Tag Archives: US elections

Give Me Some Truth

I discovered a collection of essays by George Orwell on Project Gutenberg Australia this morning, some familiar and some new to me, so everything else I was planning to do today has pretty much gone out of the window.

Not for the first time, I find myself wondering what he would make of recent events, when the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee is being called out on a speech which contain more lies than facts, and the same campaign’s pollster can espouse a breezy disregard for those who seek some kind of factual basis for the claims made in political advertisements.

It looks like the era of ‘spin’ is finally over, not with a return to honesty, but because politicians have realised that they don’t have to give much more than a slight appearance of sincerity. Lie with a knowing wink, the loyal base believes whatever matches their own set of values and prejudices, the other side howls and the partisan bun-fight continues for another news cycle.

Forty years go by and you realise how little has changed:

Truth has now become such a debased currency, relative to who is making the claim and who to, that I almost hesitate to recommend an article which takes as its headline ‘The Truth About Mitt Romney and Bain Capital‘. Yet Taibbi’s writing about the antics of Wall Street – before and since what he calls The Great Recession – has been consistent, long after other commentators have ducked out of an examination of what went wrong.

In this latest article, he shows how Wall Street darlings such as Bain Capital operated – with a ruthless sensibility – closing previously healthy businesses, paying huge bonuses despite looming bankruptcy and never being unafraid to take a government bail-out:

A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we’ll all end up paying for the acquisition.

It is the exact opposite to the image the candidate projects and one I doubt many avowed Republicans will be able to stomach, instead preferring to attack the bias of the writer, as evidenced by the comments section below the article. We all hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest, as Paul Simon sang. So it looks as if the short-haired, yellow-bellied sons of Tricky Dicky will be with us for some time to come.

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When I wake up

It won’t have gone unnoticed that I have been neglecting ten minutes hate in favour of other writing projects and sitting about drinking iced tea while trying not to melt in the summer heat (always tricky for redheads). Normal service is likely to be resumed as autumn approaches, in the meantime, here are some of the best things I have discovered elsewhere.

Starting with two very different perspectives on the Obama presidency, the first from Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The Atlantic, considers the irony of America’s first black president virtually ignoring the issue of race. Looking at Obama’s first term in the context of racial politics since America’s founding, he notes:

[W]hat are we to make of an integration premised, first, on the entire black community’s emulating the Huxt­ables? An equality that requires blacks to be twice as good is not equality—it’s a double standard. That double standard haunts and constrains the Obama presidency, warning him away from candor about America’s sordid birthmark.

The hope and change are also in short supply in this Voices on the Square conversation between actor John Cusack and Constitutional Scholar Jonathan Turley, as Cusack charts the death-by-drone-strike of his belief in Obama’s claim to be different to what preceded him:

There will be a historical record. ‘Change we can believe in’ is not using the other guys’ mob to clean up your own tracks while continuing to feed at the trough. Human nature is human nature, and when people find out they’re being hustled, they will seek revenge, sooner or later, and it will be ugly and savage.

In light of recent tragic events, the GQ article, ‘Guns ‘R Us’ is an essential read. Detailing the weaponry available over the counter in suburban America and the motivations of the people who buy and use it, the writer considers whether sales clerks are the best people to spot those likely to freak out and kill large numbers of their fellow citizens:

So these are the people who stand at the front lines, guarding America against its lunatic mass murderers? Clerks at Walmart. Clerks at sporting-goods stores. Minimum-wage cashiers busily scanning soccer balls, fishing tackle, and boxes of Tide.

With various idiotic pronouncements by various idiotic politicians on both sides of the Atlantic about rape, this week has been a dispiriting one to be a woman. I will return to the subject in greater detail soon, but in an attempt to redress the balance, here are two inspirational women who – in their own very different ways – have refused to take any crap from the patriarchy. Shown battling her own demons, the weighty expectations wrought by ‘legend’ status and a Syrian Army deliberately targeting journalists, Vanity Fair’s coverage of Marie Colvin’s Private War is a respectful and illuminating portrait of a peerless war reporter. Her advice to a younger reporter in Afghanistan:

You always have to think about the risk and the reward. Is the danger worth it?

is a difficult one to answer, but we are left the poorer without Marie Colvin to bring our easily distracted attention to the innocent victims of war.

Last, I really enjoyed writer Rebecca Solnit’s account of having Men Explain Things to Me:

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

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Sad eyes, crooked crosses

Taking in all the mid-term results via the web and Twitter, along with a Sunday evening spent in a Tokyo bar listening to Joshua Tree-era U2, brought this song to mind this week.

Of course, the US has always been prone to mass outbreaks of batshit-craziness, denying evolution, riddled with inequalities and displaying a high tolerance for murder at home, as well as abroad, all the while proclaiming its belief, above that of all other nations, in fairness, justice and all things holy.

Then every now and again they do something that was thought impossible, such as elect Obama as President, and you are brought back to remembrance of all the things you love about America.  So it is disquieting for those of us who truly love liberty, tolerance and equality to watch an even more mental version of the right-wing lunatics we thought we had just seen the back of, regain control of the world’s largest democracy.  Especially so if you are also a tea drinker, as the bastards stomp around Washington besmirching the name of our favourite brew.

If, as this recent Vanity Fair article records, the machinations at the heart of US bureaucracy now make it impossible to build the kind of cross-party alliances that existed until relatively recently, the polarisation of American politics can only get worse.  That the Tea Party Republicans can pass themselves off as a grassroots movement while opposing measures to reform banking and taxation that would avoid a repeat of recent financial catastrophes ensures that there are likely to be sad eyes out in the badlands for years to come.
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