Happy New Year

Check out my year end review in the current, last issue of the year edition of CityBeat print. And with that we close the books on 2007. Happy New Year to all. Next week: 2008 sneek preview!

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Mr. Potter is Winning

(My Dear CityBeat Readers: I first laid fingers to keyboard on this piece four years ago when I was typing out columns for HispanicVista. It’s become, for me, my own perennial holiday repeat which I’ve vowed to post every year until the thesis no longer applies. Which, given the events of my lifetime, may be the balance of my lifetime. But optimism lives on, especially during this season of faith and hope. A Merry Christmas and wishes for a happy Holiday season to you and yours. — CJL)

I watched the perennial holiday chestnut, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the other day. There was George Bailey, as he is every year, struggling to keep the old Savings and Loan afloat. There was the malicious Mr. Potter, a truly covetous old sinner, trying to put Bailey out of business. There was Clarence the angel showing, once again, that our world is a better place for the George Bailey’s amongst us. It’s too bad that in today’s world the Potters are beating the Baileys, hands down.

Old man Potter dismissed the Bailey Savings and Loan as a kind of privatized social welfare program for dumb poor workers who couldn’t cut it on their own. “And what does that get us,” he asked? “A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry eyed dreamers stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas? Don’t the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys say the same thing today?

Labor laws, social welfare, retirement benefits, guaranteed healthcare, workplace safety laws, consumer protection–all are dismissed by our modern Potters as so much misplaced sympathy offered to the undeserving by the foolishly starry eyed, thinking that is at best naïve and at worst dangerous. Any mention of social welfare on AM radio is now associated with Bolshevik Socialism – want to give workers a guaranteed living wage or put any limits at all on the worst excesses of the market and you’re labeled as an advocate of Gulags and death camps.

George, of course, argued back: “Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” Today he could add: is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die with decent healthcare, affordable housing, quality education for their kids and the sure knowledge that, when old age comes, there will be some comforts to look forward to?

We don’t have that many George Bailey’s today. Few stand up to our Potters when they tell us workers can’t expect job security, no one is entitled to healthcare and decent pay is whatever the most desperate amongst us is willing to work for. Even the Democrats, the party of dreams of the working stiffs, have fallen in line with the rhetoric of balanced budgets and smaller government (except, of course, if deficits are required to provide tax cuts to the richest Americans) even if the cost are reduced programs to help the disadvantaged.

Can’t anyone makes the simple point George made that helping the least amongst us is not simple altruism, it is Capitalist self interest at it’s best? “Your all business men here,” he reminded the S&L board members thinking of supporting Potter, “don’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers?” Heck, wasn’t it that old socialist Henry Ford’s idea to raise worker pay, not because it was the moral thing to do but because it made them better participants in the Capitalist market place? Like Old Man Potter, much of American corporate business has become warped and frustrated by ruthless competition and now sees its workers only as cattle to be milked for as long as possible before being sent to the layoff slaughterhouse.

Frank Capra understood that the Potters amongst us seldom lose, though the more public-minded like old George could, on occasion, battle them to a draw. Notice that, while George Bailey ultimately survived his battle with Potter, the old man survived unscathed too, his own crime of theft of the Bailey’s deposits unpunished. There have always been the Potters amongst us, those who pursue personal gain at any cost, be they a grasping banker like fictitious Potter or the greedy executives of a massive corporations like Enron or WorldCom. What’s regrettable is that there are fewer and fewer George Bailey’s speaking up for the little guy.

In the real world the Bailey S&L would have been bought out in the 1980s by PotterCorp, a huge transnational Financial Services leviathan. A PotterCorp holding company would have bought out Bedford Fall’s chief industry, the plastic’s factory old Hee-Haw Sam Wainwright had built at George’s urging and shipped the jobs to Third World sweatshops. Downtown Bedford Falls would now be a ghost town with shops shuttered by a massive PotterMart out by the interstate selling cheap slave-labor produced products to the town’s poorly paid service employees. Yes, least be there any doubt, in the world of today Mister Potter would have won.

And, least there be any doubt, Mr. Potter voted Republican

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer (made in China, of course…)

Santa is here with a sled full of toys, bring happy presents for little girls and boys. Bright colored toys all painted in lead, toys with tiny little pieces that–if swallowed–may leave baby dead. Breakaway sharp parts that can put out an eye and other great features that can make children die. Even contaminated food for your sweet little pet, but all so cheap mom and dad won’t be in debt. Welcome Christmas, Christmas time, as we sacrifice our health to save a dime.

And blame it all on the Chinese.

I must confess to having had my own big, holiday “ho ho ho’s” this Christmas season as I’ve listened to all the breast-beating and hand-wringing over how those nefarious, inscrutable, insidious Chinese have diabolically conspired to flood America with poisoned products. Oh, those dastardly people. The press and presidential debates are full of proud posturing demanding Justice for American consumers and protection from this new Asian threat. Read the rest of this entry »

Doppelgänger

The 2008 Republican Presidential race might just possibly turn into a replay of 1996–with some tweaking. In 1996 Pat Buchanan upset GOP frontrunner Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary. Buchanan received so much of a bandwagon effect from all the media hype over his unexpected win that, for a short time, Dole went back to Kansas to nurse his wounds and consider dropping out of the race. Then Buchanan was defeated by Stevo “Flat Tax” Forbes in Arizona, where conservative retirees liked Forbes’ fiscal policies more than Buchanan’s xenophobia. That allowed Dole to jump back into the race and trounce Buchanan and Forbes in the South Carolina primary and then march on to the nomination unimpeded. A Huckabee win in Iowa may do the same thing to Republicans in 2008, with the possibility of the GOP nominating a candidate perceived to be too far to the right wing of the party to win nationally may precipitate the party rallying behind a more moderate candidate. Like John McCain.

Yes, THAT McCain. Read the rest of this entry »

Zero to Hero

I’m working on a “2007: San Diego’s Politicial Year In Review” style piece for the last CityBeat of this Años. If you, loyal readers, have any suggestions for what you think the most important political events of ’07 were, send in a comment. Otherwise your stuck with my wizened wisdom.

Meanwhile, in researching the piece (what happened in January, ’07, anyway? Did Dick Murphy resign? It all blurs together over time…) I was reminded of a pivotal moment of leadership this year that had almost slipped my feeble mind. Hour magazine (described as Montreal’s English language urban weekly–kind of a Canuck CityBeat) has issued its twelth annual list of “Zeroes to Heroes”: those who have either distinguished or disgraced themselves on matters GL&T. Listed as one of the heroes was our own Gentleman Jerry:

Hero: Republican San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, who – with his beaming lesbian daughter, Lisa Sanders, by his side – abruptly and very publicly changed his position on gay marriage at a Sept. 19 press conference, then signed a city council resolution urging the California Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

It was probably Jerry’s finest mayoral moment. The irony is, of course, that, like Mitt Romney in his “I am a Christian, too!” speech, Sanders will now have to kiss up to the very same narrow minded people who were offended by his embracing his daughter to help win the June primary. Better, perhaps, would be for him to have another shining moment and say to such people: “I don’t need your vote. I don’t want your vote, I’d be ashamed to receive your vote. And I will win without your vote.”

But, outside of Frank Capra movies, such shining moments are few and far between. You can’t really knock Jerry if he doesn’t have another. At least he’s had one. Which is one more than most in politics.

For the Record

Much to my surprise and delight (okay, my delight threshold is somewhat low but at least it keeps me smiling more than frowning…) UT uber-blogger Chris Read did read my post last week in which I complained about how he quoted me in his blog. He posted part (small, teency-weency) of my emailed response to him in which I took him to task for quoting me out of context. Bottom line: after a spirited (and civil, I am also delighted to add—egad that low delight threshold) e-debate, we continue to agree to disagree.

For example, the conclusion of Mr. Reed’s most recent blog on the topic states: Read the rest of this entry »

Grade School

Watching CIA director Michael Hayden attempt to explain away the destruction of CIA interrogation videos and John Boehner this morning on CNN Wolf Blitzer show trying to explain away record federal debt under Republican management, I was reminded of my youth.

Back when I was a wee little one in third grade, as war raged in Vietnam and anti-war protests raged at home, I can remember explaining to my teacher why I thought the US could not pull out of Vietnam. (And, yes. My pathology of political junkiness dates back to my earliest year: I started checking books out from the library on athe Ciivil War and WWII when I was five. Egad.) In way of explaining why there was no viable exit strategy from Vietnam I asked my teacher, “Do you know what a mortar could do to a landing craft?” I was envisioning, with my grand military experience, exiting Vietnam to be kind of a Normandy invasion in reverse, with the Vietcong firing mortar rounds at the departing US troops in their open boats at sea. What did I know: I was only nine. Read the rest of this entry »