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Sadness and History whisper in soft, translucent gray

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Sad history whispers in soft, translucent gray
an always low glow above Kentish Town rooftops
in shimmer-shining rain, or dappled bursts of sun.
Hope cries for a future, like its past or present to be
Gently recorded as the march of time and progress, 
and religiously embraced. Positive, we are. Always.
Deranged. And Sensible.

The cab journey from the fantastic to the mundane
circles lost at Seven Dials before cascading down. 
past the supple silver sheen of a curved covent corner,
To the timeless wind beyond the church of our fathers, 
into the swirling ghost of Trafalgar Square, and back again. 
We have learned our lessons. Little or much. 
Deranged. And sensible. 

The Sedan Chair hovers above the sucking gutter slime. 
The barrow kneads it into still  toppling furrows  
winding through the generations, unrelenting, glistening.  
Not an echo here, now and never, of rain once falling,
of sounds, barks and screams under lonely trees 
in silent witness to the restless blood of London, 
Deranged. And Sensible. 

Written by coolrebel

January 2, 2013 at 10:06 am

Posted in History, poem, sadness

The Tea Party and History: The Mythmakers Go to Work.

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One of my favorite stories about American history is about the original Tea Party, in 1773. It goes like this. The British wanted to find a way to boost the sagging fortunes of the East India Company. The brain trust in the Colonial Office in London came up with a genius idea. Dump cheap Indian tea on the American colonies at a great price, to boost the EIC’s bottom line. The way they decided to do it was to reduce the duty the colonies paid on the tea. That pushed the price down just below the price that American smugglers charged for the Dutch East Indies tea they distributed in America.

Pretty sneaky. But it gets more amusing. The smugglers were enraged. After all this was just another classic example of Britain’s wanton use of its prerogative over the Colonies, who wanted “no taxation without representation” (even if the taxes were, umm, lowered).  The British said they wouldn’t back down and insisted that the tea be shipped. The smugglers took matters into their own hands in Boston Harbor.

Of course, the modern Tea Party are less concerned with Royal prerogative than they are with lower taxes, which are sacrosant. So if they were discussing this in the coffeehouses of Philadelphia and Boston would they have supported the smugglers and their higher prices, or the East India Company and it’s shall we say ‘competitive’ pricing?

Demagogues love history, or at least a simplified, sanitized highly convenient version of it.

The truth about history is never so simple. It’s complicated and full of contradictions, because it’s human just like us.

The Tea Party throws around the Constitution like it’s going out of style (which it should be but won’t). But they don’t even understand that at its core its based on a profound compromise that defined this country until the final blood-letting of the Civil War. They support the document as if it’s set in stone, but conveniently ignore the fact that it was built to be updated, and has been 27 times.

The Tea Party is making a very solid bet that the people won’t actually take the time to scrutinize the history and constitutional law they supposedly hold so dear. And they’re right. People don’t want history, they want myths or partial historical truths that fit into their world-views.

It’s incredibly difficult to combat the impressionistic power of the “Mythmakers”, and it won’t be the first time that American history has been whitewashed and molded for propaganda purposes, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic and debilitating for our public discourse.

Written by coolrebel

January 29, 2011 at 12:02 am

The Truth About The Boston Tea Party

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Cheaper Tea! How Dare You!!

Americans are “mythmakers”. There’s nothing they love better than discarding the inconvenient bits of a story to fit their purpose, whether that purpose is to sell mattresses or glorify the nation’s founding.

A classic example of this is The Boston Tea Party of 1773. Indeed, so central a story is it in American Folklore that it’s the inspiration for the ‘party’ of the same name, currently running amok in American political life. The Tea Party believes in lower taxes, and cutting the deficit (go figure), and one of its favorite banner quotations is “No Taxation Without Representation”, which just happened to be a big favorite around the time of the orginal Boston Tea Party.

What today’s three-cornered hat wearing nutters don’t realize is that the use of the term “No Taxation Without Representation” was a rather convenient cover for what the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was really about.  To explain why requires a brief overview of something which people pay little attention to these days. History.

It kind of goes like this. The British government in the early 1770s were more than a little upset about the parlous state of the East India Company which was losing market share worldwide. So it came up with an ingenious idea. It would dump EIC tea on its colonies, the richest of which were the American Colonies. The way it would do this was via the Tea Act, which lowered the tea duties colonies would have to pay on EIC tea. Yes, that’s right, lowered.

Needless to say, American Tea Smugglers were not at all happy having the price of their smuggled Dutch tea undercut by the nasty old English tea, so they raised a rumpus about it when the Tea ships arrived in various American harbors along the Eastern Seaboard. The Massachusetts governor was the most intransigent on the subject, so the smugglers took it upon themselves to right the ship, so to speak, and dumped the EIC tea in Boston harbor, thereby insuring that the average American consumer would continue to pay more for their tea.

To cover for this blatant act of price fixing, the smugglers wrapped themselves in the “No taxation without representation” moniker, conveniently noting that the phrase made no reference to raising or lowering taxes, just the right to raise them at all. But not all the Founding Fathers were quite so delirious about this brainstorm. Among them, Ben Franklin, offered to have the colonies repay the British for the lost tea (a considerable sum). He was turned down, and the dispute continued to fester.

So next time, you hear a Tea Party supporter complaining that his taxes are way too high, remember that his brave namesakes back in 1773, were actually complaining that the taxes were too, ahem, low.

Ah, those “mythmakers”. You gotta love ’em.

Written by coolrebel

November 4, 2010 at 4:15 am

Transformative. This Week’s Word Du Jour.

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Every week we’re presented with a new word du jour. This week it’s “Transformative”, as in, “wow, that election was way transformative.” The herd of sheep that used to be the Press have made it their own and now it’s everywhere, replacing such gems as “game-changer”, “meltdown”, and “bailout”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy as anyone that the GOP brats can no longer continue trying to drown the puppy that is the United States. But let’s not be too hasty about how “transformative” this election was. Perhaps a little trip down memory lane might help.

Cast your mind back to early September when Sarah Palin was doing her pitbull thing at the GOP Convention in St. Paul. Seems like so long ago, but after that performance, McCain’s numbers spiked and all of us got just a little panicky. Was Obama’s message weak? Was the campaign going to adjust? To their credit, the Obama people told us to chill. They said they had a plan.

I think Axelrod and Plouffe ran an outstanding campaign, but I doubt the Obama campaign “planned” for the credit crisis that hit on September 15th when Lehman Brothers was misguidedly allowed to fail after Fannie and Freddie were bailed out. I doubt they planned for the utter mismanagement of the credit crisis that followed, in which a wave of panic threw everyone’s 401Ks into the pit of the storm. It’s unlikely that they planned for the market panic, the ineptitude of the bailout package, or the GOP’s backslide at the last minute. The electorate went from concern about the economy to utter panic, and the result was that Obama’s cool demeanor gave him traction, and McCain’s fearmongering got him nowhere.

The election might have been very different without the economic catastophe. The voters would have been far more receptive to McCain’s populism. It’s hard to see how Virginia or North Carolina would have been in play. It’s hard to see how Pennsylvania would not have been. Calling Florida and Ohio would have been very difficult indeed. My guess is that the polls would have shown a 1-2% lead for Obama at best. He probably would have squeaked out the win because of the power of his ground game, but maybe not. And if he had won by a point would we be talking “transformative”? No, we would be heaving a huge sigh of relief that we’d avoided 8 more years of the GOP nightmare.

Obama was a truly great candidate for President and nobody else could have been as effective, but let’s not forget he got really lucky. We’ve already dealt with the economy, but just for fun let’s just list the other ways;

  • The “Macaca” Incident

On August 11, 2006, Senator George Allen of Virginia twice used the term “Macaca”, a racist slur against a Democratic campaign worker filming him at a rally. The video made it onto YouTube, and a storm began. Caught between alienating his base by apologizing, and disgusting the North Virginia moderates, Allen rolled the dice and refused to admit the slur, judging that his support in the backwoods would be enough to carry the day against the DC Suburbs. He was wrong by 9,309 votes. And with his loss went the obvious Presidential nominee, a bullish but charismatic senator, who could appeal to moderates, while holding impeccable right-wing credentials. Allen against Obama could have been very different.

  • Steve Schmidt

When McCain handed over control of this campaign to the dark side, he made a faustian bargain with the base of the party which never liked him. But if he’d stuck to his guns and faced down the Christian right who threatened a floor fight at the convention if he chose Tom Ridge for example, he would have been in a far better position with moderates. It would have been a truly “Mavericky” moment to watch him lash out at the Evangelicals, and isolating them as he took control of the GOP in one fell swoop. Sure a segment of the base would have been outraged, but far more would have been impressed by McCain’s true grit. That would have set him up nicely to claim the center as Republicans need to do to win.

  • Palin

As a corrollary of McCain’s weakness was his ridiculous decision to add Sarah Palin as his running mate. Her failure to deliver moderates has been well-documented. But she was the power behind the upswing in GOP numbers after their convention, totally defusing Obama’s tour de force in Denver a few nights before. For days she struck fear into Democrat hearts. What turned her into a liability can be summed up in one word. Couric. Never has a more inane interview been more damaging. It was a disaster. It’s been rumored that she refused to prepare for that moment. If she had things might have been very different.

No Credit Crisis, No Macaca, No Steve Schmidt, No Palin. And the result no “transformative”.

History might look at this race very differently.

Written by coolrebel

November 8, 2008 at 4:26 pm