Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coked Up Winged Monkeys Fly In From The Right

 Rarely did the film version of The Wizard of Oz reach the level of real darkness. But when those bellboy-suited winged monkeys were unleashed by the Wicked Witch of the West, there was an undeniable creep factor. In L. Frank Baum's novel, the Winged Monkeys were incredibly destructive - shredding the Scarecrow and using his innards as bedding, dropping the Tinman into a craggy ravine, degrading and enslaving the Cowardly Lion as a dray animal. And let's not forget the kidnapping of Toto, too.

Enter the Republicans, authors of the 1 trillion dollars-worth of wars in southwest Asia and a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the super rich, with their critiques of stimulus spending. A sort of political version of winged monkeys themselves, the arch-conservatives, as we already know, have no regard for any of the following:

Economic justice
Plain old facts
Civil rights beyond the 2nd Amendment
Normal politicial dialogue

The right-winged monkeys are led by the once quasi-honorable John McCain, embittered and mortified by his presidential election loss, as they seize upon a few sometimes bizarre-seeming awards under the huge stimulus plan. (McCain is ably assisted in his mindless lashing out by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.)

As one would expect, they are off base about almost every single project they buffoonishly criticize. The truth, indeed, is always the first casualty.

Let's start with an unhappy accident - no pun intended. BP America was awarded a $308 million grant for a clean energy project in California. That was before the ghastly Gulf disaster. But, the project has attracted 7x the amount in private investment that the goverment is investing and will directly create at least 1,600 jobs.

A pause here to note that the numbers bandied about when discussing employment impact almost exclusively discuss the direct creation of jobs, never minding the fact that there is a multiplier effect because materials, shipping, provisioning the workforce, taxes paid and consumer dollars spent spin off even more jobs.

Forward to the "exotic ants" study to be conducted by the California Academy of Sciences in the Indian Ocean. Of course, like a bunch of high school boys, the right wing thinks this is a waste of money. (Hey Charlie... how about them exotic ants, heh, heh? ) It appears that exotic insect species, because of brisk global trade and transportation, pose a particularly dangerous threat to agriculture. Studying the insects in their native habitat is crucial to understanding how they breed, behave, etc. California is the largest agricultural state in the Union.

There is also Fort Jefferson (1846) in the Dry Tortugas 70 miles west of the southernmost Florida Keys that has been deteriorating through lack of funding for the last 35 years. It is known as the Gibraltar of the Caribbean. The fort is the main tourism attraction on the little island that lives exclusively by tourist dollars and is served by a modern ferry that employs dozens of people. It is also one of the most magnificent pieces of military architecture in the country. Is their argument that we should just let this piece of history and prime tourist destination crumble into dust?

Then there is a $762,000 grant to design a computer program that can monitor and subsequently recreate on screen (and eventually on line) the movements of a particular choreography. Students and faculty will design and build the entire system from scratch. On the surface it sounds like an arts program - dreaded amongst the anti-cultural right wing - but in reality it is a computer project that will have applications far beyond dance - such as orthopedics, sports medicine and performance, gerontology and human-centric design of products. This is exactly the kind of basic research and application an intelligent government should be funding.

In Glassboro, New Jersey, $1.2 million will go for the restoration of a wooden train station that dates from the 1860s and operation of a museum within. The station will also make for a stop on a planned light rail system that would connect Delaware Valley towns with Camden and Philadelphia. Currently the only way to navigate to those places is by car. Moreover, the Delaware Valley is reliant on tourism to keep its economy humming. Glassboro - once the East Coast's center of glass-making, as one could have guessed - is in the process of an enormous rehabilitation of its downtown area focused on Rowan University's various constituencies. Finally, Glassboro was the site of President Johnson's historic meeting with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in 1967 - a key moment in Cold War detente, and was also the site of an American President's first address to a high school graduating class (by Ronald Reagan, 1986). What's history got to do with anything?

Know Nothing ignorance, the cynicism of the defeated, the lack of alternatives all further taint the right wing radicals. Make no mistake: they despise the America that most of us love and they want to turn it into a second-rate nation. They are destructive - the Winged Monkeys of a very dark movie.

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