All Hail Freedonia!
Republican harping on God and Freedom, representing Government as a fairly unabashed evil, would have us forget the fundamental analysis of the Social Contract theorists that undergirded our founding generation's political understanding.
The fault of perfect Liberty is that it is unenjoyable, incommensurate with Life and the pursuit of Happiness, in the State of Nature. God may endow these unalienable Rights, but it is men who must secure them by banding together, consenting to renounce perfect Liberty to institute Governments.
This understanding is inscribed right in the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Republicans would have us remember the first part and forget the dash-bound second part. The absolute Freedom for each to choose and tailor their own healthcare is incommensurate with Life and the pursuit Happiness for all. Such a heedless absolute Freedom is nothing to which all would consent as a legitimating end of government. Republican healthcare would cast us back toward the State of Nature, which Thomas Hobbes represented as a "war of every man against every man,' wherein human life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
(Comment on Paul Krugman, "Death and Tax Cuts" https://nyti.ms/2mfD97f)
rri (Feb '17)
Nicholas Kristof (Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election?) correctly cautions against viewing the apparent Trump-Putin political alliance in terms of cold war conspiracy. Trump is not some "Siberian Candidate," a deep cover agent for Moscow. It's worse than that. Trump's is not an ideological or moral commitment to a foreign adversary. His willingness to walk up to the line of treason in spirit if not in law is rooted in a pure lust for power and personal gain by any means; one that leads him to conflate himself, his prejudices, and his business interests with American national interest. That is the sum of his America First patriotism: Trump First. Putin also conflates himself, his power, and his gain with Russian nationalism. It's the core of his own demagogic appeal. Trump's "I alone" affinity for Putin's post-communist authoritarian kleptocracy is a frighteningly natural one of like minds and like...
rri (Jul '16)
Let us consider the assumed symmetries: Obama's inexperience =~ Palin's inexperience Biden's experience (6 terms in Senate; worst vices: likes to talk too much and has sense of humor) =~ McCain's experience (4 terms in Senate, worst vices: violent temper and see-no-evil, hear-no-evil relation to lobbyist buddies -- poster-child for enlightening & ennobling effects of torture applied long, long ago.) Let us consider the putative symmetry: Obama chooses Biden as his Vice President, at worst admitting that he might need more seasoned advice in an international crisis, and responsibly providing Americans with assurance should something happen to him. McCain chooses Palin as his Vice President, implicitly claiming he already knows everything there is to know about life and death, peace and war, health and the economy, and is entitled to show a big "FU" to everyone else in his choice of Vice President. Whose temperament and judgment do you want...
rri (Aug '08)
Occasionally, a friend who is fond of me, will send me columns by Maureen Dowd, hoping to expand my somewhat limited political sensibilities. There was one recently, "Brothers and Sisters, July 25, 2007, NY Times" (Free Democracy link), that addressed the effect Bush is having in turning previously staunch Republicans into Democrats. Well, that is pretty straightforward now; the Republican Party is rather onerous to be associated with at the present time. Which gives rise I suspect to a host of "closet" Republicans, but that is another matter. In any event, the article prompted me to ponder why it is that people voted Republican in the first place. In so far that is that one votes for a party rather then a person, because clearly if one were voting for a person, Bush would have been far less likely to be elected. Then given that one is voting for a...
Zarazi (Jul '07)
Sitting around in a hotel room, as I seem to be doing quite a lot of these days, and attempting to avoid doing whatever it was that I should have been doing, having also sacificed my laptop to the male members of the family, there was naught to do but watch CNN on TV. Repeatedly, endlessly. Thus, on a segment which I believe was called "Keeping Them Honest", a worthy effort I am sure, however ineffective, I came across "The God Vote". It appears, at least to their own pundits, that the democrats have finally gotten their act together and decided that they are not simply going to cede the God Vote to the Republicans. After all, they are good god-fearing people themselves, why should they just sit back and let the Republicans be the only ones making hay in those fields. It turns out that recent polls indicate that...
Zarazi (Jul '07)
Whether a consequence of principle or politics, one thing is clear from public polling at the four year mark: George Bush's war in Iraq has become indisputably a minority, one-party, Republican War. Now supported by only 32% of Americans according to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll (Poll: Support for the Iraq war deteriorates, March 19, 2007), the war in Iraq eeks out that very low level of overall public support only because it is still supported by more 70% of Republicans, though almost unanimously opposed by Democrats (91%) and very unpopular among Independents, 73% of whom now disapprove of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq (CBS News/New York Times Poll, Feb 23-27, 2007). As CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider points out in his March 19, 2007...
rri (Mar '07)
Article I Let's impeach the president for lyin' Misleading our country into WAR Abusing all the power that we gave him And shipping all our money out the door Who's the man who hired all the criminals The white house shadows who hide behind closed doors And bend the facts to fit with their new story Of why we have to send our men to war Article II Let's impeach the president for spyin' On citizens inside their own homes Breaking ev'ry law in the country By tapping our computers and telephones What if AL QUAEDA blew up the levees, Would New Orleans have been safer that way? Sheltered by the government's protection Or was someone just not home that day? Article III Let's impeach the president for hijacking Our religion and using it to get elected Dividing our country into colors And still leaving black people neglected Thank GOD...
rri (May '06)
No More Lies
rri (May '06)
GEN-X BEWARE! And all you ever-ambiguous Blank Generation folk, among whom I number myself, you ought to wake up too. For once again, the post-war Baby-Boomers, arguably the most pampered, selfish and programmatically self-indulgent generation in American history, are preparing to take care of themselves at the direct expense of their younger brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. At least, that's the impression one gets reading the Bush-Cato Social Security Administration's online Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security's Future. (Also beware that under the Bush administration we live in an Orwellian world where official government websites frequently change their 'facts and figures' with political calculus, so the following quoted passages may no longer be there when you go to look.) But as it stands at this writing, the Social Security Administration's official FAQ About Social Security's Future is a powerful object lesson in the crude directness of the 'divide...
rri (Jan '05)
Just keeping track of the shifting lies, misrepresentations and bait-and-switch tactics of the Bush Administration as it slithers toward that Holy Grail of Right-Wing American politics, the dismemberment and destruction of the New Deal's Covenant with America, the 1935 Social Security Act, is a dizzying, mind-numbing task. And it's meant to be. It's among the most fundamental of discoveries of the early masters of effective political propaganda in media-dominated, mass societies -- Hearst, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler -- that one's ideological opponents can be kept permanently off balance and ineffective, endlessly marshalling armies of difficult little facts and seemingly condescending appeals to reason and rationality against the easy big lie that one can tell, re-tell, not tell, offer, modify or drop at a moment's notice. To the effective political propagandist "facts" and "reasons" are just so many deployable, imaginative fictions in a world come unanchored where any hesitation, any self-restraint for...
rri (Dec '04)
As if the Cold War nostalgia of the Bush League of Neo-Con Beltway
Imperialists and God-Is-On-Our-Side Red State Evangelicals weren't bad
enough, now comes the purportedly left of center editor of The New Republic
, Peter Beinart, issuing his own retro clarion call for "a new liberalism," A Fighting Faith
as he styles it, in a black and white world of American might and right
locked in another life or death, existential battle with the forces of
totalitarian darkness and their fellow travelers at home and abroad.
rri (Dec '04)
Was there ever any doubt that L. Paul Bremner III yet remained a true-blue, die-on-the-sword believer, sold on the grand old neo-con cause? I think not, despite his strenuous defense of self and President in his New York Times Op-Ed piece What I Really Said About Iraq. Nor do I think anyone's especially now excited about whether in 20-20 hindsight Bremner was more right than the generals--those Rumsfeld and Company had left standing--back when this chaos was first let loose. No, I seem to recall just the other day when the point was that Bremner got caught out speaking too openly a present truth about the state of things in Iraq. He was caught recognizing, accepting the reality that things are so bad that we had better start examining and re-examining all sorts of ideas, his among them, of what might have been done better. The point remains, beyond anything...
rri (Oct '04)
As we begin our final election-year descent into the maelstrom of American cultural dysfunction, before we founder beneath the coming wave upon wave upon wave of proud, flag-flying, viciously oafish "Who's Preventing Me From Being A Millionaire?" mass imbecility that is the American populace "making up its mind," before we discover ourselves too much exhausted to speak in the face of all that is so unspeakable about the American people and the American media, we would do well to pause at this summit of the loftiest crag to consider the vertiginous achievement of our peculiar institutions.
rri (Sep '04)
On May 6, 2002, the Bush administration announced the withdrawal of the United States from the International Criminal Court Treaty and claimed exemption from the jurisdiction of the permanent war crimes tribunal that the International Criminal Court Treaty established on July 1, 2002. At the time, little was made of this decision outside human rights circles. But as we now know, the Bush administration's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court Treaty in May 2002 was only the tip of an iceberg, the only then visible piece of an extensive internal, on-going effort to reinterpret in secret the Geneva Conventions, U.S. law, Presidential authority, and even the meaning of the word "torture" itself.
rri (Jun '04)
Today, at the conclusion of the G-8 summit conference at Sea Island, Georgia, the world witnessed the morally disheartening spectacle of a President of The United States of America, George W. Bush, himself a professed born-again Christian, unable or unwilling to bring himself to condemn the use of torture as an interrogation technique.
Three times he was asked, each time in a distinct and different way in case he misunderstood, each time with a different opportunity to frame an answer, simple or complex, for the American people.
There can be no doubt he understood. Three times he denied the moral weight of the issue.
Have not especially President Bush's many born-again Christian supporters the moral obligation, the Christian duty before God, to seek genuine and full clarification of his views and feelings on this issue?
rri (Jun '04)
"There are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq."
"Free societies do not use weapsons of mass destruction."
"Life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime."
President George W. Bush's faith that there is no truth so unfortunate that it cannot be dispelled with barefaced denial and indifferent neglect is simply staggering. More staggering is the percentage of Americans who apparently approve this method of governance.
rri (May '04)
It sucked me right in, an article by Scott Timberg for the LA Times. "Discouraging words are seldom heard against Frank Gehry's Disney Hall. Here are a few." I like modern architecture in general; specifically I like the sculptural work that emerged from the demise of the "post-modern" and "deconstructivist" trends of the seventies and eighties. I particularly like Frank Gehry's work. However, he has become something of a cultural icon, especially in Los Angeles, and who in our voyeuristic society is not interested in the demise of icons in general. So, I was interested to read what a critic might write about this particular work. There were many possibilities. Perhaps they did not like the sensual textural quality of the forms and surfaces. Perhaps they felt it was too similar to his previous work, that in essence it was a stagnantation of his efforts. Perhaps it had been found...
psa (Sep '03)
As I sit down to write this, the Office of President of the United States of America seems to dangle from the fingertips of the unelected members of the Florida State Supreme Court. You, reading this presumably after their decision, know much more than I. But what, really, do you know from your future vantage that we all couldn't have known all along just by looking back, back and all around us, with a bit of common sense? Whether the Florida Supreme Court proved our electoral puppet-masters of the last instance? Which dumb block of wood and paste they marched to stage front and which dragged off to the wings? Or whether their decision, trumpeted around the world one moment was challenged the next, proved not final; and other masters assumed the strings and continued the tawdry vote-counting melodrama into a fifth act? And what is that future knowledge...
rri (Nov '00)
We are now living through one of those interesting, though hardly unique or remarkable periods in the history of human delusion when fundamental alterations in existing social, cultural, political and economic arrangements have become as unthinkable as they are inevitable
rri (Apr '00)
The problem with the slogan, the problem with the notion that "democracy means everybody taking care of themselves," is obvious, though hardly ever stated publicly, even by Democrats. Disempowering Big Government accomplishes little more than clearing the field for Big Business. The notion that democracy means everybody, from poverty-level single working mothers to a Bill Gates or a Donald Trump or, more powerful still, an AT&T or a Disney, each separately talking care of themselves as best they can without regard for each other, is patently absurd. Yet it's the standard stuff of our corporate media-orchestrated political discourse.
rri (Mar '00)