Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Jodie ......

It's pronounced poo-kett, not f*&k-it


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The things they say

I worked late last night, and it is my job to get the kids off to school.

At about 7.15am, Natalie crawled into bed with me, shook my arm and said:

"Steve. You have to get up to wake us up!"

I enjoy their innocence :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This just does it for me :)

I don't normally do swear words, not so "in yer face", anyway. But I wanted something to sum up how I feel about the election results, and this just does it for me :)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What a difference a day makes.

On a day-to-say basis, life is pretty much normal. We worry about bills, and the kids just like everyone else does. We get up, work, play, laugh and cry in much the same way as I have always done. Nothing much, in that respect, has changed between my old life and my new one.

I love my wife and take a great deal of pride and pleasure in the kids I have here, and I miss the two that are not here. Life is as normal for me as it was when I lived in England, and it is for everyone else.

It's sometimes hard to see the differences, but they do exist. For a start, I am an Alien in this place. I have no right to be here, I live here by permission and with the consent of the authorities. This consent is conditional, and could be removed. Most people live in their country of birth and never experience the unsettling feelings associated with immigration. Not a daily thing, but it creeps up sometimes.

I try to avoid comparasions as much as possible. It isn't fair to compare America with the UK. America is not the UK and shouldn't, even in my own mind, be subjected to negative comparasions. A bit of me does wish that Americans would do some comparing, however, they might find such an exercise er ... illuminating. But that's not how Americans do things. Well, at least it isn't how the American leaders have done things in the last eight years but I suspect that is about to change.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What's wrong in America?

I'm not pissing on parades here ...... Oh no!

I am an Englishman living in Oklahoma, and at 10pm CST last night, I danced for joy in my living room, with my American wife at my side, and my three American kids asleep in their beds.

My next act was to grab my phone and call my friends in Maryland. This gay couple were the first people to invite me to these shores, and remain, to this day, the dearest of friends. I wanted to share the moment with them.

They were drinking champagne and crying. Good for them.

One thing, however, sums up the state of the nation. Despite the joy, and amid the celebrations, several onerous Propositions passed up and down the country. Several were defeated too but it was a mark of the work still to be done.

As Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America (Oh I love the sound of that), said ..... this is a beginning.

One simple fact struck me about the next President ....

He only finished paying off his Student Loans in 2006 !!

There, in that sentence, is the whole of it. We can look at healthcare, we can examine the economy, as we must, and we can make policy to mend what is broken, and advance that which is succeeding. We can foster inclusion, and we can and will end discrimination wherever and whenever it rears it's head.

If we want an idea of the depth of the problems though, this one small fact highlights it all.

The man we just elected President paid off his student loans only 2 years before he was elected Leader of the Free World.

It's as sobering as it is joyful.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why bother to vote

If you live in a safe Red State, why bother?

You won't change the result, you won't even influence the result. It's eight hours in-line to be pointless, right?


Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and even more wrong.

There are a number of good reasons to vote tomorrow, even if you do live in Oklahoma, or indeed, Utah. You get the picture.

MoveOn just sent my wife an email, and I can't find a link so I'll quote:

Big margin = big mandate. The popular vote doesn't put anyone in the White House, but it affects what presidents can do when they get there. Want Obama to be able to actually do the stuff he's been talking about? Pass universal health care? End the war? Then we need a landslide.

The other things on the ballot matter! For example: Congress. Without more support in the House and Senate, Obama will have a hard time getting progressive laws passed. Plus, there are other important local races and ballot questions in some places.

If you don't vote, everyone can find out. Voting records are public. (Not who you voted for, just whether you voted.) Pretty soon, finding out whether you voted could be as easy as Googling you.

Help make history. You could cast one of the votes that elect the first African-American president. If we win, we'll tell our grandchildren about this election, and they'll tell their grandchildren. Do you really want to have to explain to your great-great-grandchildren that you were just too busy to vote in the most important election in your lifetime?

People died so you'd have the right to vote. Self-government—voting to choose our own leaders—is the original American dream. We are heir to a centuries-long struggle for freedom: the American revolution, and the battles to extend the franchise to those without property, to women, to people of color, and to young people. This year, many will still be denied their right to vote. For those of us who have that right, it's precious. If we waste it, we dishonor those who fought for it and those who fight still.

There is another reason .....

Tomorrow, history will be made. There will be a paradigm shift in both the politics and attitudes in this country, the like of which hasn't been seen since forever, and certainly since JFK.

This great nation will elect a black President. They will elect Barack Obama not because he is black, but despite the fact that he is black. They will elect the best man for the job, and for the first time, his skin color is a secondary issue for many, and a non-issue for others.

There is no going back. From the ghettos in New Orleans to the Projects in New York, black kids the country over will, for the first time, be able to believe that they CAN be anything they aspire to.

There is NO going back. The genie cannot be squished back into the bottle. The skinny black kid is will be President and, by and large, white people elected him.

It has been a long time coming. Too long, actually, but the moment is almost among us.

Regardless of the progress made in the next 4 years, the actual event will inspire, and free up the hopes of millions.

Racism will not end. It will not end in my lifetime. But tomorrow, with a fair wind and your vote the end comes a giant leap closer.

The reason to vote #6?

I was there! It was an historic moment in our nation's development. It was our Woodstock, our Moon Landing. We elected Barack Obama and I was there. I did my bit, and I can tell my grandchildren that ...

I was there.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fiscal Conservatism

Where has this idea come from? The suggestion that the GOP represents a fiscally conservative form of Government, and the flip side being that Democrats will willfully squander the National Wealth?

Or is fiscal conservatism simply a metaphor?

Nary a day passes when I don't hear some reference or other to the idea that the Republican Party is a Party of fiscal conservatism. A Party of small government, and a proponent of the free market.

So how did that work out?

We have a record national debt, budget deficit spiralling out of control, financial markets collapsing around the world predicated on the US economic mess, and long established businesses failing across the country.

Meanwhile, education is lagging behind ALL the other industrialised nations, 2 million people a year are being bankrupted by healthcare costs, and still aren't getting healthcare, our jails are overflowing and we still shoot 30 000 of our fellow citizens every year.

So the Democratic Party has held the reins for the last 8 years, right?

This morning Paulson implemented the first part of the give money to our friends economic rescue package, when he nationalised took an equity stake in nine major banks. But that's not Socialism, oh no!, it's fiscally conservative.

In the last 25 years there has only been one budget surplus, and there has only been one Democratic President. The fiscal conservatives Impeached him. Our side, when they finally won a little influence, refused to Impeach the current incumbent, presumably because they recognised his fiscally conservative instincts, and didn't wish to set America on a path to Socialism; which could even end up with the Government taking over the Banks - heaven forbid.

In the end, I have concluded that fiscal conservatism is a metaphor. What it really means is keeping the wealthy few, very wealthy; and making damned sure that the poor remain so, under-educated, in poor health and with the constant worry about losing their jobs/homes etc.

The American Dream of owning your own home fits nicely here .... we can fiscally conservatively make sure that at least one third of poor peoples income goes straight back to the rich via their mortgage payments. And just to be mean on the side, we will charge them more in interest than we charge rich people.

So can we quit with perpetuating the myth? The GOP represents greed and division. Nothing more, nothing less. Suggesting, either positively or by not challenging the suggestion, that the GOP represents fiscal conservatism, is to play to their greatest talking point. Hammering them on this exposes the biggest lie.

Crossposted with discussion

Rank Incompetence

How would a McCain Administration run the country?

Let's examine a small part of his campaign .....

It is reasonable to assume that many of the Campaign managers, on the winning side of the aisle, will form the Executive staff in the White House.

These people will, on a day-to-day basis, be charged with running the country. While Congress is tasked with making laws, that is a process which is reactive, and rarely proactive, almost by definition. The Executive has to be responsive, on an immediate basis, and has also to anticipate.

Doing all of this requires that the Executive is staffed with able people. Folk who are knowledgeable and who possess good instincts, and have access to informed advice.

A key component of this is the application of finely tuned political skills and acumen. It isn't enough to be right more often than you are wrong; it is also important to appear to be right, and not be so unskilled that you do the right thing, but make it look bad.

Barack Obama passes this test easily, and we need have no concerns. Despite the most ferocious attacks on character witnessed in US political campaigning, he has appeared to handle it all very comfortably.John Kerry, arguably, came under an equally sustained personal attack from the SwiftBoat group. The differences are in how he responded. Equally arguable is that the attempt to link BO to terrorism was actually rather harder to manage. The ins and out of that are another debate.

Despite the vitriol, BO has, and continues to inspire ordinary Americans in extraordinary numbers. Witness his ground game. Barack Obama has, over the last two years, demonstrated an Executive competence unparalleled in it's efficiency and effectiveness.

Let's cross the aisle.

I only want to look at a single, topical, example of the executive talents of the RNC and the McCain Campaign. It is an example that goes right to the heart of managerial skills, with particular reference to their political skills.

Sarah Palin's frock, or frocks, and shoes, hair and other girl stuff.

How on earth did the campaign allow the cost of outfitting Saracuda to become public knowledge so close to the election? It is almost so bad to make me wonder if they are deliberately trying to sabotage their own chances.

If the Campaign had given me $150 000 (I wish), and asked me to spend it in such a way that it made them look as out of touch, and reckless as possible, I could not have done better than they managed themselves.

Where were the managerial skill? Where was the political acumen? Are these the people we will entrust delicate International negotiations to? This mindset is the same as "You are with us, or you are against us" school of thought, or more of the same.

I don't much care how much her frocks cost, quite frankly. It's a minor expenditure. But they surely realised that this trivial amount (Obama will spend upwards of $600 million), is probably the most politically charged expense of the McCain Campaign. Was it entirely beyond them to hide it? Jeez .... a $150k charge off to a marketing agency for "marketing expenses incurred" would never have been noticed. And if it had, and folk wanted it specifying, then the response "We'll get back to you with the details ..... call us on the 5th Nov. we're kinda busy right now", would have sufficed.

I am not advocating fraud and deception here. I am simply saying that the RNC and the McCain Campaign lacks the skills even to manage clothing it's VP nominee.

How on earth do they expect us to trust them to run the country?

Crossposted with discussion

Wandering around the Internet

I occasionally cruise (not in a wide-stance way) the Internet, and pop into various Forums to discuss all things liberal.

I am often taken aback at the vehemence, and sheer hatred I encounter. Often I simply back away slowly from my keyboard. Sometimes I don't.

Today I was minded not to, so I let them have it, both barrels, metaphorically speaking :)

They drive me nuts, so I come home, here, for reason and sanity

Ok, granted. I can't accurately say it until the votes are counted. However, this is not a too close to call situation.

So I can call it. If I am wrong, I feel confident that my crap blatherings will be pointed out to me

What some here are going to have to get used to is the idea that their failed ideology is being rejected on an unprecedented scale. They are being rejected and defeated. And you know what .... they don't understand why.

They don't get that America is about to elect that colored boy the next leader of the free world. They don't comprehend that America actually feels good about that. The best bit? This is not an *affirmative action election. Barack Obama will be elected, by many, because they feel he is the best man for the job, DESPITE the fact that he is black. Progress.

This isn't their America. They thought that Guns, religion and waving the flag was their perogative, and that Libruls were the enemies of the State. They have not even a glimmering idea that America has taken back the flag, is renouncing extremist fundamentalism (while embracing faith), and the issue of guns doesn't even rate in the top 10 things voters care about.

So they will thrash around, blind and clueless. At the same time twist associations, words and actions. They will make their strawman argument, and call argument blather, and ideas crap, because it is all they have left.

Their Dads taught them that when they were 18, and nothing since has encouraged them to be curious. To ask what is changing, and why. To begin to understand that there is a world beyond these shores, and that world is rapidly marginalising the US to an ugly sideshow, while the world keeps turning.

More and more the American people are realising they have been dumbed down, lied to and cheated out of the American Dream. And they are taking it back.

Y'all can .... er ..... blather and insult all you want. But come Nov 5th, some of you will need to re-assess. The America you believe in is leaving you behind.

Get on the bus, or get out of the way.

Crossposted with discussion

Can John McCain be remembered as one of the greatest American Patriots?

Is there now a way for John McCain to understand that the race is all over bar the shouting, and move to a position where he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest American Patriots.

I believe there is, and here is how:

Tonight is the second in the Presidential debates.

Here is one way it might go:


Thank you Tom, and good evening Senator Obama.

I am, tonight, going to be true to my Mavricky tendencies. I probably won't answer any of your questions in quite the way you might be hoping or expecting. But I do have a few words to say, and ask that, for the next few minutes, you allow me to address the American People.

My friends, and fellow Americans. Today, and for the last several days, it has become increasingly clear that America is reaching a turning point. I have run my campaign based on Change. Change in Washington and Change on Wall Street.

My opponent, Senator Obama, has run a similar platform, we differ only in the mechanics. Granted those could indeed be large differences, but all my career I have been known as a Maverick, so maybe the differences would be outweighed by the similarities.

This past week, Congress came together, with persuasion, for the first time in nearly eight years and passed Bi-Partisan Legislation that is, while imperfect, a necessary start along the road of recovery.

The key to this is, my friends, bi-partisanship. Reaching across the aisle in time of need in a way I have always tried to do often to the chagrin of my Republican friends.

Tonight I am going to use this time, in front of you, my 50 million American witnesses, to reach across the aisle again.

When Barack Obama entered this race he was not ready to be President. He was untried, untested, and unknown to the people who were being asked to entrust the future of themselves, their children and their Country to. This is no longer the case, and while I may disagree fundamentally with Senator Obama on many issues, he has clearly made his position known, and offered a choice to the voters.

I too have offered a choice. It is a choice of returning to fiscal conservatism, to defending the USA and to reducing the impact of Government on the lives of the Citizens except for where it is necessary. Many of these aspects of Republicanism have been lost in the last eight years, and I would seek to retore them.

But I have put my case, and steadily, but increasingly obviously, the American people, you, are seeking another course. I can continue, as my colleagues would wish, to continue to put my case, and continue to point to aspects of Senator Obama's character and experience that I might feel are worthy of further examination. This, my friends, would appear a little negative, almost by definition.

My race is run. I have made my case and been given a fair hearing. All the indications are that you, the American people, will choose another path.

It is my belief that America needs a 50 State Strategy at this point in our history. We need a President who has the backing of Congress, but, way more importantly, has the backing of the people of all of America, from the mountains to the lakes, and from shore to shining shore. We can not face the current economic crisis, not the demands abroad by dividing along Party lines. It won't get done, my friends, and you, the voters, are demanding that it does get done.

From tonight I am suspending my campaign. My friends this is an action that is going to bring me a great deal of criticism, but it's not about me, it never was.

I am going back home .... and when I cast my vote on November 4th, as I surely will, I will cast it for Senator Obama.

He would never have been my first choice for President. I think I have made that clear. But he is America's choice, that IS clear. I can serve America best by not spending the next four weeks attempting to denigrate and diminish the next and 44th President of the United States.

Thank you, and may God Bless America.

Crossposted with discussion

The beginning of the end?

The news cycle is, as most are agreed, a 24/7 beast. Today's hero can quite easily become tomorrow's villian.

Over the past many months now we have all witnessed the MSM giving a virtual "free pass" to the McCain Campaign, allowing him corrections, where we just know that Obama would have been taken to task.

Then we had the DNC, and we all felt great. And so we should. We were treated to the rare sight of a man of conviction, ready to lead his country. And he is, and he will.

Then came the RNC, complete with Sarah.

And the news cycle shifted. Sure there were murmurings, but they were buried under an avalanche of lipstick. Then the murmurings grew, and grew, and are still growing.

Not content with riding the crest of the Palin Wave, the McCain Campaign thought they could lie with impunity. They had no reason to believe any other than that their lies would be accepted. Maybe the odd minor "correction" would be needed but hey, who was ever going to see it?

Well now ..... Karl Rove, advisor to the Campaign saw it, and called it right there on Republican Central (aka Fox News). Tucker Bounds got another beating from a girl on Republican Central (aka ... you got it).

When Foc News is calling the Campaign "Liars", then they are so far in the soft and smelly they are in danger of running out of oxygem

The New York Time is calling their shit
The Washington Post is calling them
CBS has been running their "Reality Check" for weeks

These are but a few, and they are definitely Mainstream. No longer is the McCain Campaign being given carte-blanche to lie and cheat. Sarah Palin can make a meal out of refusing to cooperate with an investigation (Has the Alaska Senate taken Impeachment off the table?), and McCain can suggest that Obama is criticizing American Workers because he doesn't agree with him (John McCain)and they can do it for the next 50 days.

But the writing is on the wall. The wheels are falling off and the lies and excuses are just beginning to sound desperate and feeble. As evidence for this I offer the fact that even Fox News is noticing; and I am wondering if the Right are preparing the way for throwing him under a Moose and preparing for 2012.

It's not over. It won't be over until the polls close on the 4th November. But at least THIS news cycle offers a clearer view of the winning post.

Barack, Joe, keep at'em, you can see the whites of their eyes.

Crossposted with discussion

Leave the kids alone

I have mixed feelings about some of the comments I have read here and elsewhere about Bristol Palin.

Bristol is a news item, not an issue. She really isn't a National news item, she is simply another example of a failed education policy, or she is just another pregnant teen. Either way, she has my sympathy. Both for her plight, and for the feeling I am left with that she has little access to advice that considers only what is in her best interests, given the statements of at least one of her parents.

Bristol's personal misfortune is a National news item not because Dkos put her there, but because her mother did.

Whatever the motives, the most charitable being that Mom broke the news in a controlled manner, before it broke anyway, the fact remains that Mom making this statement was NOT in her (Bristol's) best interests. They would have been better serve by Gov. Palin deflecting such questions with "this is a personal family matter, not relevant to the Campaign". I might have suggested her adding that any media intrusion would be rebuffed regardless of any consequences to the Campaign.

But no, Sarah Palin took the stage and told the World that her daughter was pregnant. Please shoot me if I ever do anything like that to my kids.

But Bristol Palin is only one example. We all coo'd over Malia and Sasha on Monday. They are too cute. But they too were put on National Television by their parents. Chelsea Clinton was Internationally known and recognised at an early age. The Bush twins also.

Don't think for one minute that Barack and Michelle Obama didn't fully understand that portraying the whole of their family was a vote-winner. I have some sympathy with the Obamas in this. There is a large wedge of US opinion that feels that they have a right to know about a politicians family, kids and all, and somehow the Obamas might appear "not American enough" were they to be kept out of the public eye. Those unreasonaable charges are enough to persuade even the most protective of parents that some appearances are necessary.

On the other hand, I am left with the distinct impression that questions about a pregnat 17 yr old Malia would be met with a MYOFB. At least I hope so.

Bristol Palin is not an example of how her Mom's policies or beliefs are a failure. The generic statistics suggest that abstinence only education is ineffective, but her story is a personal one, and should remain so. However, Sarah Palin making an announcement inevitably links the story to her political position. She made her daughter the story, not those who discussed it.

It is wrong that politicians, any of them, feel it necessary to prove to any section of American society that they are good, wholesome, productive parents. Family matters are private, and the children of our Leaders should not have to have the ills of their parents bestowed upon them. It isn't the fault of the politicians, it is that part of America that demands to know about private family matters .... those who feel that a man or woman shielding their kids has something to hide ... those who hold the public man/woman to a standard none of us has to meet in our own lives ... they are to blame.

Ok, I like cutesy pics of kids. I like kids. I have five and I love to show them off. And I do, to family and friends. I will never have to show them off to a Nation, to get a job. I am grateful for that because, in the end, it is their lives, and they would get precious little say in the decision.

Crossposted with discussion

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Citius, Fortius, Altius

Over the past several days I, along with about 2 billion or so others, have been watching the Olympics. It is truly remarkable to view the endeavour, the sheer guts, the joy and despair of athletes who have dedicated their entire lives to this pursuit.

I have been enthralled by gravity defying gymnastics, seen the joy on the face of the man who won by 1/100th of a second, and witnessed the despair of the athlete who lost by the same margin. I ask myself if he/she actually did lose .....

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Adopted as the Olympic motto in 1894, and literally meaning Faster, Higher, Stronger. This motto, however, was never meant to mean that only the fastest, highest and strongest achieved the Olympic ideal. No, it was an exhortation to excel. A clarion call that encourages athletes to strive for the best they can muster, and in doing so give life to the idea that taking part is more than winning. Winning is a goal, it is not an ideal. Were it to be so then all the medals below Gold become the badge of failure, rather than the badge of honour that they truly represent. More, medal or no medal, you took part. Those who take part, who fight, dig in, give of their best represent all that is best, and all win the respect and adulation they deserve.

So I want to say a few words about Medal Tables.

There is only one Medal Table. It is right there on the Olympic website. It is on the BBC Homepage and in probably a million other places too. It is the same medal table everywhere except, apparently, on NBC (and lately CBS too). I haven’t checked the other US news outlets, but wouldn’t be surprised to find many have caught the same disease.

Somehow, here in the US, and only here, the United States of America tops the Medal Table. Everywhere else on the planet has the US second. Does it matter? (rhetorical). Well only in as much as it makes a few suggestions about how at least the US Media regards the US place in the world, or what the Media feels needs presenting to the US public.

NBC has been showing a Table based on total number of medals awarded. No one else does this. Medal Tables are ranked according to Gold Medals awarded, then tie-breaked by number of Silver, then Bronze. On this basis, America is a distant second behind China. This may indeed change, but for now ....

So what is going on? There is a perception abroad that the US is belligerent and arrogant when it comes to foreign policy matters. Indeed, John McCain has perfectly illustrated this in his recent comment regarding the situation in Georgia. For my own part I think it’s both a shame and not that simple. I have been, and continue to be, made very welcome in this country, my new home. People I meet are invariably and genuinely open, honest and kind. My English family wonder how I can live here, what with the US being despised and feared in many parts of the world. They don’t know the folk I know, and that’s a shame.

So do NBC feel that they should find any metric that will allow them to display the US as number one? Or do they feel that the US psyche is too fragile to take coming second (esp. to China). Is it the case that NBC takes the view that the US deserves to be number one in all things, which would indeed be breathtaking arrogance, or do they just want to display the US that way?

I found myself thinking through a few scenarios. Suppose that the US had won 30 Gold Medals, and no others, and that China had won 31 Bronze Medals only. Given the NBC metric, China would now be heading the Medal Table. Is this the table NBC would show us many times a day, or would they suddenly be struck by "Gold Fever"? Yeah, that’s what I thought too 

NBC, CBS et al.are changing the rules to suit their view of the world and America’s place in it, and in doing so are, I contend, dishonouring the US athletes who are, in fact, bringing great honour to themselves, their sports and their country. The news media arrogantly denying the athletes the true spirit of the Olympics, the idea personified by the Olympic Motto, that taking part is it’s own reward.

NBC should never again be allowed to host the Olympics on it’s shabby network, not until they grow up and get over themselves. The US has a great deal of work to do in repairing the damage caused in the last 7 years. I know in my bones that this great nation is more than capable of restoring it’s reputation, but really does not need NBC perpetuating the lies.

When the final race is won, the US may indeed top the Medal Table. It is of no great consequence whether they do or not. US, China, UK, Russia, Germany, France ..... they are no more important to the ideal of the Olympics than Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland or Iraq. If the US heads the list, good for them, it is a mark of excellence, but it is not the point. NBC has declared it’s position. Only winning matters! And only the USA winning really matters, and win or not we will show the American people how we won. This attitude runs very deep in US society. From Hollywood showing the World how America won the war, to the present day. It is a presentation nightmare and is so unnecessary. The exploits of the US Military are perfectly laudable on their merits, as are the achievements of the athletes. The would be enhanced by the Nation’s willingness to embrace and applaud the efforts of other; ya know ... I did my best but the other guy was just quicker ...

NBC hasn’t got that message.

When we consider a "Change Election", the changes need to run very deep. It’s not enough to implement Universal Healthcare, decent employment protections and excellence in Schools, although those things matter a great deal. The type of Change that is needed is a sea-change in attitudes. We need our representatives to have a vision not just of America’s place on the World Stage, but a vision of the vital place of others too. This starts at home with the US reaching out, rather than digging in. The current Administration has spent seven years in Bunker USA. We are still taking off our shoes at airports while cargo goes un-inspected. The change we need is to get out of the damned strom shelter, go meet people and ask them what they think, then show some signs of er ... listening. No one expects nations to agree on all things, but neither has any nation the Right to be supreme, and the people of that nation are smart enough to know that second in a Medal Table is a sign of where we need to go, not a National Slur.

Crossposted with discussion

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Constitutionally Speaking

I have this curiosity about the Constitution.

Y’all need to understand that I was not force-fed US Government in school, because I went to school in the UK. Due at least in part to my upbringing, I often compare the attitudes in the UK and Europe, with those here in the US. That is not to suggest that one is better than the other, only to acknowledge the differences, and maybe get hints as to where different societies can learn from each other.

This means that I am only slowly beginning to understand the implications of your Constitution, and am generally playing catch-up with those around me. It also means that I am not simply persuaded that the Constitution is the best thing since before sliced bread just because my parents, teachers, preachers, TV tell me so. I do, however, get that the Constitution simply *is*, and that there are few around right now who could be trusted with making any significant changes, even should changes prove to be wise and necessary.

I will say, upfront, that one can only admire and respect the United States, for achieving so much in such a short period of time. It would be easy for a Brit to criticize the political process here, safe in the knowledge that our 1000 year Parliament has had time to perfect it’s operations . On the other hand, there are indeed checks and balances at work in Europe, that clearly do not work here.

Reading today about how the 4th Estate has been busy swallowing whole the propaganda of the Administration, thereby colluding in the deaths of over 4000 Americans, and many tens of thousands (at least) of others, I am wondering about the 1st Amendment.

It is reasonable to suppose that the Founders considered the Bill of Rights to be the core principles of the Constitution, just as it is sensible that the document be considered as a whole, and not just a sum of individual parts. I know people struggle with that last bit, especially the gun ownership lobbies, who don’t like *whole* discussions, they even attempt to parse individual words and phrases when discussing the 2nd, but I digress …

It’s probably not too much of a stretch that they chose carefully the Amendment that would be read first. After all, they were guys who fled religious persecution, and would, no doubt, be very eager that freedom from such, together with freedom to worship should be right up there, numero uno. They quite reasonably, to my mind, attached a similar degree of importance to the Right of man to speak his mind, although I do wonder sometimes why they chose to vest that Right in the Press. Nonetheless, the principle is established.

So ….. does it work?

Well apparently not. I can see that the Founders were a body of men who believed that a free and unfettered press was as significant a check on the three branches of government, as they were upon each other. I sit back and admire the vision and the concept both. The problem seems to be that free speech appears to carry very little with it, in the way of responsibility. Sure there are some laws restricting what can be said under certain circumstances, but that hasn’t stopped the Pharmaceutical industry using advertising to pressurize doctors into prescribing. In the UK the advertising of Ethical Pharamaceuticals on radio and TV is banned. The public, it is suggested, is not the customer. The public cannot prescribe the products, so the marketing is restricted to those who can. This is not a perfect system, it relies on doctors keeping up to date, and not succumbing to industry incentives, but neither does it lead to a society where masses of people are conned into believing that they do not need to change lifestyles, because WE have the PILL that will cure it.

The Founders, however, charged the Press with the role of Guardian Angel. There are notable examples of them fulfilling this role admirably. Watergate would, I guess be the obvious one. In the current climate, however, the need has never been greater for the Press to defend the Constitution, defend the people and preserve the principles on which the nation was founded.

Yet never has there been a time when they apparently do less of any of this. Fox News, for example, is one of the worst mainstream offenders. Faux News is a good moniker. But need Fox be like this? Fox is owned by News International, a Rupert Murdoch entity. Rupert Murdoch is Australian and, forgive me Rupert if I read you wrong, cares little for the USA, either for or against, and cares principally about simply making money. He does this any way he is permitted, and he is very good at it. RM will, and does allow Fox News to operate any way it chooses, as long as it makes as much money as possible, or paves the ground for his other activities to make, or continue to make money.

Let us hop over the Pond for a moment. News International also owns The Times (London), The Sun (Lon. Daily tabloid) and Sky TV, including Sky News. While Sky News was always considered a little *tabloid* in it’s presentation, it regularly won awards for good, investigative journalism, and was seen as reasonably a well-balanced an outfit as most of the others. It was (dunno about is) regarded as a genuine news organization in a way that Fox simply is not.

So what gives? The UK has no *free speech* Amendment. Speech in the UK is actually able to be very tightly controlled, in a manner that would have Americans howling in anguish, yet the UK isn’t disintegrating, society there is peaceful and well ordered as most. Companies have their ads banned, yet we still produced both Glaxo-Smithkline and British Petroleum.

I am beginning to wonder the issue of the 1st Amendment. While fully supporting the ideas contained therein, I do wonder why the US has allowed it’s provisions to be perverted the way they appear to have been. Almost to the point of allowing ANYTHING, because the 1st Amendment is the Holy Grail, even when the facts in front of your face every day suggest that this is far from the case.

I might return to this ….. I am constantly reminded of the Rights Americans believe they have …. Rights and Freedoms. From where I stand, the reality appears to be that Americans have, actually fewer rights and freedoms than they think they have. Indeed in my 45 years in the UK I rarely had to listen to my countrymen discussing their rights and freedoms. Sure it happened, but not often, yet I actually believe that the absence of a written Constitution enshrines rights rather more effectively that the reverse. A curious irony.

It’s almost as if the Government got rid of the difficult bit (the granting of rights to citizens) in the title, then went about implementing the small print in such a way that means that citizens have very few meaningful rights, even though we sure can point to all the ones they have. Does free speech mean much when you are subject to *at will* firing? Being the quickest example I can think just now.

I suspect that the Founders were decent and idealistic. They were also smart, and quite deliberately charged the Press with a solemn duty towards the American people. Oh how they have been let down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Racism - A tool that divides

It is a few years now, that I have lived here in the USA. Much has astonished me, much has delighted me but there is also the side of life and attitudes here that, quite frankly, shock and horrify me.

Foremost among the latter is the casual expression of racism that I frequently encounter. From family, from friends and from TV. Attitudes and expressions that leave me bemused and feeling dirty.

I am not suggesting that the UK specifically, or even that Europe generally is free from racism; it clearly is not. Here though there is an endemic racism expressed both personally and institutionally that is without comparasion on the other side of the pond.

In Oklahoma 25% of black males aged 18 to 24 are in jail, have been or will be. The figure for white males is around 10%, in itself shocking. (figures vary a little)

When will folk start to understand that crime and punishment is not a symptom of being black (or Hispanic). It is a symptom of being poor.

If you are black in the USA the odds are stacked against you from birth. It is likely that your parents are poor. You will go to largely segregated schools because you will go to the school in your neighbourhood, and if you live in a predominantly black area, this will be reflected in your school. Schools in the USA are failing, and schools in poor and black areas are failing most, and failing fastest.

Your chances of receiving more than rudimentary healthcare are low, and college opportunities are vastly more restricted (by dint of schooling and perception) than are those of your white counterparts. Poor whites will get similar opportunities, but without the doors closed to blacks.

Your chance of experiencing prison is very high, on the other hand. Your chance of being a victim of crime is very high, and your chance of being shot is out of all proportion to the actual population numbers.

A small example. Crack cocaine possession and dealing is treated very harshly. Few users and small-time dealers escape jail and the sentences can be lengthy. Powder cocaine is the same class of drug, but is treated very differently to crack. Most users in possession of small amounts will escape jail, and most small dealers will expect fairly short sentences or probation.

Crack is used predominantly by black people and powder cocaine is regarded as white, and middle class. Until this blatant injustice is overturned how can the black community feel any other than anger at the institutional prejudice being demonstrated.

The people I hear making racist remarks are not wealthy people. I don’t actually know many of those. No, they are white, working to middle class, sometimes with college education sometimes not. They are people who don’t have much, and have worked hard for what they have. They are people who sense that this country has problems that make their lives more difficult than it needs to be and have bought into the argument that black people, Hispanics and immigrants, legal or otherwise, are the root of the problem.

These ideas are not fostered or conceived by poor whites, they are rather a tool used by the ruling classes here to divide. The greatest fear of the corporations, and rich old white men is that the poor will call them on it. That one day their will be the realization that the ills they endure are not caused by the black man wasting welfare dollars, and increasing the cost of the drugs they need, but that the cause lies actually with the drug companies and those who allow them to prey on the welfare and health dollars spent here.

If that day ever comes then black, brown, white will not matter. The battle will be between the wealth producers and the wealth consumers. Poor v. Rich, if you prefer. When the day dawns that poor people recognize that they are deliberately kept poor by those who need them to be, and that those very leaders use racism as a tactic to split the poorer, working community, then their might indeed be a revolutionary war here.

Just before I left the UK for the USA I heard a speech by a hitherto little known Senator called Barack Obama. It was the address he gave to the 2004 DNC, and it was a speech that elevated him to the National Consciousness. For my part, it was simply inspirational.

Currently, Barack Obama is the leading Democratic contender in the race for the White House in 2008. I hope he wins.

Over the last week we have been subjected to excerpts from sermons given by the Pastor of the Church Obama attends with his family. Oddly, when Mitt Romney was considered a candidate for the Republican nomination, it was considered inappropriate to even mention his Church (he is Mormon). Now, apparently, because Reverend White made a few inflammatory statements, the chattering classes feel that Obama needs to redeem himself.

Obama didn’t make the statements (which actually were quoted completely out of context in any event) yet he has to answer to them. Mike Huckabee was a Republican candidate until very recently. Huckabee was a Pastor in a Baptist church, and a senior member of that church. Huckabee did not achieve that status without making some very controversial statements on subjects such as Gay marriage, abortion and Right To Life etc. Yet, despite this, we heard not a single word about his sermons. Not once do I recall the candidate being taken to task for anything he said from the pulpit. And he was the candidate, not the candidate’s Pastor.

The double standard is very obvious, and it’s racist. It’s a racist Press and a racist society. It’s another example of how the "uppity nigger" has to be controlled. If they can’t stop his candidacy (and they might yet), they sure as hell can clip his wings.

Today Barack Obama answered the critics. He challenged America to quit the racial squabbling because it was getting in the way of dealing with the problems. The problems are not race, they are poor.

The very people who I hear express racist opinions are the ones suffering just as much as poor black people. They are the white niggers, and if you don’t like hearing that then consider for a moment how much black people like it.

The fear is that the "black niggers" will join the "white niggers".

Today Barack Obama showed them how.

He is the President this country needs. I wonder if we will get him.