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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

suggestive oxymoron, or, nocturnal reverie

I made a stunning discovery today: 'Burger King' is an oxymoron. No, not because burgers are distinctly non-regal meat products, but because a burger is a commoner, and a commoner cannot be king.

According to the OED, a burgher is:
'An inhabitant of a burgh, borough, or corporate town; a citizen. Chiefly used of continental towns, but also of English boroughs, in a sense less technical than burgess. Now somewhat arch.'
I do recognize that the fast-food chain spells the word without the letter H, but that variant is included among the quotations provided in the OED's entry. Shakespeare used it in act 1, scene 1, line 10 of The Merchant of Venice:
'Your minde is tossing on the Ocean,
There where your Argosies with portlie sayle
Like Signiors and rich Burgars on the flood,
Or as it were the Pageants of the sea,
Doe ouer-peere the petty traffiquers
That cursie to them do them reuerence
As they flie by them with theyr wouen wings.'
(Quoted from the First Quarto, 1600)

In 1660, in what may be an inadvertent precursor of the dollar menu, economist Roger Coke wrote, 'A Burger who hath...half a mark, let him pay a Peter-peny.'

Taking the idea of the 'burgher king' seriously, what could it mean? Perhaps it is meant to imply the dignity of the common man, in the tradition of Huey Long's famous 'Every Man a King' speech of 1934:
'Those are the things we propose to do. "Every man a king." Every man to eat when there is something to eat; all to wear something when there is something to wear. That makes us all sovereign.'
The promise of ubiquitous food at any hour of the day that one desires it is, after all, the promise of fast food. And it is this promise—of the uninterrupted satisfaction of consumer wants—that Burger [sic] King would have us believe will make us sovereign.

But I ask you, Reader, will it? Or will it enslave us to manufactured desires and drive us to a level of overproduction and overconsumption that will lead to mass obesity and global warming? I will have none of the Burgher King and his false promises. Down, I say, with the Burgher King and all tyrants everywhere!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bill knows politics

I couldn't agree more.

Obama has already won

Here is something to keep in mind as we wait to see which Pennsylvania prevails in today's Democratic primary election: the Clintons were supposed to win from the start. The story here is not Barack Obama's inability to knock them out, despite lacking the winner-take-all formula of Republican primaries. The real story is that Obama has already defeated the stranglehold of the DLC over the Democratic Party.

Here, thanks to Wikipedia, is the list of DLC chairmen since its founding in 1985:
Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri (1985–1986)
Gov. Chuck Robb of Virginia (1986–1988)
Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia (1988–1990)
Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas (1990–1991)
Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana (1991–1993)
Rep. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma (1993–1995)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (1995–2001)
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana (2001–2005)
Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa (2005–2007)
Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee (2007–present)

For those who follow American politics closely, the names on that list speak for themselves. The DLC approach to politics is to follow the Republicans ever rightward on the false assumption that the country is going ever more conservative. DLC candidates generally forgo the party's progressive legacy, repudiate appeals to the poor and working class as 'class warfare', and beg conservative voters to trust Democrats again by 'getting tough' on core Democratic constituencies. Bill Clinton did this in 1992 by executing Ricky Ray Rector with great fanfare and scapegoating Sister Souljah. And what did it get him? 43% of the vote in 1992 and a Republican Congress two years later.

The Democrats cannot win with 43% of the vote anymore, at least not without Ross Perot. And the party won't win the electoral college with the Kerry-states strategy of the Clintons.

Obama has already slain the beast inside the party and will win the nomination. What matters is not whether the Clintons beat him in safe Democratic states like Pennsylvania but whether, in line with Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy, his insurgent campaign can energize the party in the western states and other places outside the tired DLC playbook. I think we already know the answer to that.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

question: incompetence or genius?

News that Stephen Hadley, Bush's National Security Adviser, repeatedly called Tibet 'Nepal' on the Sunday blab shows reminded me of a conversation I had over dinner with SW and OS Saturday night after David Byrne's appearance at BAM. (He sang Paul Simon's 'I Know What I Know' and 'Call Me Al'.)

Nepal held elections on April 10 for a constitutional assembly which will abolish the 240-year-old monarchy, as explained in this BBC Q&A. As of tonight, the Maoists have a majority of the seats decided thus far. Tibet, ruled by feudal theocrats until 1950 and by Chinese communists since then, has recently broken through the world's indifference again thanks to a fresh campaign of protests in Lhasa beginning last month. The decision to hold the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is having the unintended benefit of shining a bright light on China's many sorrows and shames. A competent national security advisor would know the difference between Nepal and Tibet, but then again Bush's party will nominate a presidential candidate this year who still cannot tell Sunni from Shia.

The conversation in question was about competence. The main question was this: Are the many disgraces of the Bush administration [sic] more the result of incompetence or design? If the various messes of the Bush years were the result of design, that would presumably make Bush and company quite competent indeed.

What do you say, Reader? Which is it? Which examples make your case best? Has it all been part of a master plan or a long series of blunders? Enquiring minds want to know.