real question of the Second Amendment should be whether or not the Civil War was worth the cost--which we're still paying. At least that's how I interpret the former Southern Democrats who are now the Reagan Republicans with the decisive voting bloc in Texas and several other states of the Confederacy...

He sent a couple more pieces after those, but there didn't seem to be much reason to respond to them, either. Having nothing to say, I said nothing--but I kept thinking about it, and it continued to bother me. Hence this venting.

Conclusion? I guess it's that Dubya was lying (again) when he claimed to be a uniter rather than a divider. Good riddance to bad rubbish, but we'll all be paying for Dubya's miserable failures for a long, long time to come, no matter who takes over to clean up the mess.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Comments on the Election of 2008

Secondary Subject: I hope you have hope

That's the great thing about voting. It gives me a hope I can make the world a bit better. It isn't like owning the government, but it's better than nothing, and even if my guy didn't win last time, maybe I can pick a winner this time.

Short version of my story: The neo-GOP of Texas tried to prevent me from voting this year, but Senator Obama's supporters saved my vote. I am grateful and want to share my gratitude.

Introduction to the long version: All things are linked, and pulling out a key thread is hard. What do you already know? Where are the gaps I must bridge? Why are you interested? What bores you? There is no Zen, but this is a Zen tale...

So does voting matter? Perhaps it's a kind of religious thing for me, but I've always regarded voting as a sacred right and a civic duty. I'm big on doing my duty. Often it seems that my vote will have no effect, but I do my duty and I rarely skip an election. I always hope to vote.

The hope of Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn was to prevent me from voting this year. She works in the office of the Secretary of State of Texas and sent me a long and complicated email message that was intended to convince me I could not vote. It fooled me, and it was even good enough to fool a retired lawyer friend, too. Maybe it was just the legal code hidden between the lines? Seemed really complicated to me, but probably it's easy stuff for lawyers. Focus on legality and lawyers agree on the law. From her legalese, I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn is a lawyer, too. McCain says he hopes to make budgetary evildoers famous--though he means infamous, but I think Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn deserves to be infamous, too. Have you have been disenfranchised by her? If so, please tell your story, too. But why did Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn try so hard to prevent me from voting? That thread leads to general political motivations, and the specific situation in Texas.

Remember that *ALL* of the politicians say they approve of voting, but I think most of them are lying. Yes, a few of them really love voting and are sincere about democracy, but most politicians see votes as bus tokens that they need to collect, and collecting tokens is just a tactical game. Stealing a bus token is even better--it's like getting two tokens at once. But if you can't collect the token and you can't steal it from your opponent, then the next best thing is to make sure it gets thrown away before your opponent collects it.

So how do most politicians play the game? Mostly by claiming to agree with the voters, even when they don't. But the voters often disagree with each other, so it's logically impossible to agree with all of them. Is it hopeless? Any disagreement with the politician could lose that token. One tactic of some politicians is to agree with both sides of every issue--which is why most politicians are known liars. It's just getting too hard to avoid getting caught, and it's much better to say meaningless gibberish while attacking anything the other guy said. Ergo, Karl Rove tried to perfect the art of politics as lying about your political opponents. (But maybe that mudslinging machine has finally run out of steam?)

That's actually a relatively 'good' side of the political game. An ugly side is the selective disenfranchisement. For example, gerrymandering during redistricting can concentrate the other side's votes so many of those votes are effectively wasted. Details would be too far afield here, but it's worth noting that many Americans don't vote simply because they know that their so-called secret ballots have already been precounted and gerrymandered, and thus rendered meaningless. Another vicious variation is when the neo-GOP targets 'hostile' voter registrations.

Perhaps my case isn't so bad, though I'm sure I was targeted because I was a likely Democratic voter when I mentioned wanting to vote in the Democratic primary. I don't know for certain if Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn is a Republican, but Texas politics is now dominated by the Republicans, so either she's a Republican appointed to her position for that reason or she's working for a Republican. In any case I'm firmly convinced the real motivation of her persuasive but misleading email was to block a probable Democratic voter. Voting while Democratic is almost a crime in Texas now.

These years the Republicans run Texas and control all of the top statewide offices--just as Texas used to be dominated by the Democrats for many decades. It's worth noting that the switch was due to a shift of old Southern Democrats who became new Reagan Republicans. That's a long history going back to the "War between the States" (AKA the American Civil War), but the best short summary was LBJ's statement that the Civil Rights Act was ceding the South to the Republicans for a generation--but I also hope that generation is over... Actually. when the Democrats ran Texas, the real state election was the Democratic primary, and now the real election in Texas is the Republican primary--and therefore, by blocking me from voting in the primary Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn had already succeeded in taking away my vote in Texas (but mostly if I switched to the primary that counts).

However, buried in the fine print in a lower paragraph of her email she actually admitted that I still had a residual right to vote--and that's what the Obama people told me about after the primary was past. They told me what steps to follow, and eventually I was rewarded with a ballot. Now I can hope it will be counted--unless Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn has some new tactic to kill it. Maybe I used the wrong kind of ink?

That's pretty much my story, but I want to close by trying to persuade you that you should vote, too, because there are real differences between the candidates in this race. If you don't choose, someone else will--and I confess I was *VERY* mistaken in 2000 to think it didn't matter much. I'm going to focus on one positive and one negative reason why I think this election matters.

What do you think about the "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"? I think the life thing has to come first, or you aren't going to care about anything else. But do you think your right to life should depend on whether or not some insurance company thinks it's profitable to insure you? If you haven't needed medical treatment to save your life, just wait a bit. I think Obama understands this much better than McCain. I think Obama hopes to provide more medical care to help us live, while McCain just hopes to help some insurance companies. America pays more and gets less--because the insurance companies are too greedy in the middle. I think better medical care is a positive hope.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin hopes to meet Jesus, and soon. She's said she expects to meet Him within her lifetime. According to her church, that means she is hoping for and dreaming of Armageddon--and I *REALLY* don't want her in the White House working to make her dream come true. Self-fulfilling prophecies can be dangerous--hoping for the end of the world is a negative hope.

A summary? Politicians have various motivations. I think most politicians are in it for money, some for the power, and only a small number are really into the idea of public service for its own sake--even though all of them claim to put public service first. These differences cross party lines, but there is a bias. The Republicans have always been the party of business, and proportionately more of them are motivated by the money. That's why they normally treat elections the same way, working out the most cost-effective ways to get the required 51% of the votes. The power-crazed politicians seem roughly evenly split--but it's very clear that McCain has become one of them. However, the true public servants now seem to be disproportionately in the Democratic Party. Of course it's hard to be certain in advance, since they all say the same things... So far Obama has been walking the walk.

I started by hoping to pick a winner this time around. I'm picking Obama. This time is *NOW*. We need some hope for a better future.


About Me

My photo
As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...