Monday, September 1, 2008

Musings: Opting Out

The breeze was cool and brisk when Koko and I went walking this morning — cool enough to prompt me to don a sweatshirt, brisk enough to send leaves scuttling across the rain-dampened road and a train of clouds hurtling across the sky, pink colliding with black, gray and white.

Mynahs feasted on fallen mangoes, squabbling even in the midst of plenty, and the sun rose so muted that I could gaze without blinking at its round goldness.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, who was a bit grimmer than his usual cheerful self, partly because his back hurt after two days of three-hour shifts at the Malama Mahaulepu and Sierra Club booths at this past weekend’s farm fair, but mostly because he foresees a Republican victory in November.

After all, he said, even after the big bump of the Democratic Convention, the latest polls show McCain and Obama even.

As Andy saw it, the GOP would make political hay out of Gustav, which is knocking their convention off course and already giving McCain the chance to say gagging stuff like: "Ahead of time, I want to thank all my fellow Republicans as we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats."

Andy’s not the only one to draw the connection. As The Wall Street Journal notes in a summary of political analysis on the web: “It’s redemption for the Republican Party on the competence issue.”

Could it be possible that, as Andy said, “it’s gonna be another GOP year?”

Perhaps, unless some sort of scandal derails the McCain-Palin ticket. I found it interesting that the campaign today announced that Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. But what’s really interesting is why they announced it (as if the fact could be hidden):

McCain officials said the news of the daughter's pregnancy was being released to rebut what one aide called "mud-slinging and lies" circulating on liberal blog sites.

[Here’s a follow up to that original liberal blog site post.]

According to these rumors, Sarah Palin had faked a pregnancy and pretended to have given birth in May [the child was actually born April 18] to her fifth child, a son named Trig who has Down syndrome. The rumor was that Trig was actually Bristol Palin's child and that Sarah Palin was the grandmother.

If there’s anything to that rumor, I’m sure one of the ravenous sharks in the media pool will track it down, because the details would not be an easy thing to keep hidden, even (or especially) in a teeny, tiny town where Palin wields a lot of influence.

Scandals and rumors aside, the bigger issue is who will assume the presidency and thus have the power to influence the make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court for the next eight years. And that could influence a woman's right to choose, environmental protection, privacy, corporate control and many other crucial issues.

As Andy said glumly, before we parted company: “You may as well just become a Republican. At least then you’d win once in a while.”

Or, you could take an entirely different approach. On Friday evening I was hanging around with several young men in their 20s and we got to talking about the election. They are among the disaffected who don't see the elections as offering any solutions.

“We’re pretty much just working for independence,” said one young Hawaiian who is active in the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation. “Those guys running got nothing to do with us.”

“The elections are just a fraud to make you think by standing in a voting booth for a few minutes you're making a difference,” said another. "And then they just go ahead and make any kine, do whatever they're gonna do anyway."

A third offered this suggestion for a bloodless revolution: “We should just stage a vote strike. Nobody votes, and all the guys in suits are left standing there going ‘ubbbbb.’ They won’t have any power; they couldn’t do anything. The system only keeps going because everybody buys into it.”

Whether you vote or not, if you’re displeased with the status quo, you can’t keep choosing from the same narrow options and expect anything different.

As Larry Geller notes on his blog, “Yes, there are alternatives to both mainstream TV and daily newspapers.” And then he goes on to list a few.

And yes, there are alternatives to the same tired political system of reds and blues, too.


Anonymous said...

So, what are they?

Apart from the relatively few disaffected/disgusted simply not voting at all, which will accomplish nothing, what would you suggest? An "independent party"? No groundswell there.

Joan Conrow said...

I disagree that there are "relatively few disaffected/disgusted," but you're right, there's not enough for an effective vote strike. As for an independent/Green candidate, it's ordinary people who will create that groundswell, but I don't see that happening in this election. Too many of the disgruntled believe that Obama is different enough.

For me, it all comes down to effecting change on a consciousness level. That's the only way I see of radically altering the stuck and stagnant belief systems that support equally stuck and stagnant political systems.

Doug said...

As a (recovering) political scientist, I think you're wrong about McCain. Other political science nerds are so sure they are even considering to bet money on it.

You can get in on this action, too, if you're a fan of the Planet Kauai "put your money where your mouth is" set. :)

Katy said...

Back in 2004 I remember thinking that the Democrats were throwing the fight. I was convinced that it was more than stupidity which led them to back someone as boring as John Kerry and then allow the "swift-boating."

Just recently I listened to an interview with Thomas Frank which pretty much confirmed it.

This season, I think the Republicans are pulling the same thing by putting a grumpy old bald guy and a weird Alaskan reactionary up against a young and incredibly charismatic charmer. I think Obama will win because the Republicans don't really want to. Have you seen some of the ads for McCain? They must be intentionally absurd.

All this just kind of points to the fact that we're watching a "contest" between two wings of the Corporatist party, which knows exactly what it's doing.

The answer? Well, I don't think it's hiding inside a voting booth. But go ahead and look if it makes you feel better!

Anonymous said...

the booth is only one of many avenues available for citizens to participate, both in support or in dissent. taking action means different things to different people. we are easily caught up in our own stuff and forget the creative ways to participate. getting involved is easy to do, motivating others is quite the challenge. personal responsibility goes along way and from there it moves outward. linking up w/others creates a movement. change starts with the individual and moves outward; crisis can be a great facilitator for change. we are entering that period of crisis that has created a growing concern to thwart the status quo of greed, corruption and exploitation. politics is one arena but there are others that help move us along the path to a better place. gotta start somewhere; move from there and bring some friends. could be a wild ride. hold on to your hat!

Anonymous said...

How do you propose effecting change on a consciousness level?

Anonymous said...

They will rig the voting machines again just like the last time and the Republicans will win just like the last time.
But either way, both sides favor corporate control. I am voting for Obama but I won't be expecting anything earth shaking from him if he wins since the corporations have a strong hold in him.
How depressing. Josephine

Anonymous said...

> All this just kind of points to the fact that we're watching a "contest" between two wings of the Corporatist party, which knows exactly what it's doing. <

Bingo. But I don't think the CP operates to a script, nor by conspiracy. Its machinations play like the creative expression of a culture -- like some sick jazz.

It's the image of a stage on which a hundred top CEO's, lobbyists and politicos perform an endless jam session for a stadium full of fans. A hundred suits with no soul but for money and power, playing on and on at earsplitting volume, all hypercompetitively determined to top the other's licks. They ring up endless variations on the same song, certain that every note is platinum, and deaf to the death dirge that underlies their melody.

Boo them all you want, they can't hear you.

They can no more hear the message of this election than in 2006: that we are all -- left, right and center -- sick of their song.

Joan Conrow said...

How do you propose effecting change on a consciousness level?

You know, that's something I've been mulling for a while, so perhaps it's time to articulate those thoughts. It's a bit involved for a comment, so how's about if I make that the subject of tomorrow's post? And thanks, I appreciate your interest.

Anonymous said...

"...we are all -- left, right and center -- sick of their song."

Significantly overstated. Not "all" by a very long shot.

Anonymous said...

> Significantly overstated. Not "all" by a very long shot. <

Then by all means, grab a guitar, get on stage and join the chorus.


Anonymous said...

You don't understand...I'm one of them.

Ed Coll said...

Both parties (no matter who gets elected) have lost legitimacy when the majority of registered voters do not vote. Since "none of the above" is not a ballot option, the only option left (if one votes and is dissatisfied with the status quo) is to vote for independent/third party candidates (Nader, Dole, McKinney, etc.) if they are on the ballot (or cast a blank ballot). I know they have no realistic chance of winning, but as Ralph says "better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don't want and get it".

Anonymous said...

"Both parties (no matter who gets elected) have lost legitimacy when the majority of registered voters do not vote."

That's one theory. Another is that the majority of registered voters don't think things are bad enough under either party to worry about it too much.

Ed Coll said...

Anon September 1, 2008 6:12 PM wrote "That's one theory. Another is that the majority of registered voters don't think things are bad enough under either party to worry about it too much."

.... and if "none of the above" was on the ballot and won -- we would know which theory was correct, which is why "none of the above" is not on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

None of the above? Good choice. Josephine

Anonymous said...

It's Ivory Tower opting out smugness, like the posts here, that elected George Bush twice. Did that make a difference in our lives? You bet your sweet Ivory tower asses it did.
Stop with the holier than thou it's got to be perfectly my way crap and vote for the change we need even if it's moderately left of center change.
Stop pretending that only a full on leftist regime is worth driving a quarter mile to vote for. World history reveals that leftist regimes are just as oppressive as the fascist right wing regimes

Ed Coll said...

That's right never opt out, but like Mother Jones said "you don't have to vote to raise hell." Personally, I never miss an opportunity to vote for candidates who rarely get elected, but since it is my vote I will never "vote for the change we need even if it's moderately left of center change." I vote for what I want. I see no need to "compromise" my vote.

Perhaps those that do compromise their own vote are the people responsible for putting both the oppressive leftist and rightist fascist regimes that do get elected into office. In fact I'm sure of it.

Voting is not a team sport where one must "work with others." So vote for what you want, without fear, after all voting is anonymous and hopefully no one will know you do what you want whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Katy said...

Your argument is based on a fallacy.

The anti-capitalist or even Green party left did not "elect" George Bush by dissenting from the two-party binary.

But your idea that we should stifle our voices of dissent and just vote fo Dems because "the perfect is the enemy of the good" is,I think, a sad reminder of how restricted the parameters of debate have become in the US.

As much as I criticize the Democrats as nothing more than one wing of the Corporate Party,I also have to admit that my reaction to a McCain win would be much different (like considering leaving the US) than my reaction to an Obama win. This is mostly based on the following fears:
-an intensification of the "War on Terror" including more domestic surveillance along with the injustices being perpetuated globally.
-institution of a draft (I have teenage sons)
-aggressve anti-environmentalism
-further erosion of the standard of living for poor and working class people in the US

At the same time,I recognize that the Democrats embrace imperialism too, and will not end wars over resources. They have been friends to working people only rhetorically for many years now. They are now the slightly less evil party.

Anonymous said...

This news article ought to slow down the Obamarama. Wow...if that's all he could come up with...

Relative to admin/exec experience, McCain/Palin is light years ahead.


Barack Obama contends that he is more experienced in executive matters than Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin because he has managed his presidential campaign for the past 18 months.

Speaking on a cable news channel Monday night, the Democratic presidential nominee said he is better prepared to handle a disaster like Hurricane Gustav because of his pursuit of the White House.

John McCain’s spokesman called the suggestion “laughable.”

“For Barack Obama to argue that he’s experienced enough to be president because he’s running for president is desperate circular logic and its laughable. It is a testament to Barack Obama’s inexperience and failing qualifications that he would stoop to passing off his candidacy as comparable to Governor Sarah Palin’s executive experience managing a budget of over $10 billion and more than 24,000 employees,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds."

Anonymous said...

What's even funnier than seeing the GOP climb out on the branch with Sarah Palin and begin to saw it off, was watching CNN's Campbell Brown repeatedly ask McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds -- who had claimed that Palin's experience as Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard far outweighed Obama's experience as a military leader -- to name one decision Palin made as Commander. He repeatedly dodged the question.

Defending Bounds, McCain's camp today blasted Brown's questioning as "over the line," and canceled McCain's scheduled appearance on tonight's Larry King Live.

Still no comment from McCain's camp on the statement that his wife, Cindy, made in an interview over the weekend, that Alasaka's proximity to Russia qualifies Palin in foreign affairs.

Someone please tell me that this isn't just an elaborate Saturday Night Live sketch.

Anonymous said...

Florida was easily Gore's if it weren't for those "dissenting from the two-party binary." Therefore, those who were "dissenting from the two-party binary" gave us George W. Bush. I know it's a heavy yoke you've been trying for 8 years not to carry; but, carry it you will!

Anonymous said...

The "foreign affairs" comment was pretty funny, but it any less substantial than Nobama's qualifications?

How many gov's of any state have ever been called upon to act as "commander and chief" of their national guard? Not many.

The fact that she actually governed something for a few years puts her ahead of Nobama.

I'd vote for McCain/Palin over Nobama/Bieden because 1) I think they can admin better; 2) I do not disagree with their positions on various issues.

They win hands down for #1. I can understand the divided opinion on #2, although I think Nov 5 will see the start of the McCain/Palin era. Maybe followed shortly by the Palin era. I can live with that.

Anonymous said...

Someone's comment from another news blog article:

"Okay- forgive me but the voters of Massachusetts had no problem with a Senator whose DWI resulted on the death of a woman- this while he was serving in elected office. That was his own behavior, not someone else’s.
So let me get this right, the Democrats don’t old any of their own candidates to any sort of ethical standards, but they want to hold the Republican candidates accountable for the actions of others around them? And this makes sense, why?"

Anonymous said...

Allan J. Lichtman
Los Angeles Times
September 2, 2008

...In choosing Palin -- after a one-day vetting process, according to the New York Times -- rather than a qualified woman such as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, McCain has called into question his judgment and decision-making. Palin's deficiencies, one analyst wrote, are "not just [in] foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues either." These are not the words of a liberal scourge, but of Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at the conservative National Review magazine.

The American people have registered their doubts about Palin. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 39% of respondents believe that she is ready to serve as president; 33% say she was not. An earlier poll on Biden found that 57% believe he is ready to serve as president, and only 18% say he isn't. Women are even more skeptical of Palin than men, refuting the false and insulting assumption that women would back her candidacy regardless of her beliefs and qualifications.

The flawed judgment of McCain is also evident in revelations about Palin. McCain hyped Palin as a fellow maverick who joined him in opposing the "bridge to nowhere" pork-barrel project in Alaska. However, we now know that Palin backed the bridge as a candidate for governor. "We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge, and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative," she said in 2006, according to the Ketchikan Daily News. As mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she hired a lobbyist who helped the metropolis of about 9,000 people land millions of dollars in federal pork.

Palin is also under investigation for allegedly using the power of the governor's office to settle a private grievance against her former brother-in-law. She once dabbled in secessionist politics in Alaska.

The McCain campaign also touted Palin as an exemplar of traditional family values and the importance of abstinence-only education. Only later did we learn that her 17-year old daughter is five months pregnant -- a private matter made publicly relevant by the way the McCain camp sold Palin to the American people.

Full text at,0,3128621.story

Anonymous said...

Yes, Obama and McCain, like Bush and Gore in 2000 and Bush and Kerry in 2004, received huge contributions from multinational corporations. But how different would the world be if George Bush wasn't the president? Surely the war in Iraq, the gutting of our environmental laws, FEMA's mishandling Katrina (before, during and after the hurricane), the conservative judicial appointments, the politicization of the Justice Department, etc., must matter to you.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they don't. I'm still for McCain/Palin.

Anonymous said...

I don't care who wins. I don't think either will bring any long-term benefits. Neither of them will cause any problems that impact me, so I just enjoy the circus! either black pres or female VP. Maybe McCain should have chosen Condi. Black female VP with lots of foreign policy experience.

Anonymous said...

The system of politics does not work...not matter what party you belong to. What works to get elected is fancy smoke and mirrors, lots of money, connections to the corporate world and media hype. Look at how our current president George Bush was elected.....look at this Island.

The system is broken and we can't fix it using the same mentality and paradigms.

So do we play the same and power under the guise of being patriotic? Or do something else?

Revolution has been the system that worked in the past to promote change....but it entails bloodshed, violence, and jail time. That's the old paradigm and consciousness.

Perhaps we work on consciousness raising..seeking the Truth amongst all the BS.

But as in the movie the Matrix....some people would rather take the pill that makes them forget that they (we) are all being manipulated by a bigger force than we can confront.

Dr. Freddy

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin can shoot hoops and moose. The Russians were about to invade Alaska until they saw Palin's shooting prowess. Made 'em think twice. What more do you want in a vice president?

Anonymous said...

In the Matrix, the guy eating steak and drinking a fine wine knows it's an illusion, but a completely real one that works for him totally.

I'd opt for that (and do) in a NY minute.

Give me the complete unalterable belief that I'm eating steak and drinking wine rather than any "reality" (just what is that, anyway, if not perception?) of pain, suffering, granola, etc!

I know there are those whos reality is granola, but I'm not one of them, so I don't want any change, thank you!