Tuesday, April 29, 2014

THE UKRAINE CRISIS: NEOCONS RESURGENT

 
By Ronald Fox
 
Oh how times have changed. The cooperation that led to the joint US-Russian diplomatic initiative in Syria and efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, seem a faint memory, laid to rest by the crises in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula. This is disconcerting to me, and I’m sure to many others who hoped the Syrian initiative established a foundation for future Washington-Moscow diplomatic collaboration. Neoconservatives, however, couldn’t be happier. The Ukrainian uprising and the Russian annexation of Crimea have resurrected the neo-conservative geopolitical perspective. That’s right, the same neocon thinking that steered us into the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with all the death and destruction left in their wakes, not to mention the squandering of nearly $1 trillion in American taxpayer dollars. Instead of joining other half-baked notions in our historical hall of infamy, neo-conservative thinking is once again captivating Official Washington.
 

JUSTICE FOR COLLEGE ATHLETES: NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL PLAYERS TAKE ON THE SYSTEM

By Ronald Fox
 
One of the best features of America is that our citizens have the right to protest for rights. Virtually every achievement in social justice in the US has been precipitated not by reasoned action by our leaders to “do the right thing,” but by direct citizen protest actions. This is a rich history of which we Americans can be proud.
 
Taking on established practice has not been easy given that protectors of the status quo have inertia on their side and possess far greater power resources to deploy. They have fiercely fought citizen demands for fairness and justice, especially when citizen gains would come at their expense. Such is the situation today with the group of inspired Northwestern University football players challenging their university, the N.C.A.A, and, by extension, state legislatures.  They have the audacity to want to form a union.
 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

APRIL 2014 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


clip_image001



(NOTE:  A preliminary draft of the April Bonehead Absurdity  candidates was inadvertently posted a couple weeks ago.  My apologies.  Now all the candidates and the winner can be announced.)


1.  Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley:  Braley, who is running for the Senate in Iowa, slammed the state's senior senator, Charles Grassley, as "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school."

This may be the all-time greatest bonehead comment.  To pop off in such an arrogant fashion to voters who take pride in their state being part of the "Corn Belt,"  and whose conservative instincts makes them highly suspicious of intellectual elites, is mind-boggling. 

2.  George W. Bush:  In an interview with  daughter Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY Friday, the former president recalled an encounter with Vladimir Putin that he claimed revealed a lot about the character of the Russian president.  The comment reveals Bush's keen insight.

“As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart — Putin dissed him and said, ‘You call it a dog?’’’ Bush told Hager.

3.  John Coleman, co-founder of the Weather Channel and long-time weatherman at KUSI in San Diego, claims scientific knowledge as the basis for his opposition to climate change.  Although the following statement was from last year, it reflects a position he has repeated on several occasions in public statements, including recently upon his retirement:

"It [global warming] is the greatest scam in history.  I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it.  . . . . Some dastardly scientist with environmental and political motives manipulated long-tern science data to create an illusion of rapid global warming."

4.  Rush Limbaugh:  Referring to gay marriage, which he called immoral, Rush Limbaugh told listeners to his radio program:  "The institution of marriage had been targeted for destruction, essentially, and the road to destroying it is being paved."  This coming from a man who is currently married to his fourth wife.  Good thing divorce is not a technical and literal destruction of marriage.

5.  Cliven Bundy:  It doesn't take much these days to become a conservative folk hero.  Refuse to pay government fees for grazing cattle in a federally protected habitat, then gather a self-styled militia to fend off Bureau of Land Management officials, and Fox News will confer hero status.  This will give you a celebrity platform to pontificate your social philosophy.

Referring to African Americans, Bundy told New York Times reporters:
 
"They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton . . . . . . .and I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
And the winner is:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

CHARLES SNOW RESPONSE TO HAROLD AND MAUDE COMMENTARY


Blog-mate Charles Snow posted the following response to my Harold and Maude commentary.  My  response follows his.

“Ron could be a professional film critic. His reviews not only capture the essence and quality of a film, but he is also able to validly place a film's message in its historical context.

Regarding his review of Harold and Maude, I would like to comment on his point about anti-war movement violence. He says that at the time (early 1970s), he became disillusioned with the anti-war movement's preoccupation with violence and death. I was in Berkeley during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I witnessed first-hand many incidents of violence during political protests. There were violent incidents involving the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war, riots over People's Park near the Berkeley campus, and so on. Usually, protesters' violence was directed at inanimate objects not people (even the police).

My observation at the time was that change did not occur unless there were violent protests. Peaceful protest was not seriously listened to by the power structure, whether it be politicians, university administrators, or businesspeople. Protests were routinely and appropriately allowed, but meaningful change seldom resulted. Only when peaceful protests escalated into unruly crowd behavior and violence did the protests succeed in gaining the attention of the people in charge and perhaps in influencing them to pause and consider the arguments being made.

Thus, based on my personal experience, some of the things we value in America today would not exist without violent protests. America of the sixties was not ready for peaceful protests, and violence was the main weapon used to achieve desired change.”

Fox Response:  I don’t deny the utility—even imperative--of violence when it is used in a purposeful way.  Trouble is, as the social movements of the 1960's evolved, a growing number of activists began to deploy violence as an end in itself, which in my view harmed the cause.  Sadly, one of the blow backs from the violence and anti-American bashing during this period was an invigorated extreme right-wing movement, which rose from the ashes of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.  This culminated in a shift of white working class voters to the Republican Party, where they have largely resided ever since.  For an excellent treatment of this history, see Geoffrey Kabaservice’s book, Rule and Ruin: the Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party.

As the anti-war movement evolved, the love, compassion, humanity, idealism, and simple good cheer I found among its followers began to erode.  It was this erosion  I  believe Harold and Maude spoke to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HAROLD AND MAUDE: A FILM COMMENTARY




By Ronald Fox
 
 
When I first watched Harold and Maude, shortly after it was released in 1971, I recall it triggered a full range of my emotions, from side-busting laughter to profound sadness when Maude died. Like other counter-culture adherents, I was in the midst of a value crisis, which found me questioning the values of our materialist consumer culture. I had also become disillusioned with the preoccupation of the anti-war movement with violence and death. It seemed that Harold and Maude, which offered viewers an alternative vision of life and living, was speaking directly to me. Watching it again recently, I found it to be just as timely today as it was in 1971. It remains one of my favorite films.  
 
Harold and Maude is a simple story about a young man, Harold Chasen (played by Bud Cort), living an affluent life with his materialistic, controlling single mother. Harold so hates his materialistic life, he becomes obsessed with death. To entertain himself and aggravate his patrician mother, he regularly stages fake suicides, which are notably creative and hilarious, especially when his intent is to frighten women his mother has arranged for him to meet, and hopefully marry. His suicide acts include self-immolation and self-mutilation, which, as predicted, causes the potential brides to flee in horror. To further exasperate his mother, Harold converts the XKE car his mother bought him (he did not ask for it) into a hearse-- all the more to connect to his morbid fascination with death.
 
Harold’s preoccupation with death leads him to attend the funerals of people he doesn’t know. It is at one of these funerals he meets Maude (played by Ruth Gordon), a vivacious 79-year old woman who also has a hobby of going to funerals, except she goes to celebrate life, not death. Maude is everything Harold isn’t: she is perky and carefree, has a sunny outlook on life, refuses to conform to society conventions, and disdains holding on to material things. Strangely the pair bond and as their relationship progresses, Maude teaches Harold to respect living things, place less emphasis on material possessions, enjoy the pleasures of music (she gives him a banjo), art, and nature, and cherish each new day. Mainly, she teaches him to love life and living.