Saturday, April 25, 2009
MORE THAN OUR FAIR SHARE
Unaccustomed to strangers, we were apparently the most interesting sight around for these young people, since they spent part of the sermon time completely turned around in their seats looking at us. This was a bit disconcerting to us and may have been a little distracting to some in the congregation.
During Sunday lunch, my stepfather, a part-time minister and ordinarily quite reluctant to make any sort of unkind remark about any person at the church, made a comment that we shall always remember. “Sometimes,” he said, “It seems like we have more than our fair share of those.”
His remark was accurate, I’d imagine, since that bench did indeed accommodate most of that entire sub-population existing in town. I have chuckled about that remark many times.
Looking at our Oklahoma legislature, and the bills introduced, debated, or passed this session, it seems to us that “we have more than our fair share of those.” As one might say, “There are a lot of villages in Oklahoma missing one of theirs.” They sent them to the legislature.
This has been a terrible year for dumb legislation being introduced, and a bad year for divisive and governmentally irrelevant issues being put into legislation and pushed. Time and energy has been wasted, while important matters dragged on.
First, we had the bill authorizing gun-toting on college campuses in a manner even prohibited by Wyatt Earp back in old Dodge City. Then we had a school deregulation bill, which as drafted would have sent our schools back into the academic dark ages. Two or three anti-science education bills would have substituted religious dogma for the teaching of science in schools.
Legislators have made their usual attempt to undermine the interests of their constituents with one-sided workers’ comp and tort “reform” proposals. Fair proposals might fly. They have pursued their animosity toward their nemesis (lawyers) with other measures thought to be unconstitutional.
The presiding officer of the senate, himself an apparent offender of tax law, introduced a bill which would take away the retirement benefits of other state officials or employees found with legal violations. A righteous crusade, no doubt.
Legislative proposals which will duplicate functions of the department of education and politicize the medical examiners’ office have been pushed, carrying out political vendettas by creating unneeded changes. Time has been wasted on an unnecessary state-issued photo ID requirement for voting, seeking to disenfranchise elderly, poor, and minority voters who lean democratic. This is a party agenda item.
There was that red herring of a harsh, likely unconstitutional “English only” bill contesting with a more reasonable bill, and with some moderation now headed for an unnecessary, distracting, “show” vote of the people.
Then there is the matter of the bill authorizing the placing of a monument on Capitol grounds displaying the Ten Commandments, leading us to wonder if we will have Capitol grounds over-run with such. A resolution addressing Congress admonishing that body as not staying within their constitutional authority and calling for rejection of federal funds, vetoed by the Governor, has taken unnecessary time for futility. Both appeal to a right-wing base, of course.
There has been the push for sending inmates to private prisons. The idea seems to be to warehouse them there for the private profit of political friends, although they will be getting few of the services needed to prevent recidivism.
As usual, we have a crazy tax cutting measure that would reduce state income tax rates by 20%. This was in the face of a budget shortfall of $900 million, of which $700 million was due to the fiscal foolishness of past tax-cutting the last three years. Only the new, “dreaded,” “abominable” federal stimulus money coming to the state will save us from utter disaster in education, some social services, and roads.
There was the usual measure seeking to restrict access to medical abortion. This time it required that doctors and clinics report all abortions performed for a master “scarlet list” record at the capital. Intimidation of women seems an appropriate description. Maybe all this pleased the religious right constituency.
One of the more offensive pieces of legislation introduced and passed has been the one criminalizing those doctors and other researchers at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, other private institutes, and our universities for their work for human cures using medical waste in the form of embryonic stem cells. Fortunately, this was vetoed by the Governor.
Such a measure places Oklahoma in the intellectual backwater of civilized society. As one friend said, “This confirms the common stereotype of “dumb Okie” that is held in some quarters around the country.” Criminalizing science reeks of the superstitious religious zealotry of the dark ages in history prohibiting study of a real human body.
Could it be that these “village idiots” are only faking it? Are they just playing the role that their financial supporters, right wing, and single-issue voters sent them to do? That is always a possibility. If so, then they are the most despicable of elected officials, hypocrites playing politics with the welfare of the state and its people – the present day equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns.
Either way, the circumstance of this legislature does not speak well for those Oklahoma voters who sent them there.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, April 20, 2009
AWASH IN A SEA OF IDIOCY
In Texas we have people waving the American flag and yelling, “Secede,” all the while being encouraged by Governor Perry with a rousing speech on the imagined persecution from the federal government. These are probably some of the same people who criticized candidate Obama for forgetting his flag lapel pin.
The same people who waved the flag when the republican president, Mr. Bush, sent off our troops and blew our fortune on an unnecessary war are now criticizing Mr. Obama for trying to save the country by spending money on our own neglected public infrastructure improvements they have neglected to finance at the state level.
The signs carried by protesters at the tax day rallies varied to include numerous complaints. Some were against taxes, some against bailouts, some about spending, some about guns, some about socialism, a few against the Federal Reserve system, and even social security, Medicare, and Medicaid caught a share. “Conspiracy theory” ideas abounded.
The historic slogan, “taxation without representation,” was displayed prominently by uninformed and ignorant protesters, who didn’t seem to realize the error and misapplication.
Some people in Alaska were hostile about federal taxes and expenditures along Palin’s prevaricating style of, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Yet Alaska receives $1.83 for every dollar in federal taxes paid.
These protesters were mostly ordinary looking people, who probably do not make $250,000 or more per year. Therefore, they were likely among the 95% of taxpayers whose taxes are actually being lowered under the Obama plan. Those few who are making over $250,000 will pay the same rate as under the Clinton presidency, and considerably less than under the republican Reagan regime.
Many of those protesting the government as becoming socialistic probably have relatives on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Some have probably drawn unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits. All depend on the FDA to regulate their drugs. They rely on the government to protect their peanut butter from salmonella and their lettuce from e-coli. There is a myriad of government services upon which all of us must rely.
Not all anti-government groups are alike. Some have one concern and some another. One component group is the white supremacist movement. A related group is the militia movement. Some of these extremist groups recruit from veterans. Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols were associates of such groups.
The accumulating national debt worries all of us. That is a legitimate concern. Of course, we should have thought of that earlier when we let the Bush regime lower taxes and go off to fight wars with “off the budget” appropriations. We should have thought of that when we were deregulating the banking and finance industries that brought on this mess. Those deregulators told us that big government was the problem.
It is likely true that as soon as our economy is functioning well, we will need to raise some taxes to reduce deficits and debt. Economists agree that now is not the time.
The thing that bothers us most about the recent round of media promoted protests is that it continues the program of disinformation carried out by the right wing political sector. More and more people are being turned to the mind-set of hating their own government, particularly the federal government. This rhetorical anti-government campaign qualifies for the dictionary definition for sedition, and may be considered by some as more than subtle suborning of treason.
Our democratic constitution gives us the right of free speech and a free press. None of us would dare suggest that be changed. But one might suggest that these rights not be used to undermine the democratic government that it undergirds. With those rights comes an obligation to be factually correct, and to be restrained about inciting a rebellion against the government.
It is okay to disagree with our new president’s proposals, but it would be fair to give him a chance if these are based upon sound, scientific thinking. But the open encouragement of an anti-government ideology, as is occurring, can only lead eventually to violence.
Unfortunately the same freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, if used irresponsibly, give us the rights and processes to destroy our own democratic government.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I did not fully understand at that time what was wrong with the idea.
This effort has intensified the last few years, especially since republicans have been in control of any part of the legislature. Representative Terrill has been sponsoring all the tough, harsh legislation against immigrants, and he seems to take great delight in the spotlight of controversy he creates.
He appears to thoroughly enjoy appearing in front of the TV cameras, except when he has to defend his failure to pay his taxes – to the point of having a tax lien filed against him in court. But then, again, we are not sure that he doesn’t like that as well. There is an old saying among politicians, “It doesn’t matter what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”
There is another bill sponsored by Senator Anderson from Enid, a much more reasonable republican senator, and it refers to English as the common language. It makes English the common language for conducting state business. But there are exceptions for instances where state or federal laws require otherwise, thus eliminating one basis for challenging the constitutionality of such legislation.
Further, the Anderson bill is supported by groups affected – Indian tribes and Hispanics, primarily. They see the Terrill bill as unduly harsh and discriminatory, and they believe it to be a hostile attack on non-traditional citizens. They will contest it legally.
It should be easy to discern which of these bills deserves support. Terrill’s bill is extreme, and he knows that. Facing a gubernatorial veto, he now wants to hold up the Anderson bill, pass his bill first as a referendum, and force the issue to a public ballot at a future election.
Terrill appears to be counting on the gullibility of Oklahoma voters for right wing ideas and propaganda. However, his bill is opposed by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, and there will likely be big advertising money spent against it as well as for it.
Either way Terrill’s bill is taking up unnecessary legislative time, when there is other important business requiring attention of that body.
It seems that every controlling party has its legislator kooks, whether in the democratic or this republican era. The republican kooks may be a little easier to spot. Like Terrill, they sponsor off-the-wall legislation on immigration or maybe gun-toting on college campuses. Like Brogden, they may espouse ideas like turning down the federal stimulus money that is already at work fixing bridges and doing things we have been neglecting because of their state tax cutting.
The ruling republican party would be well advised to control its kooks. These nutty people give their party a bad name. Since they are now the party in power, they are the ones who must act responsibly if they are to govern in a reasonable, restrained, and successful manner.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Friday, April 10, 2009
INCITING HOMELAND TERRORISTS
Of all people, we in Oklahoma should know the truth about the existence of homegrown terrorists. We have experienced the awful results of distorted minds of the likes of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, whatever their intentions may have been.
Such minds do not develop in a vacuum. Their twisted view of their world did not come about without stimulation. Such are developed when strange and bizarre ideas fall upon fertile territory. Sometimes these ideas may not even seem bizarre to those doing the talking that conveys them.
Does Rush Limbaugh really mean to incite actions when he says he wants Mr. Obama to fail, and when he makes inflammatory allegations? Do those who claim that Mr. Obama is a foreign Muslim conspirator, and enemy of our way of life, really mean to incite hate? Do those who say that Mr. Obama is a socialist, and that he is leading this country toward a communist dictatorship really mean to encourage violent acts?
There are those who provocatively claim that Mr. Obama is a “baby killer,” because he believes in a woman’s right to control her own body without government interference. Some are stocking up on guns now because they believe when told that Mr. Obama is going to abolish their second amendment rights. They think they might have to use the guns against confiscation efforts. The recent killer of three policemen in Pittsburg was such a case.
There are now calls from the right to “prepare” for a “revolution” if our government continues its fiscal ways, interference with capitalism, and raising taxes on the wealthy. “Taxation without representation,” they say, trying to justify themselves. Talk show hosts use such terms. Even a republican congresswoman from Minnesota is openly talking of a revolution in her public speeches.
Do they really mean these incendiary words? Well, they are handing out tea bags now symbolizing rebellion against taxation. Let us hope such free speech remains symbolic.
Let us recall from history that an anarchist killed President McKinley. A Confederate sympathizer conspired to kill President Lincoln, expecting to be a hero. Garfield was shot by a deranged, disappointed office seeker. Oswald’s motives are an enigma. He was a disappointed socialist, rejected in Russia. Hostile, full-page, right wing ads in the Dallas papers at the time of Kennedy’s visit may have been a trigger. There is still uncertainty about conspirators. Do we dare tamper with such volatile minds?
Our history is replete with attempted assassinations of our presidents by deranged persons with peculiar ideas and “good” intentions. Unstable minds and personalities are fertile ground for divergent associates and leaders, extremist writings, and extremists in the media.
While some of us may fear for the President’s safety and security, and others fear disruption in our nation’s democratic processes, we must realize that threats are hatched around and amongst us. McVeigh had connections with right wing militias and tax protesters.
The administrative excesses, assumption of powers, and trampling of constitutional rights by the last administration, fostered the concerns of many.
As Americans were plunged into the despair in the depths of the Great Depression, there were various movements of a serious nature advocating revolution. Certain of these were fascist in character, reflective or even connected to happenings in Germany and Italy. Others were socialistic or even communistic, with ideational ties to the reds of Russia.
There were soup lines in cities, Hoovervilles populated by depression refugees, as per Woody Guthrie, and armed dispersal of veterans from their place on the Washington mall requesting redress on promised bonuses from their government. Striking union workers were clubbed in the streets by the local police under company orders, as well as beaten by hired goons.
Indeed, large segments of American citizens were poised to be led off into revolution until Mr. Roosevelt took office and offered them hope within their system of government. Mr. Roosevelt averted potential revolutions.
This history suggests that we must not take lightly the intense hostility felt across America toward the bankers and financial speculators whom people see taking their jobs away, stealing their savings, and pirating their retirement accounts. The recent destructive rampages in London by protesters and anarchists is revealing of a wide hostility toward such capitalists and their political representatives. Gasoline at $4 a gallon, along with obscene profits, provoked anger at big oil. Somebody should be listening.
We must be cautious about the shrillness of our rhetoric as we debate our differences. We must be careful about the words we use. Certainly there are those out there at both poles who are susceptible to suggestion. There may be those who will take up what they are led to see as a “noble” cause, and act out the rhetoric they hear. Catastrophic events then follow.
We have some advice for our media hyperbole revolutionaries: Put a lid on it!
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Friday, April 03, 2009
If one goes to the fitness center, sure enough somebody has turned to Fox News, and then hidden the remote control. If one is in the hospital waiting room, there’s Fox News. When one goes to the doctor, there again one must not only endure waiting while ill but also be tormented by Fox News. Restaurants may at least mix sports in with Fox.
The Militant Moderate has begun telling proprietors that he is offended by Fox News. One would do that if their locked channel featured naked people chasing around cursing. Why not be offended by trash delivered in the name of news?
Indeed such malfeasance in the journalism profession should be offensive to all intelligent, sensitive people. To have such television trash forced upon us at every beck and turn begins to make some of us cross and irritable. One might guess that about one-third of the people in our town are repeatedly irritated by having Fox thrust on them while captive in public rooms.
No self respecting newspaper journalist would ever practice the obvious slanting of the news as is practiced at Fox. Editorial pages are the place for opinion as such, and we are pleased that our newspapers respect this difference.
Perhaps it would not be so bad if Mr. Murdock and his crowd just openly announced at least once in every program that their coverage is slanted to the conservative right, that all reports will be from that perspective, and that all staff are hired to represent conservative right views. At least that would be honest.
Their old slogan was: “Fair and balanced.” Do they take us all for a bunch of dummies? Don’t answer that. It is obvious that they do.
What about the other news networks?
During the evening hours MSNBC makes it pretty clear that they are coming at the day’s events from the left. They say so. They use that dreaded word “liberal” in describing themselves. That is honesty. No slogans there about being fair and balanced.
The major network news programs, NBC, CBS, and ABC make a special effort to be either impartial or balanced. This is obvious to the discerning viewer. They will alternate putting political parties in a positive light. They seldom report negatives about only one party, unless it is just driven that way by the day’s news.
CNN is a deliberately balanced news network by policy and practice. They try so hard to be balanced that they have air time for loud-mouth bullies from the right appearing regularly in their line-up of political pundits. They do so even when these people distract from the news event or message itself. That can be annoying. But at least it is fair and balanced.
CNBC is heavily business oriented in its coverage. That is fine, as long as they stay with business and not politics. Of late, that network has regularly featured business commentators attacking the government and attacking President Obama’s economic policies and programs. It clearly comes forth from a big business, conservative bias. This is offensive. Such a network’s presentations are not to be trusted.
The re-imposition of the old “fairness doctrine” seems to be a nightmare for those broadcasting folk. One can understand why. What would the radio business do without Limbaugh and all their right wing talk shows? What if they really had to honor fairness on an equal time basis as was once the case?
We hear a lot about “the liberal media.” Does that really make sense? The owners are big business and the program sponsors are big business. There is no logic to that allegation.
A requirement for good, clean, fair operations might well drive Clear Channel and some of these radio talk shows out of business. Too bad? No. Good riddance!
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate