Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Kingfish

So watched an Austin City Limits that was 100% Randy Newman, solo at the piano. That got me thinking of his song "Kingfish", which was recently covered by Levon Helm on his excellent album "Electric Dirt". I love the lines:
Who took on the Standard Oil men and whipped their ass,
Just like he promised he'd do?
Ain't no Standard Oil men gonna run this state,
Gonna be run by little folks like me and you.
Kind of reminiscent of what Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) is all about, isn't it? Here in Kentucky, we could substitute "Massey Energy" for "Standard Oil".

So I looked up Huey Long, aka The Kingfish on Wikipedia. All in all, sounds like we could use him today.

He was a populist. His motto was "Every Man a King". I think his speaking style drew comparisons to Hitler, but his song is pretty damn catchy.

I like this one too. It reminds me of my wondering, how much do the ultra-rich really want? (Answer, all of it.)

Huey Long was a demagogue, which I thought pretty much meant "rabble-rouser". But here's the definition from google. Note particularly the second, older meaning:

  1. A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
  2. (in ancient Greece and Rome) A leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.
So I wonder how long it took the old lizards to get "espousing the cause of the common people" redefined to be "rather than by using rational argument". Nice trick, that.

I think my impression of Huey Long from growing up was that he was tyrannical and dictatorial. I probably got that from seeing the movie "All the King's Men", with Broderick Crawford as the Huey Long inspired central character. But from the wikipedia article, it looks like FDR did a lot to portray Huey in that light when Huey decided to run against him.

Right now, I think the rabble are pretty much roused already. So the question is, can OWS harness that energy, that righteous anger at the appropriation of our democracy by big money and big business, via the internet and social media, to get some real change accomplished here? Or will it take someone like Huey?

Maybe in a second term, Obama could push for the things we need to fix this, like real campaign finance reform and a much fairer tax structure. But, even tho Barack is my BFF, from what we've seen so far, I doubt it.

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