Tuesday, August 23, 2011


August 25, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry would make a great president.
As he tirelessly reminds us, the United States is a shambles — mounting debt, high unemployment, religiously unrooted, over- taxed, entangled in entitlements, with a Federal Reserve Bank whose actions are treasonous and a federal government seeping like an oil spill into every individual's life.
It's time for a daring experiment, and he's just the man to undertake it. Imagine: He could totally eliminate the federal bureaucracy, return to the gold standard, bring Christ and creationism back into the public schools, secure foreign borders, privatize Social Security and health care. It would be the biggest social revolution since the New Deal, and he could do it all if he were the president — of Texas.
Rick, don't waste your purpose-driven life running for an office that will only frustrate you. You call Washington "the Devil's city," and now you're aspiring to go smack in the center of it. Besides, the U.S. is just too big and complex to allow your vision to flourish. But Texas! There you'd have a nice little country about the same size as Spain or Afghanistan, with a GDP and population close to that of Australia. You've spoken of this for years; why not go for it? Resurrect the Republic of Texas, born in valiant revolution against Mexico and independent for a decade, until in 1845 President Sam Houston, over great objection, got it folded into the U.S. — primarily so the federal government could assume Texas's enormous war debt. How's that for irony? For old-time Texans, the Republic is their meta-narrative, and who is better able to make their myth a realty than you?
Of course, there will be obstacles, but you're no Sisyphus — you can push those boulders right over the top. Presuming that the U.S. is now too weak-willed and war-weary to fight, you can begin as soon as your legislature ratifies the articles of secession.
It'll be chaos for a while, ushering the U.S. out of there and replacing the federal apparatus with a Texan one. The military will be a major problem, but they're getting so used to troop drawdowns that they'll beat a gradual and orderly retreat over five years, declaring victory. Then you can convert all those army bases into training centers for a beefed-up Texas Rangers. And while you're at it, you can use the abandoned Johnson Space Center in Houston for an ambitious program to put a Texan on the moon before the decade is out. What patriotism that would inspire!
Then there are all those U.S. federal grants to get off the citizens' backs — over $35 billion of them in 2009 — for agriculture, education, energy, environmental protection, child care, highways, on and on. I know that as governor you lobbied vigorously to get even more of them — $47.5 million last year for undocumented immigrant health care, for instance, and $14.5 million for No Child Left Behind, the educational standards program which you've called "a direct assault on federalism." But that's history now, and your countrymen will forgive you. There's always a price for freedom, and I'm sure all those farmers and oilmen and students and poor people will be more than willing to pay it.
Then there's immigration, which will be interesting, since you'll have to deal with not only one border but all of them. On the southern side, you can be as ruthless as you choose — drive those undocumented Mexicans out, like your forefathers did in the 1830's. But how porous will you let your other borders be? Will you require passports and work permits for Oklahomans? There may be a great influx of unemployed people from the States, seeking work in the Promised Land. On the other hand, there may be plenty of Texans, many educated and prosperous, who'd rather live in America. Will you let them go?
And then there are all those nasty entitlements. At least for Social Security, you've got a grace period. Non-citizens who've paid into the program can claim benefits, as long as they don't live in interdicted countries like Cuba or Cambodia. Presuming Texas is not added to the list (and why should America treat its separated sibling harshly?), your seniors can milk the system for decades, giving you time to devise and implement your plan for privatization. With Medicare gone, you can get those insurance companies back in the game, generating thousands of jobs to boot. And for those too poor to pay, well, we all know that Texans have big hearts and will take care of their neighbors like they used to, in the days before the welfare state.
As for money, returning to the gold standard probably wouldn't work right now, prices being what they are. You could tie your currency (the Pecos bill?) to oil or, appropriately, natural gas. You could also swallow your pride and continue to use the U.S. dollar, like Ecuador does. You can always switch to China later.
There are a lot more questions, like whether and how to insure bank deposits when the FDIC withdraws, but I'm sure you'll meet each and every challenge with your can-do resourcefulness. Shoot, if Georgia (the country, that is) can go independent, Texas surely can.
So Rick, set your sights on a presidency that really counts. There's a bill before your legislature calling for a plebiscite on Texas nationhood. Forget the U.S.; turn your mighty campaign force toward your homeland, where you've never lost an election.
Future Mr. President, you're made for Texas, and Texas is made for you.

Friday, August 19, 2011


August 18, 2011

You can add one more country to the long, long list of repressive regimes in the world. It's not in the Middle East or Asia; it's right across The Pond.
Great Britain? How can this be?
Consider the reaction of the British government to the riots and looting that occurred in London, Birmingham, and other major cities last week: Mass arrests of suspected looters, many of them identified by the surveillance cameras ubiquitous in urban areas; 24/7 "speedy justice" trials, dishing out jail terms even to children and even for thefts as small as a couple bottles of water or packs of chewing gum; authorizing the police to quell disturbances with rubber bullets and water-cannon (evocative of that other Birmingham, on our shores); proposing to disable social networks (an eery parallel to the actions of despots in Egypt, Syria, and Iran); and just about the worst of the worst, evicting from public housing the families of the convicted.
Consider as well the rhetorical reaction. "This is criminality, pure and simple," said Prime Minister David Cameron when he returned to England early from his idyllic vacation in Tuscany to manage the situation. Days later, asked what those people thrown out of their homes would do then, Cameron replied, "They should have thought of that before they started burgling." The answer to the same question by no less an authority than London's housing commissioner himself, a man with the charmingly English name of Eric Pickles, was: "They could get a job."
The callousness, both in word and deed, is straight out of Dickens.
It's an exaggeration for me to lump Great Britain with the likes of Bahrain or Burma. To the credit of the police, with its long tradition of responding to crime temperately and usually without firearms, no deaths occurred in the mayhem. And yet the pronouncements and many of the actions of the government are disturbingly similar to those in truly repressive countries. Rather than seeking and addressing the root causes of the violence, they only serve to heighten the frustration and anger of those who feel cut off and boxed in.
And the denigration continues. In a speech on Monday, having had plenty of time for considered reflection, Cameron expanded his analysis beyond criminality, pure and simple. Calling the riots symptoms of "the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country" — and everybody knows just which parts he meant — he ticked off the causes: crimes without punishment, undisciplined schools, absentee fathers, and that other old standby, "moral relativism." Not a word of compassion, not a hint of awareness, not a sign of support.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband broadened the scope of British decrepitude to encompass "greedy, selfish, and immoral" bankers, phone hackers, and politicians — examples, he said, of "a me- first, take-what-you-can culture." Enough incrimination to go around, but still just incrimination.
He might also have included the 100,000 citizens who signed a government website's petition in support of the eviction proposal.
For indications of the "moral collapse" of British society, Cameron should look no further than his own nose. Any government built on retribution rather than healing, on blaming the poor for their poverty, and on denying the role of racism in policy and policing is itself in moral collapse.
We Americans have been through this ourselves often enough, and in many ways the attitudes of our leaders today mirror those of Britain's. Even President Obama, who from his early work in community organizing should be the first to go to bat for the poor, has extended his compassion no further down than to the middle class.
Cutbacks in social programs and job-creating public works are just beginning to affect the most vulnerable here. Lacking hope for the future, what more is there than to take what you can, when you can? One wonders if and when the patience of our own desperate will snap.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


August 4, 2011

Politics is supposed to be the art of compromise, but the end result of the debt-ceiling debacle was the most artless compromise in memory. Actually, it wasn't compromise at all, it was capitulation. Imagine: Both houses of Congress, and the President of what used to be called the Greatest Nation in the World, held hostage by a handful of Republicans, most of them just halfway into their first term.
It's like freshman hazing in reverse, forcing the upperclassmen to scrub the Floor of the House on their knees while chanting "Freshmen rule! Freshmen rule!" It's like taking away the football from the varsity team and making them play Kick the Can.
We haven't seen a tea party this mad since Alice discovered Wonderland. Indeed, you wish Lewis Carroll were around to make sense of it. Nobody else can.
All his zany characters, and then some, are in the House of the March Hare, with its chimneys shaping into ears and its dome being thatched with fur. You've got the Tea Partiers gaggled at one corner of the otherwise empty table, crying to Alice the Minority Leader, "No room! No room!" You've got Eric "Mad Hatter" Cantor, spouting riddles no one can solve. ("Why is taxation not a deficit-reducer?" is even more inscrutable than "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?")
You've got John Boehner, the beleaguered and weepy Hare of the House, dipping the Hatter's stopped watch into his tea.
And you've got Barack the neutered Dormouse, asleep on the table, where Hare and Hatter, as Carroll wrote, "were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. ‘Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,' thought Alice, ‘only, as it's asleep, I suppose it doesn't mind.'" You also suppose the Dormouse didn't mind when they tried stuffing him head-first into the teapot.
In our narrative, other Wonderland characters turn up, like Queen of Hearts Michelle Bachmann ("Off with their heads!") and that Cheshire Cat, Ronald Reagan, whose smile still lingers long after the rest of him is gone.
"It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!" said Alice as she fled the scene in disgust and began nibbling on the mushroom that would make her just a foot tall. "Now, I'll manage better this time."
Let's hope so, for what adventures still await! Despite her diminished stature (Who'd have thought it before she fell down that rabbit-hole in 2008?), the ceiling cramps her head. All is small now and getting smaller, except for the Big, who keep getting bigger.
Washington has become a world more topsy-turvy than even Lewis Carroll could conceive. Instead of constructing an economic policy, Congress deconstructs it. Instead of setting comprehensive goals for the betterment and prosperity of the country and then rationally determining how to pay for them, the Congress, pulling the President along by the nose, goes nuts over spending cuts, regardless of the merit of the program. The Big Picture has shrunk to the head of a pin. And like the Mad Hatter's watch, there is no future: "It's always six o'clock now," he tells Alice; "It's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles."
It's self-absorption dissolving into pettiness. The so-called "debates" endlessly swirling around the debt-ceiling issue were goofier than the conversation at the Hatter's party.
And all the while, the economy sputters, the poor and sick are pushed from the table while the fat lick up the butter. "The common good" are words as meaningless as a stanza from "Jabberwocky."
Oh, my fur and whiskers!