Sunday, January 15, 2006



Yesterday a friend asked me to write movie reviews for a new publication but she seemed somewhat put off when I explained that I only review movies if I can bash Bush and his inhumane policies. Apparently she takes film-making more serious than I do... thank goodness. A few hours later, when I went to see the gripping new Woody Allen movie, MATCH POINT, I had no reason to suspect that there would be any Bush-bashing involved. And although ole Woody does manage to insert one good-- albeit somewhat convoluted-- reference to Bush's slimy nature, MATCH POINT did play on my Bush obsessions every bit as fully as did the story from earlier in the day about right wing bigots beating and murdering homeless men in Florida and how that too is part of the Bush legacy. In fact, seeing MATCH POINT has finally given me the (obvious) touchstone I've been looking for to write about a thought that's been rattling around in my mind for at least a year. The theme is luck and what role it plays in the fortune of men.

Like Woody Allen and Shakespeare, my old boss, understood just how crucial the role of "luck" can be. I-- a total non-gambler type-- was dragged to race tracks and casinos before career promotions so he could check whether or not I had Lady Luck on my side! (A slot machine-gone-bonkers at an Indian casino-- no Abramoff connection, I assure you-- once yielded me several thousand dollars over the course of a very exciting evening, thanks to a Chinese fortune cookie, and that augured well for career advancement.)

MATCH POINT's slings, arrows and outrageous fortune are somewhat less absurd but no less arbitrary. Which reminded me of America's. That's where the "rattling around in my brain" part comes in. And Bush.

Some of my old pals at the Lying Socialist Weasels used to marvel at how "lucky" George Bush has always been. Yes, he was born into a rich and powerful, albeit loveless, family. Yes, family connections, legacy programs, and political influence have kept a learning disabled, incurious, lazy ne'er-do-well from flunking out of school, from having to serve in the military, from going to prison (or even having a criminal record), and from a career of abject failure in business. I guess one could call that "lucky."

On the other hand, whatever "luck" Bush is blessed with certainly has not accrued to the nation he now leads. The most obvious example is 9/11-- a lucky political break for the irrelevant presidency of Bush; catastrophe for America (mostly for the boon it has proven to be for Bush and his neo-con allies). Most of the world, in fact, sees us as a dangerous and accursed country through our association with the aforementioned ne'er-do-well. Eight years of Bill Clinton left the U.S. feeling confident about itself and with a world feeling good about us. There were problems, of course, but they were being addressed. I didn't agree with everything Clinton proposed-- he bent over far too much for the corporations-- but at least I knew he would always try, as best he could, to ameliorate the problems his proposals caused to the powerless and weak. Bush's regime has been marked not just by bad ideas, incompetence and by the extreme selfishness run amuck up his greed-obsessed supporters, but by just plain bad luck.

Much of the "bad luck" America has been through since Bush was able to capture the presidency-- that itself being the ultimate bad luck for the country, hallmarked by grotesque interference from a thoroughly politicized extreme right element on the Supreme Court-- was manufactured by Bush himself. Some say his failure to wreck the Social Security system, a long-time policy goal of the far right, was due to bad luck instead of bad politics. Even more interesting is how Bush's policies (and subsequent responses) impacted the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans' levee system. Were rising fuel costs "bad luck" or the predictable outcome of Republican policy choices? A stock market crash and recession greeted Bush's presidency and a sluggish economy and jobless pseudo-recovery marked his entire time in office with a rash of high-profile greed-and-malfeasance-fueled corporate failures (think Enron). And now we're in the early phases of the discovery of the most widespread and venal culture of political corruption in recent American history, courtesy of Bush's Republican Party. Where does the bad luck fit in? Getting caught, of course.


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