Wednesday, May 20, 2015
In 1948, after the Democrats inserted a modest civil rights plank into its platform, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina led a walkout of southern delegates. Thurmond then formed the States Rights Democratic Party (aka Dixiecrats) and ran for president. He won four states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Though he received only 2.4% of the national vote, he garnered 87.2% of the vote in Mississippi. (African-Americans were unable to vote in most of the South.) Curiously, another independent candidate, Henry Wallace, who refused to disavow the endorsement of the Communist Party, and who campaigned with African-American candidates in the South, also received 2.4% of the overall vote. But Wallace’s votes were scattered and his effort was deemed a failure.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act, one of only six Republican Senators to do so. “We ought to forget the big cities,” he told his fellow Republicans. “I would like to see our party back up on integration.” That same year, the Republican National Committee created the Southern Strategy, a blatant appeal to southern segregationists, before Goldwater’s eventual nomination. Although Lyndon Johnson garnered 61% of the overall vote in the general election, Goldwater won six states. He won his home state, Arizona, along with five southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. In Mississippi, where African Americans were still excluded from the polls, Goldwater received 87.1% of the white vote.
In 1968, George Wallace ran for president under the banner of the American Independent Party. As Governor of Alabama, Wallace stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama in order to prevent four black students from soiling that sacred institution with their presence. He was also the man who famously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace won five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. (More about Wallace in a future rant.)
In 1972, Richard Nixon employed a toned-down Southern Strategy to win seven southern and border states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia and South Carolina. At the nominating convention, he denounced an agreement between all-white construction unions in Philadelphia and Black Civil Rights organizations as a quota system antithetical to the American way, a quota system that his own administration brokered in 1969.
In 1976, the Dems made a southern comeback when they nominated Jimmy Carter, a born-again Georgian. That flirtation ended abruptly in 1980 when Ronald Reagan made an appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi on August 3. Extolling the virtues of states’ rights to an appreciative audience, Reagan promised “to restore to states and local governments the power that belongs to them.” At the time, Neshoba County had only one claim to fame. Sixteen years before, the bodies of three civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, James Cheney and Andrew Goodman, had been dug out of a levee. Ronald Reagan won nine southern states in the general election: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Game, set, match. The solid South was solid once gain.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
How stupid do the creators of House of Cards think I am? Or we are?
Actually, the degree of their contempt for me and every other viewer seems beyond calculation. From the jobs program, American Works, to Petrov’s kissing the first lady, to the inclusion of the Russian protest group, Pussy Riot, at a State Dinner, to the convenient hurricane that appears after Frank appropriates the FEMA bucks, to the predictable veering away of said hurricane after Frank agrees to return whatever money’s left.
Michael Corrigan must have been the stoic of the age to slowly strangle without making enough noise to wake Claire. Claire’s outburst at the press conference made me cringe. No kidding, I wanted to take a bath.
Does anyone out there understand the Jordan Valley subplot? What did Frank hope to gain, even assuming the operation went smoothly? And why would anybody in the administration want Russian forces on the ground in the first place, must less give a damn if they pulled out? The U.N. has peacekeeping operations in 16 countries, to which the Russians have contributed 83 soldiers. Worst of all, the Jordan Valley – the border separating the West Bank and Jordan - has been occupied by Israel since 1967. There are now 26 well-established settlements in the Valley, but Willimon expects us to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu leave their security to a U.N. peacekeeping force.
I won’t bore you by continuing this tirade indefinitely, but I do want to have a closer look at one element the show asked us to swallow. Apparently, Frank intends to finance his jobs program by eliminating Social Security. What would that entail? At present, Social Security’s trust fund contains 2.6 trillion dollars in Treasury bonds guaranteed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States. You might think Frank aims to snatch the 2.6, but that wouldn’t work unless he somehow convinced the Congress to redeem them – they’re bonds, remember, - which would increase that year’s budget deficit by about 500%. But maybe Frank’s got his eye on the revenue generated by the payroll tax? Maybe he plans to use the revenue stream generated by the tax to create jobs. If so, he’d be, in effect, asking current workers who pay the tax to purchase their jobs through the federal government. But what would he, a Democrat, tell the voters who paid into the trust fund for decades and are now too old to work. Don’t feel bad, I’m takin’ your Medicare, too?
If it was only House of Cards, or one of those mindless network cop dramas where the resident computer geek waves his hand and a giant monitor appears in midair, I’d probably settle for a regretful shrug. Beau Willimon could have – and should have –done better. House of Cards - like The Wire or The Borgias, to cite just two examples - might have been convincing without sacrificing any of the drama. Willimon decided to go in another direction. The End.
But it’s not just House of Cards. In a recent speech, Rand Paul said, “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.” In actuality, our economy has created more than two million jobs 13 times since Ronald Reagan left office.
When I read the quote in Paul Krugman’s NYT column, I felt like someone had spit in my face. I can live with people who try to get over on me, as long as they’re sneaky. But when the lie is so brazen that it speaks for itself, I know that I’ve been demeaned, that the speaker has claimed a superior status. I can disrespect you whenever I want, he or she proclaims, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Last night, I paused my DVR on a car commercial: Lease an Audi A3 for thirty-six months at a cost of $299 per month. Three hundred dollars a month? I can afford that, right? But then, in smaller letters, the ad when on to inform me that an additional $2,194 dollars was due upon signing the lease. This raised the total outlay from $10,764 to $12,958, or $359 per month. That’s a pretty steep jump, but it was only the beginning, because the next line informed me that “taxes, title and dealer charges” were still to be added. The first two slices go to New York State and New York City. This I know. But what exactly is a “dealer charge”?
I found the answer in a paragraph at the bottom of the screen. The print was so faint and tiny that I had to don my glasses and squat down a few inches from the screen to read it, but that paragraph was why I’d paused my TV in the first place. No human being could possibly have read it in the few seconds it appeared on the screen. That’s because it wasn’t meant to be read, despite the FCC deeming the paragraph to be full disclosure.
As it turns out, the dealer sets the actual price, which might be anything. And by the way, this is a low mileage lease, so if you drive your Audi more than 10,000 miles a year, it’ll cost you an additional twenty-five cents a mile.
Maybe I should stop playing the curmudgeon. Maybe I should settle down and get used to it. Nobody likes a grumpy old man and golden age theories are soooooooooo boring. Yes, there once existed a militant consumer movement. And, yes, they did convince the politicians to create full disclosure laws. But that’s soooooooooo history. Deception is part of the new game and nobody objects to the fake videos on YouTube as long as they’re well done.
The idea is to win, as all those bankers, those CEO’s who walked away from the crash with hundreds of millions of dollars surely did. As Rand Paul surely has. As Beau Willimon laughs all the way to the bank. And Ted Cruz wins, too, when he tells voters, despite there being, at most, 25,000 agents at the IRS, “There are 110,000 agents at the IRS. We need to put a padlock on that building and take every one of those 110,000 agents and put them on our southern border.”
Everybody loves a winner. Right?
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Friday, May 8, 2015
Believers get all the breaks. They’re comforted throughout their lives by their faith in a Supreme Being who will come to their aid in a crisis, and who, following their deaths, will reward them for their good behavior while alive. The best news, of course, is that if they’re wrong, they’ll never know it.
Compare this to the unenviable fate of the atheist. There are no comforts for atheists, no divine interventions, no omnipotent creator to heed their prayers. Instead, they’re offered the prospect of personal extinction. And if the atheists are wrong? Well, if the atheists are wrong, they’ll burn in hell forever.