Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sarah Palin Dissed John and Sam Adams, Ben Franklin,

... the Original George W. and the Rest of the Founding Fathers!

by Bonnie Fuller / Huffington Post

Has anyone just stopped for a second to reflect on the fact that Sarah didn't just diss Barack Obama, Rosa Parks and the thousands of other community organizers when she derided the Democratic presidential nominee's experience?

Hello! How about the founding fathers. I watched those guys portrayed in the recent and excellent HBO series, John Adams. It sure looked to me like the American Revolution began with a whole lot of grassroots community organizing done by dedicated private individuals focused on trying to build a better political system to benefit their fellow members of the Thirteen Colonies.

It's amazing what a group of highly motivated community organizers did over 230 years ago. So what's so bad about a presidential nominee today starting his activist career this way? And hey Sarah, isn't the PTA one of the most effective community organizations in the country? Isn't that where you got your start?

The rest after the click ...

The Silence is Deafening

...or watch the clip here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Redefining the Words

One of my pet peeves is what the right has done to language with their Orwellian newspeak, doublespeak!

If you redefine words to fit your logic you can justify the most absurd conclusions. Equating the Soviet Union to socialism is only one example.

Here's an example. Obama has been accused of favoring infanticide by the religious right. Infanticide is the wanton killing of children too young to defend themselves. What Obama actually did was to vote against a couple of bills that were designed specifically to undermine Row v Wade. The bills ALSO contained language to protect newly born children ... but that language was not the point of the bill ... the language was boiler plate inclusions. By redefining the meaning of his vote, they smear him with sensationalism. Infanticide!! Who could possibly favor infanticide! Killing children is immoral! The bastard!!! Killing little children is an immoral crime that only a deranged and depraved sociopath could commit, right? Who can disagree with that?

Sidebar: Well, how about we revisit the plagues brought down on the Egyptians by Moses' prayers? It seems to me that one of the plagues was the death of all of Egypt's first born ... among them, innocent children. If the wanton slaughter of innocent children is immoral ... what should we say of that? Is God a sociopath? ... he kills innocent children wholesale.

The problem is, they've gotten so good at framing issues ... and the rest of us have gotten so lax at calling them on their slippery definitions; definitions that change to fit a current need. We have to hold them accountable for what they say. We must make them use the common definitions that we ALL agree on. We must work toward ending this twisting of meanings. We must not back down. We must not take them at their word without examining very carefully what they are saying and which words they are using to say it.

"Tax and spend" is another case of framing an issue with no one calling them on it. There are basically only two ways for a government to raise the revenue necessary to run a government ... either through taxes or through borrowing. But "tax and spend" is BAD. So that leaves only borrowing. Well, we've borrowed ourselves into bankruptcy because "tax and spend" is bad. So, lets re-frame the issue. Instead of allowing them to characterize it as "tax and spend", lets start calling it "pay as you go". You don't like "tax and spend" Mr. Conservative .... well, how do you feel about "pay as you go"? That's what families do ... that's real family values. Only the irresponsible borrow beyond their ability to repay.

"It's your money" with reference to the dollars our government has acquired in taxes is a popular framing of an issue. It's your money and we think you can use it more wisely than the government can! That has a powerful appeal ... if you think the government is something far away and not a part of your life. Well, it is your money ... and it's your government .. and those are your services that money is supposed to pay for, too. You yield your money in taxes so that your government can pay for all those services you can't provide for yourself. that's what government is for ... to provide for you what you cannot provide for yourself. They talk about tax relief and it's a popular idea. It's a good vote getter. What they don't tell you is those taxes were designed to underwrite specific services that we have demanded of our government. When you cut the taxes, you cut the funding for schools, police, the military, our infrastructure (remember those levies that collapsed during Katrina? the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis a couple years ago?) It's your money ... and in a democracy the government is "We the People" ... us .. you are the government ... and it's still your money and we pulled it together from all of us to do specific things. When you cut taxes, you have to replace the money somehow because the needs don't simply go away. Bridges and roads still need maintenance, the army needs to be equipped, fire departments need to be equipped, teachers need to get paid. So we resort to borrowing. How's that been working out for us?

But people buy into those bumper sticker phrases without thinking critically about them. Don't let the bastards fool you with the misuse of words and the cherry picking of facts - presenting only some facts and leaving other vital bits out. And then there are the outright lies and fabrications ... but I'll save that rant for another day.

I watched part of the Republican National Convention today. I can still taste the vomit in the back of my mouth.

Government is Broken!

Republicans like to tell us that "government is broken" (implying that they are the ones who can somehow fix it) but they never mention just who broke it.

Government wasn't broken when FDR led us out of the Great Depression, a depression that involved most of the civilized world and brought on in great part by unregulated stock market speculation. He created programs that put people back to work ... the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) ... all those wonderful stone walls and paved paths throughout our national parks system? remember those? ... and the ideologues did everything they could to stop those programs, labeling them socialistic. The fact is the programs worked.

Government wasn't broken when FDR led us to victory in the Second World War.

Government wasn't broken when Truman sacked MacArthur (establishing who was the boss - the military or civilians) and then prevailed in Korea.

Government wasn't broken when Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon and back and it seemed to be working just fine when he prevailed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For the 40 some odd years since Kennedy, Republicans have had power for 28 years or 70% of the time. They gave us Nixon and Watergate. They gave us Reagan and Iran Contra - and I don't give Reagan credit for "defeating" the Soviet Union. Anywhere on the planet, outside the minds of the American Republican right, people will tell you that the Soviet Union fell of it's own ponderous weight. It imploded trying to maintain an unwindable arms race - an open ended exercise in futility with the potential to go on to infinity. The winner was not determined by any intelligent action. It was merely a question of who had better access to their resources.

And then they've given us 8 years of Dubya (shudder).

Government is broken? Government was working just fine until we started electing Republicans. That's when things started to go seriously wrong and the wheels started coming off. Our debt load under Reagan grew more than under any other administration in history - before Bush II, that is - who now holds the record for taking a budget surplus he inherited from the previous administration and turning it into the largest debt in the history of mankind. Under Republicans the size of government has grown uncontrollably - in spite of the fact that they advertise themselves as being for smaller government. They advertise that they want less government involvement in personal lives ... unless you're a woman consulting your doctor about your pregnancy. Then, from their point of view, regardless of the MEDICAL prognosis, the doctor should advise you to carry the fetus to term ... EVEN if the odds are that you will die in the process. That's their idea of less government involvement in personal lives. Now, wanna talk about warrantless searches and wiretaps?

They feel that government regulation of business is bad. They neglect to mention that government, as representative of the people and of the common good, enacts regulations in order to protect people from the abuses of business! If there weren't any abuses, there'd be no need for regulations. The regulations come into play AFTER there have been abuses! But they want fewer regulations regardless of the record of abuses. They deregulated the lending industry over the last 15 or so years. How's that working out for us? Have you tried to sell your house lately?

The one thing we can probably all agree on is that the purpose of government is to do things for the people that the people cannot do for themselves. I know that I subscribe to that thought ... as does my most conservative Republican friend. What we disagree on is where to draw the line.

I propose we draw the line between "rights" and "privileges". If it's a "right" then the government should be involved in order to protect the individual's "rights". If it's a "privilege" then the government has little or no role.

Here are some examples - we're not going to agree on all of them - but lets see if they make any sense:

Is it your right or your privilege to have a nicer house than I do? I say it's your privilege. You worked for it. You can afford it better than I can. It's what you want so you should be able to have it. I submit that government should have no role in determining where you live.

Is it your right or your privilege to have the fire department show up when your house is on fire and do their honest best to put out the fire and salvage your goods? I submit it's your right ... and the right equally of everyone in the community. Because it's a right, there should be government involvement to ensure that fire departments are properly equipped to deal with fires in the community and to ensure that everyone's right to fire protection is guaranteed.

Is it your right or your privilege to have *basic* health care? If it's your privilege, then who deserves to be denied health care? Should those who cannot afford health care be denied health care? Or is health care more like fire protection ... something that should be guaranteed to all, equally. I submit that *basic* health care is your right. Perhaps you can afford better health care than I can. That's your privilege and if you want to buy insurance on the open market that ensures that you have access to only the very best Johns Hopkins trained Mayo Clinic specialists; access to health care that is superior to *basic* health care ... so be it. But I submit that *basic* health care is the right of every American. As with the fire department illustration, perhaps you can afford a sprinkler system that I cannot. So be it ... .but the fire department should show up for your fire just as they show up for my fire and provide *basic* fire protection. And frankly, most of us get by pretty well with *basic* fire protection.

Government should be there to protect your rights. The first ten amendments to the constitution ... the Bill of Rights ... are all designed specifically to outline individual rights and protect them from the power of the majority. Their model outlines the purpose of government. Freedom of Religion, for example, is a right ... and government's role it to ensure that right is protected.