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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: SARAH PALIN: BUSH DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN   Leave a comment

SARAH PALIN: BUSH DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN

John Chuckman

Sarah Palin is not qualified for high office, and she has proved it in two interviews, if you were listening, but it was equally clear eight years ago that George Bush was not qualified for high office, and many Americans were not listening.

The excitement generated around Palin is just as though America were again embracing George Bush – a younger, prettier version of the most incompetent person ever to hold the office of president, a judgment based on his actual achievement and not just my exceedingly low opinion of him.

She is articulate, unlike Bush, but then so are vacuum-cleaner salesmen and televangelists. Being articulate is a tool of leadership, but it is not the same thing as leadership. The substance of what you say matters immensely more than how smoothly you say it, especially when you might lead a powerful nation which just happens to be the center of a vast international empire.

It seemed painfully clear during the 2000 election debates that Al Gore avoided attacking Bush. I don’t mean attacking him personally, I mean attacking lame statements and explanations which sounded as though they were coming from a not especially-bright eighth-grader repeating lines from an article in Senior Scholastic.

I just could not believe Gore never pounced, and I think he lost the election then (of course, Bush was not honestly elected, but it is only in close votes that fraud works, and the vote did not have to be close). I thought at the time Gore feared looking aggressive, perhaps owing to his assessment of public opinion following the ghastly circus of the Clinton impeachment. Clinton did not deserve to be impeached, but he proved to us all that he was both sleazy and a practiced liar, and there could have been no circus without his behavior first.

I don’t know, but we have something of a repeat performance coming up. Joe Biden is an aggressive (if insincere and inconsistent) arguer, and he is going to be put up against this physically-attractive super-mom who drags along her entire extended family to political events, lined up like the world’s largest set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Does anyone believe he will dare be aggressive? He will be in an untenable position: damned if does and damned if he doesn’t.

In one of her recent interviews, Palin bragged of being the Governor of a state that produces 20% of America’s energy. Well, the fact is that Alaska is responsible for less than 4% of America’s energy.

That is quite a considerable difference, and it is in a subject one might think she had at least a basic grasp of facts.

Palin, like George Bush, strongly advocates offshore drilling in the sensitive environment of the North and seems to hold her belief for no other reason than that Americans use lots of energy. It is the economic/environmental perspective of a good deal suburban America where middle-class couples both work, have two- and three-car garages, and commute considerable distances to jobs that often involve more than eight hours a day, but is it a view that is sustainable in a world steeply-rising oil prices, a rapidly changing climate, and the explosive growth of competitors like China and India? The simple answer is no.

On the world controversy of Iran’s nuclear program, after some furry-mouthed generalities, Palin said that we should not be second-guessing what Israel has to do for its defense, which is nothing more than a self-serving avoidance of the crucial, central issue involved here.

The fact is that if Israel attacks Iran – something which earlier had seemed settled by an American veto but which now is less clear, especially with the just announced sale of a thousand new “bunker-busting” bombs to Israel – Iran will respond, and it has a legitimate right to do so in its own defense, almost certainly with missiles. Iran’s missiles are not Saddam’s pathetic old SCUDS but pretty accurate medium-range ballistic missiles.

Would the U.S. be instantly sucked into a war with Iran, something which is entirely against the interests of the United States, and indeed against the interests of the entire world with Iran’s ability easily to choke off the Straits of Hormuz?

And is there no issue here over Israel’s self-declared right, by invoking some vaguely-defined need to protect its existence, to do whatever it wants concerning the internal affairs of other countries, even places a thousand miles away?

Acceptance of that as a working principle in international affairs truly means an endlessly chaotic world with no accepted rules. After all, every aggressor in history believed that he was protecting his country’s existence or some other vital interest. Hitler was very good at making such points, twisting the truth, and even using eloquent words about peace.

We have the strongest possible evidence that Iran gave up its weapons program several years ago. Is Israel to be permitted to use American-supplied weapons to attack Iran (remembering these weapons come with supposedly iron-clad agreements that they are not to be used for aggression), a nation which has not engaged in any hostilities against Israel, just because Israel claims it does not believe that intelligence while not offering the world one scrap of proof for its doubt?

As to the business of Palin’s casually discussing the possible need for war with Russia, it is the stuff of nightmares. The woman has no idea what she is talking about. It very much reminded me of Dan Quayle blubbering about ICBM throw-weights, a term he memorized to toss around for impressing the weak-minded, but her talk, while equally stupid, was infinitely more dangerous.

It is not possible for anyone to take on Russia with conventional forces. Despite its relative decline, Russia still has awesome conventional armed forces, as it so clearly showed in Georgia after Georgia’s foolish attack on its former province (which was conducted against confidential American advice). Russia mopped them up in a few days and could easily have rolled over the entire country despite Georgia’s American-supplied new armaments.

Even Russia’s navy, weak by American standards, nevertheless is equipped with weapons over which American admirals have nightmares: for example, the Sunfire sea-to-sea missiles against which there is no effective defense. These missiles spiral onto targets in an unpredictable fashion at speeds around Mach 3 to deliver a devastating punch. America’s entire fleet of aircraft carriers could be sunk in hours.

The Russians have also demonstrated new technologies for submarine warfare. A Chinese submarine, equipped with some of this, stunned the Pentagon not long ago, when it silently surfaced in the middle of a task force conducting exercises related to Taiwan. This was unprecedented because carrier task forces maintain electromagnetic “bubbles” around themselves with a battery of detection devices, extending far into the air and under the sea.

So what is the alternative to conventional war? It is the war in which the United States and Russia cease to exist. Russia has some of the most accurate and defense-evading capable missiles in the world. America’s primitive efforts at missile defense – not one successful test in which the incoming warhead was not marked by a strong radio homing beacon plus a number of unsuccessful tests – do not stand a chance under conditions of a full Russian attack. The sheer number and size of warheads, the many decoys, new stealth technology, plus other technologies of avoidance mean the certain destruction of the United States.

Does any clear-thinking and sane person want someone who casually talks of war with Russia anywhere near the White House?

And what of Palin’s references, more than once, to the fact that Russia is within view of some Alaskans? Is that supposed to mean she is familiar with Russian affairs? All eleven time zones of them? The observation literally is meaningless, a Dan Quayle-like observation, a complete non sequitur to any meaningful question about Russia and relations with that country.

Here’s a colossally ignorant view of Palin’s: she believes in a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Even Bush knows that is nonsense because he put forward the lies that made the war he wanted for other reasons possible.

Saddam, like all absolute rulers, had no use for terrorists or underground movements of any kind. The safest place to be with regard to terror or guerilla movements is in an absolute state, something George Bush even understands since he has greatly shifted the United States in that direction. The old Soviet Union had no problems with terrorists or guerillas, and neither did Saddam.

Saddam also was a secularist and had no use for extreme Muslims. He was known to intensely dislike Osama bin Laden. Incidentally, women were better off, freer of ancient restrictions, in Saddam’s Iraq than they were in any other part of the Arab world.

If there were even one shed of evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11 – not the stupidly forged documents we saw before the invasion – it would have been printed and broadcast in every corner of the earth by the Bush/Cheney government, which has spent immense amounts trying to convince people of many instances of nonsense.

After all, that’s how they were caught red-handed exposing the CIA wife of a distinguished Republican former ambassador who refused to give credibility to what he knew was forgery, Theirs was an utterly wrong act which only showed how far these ugly men would go to have their way.

Sarah Palin seems made of just such stuff. She is uninformed combined with being a control-freak, something she has demonstrated many times already in a brief career, from trying to dismiss her brother-in-law from his state police job – the e-mails released show that much even if they prove nothing further – to dragging her daughter’s poor (self-described) redneck boyfriend to the convention, a boy who (again according to his own words) wanted nothing to do with babies but was scrubbed up, dumped into a new suit, and introduced to everyone as her daughter’s “fiancé.” Imagine the pressure placed on this young man by the governor of his state?

I think one of the most revealing aspects of Palin’s experience is her education. Here again there is a strong parallel with Bush, who only managed to be accepted and graduate because of his “legacy” status from a wealthy and influential family. No thinking person believes Bush could have been accepted by Ivy League institutions on his own merit, much less graduate from them.

Palin’s experience was different as to details but leads to similar reflections on her abilities. Palin took six years in five different universities in several states to earn a bachelor’s in communications, a considerably less than intellectually-taxing subject. Her records are confidential, and the various institutions will not even discuss the reasons for her many transfers.

Palin’s comparison of herself, during her convention speech, to Harry Truman was inaccurate and deceptive. Yes, they both came from small places, but Truman, before being called as FDR’s candidate for vice president, had spent ten years in the U.S. Senate, was associated with a powerful political machine in Missouri, and had taken a very prominent role in war-related Senate Committee work. Palin was briefly mayor of a town the size of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and has two years as Governor of a remote state whose entire population is almost identical to that of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Like Bush, Palin is a dangerous person – uninformed, poorly educated, aggressive, deeply ideological, and with extreme religious beliefs. She was placed where she is by a tired-looking man, one treated for cancer four times, who just desperately wants to cap his career with the title president, a man who has no ethical qualms about how he achieves what he wants.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: WHY REPUBLICANS HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR   2 comments

WHY REPUBLICANS HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR

John Chuckman

It may have something to do with a life spent scowling, years of squeezing facial muscles and lips so tightly the skin comes to resemble cracked swollen grapes. It may relate to the hemorrhoid-inducing strains of bad potty training, although research is unclear as to whether this is a cause or an effect. “Not sparing the rod” may play a role – you can’t look into the hard-boiled-egg face of Second-Lady, Lynne Cheney, without thinking about Sam Spade slapping around uncooperative witnesses. But I wouldn’t insist on the point. Her face may just reflect explosively-high blood pressure. Or an abnormally large spleen.

There may be a genetic basis for many of the large divisions of human nature – not for all the details and refinements, but for the basic dichotomies, such as optimism and pessimism, open to new ideas or close-minded, generous or greedy, smiling or sour, peaceful or violent. I certainly don’t know this to be the case, but it seems a plausible hypothesis.

So I do think it possible there is a genetic basis for Republicanism. It is difficult otherwise to explain why the same mix of traits turns up over and over – greedy, narrow, sour, and lacking in humor, always excepting for the kind of sophomoric stuff mumbled and stumbled over by a pretzel-challenged President.

Whatever the cause, it is an easily confirmed observation that Republicans have no sense of humor. I’m sure there are readers – especially the ones that send me notes advising that J.K. Rowling is a pseudonym of Beelzebub – now thinking, “Then how do you explain Rush Limbaugh?”

Well, this just proves my point. If that is your idea of a sense of humor, you have none. The words of “Naziism with a Friendly Face,” as Rush is warmly known to closeted Hitler-Jugend and aspiring pimply-faced predator-entrepreneurs across the United States, provide a sure test for lack of humor. If he makes you laugh, you have a problem. Or, rather, the country has a problem if there are enough of you.

If Republicans had a sense of humor, they’d laugh their own leadership off the platform. The party’s Washington mob could be the cast of extras from one of those old Hammer Studio horror films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Scary, ugly and dopey – all at the same time.

Strom “The Living Corpse” Thurmond: It is reliably reported that a Senate page is assigned, full time, to yank sash cords from a secret room in the Senate basement that run up Strom’s pants, attach to his jaw, and make his mouth move. Strom is no dummy though, having been granted several honorary degrees from Bob Jones University

Tom “The Roach Exterminator” DeLay: Here is a man who almost certainly ingested too much rat and roach powder while working as a pest exterminator in Texas, the kind of entrepreneurial experience deemed, in that neck of the woods, as fully qualifying you for a career in national politics. Tom fancies himself a Constitutional scholar though, always carrying a folded-up copy of the sacred text in his back pocket and showing some adeptness at its interpretation. The only trouble is it’s the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

Trent “Prancey Boy” Lott (a.k.a. “Big Hair”): This former star agricultural-college cheerleader still performs at private benefits on behalf of the George Wallace Memorial Chapter for the Preservation of our Glorious Confederate Heritage. If you want to catch him going through his moves, book early – they’re always sell-out crowds.

Dennis “The Crusher” Hastert: Nick-named in recognition of his tireless efforts on behalf of election-finance reform as well as his remarkable resemblance to one of those WWF plastic dolls, a man said by some to suffer from extended exposure to crop dusting in southern Illinois.

And that barely scratches the surface for miserable, threadbare material in the Republican Party.

We have Jesse “Don’t Tread on Me” Helms: He represents the one known species of viper that weird Carolina fundamentalists avoid using in their snake-handling acts.

Newt “Hydrophobia” Gingrich: Almost resembling a very large Kewpie doll in a business suit, Newt seems quite innocuous until he displays his piranha-like smile and suddenly strikes with rows of glittering razor-teeth. The Beanie Baby version of Newt has been declared hazardous for children.

Phil “As my ol’ Mama said, ‘Some gotta clim’ down outta the wagon…’ ” Gramm. This guy’s failure to put together a wad of dough as big as the one that made Bush president, spared generations of school kids from memorizing mind-numbing quotes off the sides of a giant marble wagon in Washington.

Bob “The U.S. government’s running a damned concentration camp down there in Washington, an’ they got Elian locked up in it!” Smith. Smith does have a certain gentility, earning him the epithet, “New England’s Own Big Bubba.” Big Bubba’s career heroic moment was quitting the party, not for anything so unrewarding as principle, but so he could be lured back with a committee position. His feat of crawling back to Washington over the rocky New England landscape is the stuff of Republican legend.

Bob “I want Ron and Nancy stuffed and put in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian!” Barr. The acerbic Barr has a tender side, he has been known to weep openly at the sight of a bowl of jelly beans. Former associates at the CIA still affectionately refer to him as the Agency’s Nincompoop Quota.

Henry “The Two-Ton Hypocrite” Hyde. Well, at least Bush’s “youthful indiscretions” stopped, instead of starting, at forty. Hyde, a consummate ham actor, gave his most memorable performance in the role of noble, white-maned statesman heroically struggling against the forces of reason, good sense, and good taste to cast down an elected President over a dribble on a dress. In his own mind, he was repeating the magic of Charles Laughton in Advise and Consent.

And, we have a new star in the Republican firmament since September 11, John “Speaks in Tongues” Ashcroft. Here is today’s indispensable man. In the course of years rolling around on the dirt floors of revival tents in Missouri, blubbering incomprehensibly, he gained immense insight into fundamentalist financial networks that he now applies to the damned heathen fundamentalists who believe the wrong fundamentals.

Of course, with a party that doesn’t think there should be a government – just a contracted-out private army with an unlimited budget for weapons from Fortune 500 companies plus a secret-police network whose computers hook-up to every home (this last is a self-funded scheme from the sale to corporations of the greatest stash of intimate, personal marketing data ever assembled) – such ballot choices are not terribly surprising. But still, even this partial roll call provides powerful evidence of a complete lack of humor.

Just as I was about to complete this important piece of investigative journalism, the following item came in on the wire from a large Eastern research facility. I believe it requires no additional comment.

IMPORTANT NEW FINDING!

Important new research has made a startling discovery. Autopsies on the brains of hundreds of cadavers have revealed that  the vestigial bit of reptilian brain long known to exist in all humans is three times larger than normal in Republicans.

Preliminary follow-up work with MRIs on living Republicans not only confirms the finding but indicates a dominant role in many of their brain functions.