Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old General, the Bitchy Witch and the Dazzling Idol

It seems that the time for "foreclosure", announcements of victory and calls for withdrawal has come again. In very serious and wise newspapers and elsewhere, much-listened to OP/ED pieces writers come out (yet again) to make an impassioned speech about how poor Mr Obama is attacked by bad and evil Mrs Rodham-Clinton, and how, did she have any shred of dignity and honor left, she'd just withdraw, retire in some nunnery or other and let all the Barack worshippers celebrate what often seems to amount to them as some kind of "second coming".

The most funny thing about all those pieces, is that they have nothing to support them in the way of ideas, of policies defended by either candidate. Those pieces are full of only one thing: "we love Barack, we hate Hillary the mean bitch". Those pieces simply echo the advertisement slogans of Mr Obama's campaign, which remain, to this day, just that: advertisement slogans, with little reality in them.

In the meantime, the old general strolls on, unharmed, unhampered, toward a goal he may very well reach. Of course, the fault doesn't lie solely with the Obama campaign. Theugliness is shared on both sides: Clinton and Obama really should know and do better. But in that regard, they're both in the same boat and at the same level. The only thing is that for some reason many avert their gaze when the ugliness comes from darling Barack's camp, in a fascinating display of selective vision and hypocrisy, while they pay excruciatingly close scrutiny to the smallest misstep of Hillary.

How about coming back to the basics?

How about getting back to what those people propose, and to what they're likely to do once in power to make a choice?

Have all these famous, respected and oh-so wise OP/ED pieces writers forgotten about the meaning behind the word "politics"?

Thanks to some kind god or goddess, there remains one OP/ED writer who hasn't forgotten, and it's Paul Krugman. Again, he has produced a wonderful little piece of common sense and wisdom in his OP/ED piece in today's edition of the New York Times: Loans and Leadership. Selected quotes:

(...) it’s important to take a hard look at what candidates say about policy. It’s true that past promises are no guarantee of future performance. But policy proposals offer a window into candidates’ political souls — a much better window, if you ask me, than a bunch of supposedly revealing anecdotes and out-of-context quotes.

Which brings me to the latest big debate: how should we respond to the mortgage crisis? In the last few days John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have all weighed in. And their proposals arguably say a lot about the kind of president each would be.

(...) Mr. McCain is selling the same old snake oil, claiming that deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills.

(...) Maybe the most notable contrast between Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton involves the problem of restructuring mortgages. Mr. McCain called for voluntary action on the part of lenders — that is, he proposed doing nothing. Mrs. Clinton wants a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford.

(...) I was pleased that Mr. Obama came out strongly for broader financial regulation, which might help avert future crises. But his proposals for aid to the victims of the current crisis, though significant, are less sweeping than Mrs. Clinton’s: he wants to nudge private lenders into restructuring mortgages rather than having the government simply step in and get the job done.

Mr. Obama also continues to make permanent tax cuts — middle-class tax cuts, to be sure — a centerpiece of his economic plan. It’s not clear how he would pay both for these tax cuts and for initiatives like health care reform, so his tax-cut promises raise questions about how determined he really is to pursue a strongly progressive agenda.

All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.

Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.

Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.

Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.

Do these policy comparisons really tell us what each candidate would be like as president? Not necessarily — but they’re the best guide we have.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Exercise of Vital Powers

Today is Elections day, both in France, and in Spain, and although the media have a lot to say about the French local elections, the place where all eyes should be focusing is Spain.


Because Spain has a fundamental choice to make today : either to continue toward modernism, the secularization of its extremely patriarchal society, toward social reforms aimed at improving life and welfare of everyone, or to slide back down the road of authoritarianism and Catholic dogma domination.

Contrary to the political spectrum we’re used to in France, Belgium, Germany or Holland, in Spain the right is set far, truly far to the right part of the spectrum. The specter of Franco haunts the rallies and meetings of the “People’s Party”—never has a political party so little deserved the name it’s taken for itself, but let’s not go there. Spain has never truly come to terms with the bloody dictatorship of general Franco, who was overwhelmingly supported and cheered on by the upper classes, and by the Catholic church.

The Catholic church itself has never come out of the closet with an expression of regret or apology, on the opposite. Even today, the Catholic church in Spain fights so it can continue to honor “victims of communist revolutionaries”, aka collaborators of a brutal, savage dictatorship who helped capture, detain, torture and slaughter men and women whose crime it was to dream of freedom, and of something other than the Right’s and the Church’s absolute dominion over their lives. Neither the church, nor the Right have ever done their duty of opening the historical records, and acknowledging the crimes that took place. They never condemned what happened under Franco. Worse, they hold ceremonies every year to honor the memory of a bloody tyrant on par with the worst we have known, Mussolini, Pinochet, etc.

And today, today the Catholic church and the Right see an opportunity to regain the power they lost when they tried to manipulate people and hide the truth behind the Madrid terrorist attacks. Today is mass day. The faithfuls will go to church. They will listen to their priest. And it just so happens that their priest has a message for them on this special day. A very important message that comes directly from the highest places in the Spanish Catholic hierarchy, from people who know better than us poor simple souls, and who only want what’s best for us.

And today, the Catholic church comes out of the woods, and clamps down its claws upon the people under its dominion. Today, it lifts its mask of benevolence and harmlessness.

Today, the Spanish Catholic church tells people for whom to vote.

Today, the Catholic church uses its power to try and regain what it never accepted to lose: dominion over every aspect of people’s lives, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. In an almost sublime disregard for people’s freedom of choice and opinion, for people’s liberty to have faith in something, to be agnostics or atheists, the Catholic church rears its ugly head, and exercises its power.

Today, the Catholic church hands out for everyone to see the proof that, contrary to what optimistic people believe, it has never, ever accepted to withdraw to the sphere of people’s personal beliefs. Today, the Catholic church demonstrates that it isn’t satisfied with that, and that it wants what was taken from it during the French revolution in 1789: absolute power over temporal matters, over our lives. The power to dictate what we should do, think, believe and how we should lead our lives.

Today, the Catholic church proves that it’s anything but harmless, that it merely waits in the shadows, biding its time until the moment to regain what it lost comes.

It’s hoping that today is the day in Spain.

Today, the Catholic church proves that it keeps being a threat to all who would be free, and that it needs to be uprooted for good.

Today, the Spanish people have the unique occasion to send the Catholic church back into the closet, in the shadows where it belongs.

Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Those Who Make the Story

Those who write or tell the story aren’t those who make it. Quite a few US commentators, OP/ED pieces writers (hello, Maureen darling!) must be busy chewing their hats or their gloves or their sleeves right now. Serves them right.

Tuesday showed those oh, so mighty “opinion makers” that people still have brains and wills of their own. Tuesday served to show that those who make the story are the people themselves. The men and women who went to the caucuses, who went to the polls and cast their ballot.

No matter how it may displease the influential journalists who went so far as to order Hillary Rodham Clinton to call it a day and go home, to withdraw before the primaries in Texas and Ohio, “plain and simple” citizens gave all those influential personalities a very much needed reality check. The Democratic race isn’t settled. The candidates are neck to neck. It can still turn out any other way, and there’s no predicting who will win it. But at least, this time, the opinion makers will learn their lessons, and will stop their dirty little games.

Perhaps, just perhaps, from now on those same opinion-makers will stop spewing out vacant slogans and empty words to focus on the contents of the candidates’ program. Perhaps they’ll analyze the reality of those programs, destroy the lies and falsehoods spread by the campaign teams, and in particular the Saint Obama team, which is very good at that nice little trick.

Again, as it happened in New Hampshire, “simple” people reclaimed ownership of a democratic process that belongs to them and them alone: to choose the candidate who will represent their party in November. Once more, people showed the powers of the media that what matters is those who make the story.

Thank you, Rhode Island. Thank you, Vermont.

Thank you, Texas.

Thank you, Ohio.

Monday, March 03, 2008

When All is Said and Done

When the doors close tomorrow night, and everyone has had their say, we will know one thing. We will know whether pure communication without depth, without questioning from the media, truly can defeat facts, political knowledge and experience.

In France, this experiment ended with the communication monster winning the presidential election. Nicolas Sarkozy who, no matter all the bad things that can be said and argued against him, has a hell of a talent when it comes to selling himself and advertising himself, was elected president.

He was elected president because his was a message of change, of “rupture” with the past. He promised he’d do things in another way. He promised he’d unite all the good, capable and competent actors of the political life. He promised he’s put an end to partisanship, that he’d end the left-right wars. He promised people he was like them, he wanted the same things they did. He painted himself as the embodiment of people’s hopes, and also as the embodiment of people’s rejection of politicians and politics in general.

And he won. By a wide margin.

It was in May, 2007.

Today, less than a year after his entrance in the Elysee palace, his popularity numbers have plummeted. Already, people are fed up with him, with his antics, and with the “nothing gets done” reality that his promises have turned out to be.

The partisan wars are worse than ever. People’s lives are getting worse. Politics have done anything but change. And France is the laughingstock of Europe, when it’s not the pain in the ass of Europe.

Having watched both political campaigns until now, in France and in the US, one can’t help but be struck by the similarity between the two. In both, a candidate with a very clear talent for rhetoric, and gifted with incredible charisma. In both, a candidate with a rather empty, populist and pleasing message, who knows how to say what people want to hear.

The possibility that what happened in France will happen in the US is appalling. The result is known, and it’s not a bright or good one. Of course, here the difference is that what’s at stake is the Democratic nomination. The winner will have to face John Mc Cain. And with Mr Nader’s candidacy, all bets are in favour of Mr Mc Cain winning when opposed to Mr Obama.

Of course, the above reasoning may sound ludicrous to Obama supporters, but they should take a step back, and consider this: up until now, the media have been after Mrs Clinton’s hide, while fawning and gushing all over Mr Obama. Anyone who’d protest that would do well to get a good reality check, because the wake-up call will be most brutal. If Mr Obama becomes the Democratic candidate, this will change. Journalists will start doing their job again. They’ll investigate. They’ll ask questions. They’ll scrutinize Mr Obama’s record. And things will go downhill from there, helped along by gentle pushes from the Republicans.

There is a way to thwart all that the media and the Republicans have planned and forecast, and that is for Hillary Rodham Clinton to win in Ohio and Texas tomorrow.

Take a good, long look at France as it is today, and think twice before you cast your ballot, or join the Obama group. Think twice, or you might very well end up like France. And you really, really don’t want that to happen.

Also, check out today’s opinion piece by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

And tomorrow, think. Do not swoon.

Just think.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Live and Let Die

The euthanasia debate just might start again in France, after the brave and difficult decision of a 52 years old woman to allow her case, her suffering to be used as a symbol, and a channel for the debate.

Upon hearing for the umpteenth time the argument used by those who refuse to allow euthanasia to be set into a law, with clear boundaries and a frame of reference for doctors and patients to work with, I find myself fighting down disgust and exasperation with quite a bit of difficulty. Because all these people have are words.

Just words.

Empty sounds, that resound in a room, resound in the places where the TV is turned on and set on the debate channel. The syllables drift through the air, rebound on the walls, and then, what? And then nothing. People spew out sophistry, grand principles, bits and pieces of philosophy, never ever having the honesty to come out with the real reason why they oppose it: religion. Religious dogma and beliefs, which have nothing to do, no right to interfere with the everyday, temporal life of the citizens living in a democratic country. And while those holier-than-thou figures argue against the right for a person to decide of how, why, where and when they should end their own life, people keep suffering. People keep being in pain.

And words, pale words, are just laughable.

What does it matter to you, if someone decides to rule their own life, and the manner of their own death? What business of yours is it? None.

Nobody will ever make anyone shorten their life or hasten their death if they don’t want to. Euthanasia is about the absolute right to self-determination, it’s about the right to do what you want with your life, the affirmation that it belongs to you. If you believe your life belongs to some god and that in accordance with your beliefs system you should suffer, agonize for years, months, you name it, you’re welcome to it! Please, by all means, do lead your life and your death the way you please! Just don’t meddle into the lives and deaths of others!

It’s all too easy to guess at why the opponents to euthanasia will never relent: most of them oppose it because they belong to a monotheistic religion which states that life belongs to a deity without a name or face and that, as such, you cannot decide what you do with it, since it’s not really yours.

And, of course, the problem with religions, is that they are inherently intolerant of other systems of ethics. And that they believe they have “The One Truth.” They believe that they’re entitled to dictate what everyone, whether they adhere to their beliefs system or not, should do, think, and how they should live and die. Religions must save everyone, against themselves. They must redeem the sinners who do not see the light, who do not understand the obvious.

I’m sick and tired of religions.

I’m sick and tired of hypocrites who argue against the right for someone to decide what to do with his/her life or his/her death, quoting the progress of medicine, how painkillers would help, how having a better, more adapted environment would oh so certainly change the person’s decision to die. The truth is, while those hypocrites who are too cowardly to admit their opinion is nothing but a religious dictate, the people they pass judgment upon, and whom they forbid the right to die keep on suffering. The truth is, that no “better environment” will happen. The truth is that no “revolution of palliative care” will take place.

The truth is, also, that religions cannot abide people accepting death and welcoming it on their own.

Without the fear of death and the promise of a heaven when you die, provided you have been an obedient follower of religious dogma and laws, religions would lose most, if not all their appeal on people.

When I take a look at what’s being said in the US, how candidates for the presidency are forced to spew out the words “god” or “jesus” at every turn if they want to have a chance of being elected, in what claims to be a secular country, when I look at what Sarkozy spews out in his speeches, I cannot help thinking it’s high time for a revolution.

It’s really, really high time for a repetition of 1789.