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I Propose A Moratorium On The Words Democrat and Republican

October 28, 2008

The recent violent mindsets being shown by Americans lately have been more and more worrisome to watch with the continuing unchecked economic crisis. For those that have somehow forgotten about that little crisis thing, don’t feel bad. It may be because it’s hardly being touched by a lot of the MSM. A quick visit to Fox, CNN, and MSNBC finds only one of the three has a story in its main headlines about the economy or the bailout bill. Personally, I think enough people are fearful that it’s time to get the information out there a little more so we can start educating people what to do.

The bailout is barely performing its basic function of slowing the economic bloodspill. Markets run only when people have enough faith in them to put money into the system…and right now, people are still too scared to be doing this much. As such, the markets aren’t working. The system is in a state of failure right now. I say a state of failure because it is just that – a state, and one which will only last as long as mistrust and derision are the cultural zeitgeist. For those who have a little time, I highly recommend Robert Reich‘s lecture over at fora.tv. The title is what’s at stake in the election, and Reich certainly does show his personal opinion over who should win (he’s one of Obama’s advisors…not too surprising), but he does an amazing job of educating people in a calming way about what is going on. He comes at it from a very progressive point of view, but one which is well reasoned. One of his main points is that our main problem right now is not a lack of liquidity, it is a lack of trust.

If you’re still feeling adventurous, check out Naomi Klein’s lecture from Oct. 16th while you’re there. Klein has become one of the main voices behind the idea of “disaster capitalism”. One of her main points is that, in times of crisis, the tools that we pick up are not the newly created economic ideas – they are the ones that are available right now, and become a part of common enough thought to be voted in. As such, it’s all the more important that we all try and educate ourselves about the ideas that are going to be put forth, and make our voices heard by our representatives. Politicians are already worried about losing their jobs – lets make sure they’re still just as worried when they vote on the inevitable upcoming economic legislation. 

And if you want to go a little further, look into Paul Krugman and some of his financial articles over at the Times. Some of his political articles take a bit of a party line slant, but when it comes to matters of the economy, especially the global version of it we now live in, it’s hard to deny the Nobel Laureate’s thought. Please, let us remember – there are other ideas out there than the Keynsian/Friedman based ideologies that have dictated much of our previous policy.

But all of this relates to the title of this point, and to this growing violent underbelly. The feds interruption of the would-be assassins of one of our presidential candidates has made it far too evident that the mindset of derision has grown far too entrenched in our nation at current. While I do not blame politics for creating it, as the political future of our nation has placed politics in such a public eye, I do blame them for their actions. In a rare showing, John Stewart tonight did an amazing job of pointing out the amount of fear in both camps. Even with all his recent bias, I challenge anyone to argue against the overall point – that people fear what will happen if their guy doesn’t win. This fear is coming from both sides. And it is a fear that must be stopped. We cannot come together as a nation to face the challenges that are certainly ahead of us if we are acting out of fear.

Lately, much of the group-thought the nation seems to be experiencing has been, I believe, being flared by comments against Democrats or Republicans. Stump speeches are more and more turning to rhetoric that levies charges against the opposing party, and seems to ignore the opposing idea. Politicians have ceased to talk about their own policies, or even speak of their opponents policies and why they disagree with them. It has become nothing but partisan bickering – the Republicans destroyed the economy with their unfettered deregulation, the Democrats want to bring us into an era of Socialism – or even Marxism, as one reporter asked Joe Biden about today. But both parties have been in charge when deregulation was voted on, and both parties have voted on a rescue package that is one of the largest socialist expenses the country has ever seen, and includes partial nationalization of the banking system. It’s obvious the partisan attacks, and broad based words that are drumming up fears within the populous are not getting us anywhere productive. So, I propose that at least until after the election, all politicians do their part to unify the country and cease to use the words Republican or Democrat. I think it will be much more difficult for them to go negative when their opponent can’t be placed into a group-think mindset so easily. It might even restore some civility to the process. And it may, just may, even assuage some of the fears of much of the public about what will happen if “the other guy” wins.

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Death Threats, Hung Visages…Stop Acting Like Children!

October 28, 2008

So, for those who haven’t seen, there were two major political news stories today. The first were the two guys arrested who had hatched a plot to kill Obama. The other was a visage of Palin hung from a noose in West Hollywood. It’s time to stop playing with fire. If the candidates really hadn’t realized it already, it should now be exceedingly clear. We’re acting like children. And these children have become an angry mob. And they’re finding weapons, symbolic or otherwise. We stand on the verge of what may be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The only thing that is going to avert this event is by coming together as a country and using that classic American “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” spirit to keep our country from spiraling into the s&*tter. It’s past time to stop riling up the public in any way – it’s time to start calming everyone down before it’s too late to placate someone. Stop playing divisive political games…the stakes are too high. On a lighter note though – Yahoo had a story on their front page about the price of 32″ LCD TVs possibly dropping as low as $399 by Christmas, so lets hope we can go back to placating ourselves with high-def and leave the violence on the screen.

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McCarthyism Has A New Face – Rep. Michelle Bachmann UPDATED

October 23, 2008

UPDATE:

Local paper Minnesota Star Tribune has kept up with this, and given light to some of the response and fallout. As to Bachmann’s response: she blames Matthew’s tactics, the using of “only clips of my interview”, denies she said what she said, and states that they (Matthews and liberal blogs) are “motivated entirely by their hatred of me and my conservative beliefs.” My response? If you are that easily tricked by a journalist, you do not need to be representing anyone at a federal level. Congress debates legislation, and votes according to the persuasiveness of the debate and examination of the factors involved. If you can be that easily tricked into saying something, I don’t want you arguing on anyones behalf. Even if you don’t share my views and it would be beneficial to me to have you as an opponent to them. On to the fallout: the candidate who opposes her has raised $1.3 million since her comments, and the GOP has pulled national funding for commercials for her. And that gives me hope that this interweb device of ours might just be able to change the landscape of politics, and allow the populous to hold the elected representatives of this country accountable for their words.

Just recently saw the following interview with Michelle Bachmann. From this point forward, I will refuse to call her representative, because the views she puts forth are by no means representative of anything which I, or any who believe in the importance of thought, can believe. For those who wish to read first, please look past the video – I will quote relevant segments for support of arguments. Either way, please watch the video and decide for yourself, whether before or after reading.

 

Ok, so what’s the deal here? How can I suggest that this is a form of McCarthyism? 

Bachmann: “usually, we associate with people who have similar ideas to us, and it seems that it calls into question what Barack Obama’s true beliefs, and values, and thoughts are.”

Point one for McCarthyism! McCarthy used the same kind of tactic. In his case, it was “give me the name of 3 communists you’ve associated with, or admit you are a communist”. This is simply ridiculous. I associate with many people who I do not have similar thoughts to, including those who are far more radical than I am in both conservative and liberal spectrums. I respect their thoughts and ideology, even if I do not agree with their conclusions. I call it keeping an open mind. My thoughts, values, and beliefs are my own, and no one else’s. It is just this kind of attack on intellectual freedom that people as respected as Albert Einstein (as the American Museum of Natural History points out) spoke out against.

Bachmann: “calls into question not only his judgement, but also what Barack Obama really believes, and we know that he’s the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, and that’s just after one year after being there, he’s the most liberal, Joe Biden is the third most liberal, you’ve got Harry Reid who’s liberal, Nancy Pelosi who’s liberal…”

Point two for McCarthyism! In the same horribly phrased run on sentence, Bachmann links Obama’s association with a former domestic terrorist to his liberal beliefs (although the study she uses disagrees with two others), and then to other liberal senators. Here, not only does she imply guilt by association, but she extends that guilt to other members of the US Senate.

Bachmann: “Most Americans, Chris, are WILD about America, and they’re very concerned to have a president who doesn’t share those values.”

Point three, McCarthy! This attacks intellectual freedom once again. Personally, I would not describe myself as being “wild about America”. Don’t get me wrong here…I love this country, and the freedom and ideals that it was founded upon. But I also am pragmatic enough to admit that there are problems with the current state of Government. There will always be problems with Government. It is up to us to minimize those problems. Honestly, there’s not much I’m really “wild” about. Wild is not the way I want any of my thoughts described…rather, it is something I try and avoid. I prefer my thought to be reasoned. This includes my love of country. There is a reason I love my country, and it’s not wild, it’s rational and based in belief of essential freedoms.

Matthews: “Do you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?”

Bachmann: “Absolutely, I…I…I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views”

McCarthy, point four! McCarthy used a similar tactic to bring people before the public and, while never calling them communist, questioned their loyalty to America based on the fact that they, in essence, associated with Communists. The web just keeps getting bigger and bigger…

Bachmann: “On college campuses…you find people who hate America” 

Woh…McCarthy point five! McCarthy’s downfall was when he began to levy these kinds of charges against intellectuals and teachers, including the eventual accusations against Oppenheimer (yeah, the one who brought us the war-ending atomic bomb). This language attempts to draw into question the entire higher educational system in much the same way McCarthy did. Again, it calls into question the same issues of intellectual freedom that so many used to fight McCarthyism in the first place.

Bachmann: “I’m not going to say if they’re anti-American or pro-American.”

McCarthy, point six. This kind of “I don’t know what their views are, I’m just questioning them” logic is exactly the kind of rhetoric McCarthy used. This kind of rhetoric is absolutely inappropriate coming from a seated elected official. It is why Congress eventually held hearings to censure McCarthy.

Mathews: “How many do you suspect of your colleagues as being anti-American?”

Bachmann: “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look, I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.”

McCarthy, point seven, game, set, match. This is really the kicker, folks. The idea of creating a congressional committee like the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was called by Harry Truman “the most un-American thing in the country today.”, is obviously not going to fly anymore. So, the next best thing is to throw the same type of “investigation” to the media. After all, the media cannot be held accountable in the same ways Congress can. For a Congress-person to call for this investigation, however, is beyond inappropriate; it is scary.

As always, this post is made from a viewpoint that attempts to remove emotion and bias. Please note that I will not comment on the Ayers/Wright/Obama controversy that is already commented on in so many places. Quite frankly, the entire issue is far too overly politicized to be looked at in the context of this blog. However, the comments of Ms. Bachmann are beyond political.

Statements such as these coming from an elected representative are not only harmful, but hearken back to a darker period of the past which, I hope, Americans have learned from. To allow speech like this to continue from our elected officials, regardless of your viewpoint on Sen. Obama’s associations, is to allow the country to drift into a period of unsupported fear that created some of the worst derision of the past, and furthered the derision that created some of the most radical and violent movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This is unacceptable, and should not be allowed.

If we are to learn anything from the past, we must learn that these sort of widespread “guilt by association” attacks that call for investigations based upon only the idea that “I can’t prove that someone is not anti-American, so we must investigate whether they are” have no beneficial effect. They only serve to further divide the country, and foment the anger that has begun to rear its ugly head once again. I urge all thoughtful individuals to speak out against such acts, and request that Ms. Bachmann at the very least retract and apologize for her comments, if not that she be censured by Congress for her comments. We simply cannot stand for this kind of vitriol from people who are elected to positions of power.

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PEW Report Shows Negative Media Bias Towards McCain

October 23, 2008

Yup, it’s true. For those who wish (and I encourage all to wish), you can read the full report here. I’ll hit the highlights for those who don’t have the time. 

Press treatment of Obama has been somewhat more positive than negative, but not markedly so.

But coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable — and has become more so over time. In the six weeks following the conventions through the final debate, unfavorable stories about McCain outweighed favorable ones by a factor of more than three-to-one — the most unfavorable of all four candidates — according to the study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

For Obama during this period, just over a third of the stories were clearly positive in tone (36%), while a similar number (35%) were neutral or mixed. A smaller number (29%) were negative.

For McCain, by comparison, nearly six-in-ten stories studied were decidedly negative in nature (57%), while fewer than two-in-ten (14%) were positive.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? It’s proof that the media has a liberal bias. Except…wait…let’s read a little further….

 

Much of the increased attention for McCain derived from actions by the senator himself, actions that, in the end, generated mostly negative assessments. In many ways, the arc of the media narrative during this phase of the 2008 general election might be best described as a drama in which John McCain has acted and Barack Obama has reacted.

As for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her coverage had an up and down trajectory, moving from quite positive, to very negative, to more mixed. Driving that tone toward a more unfavorable light were the probing of her public record and her encounters with the press. Little of her trouble came from coverage of her personal traits or family issues. In the end, she also received less than half the coverage of either presidential nominee, though about triple that of her vice presidential counterpart, Joe Biden.

Then, a little further on down…

Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was nearly the invisible man. His coverage enjoyed just one large moment, the vice presidential debate, which also provided the only positive or neutral contribution to his coverage. Aside from that week, the limited coverage he did receive was far more negative than Palin’s, and nearly as negative as McCain’s.

So…what does this mean? As McCain’s campaign tactics have changed and the percentage of ads and stump speeches with a negative tone increased, the media’s findings about the McCain campaign became increasingly negative. Also interesting to note, at this same time, the amount of coverage of McCain, in comparison to Obama, has evened out. Prior to the convention, Obama enjoyed 50% more coverage by the media than McCain did. So really, when it’s all added up, does this truly imply a negative bias towards McCain/Republicans? And does this report come as much of a surprise? Personally, I’d have to say no on both counts. However, there is one other finding from the report that I found much more interesting, and surprising.

The economy was hardly a singular lens through which the media perceived the race. Though it was the No. 1 campaign topic overall, in five out of the six weeks analyzed, other topics drew more media attention, and the economy accounted for not much more of the campaign newshole (18%) than did assessments of the candidates in the four debates (17%).

Horse race reporting, once again, made up the majority of coverage, but less so than earlier in the contest or in previous elections. Since the conventions ended, 53% of the newshole studied has focused on political matters, particularly tactics, strategy and polling — twice the coverage focused on policy (20%). The focus on tactics and horse race increased in the last three weeks as both campaigns became more negative in their rhetoric.

To me, that’s truly ridiculous. American’s continue to state the economy as the most important issue, and continue to want to see the campaigns address issues more than political horse racing and smear attacks. But, in all honesty, it is difficult to blame the media for this kind of coverage when the campaigns themselves seem to address fewer and fewer issues and policy related matters as time goes on. But while the media may not be to blame for their coverage, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hold themselves to a higher standard. Since I’m not a Nielsen family (and never have met one…who are these people anyways?) I can’t exactly send a message by not watching the coverage. But personally, I’m going to be contacting as many of the media outlets as I possibly can pointing out the above findings, and letting them know that I am appalled that they have continued to let their coverage be steered by the campaigns themselves, and until they start covering more issues and policy and less campaign tactics and smear stories, they at least won’t be getting any of my money through purchases of magazines/newspapers. The people of this nation deserve better, and it’s time we demand it.

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What Happened to Respect For Thought?

October 16, 2008

Respect for intelligent thought has taken yet another blow in the last few days. For those who haven’t kept up on this one, I’ll recount the events that have brought me to this conclusion. Christopher Buckley has been forced to resign from the magazine his father, William F. Buckley, started – the National Review. The reason? He gave a reasoned, intelligent statement about why he is supporting Obama as President of the United States. For this, he has been called a traitor, a communist, and accused of denigrating the memory of his father, and was forced to resign from the NR. Buckley has posted a follow up to this, describing the fallout.

This is truly a sad day for all who respect thoughtful discourse in this country. I’m not going to suggest for a moment that I am someone who reads the National Review. I tend to not agree with the tenets that it purveys, and therefore tend only to read NR articles when there is something of interest or relating to something I’m researching at the moment. But the one thing I have always respected about the NR under Buckley was the amazing amount of respect given to intelligence. Agree with him or not, no one can say that William F. Buckley Jr. didn’t place a very high value on intelligence and free thought. In fact, William Buckley Jr. himself, towards the end of his life, was quite dismayed by the policies of GW Bush, and had made many statements that he feared the evangelical takeover of the party he spent his life supporting.

While I will not agree with Buckley’s endorsement on this site (who I vote for will remain an unknown, in order to remain as unbiased as possible), I will defend his endorsement for its thoughtful tone. It is obvious that Buckley did not come to his conclusion easily, and without much internal debate. For him to be forced to resign from the NR is nothing short of hypocrisy, and places a giant stain on the publication for any who once saw it as a repository for thoughtful conservatism. But to add insult to injury, not only has Buckley been forced to resign, but his name has been removed from the NRs list of authors online, and I can find no archived articles from him. This kind of purging of the record takes that stain, adds a bit more to the top of it, and then irons it in. I can think of no reason for purging the articles of a journalist who has been forced to resign because he has come into disfavor over a current political opinion. The National Review should be ashamed of themselves. William Buckley is most likely rolling over in his grave right now, wishing that his name, too, would be purged from the frankensteinian creation his magazine has become.

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There Is No Excuse For Inaction

October 10, 2008

In general, I refuse to post anything that comes from an emotional perspective here. This is not to suggest that I am free from such feelings. But before posting to this blog, I attempt to remove emotion from the equation and inspect only the supported facts. There are enough blogs that rant, the world doesn’t need another. But there is one issue about which I can no longer set aside emotion. It’s simply too important to me. So I’m making an exception to my own policies, and ranting about an issue. That issue is inaction.

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people I speak with have become so disheartened and disenfranchised by the current state of politics in this country that they use it to validate their inaction. The usual logic goes something like this:

“Politicians are all corrupt. They’ve found ways of making sure the interests that are currently vested in the system stay in power. My vote doesn’t really matter. So why should I even try?”

To this, I must cry…BS. Nothing scares politicians more than the thought that people might actually exercise their rights and vote. Both parties are scared by this. Most of the officials in power are there because they are able to motivate a small group of supporters to vote for them. This number is generally enough, because they know that most people simply don’t care enough to turn out on election day. They’re happy with this, because it means they can continue to control the process. They predict the number of people who will turn out to vote in an election, and based off of these numbers, they predict how many supporters they will need to get to the polls in order to win. When people vote en masse, these predictions begin to lose validity. And an unpredictable election is every politicians worst nightmare.

The system of democracy in America relies on checks and balances. The reason the founding fathers gave the electorate the right to vote was because we are part of these checks, and it is our responsibility to keep things in balance. By allowing ourselves to become so disheartened that we simply don’t vote, we have let them win. Elected officials are supposed to face the fear of losing their jobs every few years. It is the greatest weapon given to us as citizens to keep them honest and make sure they are working in our best interests.

If you’re not already registered, register to vote. And then do it. In large numbers. At every election. This means not just the one that comes up every 4 years, when the eyes of the media and the interest of the country turns to the election process. The office of President is not the most important, nor is it the most powerful. The truth is, no one branch of government holds the “most” power. The constitution was designed as such. This means every election, no matter how large or small, matters. Whether it is for the local schoolboard or the House of Representatives, politicians take notice when people turn out in droves to voice their opinion on a ballet.

The recent economic events offer us some of the greatest proof that it is time we scared our elected officials again. They have become complacent, sitting in the jacuzzi that is the current political system. It’s time we ratchet up the thermostat, and make the water boil. It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. In this case, the voters are mightier than the politicians. We just need to remind them of this more often.

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Weapons of Mass Distraction – Congress Brings CEOs to Town

October 7, 2008

The rescue package has been passed. May the blame game begin. Yesterday, the first round of CEOs was brought before Congress to be grilled about their role in the current financial crisis. Our Congress-people were full of fire and brimstone, grilling former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld about his personal gain while the markets failed. Henry Waxman lead the charge, slamming Fuld with statements like:

“It seems that the system worked for you, but it didn’t seem to work for the rest of the country and the taxpayers who now have to pay up to $700 billion to bail out our economy,” Waxman said. “We can’t continue to have a system where Wall Street executives privatize all the gains and then socialize all the losses.” 

and

“Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is now in a state of crisis, but you get to keep $480 million. I have a very basic question for you. Is this fair?”

Well, I’m certainly comforted. Comforted, at least, that business as usual is returning to Washington. Although Waxman’s figures may be about $200 million high, and there is no mention that the money was made over the span of 8 years, the answer to his question is obvious. Of course it’s not “fair”. But I am amazed at how easily we have allowed our attention to be misdirected by this attempt to bring a sense of “fairness” to the whole situation.

People around the country are now chanting for these CEOs to be “held accountable” for their actions. But what everyone seems to be forgetting is that there really isn’t much we can hold them accountable for, because the shady investments they made that caused the crash are not illegal. They aren’t illegal because the markets they were trading in (the same ones that have fallen into a state of disaster) were unregulated. As such, the hearings are little more than a perp walk for criminals who broke no laws.

But they are a great way for Congress to turn the anger of the American public on someone else. The more angry we are at CEO greed, the less likely we are to pull back the curtain and realize that Congress shares an equal, if not greater, amount of responsibility for what happened. By allowing unregulated trading in markets that were speculative by their very nature, the culture of corporate greed was nearly sanctioned. Are we really surprised that Wall Street moguls took advantage of a system with no rules in an attempt to make as much money as they possibly could? They were hired to make as much money for the company as possible. As investors, we demand it. These firms made this money by taking advantage of the system that was presented to them. Unfortunately, while they may have done so in ways that were irresponsible, it is likely that these methods were not illegal. So Congress is holding hearings in an attempt to put a face on the anger of the taxpayer …just as long as that face isn’t anyone in the government that allowed the market to exist with no rules or oversight in the first place. I’m certainly comforted.