Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

To My Republican Friends

Some of you have been forwarding to me attacks against Barack Obama in recent days. I thank you for thinking of me, but I have to say that I have neither the time nor the energy to read, much less vet, them all. I have recognized several, however, as the fabrications of Andy Martin, a well known political crank who was the subject of an expose last week in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/us/politics/13martin.html?scp=5&sq=Obama%20Kenya%20Muslim&st=cse . Mr. Martin is a rabid anti-Semite, among other things, so don't expect me to hearken to his claims. Other allegations have been attributed to Wikipedia, which is not a source but a clearing house of sources, and to the South Korean owned Washington Times. Sorry, but these hold no sway with me.

I get my news primarily from the liberal New York Times and the conservative Wall Street Journal, neither of which have deemed these attacks as credible, much less, newsworthy. I don't watch Fox News, but I understand that they have soft pedaled them as well.

I'm writing to you today, however, to make a larger point. Far-right critics of Obama seem to think he is an ideologue, be it liberal, Muslim, or Socialist. Since they are ideologues themselves, they erroneously assume everyone else is an ideologue as well. We've had eight years of the most ideological president ever--a man who believed that all the answers were either in the Bible, in Market Conservatism (to give it a name), or in his gut. I believe that ideologues are essentially lazy. When confronted by a crisis, they simply consult the relevant scripture and leave it at that; alternative viewpoints need not be considered, and gut feelings trump all.

Obama, thank heaven, is not lazy. Obama is a pragmatist and a man of intellectual breadth. He is sympathetic to the poor, but contrary to the facile stereotyping of the right-wing, that does not mean he's a Socialist. He believes in negotiating with our enemies, but that does not mean he's an advocate of World Government. He knows we have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, but that does not make him a Tree-Hugger. He is, I repeat, a pragmatist, and pragmatism is exactly what's been missing for the last eight years. That's why George W. Bush stripped his administration of everyone with an independent outlook, and that's why he's leaving his successor a nation in shambles.

I don't expect I will change your votes; and you certainly won't change mine. But I hope in the future you will think twice before sending me the rantings of fringe radicals, especially those with anti-Semitic leanings-- I am especially offended by them. Furthermore, I hope you will see past the mud-slinging and whisper campaigns that have so blighted American politics in recent years. I hope you'll support instead candidates at all levels who define themselves by their priorities and competencies, rather than those who dwell on the alleged shortcomings of their opponents.

We have some true crises on our hands, but we're not going to hate our way out of any of them. The torch will most likely be passed to the Democrats, but that of itself will solve nothing. What's needed is concerted effort under dynamic leadership. I think Obama is the more personally resourceful candidate, and that's why I'm voting for him. My choice has absolutely nothing to do with ideology, and even less to do with hatred.

I hope you will respect my decision, just as I respect those of you who support Senator McCain.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fear Itself

I write this before the market opens on Friday, following a disastrous Thursday on Wall Street and more bloodletting overnight abroad. We are watching our pension funds and nest eggs vanish before our eyes, and there is nothing we can do about it. Mutual fund investors are cashing out in droves, and that compels the funds to sell large blocks of their holdings, usually at the end of the day, which causes prices to plummet, thereby prompting even more investors to cash out the next day. This is the vortex of fear that Franklin Roosevelt so memorably warned us against.

I've been thinking of FDR a lot lately. His administration put into place safeguards against another Great Depression. But a new generation of economists and politicians inspired Congress to dismantle these brakes and firewalls. They are a tenacious bunch, these Chicago Schoolers, but their case for laissez faire has been considerably weakened. FDR will have the last word, I hope, as we recognize that the greedy assault by these "masters of the universe" is a tyrannical attack on human rights..."everywhere in the world."

Here are FDR's words:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress, January 6, 1941

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Cubs

I checked the box scores almost daily, went to one game when the Cubs came to LA, and watched maybe two more on TV during the season. But halfway into the first playoff game, I turned off the set and went back to reading about the economy. With a war, a recession, a bailout, and a close Presidential campaign, baseball has lost its savor. I hope the Cubs will finally have their day, but I don't think I would have enjoyed it much if it had come this year. Maybe next.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ants and Rain

The summer is still in full vigor in southern California--temperatures in the nineties and not a hint of rain. Keeping the ants out of my house is always most difficult at this time of year. Yesterday I was reading in my favorite chair when I felt one crawling up my leg, and later another, and another. I aimed my reading light at my feet and saw they were swarming frantically in two whorls on the floor. The speed of their movement evinced frustration, as though their communication was amiss and some promised morsels couldn't be found. This morning, I fought a battle with them in the kitchen, and once again, there was no nexus for their raid; they were scouting desperately and in great numbers.

I don't spray poison. I have a dog and I won't take a chance of hurting her. However, the garden stakes keep the insecticide encased in metal. The ants swarm it, carry the contents back to their nest, and there they die, along with their queen. Somehow this is a nobler end for them than the ignominy of dying beneath my broom.

Rain is predicted for tomorrow, and if it comes, the ants will go away. Today I must prepare for the rain by sweeping the valleys on my rooftop. Rain is my best defense against the ants; once it comes, they won't invade the house again this season. However, if I fall off the roof while sweeping it, I suppose I'll have to concede some victory to the ants.