is 1888, isn’t it? I knew I was Jack. Hats off. I said Jack. I’m Jack,
cunning Jack, quiet Jack. Jack’s my name. Jack whose sword never sleeps.
Hats off I’m Jack, not the Good Shepherd, not the Prince of Peace. I’m
Red Jack, Springheeled Jack, Saucy Jack, Jack from Hell, trade-name Jack
" - Peter Barnes, The Ruling Class
or, You Get What You Don't Pay For
We are all Jack Gurney, whether we like it or not.
When Peter Barnes' The Ruling Class
was made Great Britain's official entry at the 1972 Cannes Film
Festival, American politics, always a box of spiders just waiting to
burst out, was about to become even nastier and tumultuous than it
always has been. Nixon's and Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy was about
to pay off big time for C.R.E.E.P. (Committee to Re-Elect the President)
and Nixon was about to bury Eugene McCarthy in one of the biggest and
most humiliating landslides of all time. Liberalism was dead and Nixon
was gleefully shaking his flaccid penis over its corpse after pissing
all over it for the last four years.
Then Watergate burst
all over Washington like a popped, rancid boil. Its effects would last
and reverberate throughout the Capitol and the entire nation for decades
and every scandal both great and small, as if through an Act of
Congress, had the suffix "-gate" attached to it in some sick political
tribute to the most twisted and paranoid leader-freak since King
Lear and Macbeth.
But what Nixon would do, in recruiting the
FBI, CIA and his own aides to spy on Democratic National headquarters,
break into the Watergate Hotel and even Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's
office and the subsequent botched coverup, would prove to be a mere
Brooks Brothers dress rehearsal for the high crimes and misdemeanors
that would follow in the succeeding decades.
Heinous as they
were (as was Iran-Contra, the invasion of Iraq, etc), at least they were
crimes with motives and carried out by evil men we could at least
understand to some degree. Greed, paranoia, thirst for power: They were
all timeless themes immortalized in plays by the Bard of Avon and before
And speaking of plays, I now take you back to The Ruling Class
In that movie, the late Peter O'Toole played Jack Gurney, a plainly
insane paranoid schizophrenic who had inherited a peerage after the last
Earl of Gurney accidentally asphyxiates. At first, Jack seems to be a
harmless kook (or what the landed gentry call "eccentric"), one who
thinks he's Jesus Christ and insists he will return to Earth a la The
Second Coming to spread the Messiah's message of peace and brotherhood.
He even sleeps on a cross and, while he's certainly not up to the task
of fulfilling his duties to the peerage, he seems nice enough.
Then Jack convinces himself he's Jack the Ripper. An arranged marriage
backfires and the body count rises when Jack murders not one but two
women. Before anyone realizes it, Jack's in the House of Lords giving an
impassionaed speech about the need for the death penalty and corporal
punishment and his peers in the Upper Chamber raucously applaud his
...all without once realizing
or even suspecting the man they're applauding is hopelessly,
irredeemably, incontrovertibly and absolutely quite insane.
Let me know if this is beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar,
striking too close to home like a stalker just under your 13 year-old
daughter's bedroom window.
Kings of the Heartless
Mark Twain once famously said that Congress was the "only distinctly
native American criminal class" and our elected officials rarely give us
any reason to believe otherwise. Physical assaults on the floor of the
Senate were not unheard of, duels were fought and elections were so
brazenly and nakedly corrupt that people were encouraged if not forced
to vote several times a day. Politics in 19th century America was a
Then the 20th century dawned and politicians, if
not made more honest, were at least recognizing the necessity of acting
more genteel. However venal, corrupt or duplicitous they were, these men
at least were those who knew how to get things done. Railroads were
built, frontiers expanded, social programs enacted, infrastructure
created and maintained and, despite the greasing of a million palms,
shit still got done and we surpassed Great Britain as the wealthiest,
most powerful nation on earth.
Then came Nixon but we
survived him. Then came Reagan then his milksop Vice President George HW
Bush and we survived them. Hell, we even survived his idiot son
(barely). Then a funny thing began happening.
The inmates were given the keys to their own cells and allowed to run the joint.
I take you to World War One and the movie King of Hearts
As with The Ruling Class
this was a box office flop that would later reach cult status. While
taking place during two times in history and in two different countries,
if one were to combine or juxtapose the two elements one would see a
pattern emerging in this country that seems to be metastasizing like a
In King of Hearts
, the British army
retreats from a small town in France, but they've left behind a nice
little surprise for any advancing Jerries who may occupy the town: They
leave behind a booby trap, an enormous bomb set somewhere in the small
town. And the only person who can stop it from detonating is a lone
Scottish soldier, Private Charles Plumpick
(Alan Bates), who doesn't know where the bomb is.
And neither do the inmates of the local lunatic asylum who'd escaped after the townspeople had long since fled from the ticking bomb.
Eventually, they crown him the King of Hearts and the question of the story is who is more insane? Those who have been diagnosed as such or those who start wars?
The analogies are as tempting as low-hanging fruit or a large surplus
to a Republican. In the first movie, Peter O'Toole plays a man who's
elevated to the peerage after a tragic accident and winds up in the
upper chamber of Parliament where his insane pronouncements have the
ring of lucidity and authority to his peers. In the other, the lunatics
at the asylum have taken over an entire town after the regular townsfolk
had abandoned it.
Very much in the same way in which the
American voter had abandoned their own democracy, or what passes for it,
giving the lunatics free reign. And now we're seeing a new breed of
politician that includes in its ranks hypocrites, thugs, racists and
"The Appearance of Democracy Must be Upheld."
As Boss Tweed famously tells Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York
, "the appearance of the law must be upheld." The same applies for the sham that is our democracy, a Potemkin village of sorts dredged up every two, four and six years. It's a rickety construct nonetheless propping up one of the oldest fallacies on the planet earth, that our Republic's democracy, our Great Experiment,
is a successful ongoing one. If this persistent lie were to be
abandoned for even one election cycle, our entire House of Cards would
come crashing down around our ears.
But a recent Princeton/Northeastern study
recently discovered, after sifting through mountains of data and 1779 policy positions, that the moneyed elite really call the shots through Economic Elite Domination and Biased Pluralism, leaving Majoritarian Electoral Democracy and
Majoritarian Pluralism gasping in the dust. Coincidentally, the report
comes out just a week after the now-infamous McCutcheon VS the FEC
ruling by the Supreme Court that allows those selfsame moneyed interests
to pump unlimited amounts of money to unlimited numbers of candidates.
As Americans are famously suspicious of politicians, the conclusion of
the top 10% having much more political leverage than the bottom 90%
hardly comes as a surprise.
And it's those candidates,
many of them getting into Congress, that are the focus of this article.
Moreso than ever, we're seeing fringe lunatics, Tea Bagger thugs, morons
and even convicted criminals sliding into the halls of power, so many Stuart Bests
accepting money from astroturf outfits, 527s, right wing think tanks
and, most conspicuously, money from billionaires like Sheldon Adelson
and the Kochs. To give just a sample of what I'm talking about:
Former Congressman David Rivera once ran a truck off the road
in 2002 that just happened to contain campaign fliers for his opponent
that attacked his character. Fellow Florida Congressman Allen West was
kicked out of the military after firing a pistol near an innocent Iraqi policeman's head
. Anti abortion extremist Rep. Scott DesJarlais pressured both a mistress and an ex-wife to have abortions
Unlike Rivera and West, who both got voted out the same night after one
term, DesJarlais actually won re-election. A week and a half after
getting sworn into the Senate, Mike Lee of Utah already began calling
for the abolition of child labor laws
And one shouldn't need documentation to prove the staggering ignorance and sheer stupidity of people like Sarah Palin, Louis Gohmert, Michelle Bachmann, Steve Stockman and Joe Barton, just to name a few. It's not enough to say
this is merely Overton's Window at work, that this is the shifting
landscape of politics, the pendulum swinging, etc. It's outrage fatigue
and understandable apathy on the part of the American electorate who had
long ago come to the conclusion, long before the Princeton and
Northeastern academics, that nothing they want or believe in, not even
their vote, counts for shit. And it's this weary, jaded mistrust of not
only politicians but the very concept of government itself, that gives
counterfeit currency to the blatherings of deadbeats and moochers like
Cliven Bundy and his homegrown terrorist sympathizers.
At least Stuart Best had a conscience and only reluctantly read from the position paper given to him by these lunatic fringe groups. People like Bachmann, Gohmert, Cruz and Stockman actually believe in these philosophies. And they are now in power, listening to the soft whisper of riffled money rather than the vox populi.