Those who live
above the fray
have little left
at end of day
and the passage
October 27, 2012
This years Presidential election is being held on Thursday November 8
Just imagine you woke up this morning to find out that someone you trusted without question had lied to you about something very important to your life. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the anger starting in your chest and rising to the top of your head, the sense of loss that washes through your entire body? OK. Now consider that a U.S. court has decided that your news provider has the right to lie to you about anything, any time, without consequence.
In a saga that began in 1998 and ended in 2006, two journalists who blew the whistle on a media outlet covering up a bovine growth hormone contamination in a large portion of our milk supply first won and then lost a $425,000 award for damages. The result of the technical appeal which reversed the award left behind the legal opinion that, because of the First Amendment, news media do not have to tell the truth.
“Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or the press . . .”, says the First Amendment. So lying is ok, says the court. Even though past courts have said that it is illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater, to keep the truth or tell an outright lie to the American people that may influence their life or livelihood is ok.
The final opinion, which overturned the arguments supporting the idea that the media must present the truth, was based solely on technicalities. As such the statement “the media can lie” never appears in the opinion. However, because the idea that the media can’t lie was not upheld, we are left with it by default. Specifically, the fault of the court.
The name of the media outlet and the corporation which brought pressure to conceal the news are not important to this issue. What is important is that there now exists a legal precedent which allows U.S. media to lie without consequence and because of that we lose big time.
What is important is that because of this we have lost our right to a good continuing education through the news media. For the vast majority of Americans the news media is the only source of supposed solid information about what the government and corporations are doing for us, or to us, as the case may be.
We also have depended on investigative reporters to tell us the things powerful people didn’t want us to know. But, with this decision the reporters may do their job only to have the story crushed by the corporation running the news, and the reporters can be fired without recourse.
It is not stupidity but ignorance of fact which causes people to make bad decisions. It is a fact that the viewers of one news outlet are more poorly informed about historical fact that others. But, and this is important, they all have the same court protected opportunity to tell us that grass is red, the sky is green and that we were all born yesterday. All we have to believe in is the integrity of the owners and staff of the media outlet we rely on. When our faith in their judgement is violated, our ability to think clearly on our own behalf is destroyed.
If you agree that the foundation of democracy is a well informed electorate, how do you feel about the fact that this action by the court was concluded in 2006 and covered by only a few outlets in local papers?
I don’t care what your party, your church, your ancestry or social status may be, you should be outraged. And you should demand better.
May 2, 2012
Abortion, Bishops and Contraception -
The ABC’s of Hate, Rage and Violence
Before anyone should think that this is an intellectual exercise from a college course in sociology, be assured it’s not. This article started as a discussion between friends playing a game of pool at a local pub. It wasn’t finished. Not because it was too difficult or intense, but just because something else drew attention and the conversation dissipated into the clamor of having a good time.
That said, there was a point which, if continued, things could have gotten a little sticky. After agreeing on the basic right of individuals to hold differing opinions on personal choice issues, and on agreeing that limiting the need for abortions is a common goal, the conversation turned to contraception. That’s when the worm crawled out of the apple.
What my friend said was that being Catholic meant that contraception was out, and the conversation got side tracked by issues of the Church. Fortunately, it’s also when we got distracted, and the pool game became the focus of attention. Thinking about it later, however, I started to wonder about where the conversation might have gone and why.
In the process of sorting things out I was coming to the conclusion that the United States is suffering from a malady I choose to call "Bumper Sticker Wrath." Then, while thinking about what examples I might use I came across this article from Congress.org
By Ryan Teague Beckwith
April 30, 2012 – 5:31 p.m.
The culture wars have claimed a law aimed at protecting victims of human trafficking.
Since being enacted in 2000, the law has been unanimously reauthorized three times on a bipartisan basis, but it recently stalled, CQ’s Emily Cadei reports.
The cause was the Health and Human Services Department’s decision not to renew its contract with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for trafficking victims’ services because the group refuses to cover reproductive health expenses.
Anti-trafficking advocates — both faith-based and secular — are frustrated that politicians have allowed abortion and birth control, which represent a very small portion of the overall services that trafficking victims seek, to poison the issue. And they say the standoff could have been avoided had both sides made a better effort to communicate and seek consensus, rather than simply try to score political points. "I think there’s a lack of attempt to reconcile differences," says Cory Smith, senior policy adviser for the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking. "That’s frustrating."
The authorization expired last fall and prospects are dim for a compromise during an election year.
I believe that the problem, and need for concern, is far greater. Watching the news about the legislative fights over abortion and contraception raises serious doubts about the life expectancy of the worlds first and foremost secular democracy. If the problem was truly abortion then a major part of the solution would seem to be limiting pregnancy. But, as soon as contraception is put forward, a large percent of those against abortion are found to be also against contraception. Isn’t this the same as being against death by drowning and at the same time demanding everyone be thrown in the pool whether or not they can swim?
The outcome of outlawing contraception is well known. A cursory look at history shows us that the first thing will be that teenage pregnancy will increase greatly. At the same time the wealthy will be traveling out of state or out of the country more often, and for the less well off, an illegal abortion mill will grow faster than dandelions in April. Frightened teenage girls and some married women will die painful, lonely deaths as a result. But even knowing this, those supporting such laws are not deterred.
Obviously it is not reason but rather a heartfelt sentiment which is at the heart of the argument. As a result, appealing to logic will never be a part of reaching a common ground and resolving the dispute. Chances of that happening are extremely remote, so the wise thing to do at this point would be to simply walk away. It is the wise thing, but not the patriotic thing. So how about a little sentiment on the other side.
To allow religious sentiment to weave it’s way into the legal system is to renounce the secularism so carefully written into the Constitution. To allow the sentiment of a majority to insist that all follow the religious dictates of one religion over all others is not free secular democracy, it’s tyrannical theocracy. To be born under the law of the greatest constitution in the world and then turn away from the fight against religious tyranny is cowardly and unpatriotic.
Now back to looking through the lens of logic. Why are we having this argument anyway? Most Americans live as though contraception is acceptable and guiltless, and that abortion is repugnant but sometimes necessary. So why the fight? What are the obvious reasons it thrives even though we know through polling data that the majority of Americans have already compromised.
First it’s a pronouncement by men about the value and status of women. Remember the quip about a man holding on to his wife by keeping her barefoot and pregnant? Recent legislation in some states has made it law.
Second, it’s a pronouncement by churches more concerned about generating parishioners than about the level of hunger and disease in the world. When the Pope decried the use condoms while Africa is fighting a real war on hunger and disease all pretense of caring for the poor went out the window. There are no absolutes in our world.
Last but not least, in the United States abortion/contraception debate is a political tool used by corporations and the very wealthy to divide and conquer the working class. By strongly supporting abortion and contraception as part of their cause, they have enticed millions of people to vote against their rights to fair pay, good working conditions and a functional social safety net. And don’t forget that because of their wealth the laws they pass don’t have any effect on their lives what-so-ever.
So it is, and the battle rages on. The only question is, will either side survive with the freedoms we once had?
August 11, 2011
The American Autocannibalistic Society
Just in case you missed it, this past Tuesday there was a recall election held in Wisconsin. The reason for the election was that the Wisconsin legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a law which stripped public workers of the right to bargain collectively for wages, working conditions and benefits. The turnout was about as high as what might be expected in a presidential election year.
Based simply on what we know about incomes in the United States, at least 90% of the voters that day needed a paycheck from someone else in order to pay their mortgage and put food on their table. Yet, in four out of six elections the state senators who voted to strip their neighbors of collective bargaining rights were reelected by other neighbors of those state workers. What they did, in essence, was vote to limit the salaries and benefits of the neighbors who provide the state services they depend on to keep them safe and their children educated.
Government of, by and FOR the PEOPLE has collapsed, or is near collapse in several states. And it has collapsed or is collapsing with the aid and comfort of the PEOPLE. Not all of them, but just enough to make a person wonder if any of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a country to grow up in that is any better off than, say, your typical plutocratic banana republic.
Two hundred twenty three years ago The Constitution of the United States was ratified. On June 21, 1877, the Constitution – not race, not religion, not ethnicity, not sex nor sexual orientation, but the Constitution and the rule of law that followed, became the glue that has bound the citizens of the United States together. Until now.
Today some citizens are making laws, or trying to make laws, that are not glue, but digestive fluid. Society is eating itself while the people we elect to serve in our interest are in fact using their power to rule for their own benefit. And yet, the clamor for making laws that deny equal rights of citizenship to religious groups not “Christian” or people not “straight” and even just plain, working folks is loud and obnoxious. People who are running for President of the United States are proposing that it is OK to forbid Muslims a Mosque in any community, that people not “straight” shouldn’t have the rights – and economic privileges – of cohabitation, and that state workers, or any workers for that matter, shouldn’t have collective bargaining rights.
Two percent of our citizens who have half the country’s net worth want laws to limit their monetary responsibility even though most of the government, and certainly the military, works diligently to protect and enhance their status. As you think to yourself “that’s OK” take a moment to recall something you already know but don’t often think about:
New money is created only when value is added to something and then that something is sold.
* Iron ore is mined - a worker added value by making ore available to turn into steel. Ore above ground is more valuable that in the ground.
* Iron ore is smelted into steel - a worker added value by making ore available to be processed into nails. Steel is more valuable than iron ore.
* Trees are cut - a worker added value by making lumber from trees. Lumber is more valuable than trees
* Now another worker can take the nails and lumber and build houses or furniture. They are more valuable than the raw materials.
While it is true that someone with money had to invest up front in order for the mining, smelting, logging, milling and building to take place, in each case a member of the working class added the value to the original material and made it possible for profit to be made.
When we had a true and vigorous middle class the division of profit at the time new money was created was fair and equitable, and since a lot of people were paying taxes it was reasonable to lower the taxes for everyone. Since 1980 and the attack on the working class by those Americans who dislike unions, the middle class has diminished to the point of almost nonexistence and the preponderance of wealth is in the hands of a relative few. But, their taxes have not risen while the middle class tax base has dissolved with the jobs shipped overseas by their fellow citizens.
The money held by the wealthiest Americans now, with the aid of the Supreme Court, has bought the hearts and minds of just enough working class Americans to convince them to turn on themselves. A long time ago a great entrepreneur, Milton S. Hershey, said advertising was a waste of money. Now, the Koch brothers have proven, and we now know for certain, that he was wrong.
Big money advertising has us devouring each others jobs, and savoring limiting each others rights. And, all the while we convince ourselves that the sun always rises and all is well with the world. Today at least, we truly are the Great American Autocannibalistic Society.
March 13, 2011
Just like Egypt, Iran, Tunisia and Libya, We have to get our real news on YouTube
I wrote the following article yesterday intending to post it after some editing. However, because of my fruitless search of the corporate news media this morning to find out what happened in Madison yesterday I decided that now is the right time.
After a good deal of channel surfing the corporate media I finally resorted to YouTube. What I found was that the crowd was larger that the Viet Nam protests. But, our new corporate Fourth Estate decided that the country shouldn't be told about the war being waged on US.
Check out these links:
Overview of the Madison protest crowd (85-100,000) on Saturday 3/12
Dennis Kucinich in Madison
Waging War on Wage Earners
As you read this try to think of yourself primarily as one of the 95% of the population who are wage earners. Regardless of what political party you are inclined to vote for, even regardless of whether or not you ever vote, consider what being a wage earner means to you. Whether a man or a woman, keep in mind that your ability to express any moral or social principals you might champion are dependent on your ability to house, clothe and feed yourself and your family first.
Even more importantly, keep in mind how essential it is to be able to trade a fair days work for a fair days pay.
Everyone who depends on a paycheck from someone else for their survival is having their standard of living vigorously assaulted by corporations and billionaires. Two major battles have already been lost as the sycophants of the wealthy told us there is no class war going on.
One was over equal protection under the law. The recent creation of a Supreme Court which has dismissed even the idea of government of, by and for the people, and instead has handed down decisions which interpret the Constitution on behalf of the wealthy has made equal protection a fading dream.
The second battle lost, and arguably the most destructive, was the effective oversight of government by a watchful and conscientious Fourth Estate. The corporate ownership of virtually all mainstream media has made a mockery of the First Amendment protections for freedom of the press and the freedom of speech. We get only the news that corporations and the wealthy want us to get, and often it’s outright lies and propaganda. The Supreme Court has aided this assault on the First Amendment by deeming corporations to be people and money to be speech. The result has been that the wealthy and the corporations are able to out shout the working class and in the process make many of them believe that the enemy isn’t government but rather their fellow workers.
The events of the past several weeks has shown that many elected officials have decided that even though the vast majority of the votes they received which put them in office were cast by wage earners, their allegiance is to a much different, and much smaller group of people. And, that smaller group of people is intent on reducing United States wage earners to the position of perpetual subservient poor.
No matter what they called themselves to get elected, we have only two types of representatives in Congress and State Legislatures. On one side of each issue there are those who see themselves as being wage earners themselves or who can identify with the day to day circumstances of working for a living. These people tend to vote for ideas that perpetuate a strong middle class. Then there are those who are sycophants to the rare-air wealthy and vote against wage earners in hope of gaining favor with or even becoming part of that group. These “representatives” vote in favor of those issues which make it harder to maintain a thriving middle class.
From Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Idaho, Pennsylvania and many other states have come assaults on workers which have inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest. Unfortunately, but expectedly, their protests were ignored and laws have been or are being passed which reduce their pay and even their ability to argue collectively for fair treatment. In Michigan the new governor has decided that he can fire an elected mayor or city council and impose a corporate prefect on a town. The hard earned rights of wage earners of the United States are being dismissed out of hand by the lackeys of the wealthy and most of the country is still silent or in shock.
Some wonder what it will take for the rest of working class America to wake up. Others wonder what can be done to change the course of the war. The answers are far from clear. Because of our identification with one party or another, one church or another, one race or another, or a myriad of other issues that separate us from each other, the likelihood of banding together to maintain our middle class existence is slim.
I hope I am wrong.
October 23, 2010
Politics, Elections and the Erosion of Sanity
We consider someone sane if they interpret and respond to their environment in a manner which increases their chances of survival or well being. We consider a person wise if they see more than the immediate consequence of an action. The wisest of us see the ripples of consequences far into the future. Watching the politicians and political pundits today spin, twist, bend and break factual evidence to suit their positions provides clear evidence that sanity and wisdom are on their way out of mainstream American thinking.
And it’s not just what’s being said, it’s what’s being believed, accepted and acted on that spotlights the lack of critical thinking in the American population. Remember the headline, "How can 59,000,000 people be so dumb?" That headline suggested, from the writers point of view, that the long term health and well being of the country had been sacrificed for the immediate gratification of short term political goals. Did anyone notice? Maybe, but certainly not enough – because here we are again.
says that we should not accept Sharia Law, even though there is no hint of it, and at the same time, by her support of various Tea Party positions, tells us we should incorporate the dictates of Leviticus into our own system. Sharon Angle tell us that if democracy doesn’t yield the results the minority desires, then resorting to armed conflict against the government is not just OK but somehow called for by the Constitution. Rand Paul tells us that desegregation is OK, as long as he can maintain an all white restaurant, or hire only whites in his business. Christine O’Donnell tells us she’s not a witch, but who cares anyway?
John Boehner, the Minority Leader in the House, talks about repealing health care for everyone, but fails to mention that he and his family are well protected from being dropped or priced out of insurance and his repeal wouldn’t effect that. Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the Senate, talks about how terrible it is to increase taxes on the rich, but fails to mention that every American would get a break on the first $250,000.00 – it’s only earnings over that which would be subject to a percentage increase. Jim DeMint, Senator from S. Carolina, tells us that sexually active single women should not be allowed to teach school, and at the same time he tells us he’s on the side of Freedom and the American Way.
Based on these observations, it seems obvious, to me anyway, that sanity and wisdom are not characteristics which the aforementioned folks would have you employ. So, while the sound of Rush Limbaugh intoning, "Barak Hussein Obama, mmm,mmm,mmm, Barak Hussein Obama, mmm,mmm,mmm" is ringing in your ears, here are some things to think about before heading out to vote.
First, what’s in it for me? How will my life change if the policies of my candidate are put in place? How will those policies affect my children or my friends and their children?
Second, think past your primary concern. If I pick a candidate because they support an issue very important to me, does that candidate also support another policy that would make my life or my children’s life less pleasant or less rewarding?
Life will be different after November 2nd, but how will it be different? Today we have control of the future – at least for the next two years. That will not be true on the morning of November 3rd. My students and President Bush always reminded me that "thinking is hard work." What they failed to mention is that work comes before payday. Good work, good pay, no work, no pay.
As always the choice is ours, and the return on our thinking will be commensurate with our effort.
September 23, 2010
This is your brain on FOX
This is a difficult article to publish for obvious reasons, but I believe it must be done. I live in a community where virtually every bar and grille with a TV and even my doctors office has FOX News on the screen every minute the doors are open. Why is that a problem? Because, when a poll suggests that 40% of Americans believe that Obama is not a U.S. citizen or that Obama is a Muslim, a person has to wonder about a couple of things. One, if people really believe what they say, how did they come to that conclusion and two, do they really believe what they say or is it code for something else? The answer to both questions, I believe, can be found on FOX News.
The other day I was having lunch in a local bar and as usual FOX news was on the TV. The "newscaster" was telling about a new policy being considered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would prevent local police from reporting undocumented offenders to ICE. The gentleman sitting next to me was vocally angry about what was being said. I said that the so-called news was nothing more than a drinking fountain rumor and even if true, was not possible to implement in the U.S. He and his friend looked at me somewhat askance, and I guess that they were finished with lunch because they left rather quickly after that.
Since that day I have searched the internet for any evidence of such a plan, or even the suggestion of a plan, but haven’t found anything. Actually what I found was exactly the opposite. I found one which describes an ICE/Police joint effort in Danbury, CT that both groups describe as working well, and the joint task force in Chicago that just made several arrests. So the question is, just what was FOX trying to accomplish by spreading a rumor, I guess I can’t really call it an outright lie, as fact? Could it be that the intent is to infect as many people as possible with a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything associated with the Obama administration?
This is only one example, but to me it seems that there are a hundred a day. Pretty women with bright eyes and wide smiles repeat the rumors of Obama being Muslim, or foreign, or racist and the watchers are attracted to the screen like users on cocaine. Everyone on the network is saying things the loyal audience wants to hear. It’s no wonder that a high percentage of their 30,000,000 viewers absorb the rumors as fact. Those that don’t believe but say they do, simply can’t accept the fact that Obama is the President of the United States. And all the while political candidates being interviewed on FOX programs preach a Machiavellian sermon calling for 2nd Amendment tantrums if they don’t get their way, preaching freedom while proposing to deny it to anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and generally feeding those who are hungry for words that rationalize positions they already hold.
Why is this a problem? Because a lot of people who earn a lot less than $250,000.00 a year, on November 2, 2010, are going to vote to forfeit their children’s future by voting for people who have told us they want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, balance the national budget without income, limit personal liberty in the extreme, and continue making labor and trade decisions that will turn us into a third world country with even higher unemployment. Yes, that was a long sentence, but the recovery from the FOX news-induced stupor is going to be a lot longer.
Or Not. We just have to sober up before November 2nd.
* * * * * * * * * *
September 22, 2010
Nearing the time to vote -- Or Not!
What used to be a two party showdown every other November is beginning to look more like a bumper car rally at the county fair. We have progressives, liberals, moderate Democrats, Blue Dogs, RINO’s, moderate Republicans, conservatives, Neo-Cons, Tea Partiers, Libertarians and environmentalist. Beyond that, inside the Tea Party are further divisions based on economic vs. social priorities. Those who consider political identity essential to personal identity have little to wonder about when it comes time to affiliate or vote.
On the good side of this change is that for independents we’re hearing a lot more points of view on a broad variety of subjects. It’s a good thing for everyone to understand each candidate’s views on such things as race relations, immigration, social security, medicare, gun control, abortion, and now even masturbation. The more we know the easier it is to extrapolate those views to determine how a candidate would most likely vote on major legislation if elected.
On the bad side is that the essential difference between the two main parties, one of which will run the legislature, is lost in the noise. That difference is economic policy. Democrats generally shape economic policy around the idea that a large middle class with incomes adequate to sustain a satisfying lifestyle is good for everyone. Republicans generally shape economic policy around the idea that what is good for the already wealthy is good for the nation.
Heading toward the polls this year, we are being prodded, cajoled and coerced in several directions without regard for this basic difference. The personal financial well being of the vast majority of us and that of our families and their descendants is once again being purposefully ignored in the discussions about social values by candidates and the media. In all the media hype are we being steered away from the information we need to understand each candidate’s probable impact on our ability to support ourselves.
History has shown that even the wealthiest are better off under the Democrat’s vision. Unfortunately, that doesn’t deter those who are driven by greed and just plain stinginess from insisting otherwise. The result is that in choosing a candidate who supports our values judgements we are also choosing between the economic policies of the past two years and what we did for the preceding eight years. Pundits and journalists will insist on calling them "Obama" policies or "Bush" policies but they are neither. They are the basic party policies that have been alternately guiding our economy since the early thirties and will continue until our two party system gives way to a more collective arrangement.
Politicians steer their campaigns on the premise that the memory of a voter is good for about three weeks and anything before that can be disregarded. It would be a good thing to prove them wrong. The economic policies in place today will create jobs and grow the middle class. After just four years of "Bush" economic policy I said it would take at least a generation to recover. It would be nice if I was wrong and it will be less, but don’t count on it. It will take only a generation if, and only if, we stay on track with today’s policies.
The election is only 43 days away. Based on the promises of the Republican leadership to dismantle Social Security, privatize Medicare and repeal Health Care legislation the choice between economic policies of the country is clear.
Whether we go to the polls or stay home, the choice between improving the middle class or decimating it is ours and we will own the result.
* * * * * * * * * * *
September 14, 2010
A refresher course in Capitalism
A few simple facts about increasing the money in your pocket. First, if you don’t have any money you will have to do something for someone else who has money so you can get some of theirs. One of the ways to do that is to provide a service such as cutting a lawn, painting a house, or driving them somewhere. Essentially what you must do is sell your time and energy to perform some kind of labor. If you have a little money then what you can do is to make something the person who has money wants. For example open a bakery and sell cake and bread, or start a company that builds bicycles. If you have a little more money you can simply invest in someone else’s business and hope they do well so you can share in the profit and sit back and relax during the process.
So, what we have are two situations. One in which the only means of obtaining money is to work for it, and the other is to invest and let the money you have do the work for you. The open question then becomes what is the value of labor and what is the value of money. This is the essential question of capitalism, and the answer has changed dramatically over the years. In the early 1900's labor was cheap. That is to say that the hungry unemployed would work long hours for starvation wages in order to support their families at a level of meager subsistence. The wretched conditions led to a boiling over of anger at industrialists which in turn resulted in the formation of unions. Unionizing was a way for workers to band together and simply refuse to work under existing conditions for existing wages.
After a surge of unionization the value of labor became a little closer to the value of money. Profits were better distributed between workers, management and investors. This condition led to the creation of the worlds largest middle class. We still had the wretchedly poor and the lavishly rich, but we also had about 65% of the population able to live in a good house, put good food on the table, wear decent clothes, drive a functioning automobile, have health insurance and still be able to enjoy a two or three week vacation without skimping on anything else. During this time the progressive income tax took a small percentage of income at the lower levels but when income far exceed even the ability to spend it all in a lifetime, it rose to as much as ninety percent.
The pendulum was swinging in favor of the workers, but in 1948 the first law to limit the power of unions, the Taft-Hartley Act, began to slow it down. The Act was used by President Regan in the 80's to break the air traffic controllers strike, and with the Republican control of the National Labor Relations Board the pendulum stopped and began it’s swing back. Since then labor unions have been decimated, and taxes on the extremely wealthy have reached an all time low. The combination of these factors has resulted in a return to the 1920's differences between the haves and the have-nots and a decimation of the life-with-leisure middle class in the United States.
Free market capitalism has run amok, and it’s time for the pendulum to reverse once again. New regulations in the banking industry are a beginning, but the next election will have a great impact on our chances of becoming a middle class nation once again. The evidence is overwhelming that on our present course we are headed for third-world status. Even with the recent changes our health and education systems are already there. It is obvious which party supports which values. If we don’t understand and use what we know about the relationship between labor and money, and the leveling effect of progressive taxation to guide our vote we will surely return to third-world status.
Clearly the choice is ours and we will own the result
* * * * * * * * * * * *
September 11, 2010
Is ANYONE paying attention?
Talking with friends and family about politics often makes me wonder about what passes for political news these days. Each issue has a life of it's own totally independent of all other available information. The result is that many people have opinions about some things which are in direct opposition to what they believe about other things. Often the words we use mean different things to us than the person who’s listening. The result is anything but communication.
What words make sense today when trying to describe the participants in our political system? Who stands for what? What are the strongest principals that define a group? Which issues can be compromised and which can’t? Is it really just two parties, or have we reached a more nuanced collection of participants?
It seems to me that what has been the Democratic Party’s claim of being the most diverse group under one tent is no longer valid. What with the Neo-Conservatives, Tea-Partiers, Birthers, Southern Baptist/Evangelicals, and just plain conservatives, the Republican Party looks as diverse as the Democratic Party ever did. Then, throw in the single issue interest groups that infest both parties with stubborn, chiseled in stone positions which defy common ground and both tents look more like a circus than an attempt to govern.
The idea that a person is simply Republican, Democrat or Independent is like saying colors are only black, white and grey. In truth we each stand somewhere on the edge of the single center ring of the political circus, taking our positions anew as each issue is hashed and rehashed by the media. There are some polar opposites that are easily defined and others defy clarity. What does it mean to be a fiscal conservative? What does it mean to be a progressive? Who says that a person can’t be in favor of a strong social safety net and still believe in pay as you go budgeting or vice versa? What makes a blue dog Democrat or a RINO Republican? Just where is the "middle of the road" anyway?
The one thing we’re not getting from our constitutionally enshrined Fourth Estate is an educated electorate. That’s not to say that some don’t try, but profit has impeded progress every time. The result is headline news that not only tells us what’s happening but how we’re supposed to think about it. We don’t get educated we get indoctrinated. However, it’s not just the media’s fault. Ask any politician a question about that they think or how they intend to vote on an issue and then step back quickly. Chances are 1000 to 1, or maybe even higher, that you’re going to get showered with B.S.
Who then are the participants in this Ringling Bros. re-run that we’ve been calling government? Every two years we scramble the performers, picking new Ring Masters, high wire artists, animal trainers, and a wide assortment of clowns to try to decide where we should be going and what we should be doing. If that sounds disrespectful of our politicians – it is and I am. In my seventy years experience the level of thoughtful governance by those we used to call wise elder statesmen is at an all time low.
Finally, as if it couldn’t get any worse, we are burdened with a Republican Party and a Supreme Court intent on creating an American moneyed aristocracy without formal titles. If you’re not sure about that, I suggest you look closely at what the combination of zero estate taxes and the Court’s position that corporations are people. This combination of events will, in time, create a wealth based society in which those on top simply appoint the country’s leadership and all this talk of political parties will become a smokey haze of nostalgia.
Please don’t take my word for any of this. Go out and look. Watch closely and see for yourself.
Is that single issue really more important than the future of our country?
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August 23, 2010
The wallets of the people on the street are about to take another hit.
It's been quite a while since I've felt the urge to put my thoughts out on the web. But, enough is enough as they say, and the street looks a whole lot different than it did back in 2007. That was before the economy fell apart and even before the advent of Sara Palin, the horrendously misnamed ‘Tea Party", and the election of Barak Obama.
That election in 2008 gave Democrats the Administration, and majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. You’d think they'd of had it all, but you’d be wrong.
The Republican minority in the House of Representatives has been a large, but toothless, loud baking dog which has simply irritated most of the country. In the Senate things are much more problematic. With a Republican minority of forty-one votes these Senators, who represent less than 11% of the voting public, have stifled needed and meaningful bills which have been passed in the House. In addition, the ‘secret hold’ provision in the Senate’s rules has allowed single, unidentified Senators to hold up Presidential appointments and anything else they think will irritate an already bad relationship with the White House.
Worst of all is that this isn’t the biggest problem faced by We the People. The Supreme Court has made two recent decisions which effectively took We the People out of the constitution as surely as if it had been rewritten in it’s entirety. The first was a declaration that money is speech, and the second was that corporations can say anything they want, about any candidate for office, as loud as their bank accounts will allow.
Why is this such a big deal? Because, corporations will fill the press, the TV, the radio and the net with focused, single issue, highly emotional negative bumper-sticker quips about anyone opposing their choice for office. And, as my niece has told me more than once, elections are most often decided by the least politically knowledgeable among us. This fact, that the least politically knowledgeable are the most volatile and therefore have the most sway in elections is called the Berelson Paradox. That’s not something we want to believe, but it doesn’t take much to see what’s happening. Party people vote their party. Add to this group the "independents" who really look at all the issues when deciding how to vote and we’ve accounted for maybe 95% of voters. Most often these groups are equally divided, and each needs additional support to win. So who’s left? The emotionally blinded single issue voters who, for one single personally important cause will give away life, liberty and their first born. And further, we will never change their minds.
So when corporations are concerned about who is passing laws that effect their profit margins they will naturally do everything they can to get as many single issue voters as possible to vote for their candidate. If they can make their points emotionally strong enough they will get those voters to the polls en masse. The Supreme Court has given corporations the power and, unless it can be taken away soon, they will use it to ensure that we will not have enough representatives of the people in Congress to take it away in the future.
FOX news and Target have already shown us that they are willing to spend freely and openly. If we want representatives of the people controlling the House and Senate after January 2011 it’s going to cost the people on the street a great deal of money this fall.