Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who's Left? Who's Right?

Lately I've endured a couple of rough weeks here on the Rollins Plantation, meaning I've had to attend endless committee meetings and face stacks of papers that require grading. If I could somehow eliminate grading and committee meetings altogether, I might keep this job forever, even without pay. (If an administrator happens to read this posting - JK.)

Anyway, I have a brief chance to write a few words this weekend, and I will use it to respond to a friendly note I received from my old pal Bob from Colorado who just discovered my blog. Bob said he would leave a comment sometime if I would "promise not to get mad at him or have Guido break his knee caps or something like that if he leaves a comment from a conservative perspective."

Of course I can make no such promise, Comrade Roberto. But please note that we liberals would obviously never use use Guido-type thugs in such a way. My own liberal sleeper cell, for example, uses elegantly dressed thugs with names like Arianna, Stephane and Daphne to kidnap our conservative archenemies and hold them in tastefully decorated, fern-garnished lofts where we break their resistance by forcing them to watch Jane Fonda work-out tapes round the clock. Most effective.

Alas, I won't have time to write a full-length item today since I'll soon be off on a road trip to visit Dear Old Dad. However, instead of posting something new, I'll put up a piece I wrote for the Fort Lauderdale newspaper (aka The South Florida Sun-Sentinel) eight years ago.

I came across this old forgotten column by accident. Last June an angry left-wing commentator (whose name I forget) responded to an article I had written about Afghanistan by accusing me of being a colonial anthropologist. I wanted to see if his attack was still up on the web, so I googled "Robert L. Moore" "Afghanistan" and lo and behold, one of my old moth-eaten pieces from the Sun-Sentinel came up. I think it's appropriate here, because it says something about what, even today, I see as significant differences between liberals and conservatives. So here it is:

Who's Left, Who's Right?
Robert L. Moore
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 10, 2002

Rush Limbaugh has moved to the left. At least that's what billboards all over Central Florida have been proclaiming ever since Limbaugh began appearing on a new radio station a few notches down on the FM dial. The joke hinges on our knowing right from left, politically speaking, and recognizing that Limbaugh always leans hard to the right.

Sometimes it's hard to tell left from right. In a recent article, Hong Kong writer Willy Wo-Lap Lam declared that "leftists" or "ultra-conservatives" in the Chinese Communist Party were blocking the admission of wealthy capitalists into the party ranks.

But Lam is confounding leftists and ultra-conservatives here. If these protectionist party leaders are "ultra-conservative," they lean to the right and cannot, by definition, be "leftists."

It's true that the Chinese Communist leaders used to be extreme leftists back when they fought to bring down the rich and lift up the poor. They no longer do this, but instead spend most of their energy defending their power base. This means they are no longer leftists. They are conservatives.

The backbone of conservatism is group loyalty, and most conservatives belong to some group -- racial, religious, moneyed or empowered -- that enjoys privileged status. There is no group in China more privileged than the members of the Communist Party, and by narrowing their mandate to the defense of their own privilege, they have redefined themselves as conservatives.

Left and right are often confused here in America, too. In her February speech to the Conservative Action Political Conference, Ann Coulter goofed when she said, to an appreciative audience, "We need to execute people like [American Taliban] John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals "

But Coulter would have a hard time making the case that the Taliban are liberals. The Taliban have an unshakable faith in the superiority of their own religion, and this kind of self-assurance in religious matters is a hallmark of conservatism.

Liberals tend to be more open-minded about these things. In fact, Robert Frost said that a liberal is a man who is too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.

Of course, being ostentatiously broad-minded has its drawbacks, too. The liberal's selfless appeals to justice and compassion strike some observers as hypocritical posturing, and it could be argued that this is just as nerve-grating as the stubborn selfishness of the conservative.

Recently I've noticed some cars sporting "Jesus was a Liberal" bumper stickers, a claim that can't be more than half-true. Certainly Jesus' single-mindedness on religion is conservative, while his compassion and sense of justice make him liberal on social issues. As a social liberal, it's unlikely he would look favorably on Enron-style capitalism, a point he vividly demonstrated with his Ralph Nader-style action against the moneychangers in the temple.

The liberal-conservative switch made by Republicans and Democrats since the Civil War has caused some confusion over the meanings of liberalism and conservatism here in America.

Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans were liberal in the 1860s, while Jeff Davis and his pro-slavery supporters were conservative Democrats. Abraham Lincoln, the liberal, expanded the power of the federal government in order to rescue the victims of slavery. Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee, as conservatives, took up arms against the United States to fight on behalf of an entrenched and privileged group (which, by the way, is exactly what John Walker Lindh is accused of doing).

Jefferson Davis - Democrat and Die-Hard Conservative

For a hundred years the Democratic Party was closely identified with the slave-owning aristocracy of the Old South. It wasn't until the civil rights era that white Southerners began to vote GOP in large numbers. Richard Nixon promoted this trend with his Southern strategy in 1968, a strategy that saved the Republican Party from being marginalized.

In short, if Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis were alive today, each would have to switch parties in order to feel at home with his principles.

All this raises an important question. Should the Republican Party continue identifying itself with a raging liberal like Abraham Lincoln? Given its new conservative coloring and Nixon's success in winning over the old Confederacy, the time is ripe for the GOP to stop calling itself the Party of Lincoln, and begin referring to itself by a new and more accurate label: the Party of Nixon.


Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy made the GOP a kind of reborn Confederacy

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bourgeois Blues

My friend John R., who knows a thing or two about music, recently forwarded to me the “Rules of the Blues” (see below). The rules, I’m afraid, are bound to put a damper on my longstanding dream, which was to form a blues group and make a living singing about my troubles. Some years ago I even went so far as to compose a verse or two. OK, if you are going to insist, I’ll offer you some samples here:

From “Academic Blues”
(copyright pending by Bipolar Bobby Buchanan)

I got the academic blues, my book is hot off the press,
Yeah, my theory is wired and my book is hot off the press,
But the dean just fired my ass,
He don’ like the way I dress

(Impressive guitar riff here)

Back in Pueblo, Colorado, in the 1980s, I played soccer on a city league. I put together a few verses then for which Brother Becker, our most memorable goalie, played the guitar licks in our post-game gatherings. The verse I remember best came after we suffered a 3-0 blowout, and it goes something like this:

Got Stomped Again Blues

Some folks’ll tell ya, they don’ care ‘bout the score,
Yeah, some folks they say, they jus’ don’ care ‘bout the score,
Well, I don’ care either,
As long as my team got more.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that living a middle class life in suburbia shouldn’t rule you out from singing the blues. I mean, even though we may be bourgeois, if you prick us, do we not bleed, and all that? So, how about this, then?

Got No Right to Sing the Blues, Blues

The rules, they be harsh, they say we can’t sing the blues
Yeah, they harsh and they heavy, they say we can’t sing the blues
But I ain’t hiding ‘neath no bushel,
To follow these rules, I refuse.

The Great and Famous Blues Brothers.
They're from Chicago which makes it OK for them to sing the blues.


OK, now for some amusing "Rules for the Blues" forwarded to me by John. (He does not claim to have written them!):

If you are new to Blues music, or like it but never really understood the whys and wherefores, here are some very fundamental rules:

1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning...."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes, sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Dionne Warwick and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch...ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train, usually described simply as "the next thing smokin'." Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or anywhere in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is.. Breaking your leg 'cause you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can't have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting's wrong. Go outside and sit by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. highway
b. jailhouse
c. empty bed (preferably with rocks in it)
d. in a hollow log

11. Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom's
b. Starbucks
c. gallery openings
d. handball courts

12. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

13. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
Yes, if:
a. you're older than dirt
b. you're blind
c. you shot a man in Memphis
d. you can't be satisfied
e. you're fixin' to die

No, if:
a. you have all your teeth
b. you were once blind but now can see
c. the man in Memphis lived
d. you work for Goldman-Sachs

14. Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could have. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.

15. If you ask for water and she gives you gasoline, it's the Blues.
Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
a. cheap wine
b. whiskey or bourbon
c. muddy water
d. black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages:
a. Perrier
b. Chardonnay
c. Snapple
d. Slim Fast

16. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during liposuction.

17. These are some Blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama
c. Bessie
d. Fat River Dumpling

18. These are some Blues names for men:
a. Joe
b. Willie
c. Little Willie
d. Big Willie

19. Women with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

20. Here's a Blues Name Starter Kit. You should have three names:
a. the first name should be the name of a physical infirmity (Blind,
Mute, Lame, etc.)
b. the second name name should be fruit (Lemon, Lime, etc.)
c. the last name should be the same as a U.S. President (Jefferson,
Clinton, Fillmore, etc.)

A proper Blues name would be:
a. Blind Lemon Jefferson
b. Pegleg Lemon Johnson
c. Clubfoot Cumquat Coolidge

A lousy Blues name would be:
a. Hemorrhoid Lemon Jefferson
b. ADT Kiwi Bush
c. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Lime Washington

21. I don't care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you
cannot sing the blues, period. Sorry!

[Editor's note: Damn!]

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lie to me or I won't vote for you

A recent Rasmussen report told us that only 16% of those polled believed Congress's performance to be good or excellent. The report helpfully adds that this is the highest approval rating Congress has had over the past 12 months.

What this shows us is that America is cursed with a particular group of incompetent knuckleheads who know as much about governing as do Larry, Moe and Curly. I'm talking, of course, about the American voters.

Let's vote for the cute one!

When you consider that we, the voters, hire these people in Congress, and that we also review their performance every two years, it's astonishing that over the past five or six years we've generally given them approval ratings below 50% and usually closer to 15%. What kind of idiots are we that we don't know how to hire good people to serve us?

Well I'll tell you what kind of idiots we are: the kind of idiots who require our representatives to pay for their campaigns with money from the likes of BP and ExxonMobil, and then imagine that these corporate-bought lawmakers are going to ignore their benefactors and do what we, the voters, ask of them. Duh.

Of course in their campaigns our office-seekers always promise us that they will work for "the American people," and will stick it to "the special interests," but only a bunch of dimwits would believe they will actually keep their word and "stick it to" the very interests that paid for their campaigns. In effect, we require that our politicians lie to us. If they don't, we will refuse to vote for them.

To illustrate the "Lie to me or I won't vote for you," principle, consider my favorite cartoon show, The Simpsons. (Yes, more fun than South Park or Family Guy, though those shows are cool in their own way.)

Let's say Smithers is running for Mayor of Springfield and the conniving plutocrat and nuclear power broker, Montgomery Burns, is funding his campaign. Burns pays for Smithers' campaign because he wants Smithers, once in office, to eliminate all the government regulations that keep nuclear waste out of the local reservoir -- the source of the public's drinking water. This will boost the profits of Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant, but it is not necessarily good for the people who drink the reservoir water. (Burns presumably has his own water flown in from Evian, France.)

Just Go Ahead and Trust Me

Now Smithers is not going to say, "Vote for me and I will let the guy who is paying for this ad poison your water!" That would be honest, but probably not a winning strategy. So, he takes Burns' money and uses it to run ads saying, "Vote for me and I will clean out the special interests who control the Springfield city hall!" People will vote for him because he is telling them just the exact lie they want to hear.

This is why I can guarantee that once the new Congress is in place next year, though it will surely have dozens of newly minted office holders, it will not enjoy an enduring surge in its approval ratings. People will continue to complain about its incompetence and corruption as they have for years.

But don't blame the people we hire to represent us. We are, after all, their bosses. It's just that we haven't designed a campaign system that allows politicians to tell us the truth, one in which they can fund their own elections with adequate public money instead of needing to rely on money acquired from the very interests that are inclined to seek special favors.

So, next time you hear someone whining about how bad Congress is, maybe you should ask them what kind of nincompoops hired that pack of double-talking four-flushers in the first place.