Monday, January 28, 2008

Enough With Naive Delusions

Everywhere, it's the same: the Clintons are big bad devils from outer space and the Nth layer of hell, complete with forks, pointed tails, horns and breathing fire and toxic fumes. Gods, you'd think all the US journalists and all the analysts have never seen a political campaign.

I don't know, people, do you even remember your own history, the way your dear country does things? The US is *T*H*E* gameboard of the dirtiest politics around the rich democracies in our sorry world. Insults, smearing, slander, lies, deception, anything is game. And yet people cringe and howl "unfair" when they hear or see Hillary or her campaign staff (husband included) attack the designated victcim and martyr: Barack Obama. Please, people, give me a break with poor, innocent, guileless and oh so pure Barack! Stop victimizing the man, stop falling into pace with his own game! He's no wide-eyed kid discovering the world, he's one of the richest candidates around, and he's been preparing for this thing. He knew the rules beforehand, he knew how things would go, so please. Please, enough with the stupid, goofy expressions of dismay and outrage whenever he's being attacked.

If somebody dares say race plays a role, s/he's branded and condemned like the worst of criminals. And yet, it's true. It's as much about race as it's about gender. And neither Hillary nor Barack are free of prejudice and bigotry, from hatred as irrational as all things that come from religion.

One thing that can be used to attack Barack Obama, that should be used against him and instead is used as a standard of "change" and "betterment" is his completely ludicrous claims that he'll change the way politics are done and put an end to partisan wars.

That claim is a pure and simple lie. And Mr Obama cannot pretend innocence or naivete on this one. Nobody can. Not his advisers, not the journalists who go about as if such childish, stupid claims were a miracle straight from the heavens. And here, again, I find myself thanking the gods and goddesses, above and below, named and unnamed, real or imaginary, for the existence of Paul Krugman. I'm just an anonymous voice echoing in the smallest bit of the netherworld. He's a renowned, acknowledged economist. And here is what he has to say in his opinion piece in today's edition of the New York Times : Lessons of 1992 :

[...] Has everyone forgotten what happened after the 1992 election?

Let’s review the sad tale, starting with the politics.

Whatever hopes people might have had that Mr. Clinton would usher in a new era of national unity were quickly dashed. Within just a few months the country was wracked by the bitter partisanship Mr. Obama has decried.

This bitter partisanship wasn’t the result of anything the Clintons did. Instead, from Day 1 they faced an all-out assault from conservatives determined to use any means at hand to discredit a Democratic president.

[...]So what are the lessons for today’s Democrats?

First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).

The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

[...]My sense is that the fight for the Democratic nomination has gotten terribly off track. The blame is widely shared. Yes, Bill Clinton has been somewhat boorish (though I can’t make sense of the claims that he’s somehow breaking unwritten rules, which seem to have been newly created for the occasion). But many Obama supporters also seem far too ready to demonize their opponents.

What the Democrats should do is get back to talking about issues — a focus on issues has been the great contribution of John Edwards to this campaign — and about who is best prepared to push their agenda forward. Otherwise, even if a Democrat wins the general election, it will be 1992 all over again. And that would be a bad thing.

There, you have it. So please, pretty please with sugar on top, stop. Stop swallowing all the fishes Mr Obama sends your way. There will be no peace, no collaboration between enemy sides. Anyone who believes this might as well go back to school and relearn history, and also refocus on the central characteristics of human nature.

There will be partisan wars. Whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton win the White House, there will be a partisan war. A bloody one. A dirty one. An ugly one.

And no sappy claims to the contrary will change that outcome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Sorry Laws of US Campaigning

"Thou shalt insult thy competitors"
"Thou shalt ridicule their previous achievements"
"Thou shalt make up false biographies and smear thy opponents"
"Thou shalt attack thy opponents' families and stoop as low as it takes"

I could go on like this for ages. The list is endless. We all know the tedious, mediocre drill of elections campaigns in the US. They go lower than anyone in the Europe would dare envision, although I have to admit that Sarko, Aznar and the gang have tried their best to emulate the American talent for low, vile, and base campaigning. Better to smear and slander, to use empty but nice sounding slogans than to talk about true things. About political programs, and actually require voters to think about issues. Yeah, thinking is bad, as one of Sarko's goons, Mrs Lagarde, so eloquently put during a memorable speech in the French Assembly: thinking is bad, thinking is dangerous.

Still, as prepared as you can be, there are things that keep surprising you. There seems to be no end to the baseness some candidates can lower themselves to.

This weekend, Barack Obama has crossed the red line, and stepped to the other side. forget about achievements, forget about who likes which part of the US population more, who knows more than whom. It no longer matters.

Mr Obama has been insane enough to call Ronald Reagan's presidency better the Bill Clinton's, and to claim that Ronald Reagan's presidency has made history and made America move, adding that by contrast Bill Clinton's hasn't.

Wow. I have to admit that that one floored me.

Of course, maybe Mr Obama was locked up in a comfortable office during those years. Maybe Mr Obama isn't much aware of the world outside the US borders. If that is the case, let me just say this for the record: in Europe, Ronald Reagan is considered to be the worst president the US ever had in recent history (although W is sure to replace him on that pedestal soon). He was the laughing stock of people, as were those who voted for him and put him in power. Of course, you really don't need to take my word for this little bit of historical consideration. You should, however, take Paul Krugman's, and read his opinion piece in yestderday's edition of the New York Times: Debunking the Reagan Myth.

Now, we have two solutions :
  • either Mr Obama is ignorant of all this, and he should address this blatant lack of knowledge and culture, and then come back and set things straight
  • or Mr Obama is simply lying through his teeth, and he's ready to use just about anything to attack Hillary Rodham
Either way, what Mr Obama did by belittling Bill Clinton's record as president, as Democratic president, while lauding Ronald Reagan's record as president, a Republican president, has a name, be it in politics, in business, in friendly rivalries of all kind and elsewhere: a fault. A bad, really, really bad fault, which in any European country would cost him all chances of victory he might have had once.

In politics and elsewhere, you DO NOT belittle your own party's record while supporting that of your adversaries. Doing so betrays a lack of nerve, a lack of loyalty, a lack of depth and argument that simply render the one who commits him non-credible.

I've been watching Mr Obama's campaign through the newspapers, and though I've been favoring Hillary Ordham from the start, I did try to leave myself room to change my mind and to keep weighing the one against the other. Well, from now on I know I no longer need to do so. Perhaps I should thank Barack Obama for relieving me of my dilemma.

I guess that if I were an American citizen, I'd be a New Hampshire woman. Somehow, I find that to be a rather pleasing image.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not That Dead After All !

The fact is sufficiently rare for it to deserve a post from me.

An opinion piece in a major US newspaper dares to dispel one of the Great Truths spewed out by many in the US: no matter how many love to badmouth us, bash us, call us withered and old, obsolete, Europe is alive and kicking.

Europe is well and good, and a much nicer place to live in than the US. Yes, that shocking truth has been revealed for American eyes to read, written by one of their own, a very much renowned economist.

Thank you very much, Mr Krugman, for daring to come out with a reality that runs counter all the fools who believe they're the alpha and omega of the universe in your country.

Check out the article in today's edition of the New York Times: The Comeback Continent, by Paul Krugman.

See, no only do we have fridges, electricity, but what's more we have TV, DVDs, mobiles, and even broadband internet access, but we live in a much more secure place. Because we pay our taxes, and give money so it can be redistributed to all. We're not Robin Hood and Europe isn't Sherwood, but at least here, there is something to catch you when you fall, and we don't spit our contempt on people who have accidents, who lose their jobs, who get sick or who're less lucky. It's no charity dictated by some god's moral, it's a choice made by citizens. A choice of a society in which the pursuit of happiness isn't racing to die working, and self-development and self-fulfillment can exist outside of the office.

A choice of a society where we don't go around claiming we'll never get sick or old, or we'll never lose our jobs unless we're losers. We don't claim we're all individually self-sufficient, and free to choose more or less health care if we want (which really means: whether we can afford it, it never has anything to do with "want").

We're a society that says: we'll get old, we'll get sick, and we can lose our jobs. And we must do something to insure we can live on, and live as well as possible. And to ensure this, we empower the state, and we pay our taxes. And we remember that the states are the only institutions where we have a say, that's called elections. We have a true power, that is called the right to vote.

We're a society that knows very well that companies and corporations are not philanthropic by nature, that they're there for profit only, and that they're anything but democracies. That we have no say, no true power in them. And that we cannot trust them, because it makes no sense to trust into institutions which do not exist to serve people, but to serve a goal named profit.

So we give power to the state, the one institution we can control. We pay taxes. And we live a better life.

Oh, and we do not delude ourselves into thinking we're above old age, sickness, or other accidents.

In short, we are adult enough to recognize we're only human.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thank You, New Hampshire !

The media and surveys dictatorship has been unmade.

In the last months, all the media, all the analysts and editorialists were talking about the inevitability of Hillary Rodham’s election as the Democrats’ candidate. Some regretted it, and kept bashing her at every opportunity. Those same people were oh, so keen to point out the problems that would unfailingly arise from inexperience and the mistakes or blunders of a certain Barack Obama.

Then came the Iowa Caucuses. And, in a now overused routine of coat-turning, all the media started bashing on Hillary Rodham in earnest, while drooling with ecstasy over Barack Obama. Within a single day, experience, knowledge, an invaluable team of advisers and strength became huge disadvantages and points that would unerringly drag Hillary into total and utter failure. Within that same day, Barack Obama, who has gathered more money than the Clintons for his campaign, became the champion of change with empty declarations like “I’ll end the partisan bickering” (everyone with a shred of brains knows that this is just utopia, and will never happen in a world populated with human beings) and “I embody change”.

In the course of a single day, a candidate was dumped into the junkyard, while the other became the new “inevitable nominee”. He had all the media could dream of: nice and sympathetic face, good actor performance, nice family, a little bit of color, and the urban legend that he’s a little guy who climbed up the ladder all by himself. The perfect American Dream. And of course, since he's relatively new to the scene, people hadn’t yet had time to grow bored with him. As usual, everyone forgot that they will always be disappointed with anyone who’s been in power, and who’s had to face failure, and the hardships of actually doing something in a world dominated by a market and an economy gone mad in a globalized environment the politicians now have almost no leverage on. Add tot his the slogans that he’d end partisan wars and unite the country, well, how could the media resist?

The bashing went on for Hillary, while Barack became something like the second coming. Surveys were produced, foretelling the demise of Hillary, and the continued rise of Barack. Editorialists started writing paper advising Hillary on the right manner to bow out of the race. When Hillary showed the slightest sign of what could be interpreted as a weakness, it was broadcast all over the internet and all over the TV channels.

And then, against all odds, the results of the vote in New Hampshire came.

And the media got a very, very much needed reality check.

And the citizens of New Hampshire gave me back a reason to hope in democracy. The citizens of New Hampshire denied the rule of the media and surveys, and exercised their right to choose whomever they please, whether it pleases the great and all powerful media or not.

So I want to say thank you, New Hampshire, for giving the world a reality check, and for reminding us that people are free.

That people’s votes and opinions will not be dictated by surveys and flip-flop media.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Frenzy and Misconceptions

As expected, the Iowa caucuses results started a round of frenzy around the world. Many editorialists go on about how deeply significant these results are, and how they herald change in the US.

Some even press their right hand upon their chest at the heart's level, and tell you that what happened in these caucuses is the purest form and expression of democracy. If you look closely, you'll see their eyes glistening with unshed tears of pride and love. They're the journalists working for the Wall Street Journal, the great defenders of the neo-cons and the republicans, those who bark everywhere that the US is the greatest, the bestest democracy in the whole universe. I guess their sappy declarations of love for the caucuses, which are the most undemocratic process of election I've ever seen is coherent with their other declarations. At least I have to give the Wall Street Journal people this: they're not frightened of ridicule, and they do not step back from ludicrous claims:

Imagine a gymnasium full of people. Some are gathered in groups here and there. Others roam the space, undecisive. The groups shout at each other, yell catacalls, clap their hands and tap their feet on the ground to impress and unsettle the others, and try for shows of force to draw the undecisive their way. John Doe, who had said he'd vote for X, suddenly sees that a great many others are in group Y, and they call so loudly for more supporters that John Doe finds himself instintively going for the stronger group. In the meantime, Jane Smith wanted to vote for T, but T unfortunately doesn't gather enough supporters to be above a threshold percentage of votes. So Jane must choose someone else. No luck, she doesn't know. But the people supporting Y are so numerous, so loud. They seem so sure. So Jane goes to join the group defending Y. And when the ending time comes, a basket is handed from person to person, above heads in the crowd in a joyful chaos, and people "each" throw papers with the name of a candidate in the basket. There is no way of checking that this is done without any cheating. And of course, the caucus is nothing other than people putting pressure on other people to vote this instead of that. It bars some from attending, because it's held at a certain time, and that people who'd vote must endure at least 2hours of debate they have no need for, but must bow to, so they can be subjected to outside pressure and dictates on how they should vote.

The whole process certainly is the purest form of anti-democracy held in the self-proclaimed greatest democracy of the universe. A process the Wall Street Journal people know so well how to denounce when they explain the process of voting for or against a strike in gatherings of union workers. But then, it's true that this is the US, a country where voting isn't compulsory, and where elections day are invariably weekdays, when people are at work, and they either have to take a day off or do I don't know what to manage to place their vote. The greatest democracy of the world, indeed. But then, we wouldn't put the day for the election on Sunday, no, we wouldn't. We wouldn't dare annoy all the good Christians out there, would we?

Now, let's tackle the results of the Iowa caucuses on the Democrats' side. I'll spare you my thoughts on the Republicans' side, because you wouldn't like me to explain to you in detail how these results confirm my opinion that a good half of the USA no longer lives in a democracy but is putting a good old theocracy in place (the whole of the USA is in fact a plutocracy, but let's not go there either).

Barack Obama's victory certainly is a powerful symbol. It's gonna send hearts beating, it's gonna send waves of warmth and elation coursing the veins of all those who have soft spots and still delulde themselves into believing in the lie called the "American Dream". But at the end of the process, when the game is over, it'd be far better for Hillary Rodham to be the winner. Why?

Because, no matter what you can say, what the media can say, the American citizens as a whole will never elect Barack Obama over a good WASP Republican. No matter what people like to believe, the heritage of segregation and racism aren't dead in the US. The South and the Middlewest states, the infamous Bible Belt will not elect a black, Democrat candidate as president, even though his mother is a purebred WASP.

Because, whether or not the people who have sparks in their eyes when they hear Obama talking of "deep change in the way of doing politics" and of "suppressing the wars between red and blue states" like it, the whole speech is just empty words that have a nice ring to them. There will never be "peace" and "understanding" and "collaboration" between Republican and Democrat states. People will never abandon their little wars, their agendas. And more importantly, they will not renounce their own ideas to endorse some kind of empty, soft consensus. And if they did, in some utopia world or other, the result would be a status-quo that would in no way be the tiniest beginning of the change Barack Obama claims to be embodying.

Because, outside of his "I'll change everything" message, Barack Obama has no clear program, no clear vision of what he'll do and how. Outside of his nice face, of his appealing youth and the fact people don't know him and thus don't (yet) associate him with their general dislike of politics, there's no clear indication of what he wants. Worse, from the little he's said, he looks like the most conservative of the Democrat candidates...

Because Hillary Rodham has the experience.

Because Hillary Rodham has fought in the arena, because she has confronted the fiends one finds on one's path in Washington, when she tried to reform the oh so nice and fair health "care" system the US has.

Because Hillary Rodham has guts, because she's strong. Because she knows what she'up against, because that terrible machine has beaten her down once, and she rebuilt herself. Because she failed, and took strength from that painful experience. Because she is the only one, having encountered it, fought it, to be able to claim she can challenge the smearing and demolition machine of the Republicans. She's been there. She's withstood them. She's proven her metal.

Hillary Rodham has proven she has the will and the strength to endure and to prevail in the hell they call a presidential campaign. She has been tested. She has been through fire.

Because Hillary Rodham knows there is a world beyond hte US borders, and will have many friends in Europe. Because she knows the job.

Because she has a team such as no other candidate can have.

Because, once the Republicans will have chosen Rudy Juliani, John Mc Cain or Mitt Romney, she's the only one who can confront them.

And if she could have Edwards as a vice-president hopeful, I think I'd have to revise my judgment, and start believing again that a hope for change is possible in the US.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

366 days...

To start on a quest for happiness.

To strive for a better world in our everyday lives, no matter how little we are, or how insignificant the things we can do in regard with all the pain and loss all around us.

To remember our roots.

To regain our bearings.

To open our eyes.

To question the “truths” authorities, media, political, religious or otherwise dump on our heads.

To take a good, long look at our lives and answer this question truly: is this what we want?

To wave aside hopelessness and the general consensus around the inevitability of living in a world where finance and economy rule, in the service of a few plutocrats, who wave before our enraptured gazes flags of “freedom” and make of us good little consumers, obedient little variables in their equations.

To tear off the mask of “democracy” our governments and those who own them have so securely tied, so that we can’t see the nice reality that we live in plutocracies, all of us “citizens of the free world”.

To turn our backs on all priests, popes, televangelists, predicators, imams, rabbis, and all religious figures and hierarchs who would presume to tell us how we should live our lives, tempt us and threaten us with whatever lies beyond the moment of our death, and to know better than we what’s good and what’s bad.

To weave a mantle of emerald green for our bleeding world.

To get involved in elections, and fight for what we believe in.

To see the Olympics in Beijing for what they are: the games of shame, held in a country that’s destroying the world with its power plants, its chemical companies, which has turned the sacred land of Tibet into its nuclear junkyard, and which has no intention to stop any time soon, in a country where freedom of opinion has been scratched from all the schoolbooks, and where they kill prisoners of opinion after having demanded their families pay for the bullet that’ll take the lives of their loved ones.

To unravel the glamor of an authoritarian midget who loves himself far too much to even begin to care about the people who were deluded by his populist speeches and voted him in power.

To see the FARC free their hostages.

To watch Hugo Chavez thwart the neo-cons and thrive, to see him seize victory in defeat, and to see this strange, strange man hold up in his hand another way, another path for people to choose.

To see either a woman or a man of color become the temporary owner of the White House.

To see if Pakistan can somehow defeat the looming shadow of chaos.

To see at last the Islam fanatics driven out of all the lands they've invaded, and in no particular order: Irraq, Sudan and the Darfur region, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Great Britain, and all the corners of shadow and dust that they haunt, cowards that they are.

To see if at last Palestine will be given its due, and will at last have a viable state, and if Israel will finally win free of the nightmarish path it has been following for so many years.

To discover the next seasons of Heroes, House M.D., Battlestar Galactica, Bones, Desperate Housewives, Life on Mars, Bones, Robin Hood.

To see the end of Saint Seiya adapted into anime.

To write a new piece of fiction (anyone who believed that When Blackbirds Sing would be the last occasion for me to waste bandwidth doesn't know me at all).

To remain as stubborn, selfish, insufferable and mean-tempered.

To refuse any kind of "new year resolutions".

366 days, and the afternoon of Winter in Greece, for the rain to fall gently on the scorched earth, for snow to glove the mountains with a soft cloak of pure white.

366 days, the afternoon of Winter and the glorious rise of Spring in Greece, for the forests to heal from the terrible fires of last Summer.

366 days, in which to look out for the sun, to try and bring more light to our world.

More peace.