Friday, August 27, 2010
THE UNPOPULAR SIDE
Republicans have often framed elections in just such a fashion. They have managed to have controversial ballot issues appear in the fall elections. Their group has frequently had a petition or referendum dealing with defense of marriage, abortion, or an anti-gay issue. Or, perhaps it is some issue dealing with God in the schools, creationism in the classrooms, posting of the Ten Commandments, flag burning, or something similar that brings out the religious right voters negative to the democratic candidates, who may take the unpopular side of these controversies by principle.
In the upcoming election republicans and their powerful media propaganda machine have managed to take even the accomplishments of the democratic administration and make these controversial to many average voters. They have misconstrued a huge step forward to more affordable health care for all the people, and they have made it seem something sinister. The TARP bailout enacted under Bush by democrats saved the financial system from the brink of disaster, and it has already made billions in profits. But it has been made to appear as a taxpayer giveaway. The banks, mortgage funds, and the car companies are paying the money back.
When the administration pushed through regulation of banks to help consumers, republicans have labeled this as “big government” evil. While demanding tax cuts for the wealthy, republicans have pinned the label of “lazy” and “welfare” on unemployment insurance.
One could defeat such wrongheaded propaganda in a society with a really open and unbiased mass communications system, or with a nation of educated, thoughtful, open-minded people. But, sadly, we have neither.
Calling themselves the Tea Party, there is a large group of ultra conservative republicans who seem to pride themselves upon their ignorance of issues in depth and upon having a straightforward, simple-minded position on nearly everything. Being ignorant or foolish by accident of birth and upbringing is one thing, but being deliberately so is another. These folk have chosen to associate and listen only to those as ignorant or biased as themselves.
There are issues which are now being framed by republicans for the next election. Some of these are simplistic slogans around their concepts such as big government, freedom and patriotism, entitlements and the welfare system, tax cuts, or big spending and the deficit. They are adding to that mix Muslim hating, immigrant hating, and gay baiting.
Democratic candidates will likely find themselves defending gay marriage, the New York Muslim mosque, and “anchor” babies, and illegal immigrants. Some level of mass fervor on these issues is being strategically fomented all around the country. By and large, democrats have been taking “constitutional” positions on these issues. But that may not turn out to be the most popular position by the time the republican media machine does its work, and the fall election rolls around.
Who would have ever thought that it would become unpopular to defend the provisions of the first amendment which guarantees the freedom to worship without government interference? Republican presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich and others have already boldly declared: “No more Muslim mosques.” The New York mosque, and the freedom of religion, will be an issue this fall with many voters.
There is a movement among republican leaders to change the 14th amendment, which brought citizenship to the slaves freed by the Civil War, stating that all born or naturalized in this country are citizens. They are concerned about the so-called “anchor” babies of illegal Mexican immigrants born in this country, and therefore citizens. No doubt some Mexican families have taken advantage of that provision, and they have pled their case to stay in this country based on their child’s citizenship. Many people think this is not quite right, in spite of the Constitution.
Courts have been busy making marriage a fundamental right of freedom under the 14th amendment’s preservation of basic rights (reference Declaration of Independence) under the due process of law. Many democrats may question the far-reaching nature of those decisions, but they have great respect for the Constitution and for the rights of the people. But there is a large segment of the public who will never agree with that interpretation and application of marriage. They will just not buy that definition of marriage rights, and the issue will be used against democrats.
If the fall elections hinge upon issues such as those described, the democrats will have difficulty. They will be taking the less popular positions. These are harder to defend before a public ill prepared to understand legal and ethical nuances and prone to simple slogan thinking on moral questions.
Because the republican positions on all issues tend to be slogan-like and simple, it will be difficult for democrats to put together a big enough block of voters resistant to that siren song of darkly accusative simplicity in republican ads and their media. That will be the democratic challenge.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Saturday, August 21, 2010
WHO IS THE ENEMY?
The republicans have all bravely and with faux patriotism declared that the enemy is our own government. Yes indeed, the enemy is that democratically elected government and president duly elected by the people of the United States. This government does not even have the stain on its legitimacy of having the votes of any state invalidated by a political 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision. It received the popular and the electoral vote.
It all goes back to Ronald Reagan’s stupid remark, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” That has been treasonously morphed into: “Government is the enemy.”
These candidates say that this constitutionally and democratically elected government is their enemy, and the republican candidates have been lining up and running ads claiming that they are going to “fight” that federal government. Not only is this grossly unpatriotic, but as the writer’s distaff side is constantly remarking, “These people are against the government that they are running for a job to join.”
These same folk who want to “fight Washington,” also claim to be super-patriots, and one is constantly flashing a recognition awarded for service as a lawyer in Iraq. He has claims nobody should call him a politician, because he spent a year “fighting for our freedoms” in Iraq. Yet he has been in politics for a decade, and he claims to have saved us all by cutting taxes when he was in office.
Look at the financial mess the state is in now, and measure the success of those republican tax cuts here and in Washington. There is a $1.3 trillion in deficit from federal tax cuts enacted by republicans eight years ago. In Oklahoma, perhaps we ought to phrase those tax cuts in a different way.
Would you vote for a guy who brags about cutting your school’s funding? How about one who votes to cut funds for saving abused children? What about cutting funding leading to the possible closing of a state institution housing mentally retarded, disabled children and adults? What about the legislator who votes to cut funding to your colleges, causing constant increases in college tuition for your son or daughter?
What do you think of a person who accepts charitable gifts, and then goes out and becomes a vicious critic of the giver and wants to fight him? Republicans have done just that.
The so-called “stimulus” funds, which republicans voted against in Washington, have saved the State of Oklahoma from complete financial disaster for two fiscal years (until 2011). Without these funds, we would have fired thousands of teachers, closed down schools, limited enrollments or closed colleges, closed prisons, shut down services to half of those clients of abuse or with mental health needs, put old ladies out of nursing homes on the curbs, and many other dastardly deeds. There would have been little or no highway and bridge program without stimulus funds. Would you vote for the guys who do this?
Yet these candidates who are vowing to go and fight Washington or the president have given no credit to “the enemy” for having saved this state and many others in similar straits. They give no credit for the good that “the enemy” has done over their objections and without their support.
One wonders if the voters will really turn out to be as ignorant as these candidates think. They are counting on just that, of course.
The republicans sent to Washington have done nothing to help solve any problems these past two years. They vote “NO” and obstructed every effort of the other party and the president to do something positive. Does no one ever stop to question: “What kind of awful mess would we be in today if those yahoos had been in charge or had succeeded in having their way?”
The president and the democratic Congress have been busy trying to do something good for the country. It has been difficult. The republicans have fought against every proposal, large or small, for the people of this country to get a break in their struggle against corporate and other special interests. Examine every republican position taken over the past year and a half. Invariably these favor the wealthy and the powerful over the common man.
Is government with an agenda centered on “by the people and for the people” really the “enemy” of the voters? Are we voters just a bunch of dumb driven cattle with no minds of our own? Evidently some think so.
Every time a politician says he wants to go and fight our government, he displays a seditious disloyalty to this nation and its constitution. He should be run out of town.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Saturday, August 14, 2010
THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW ......
Are there too many commercials, especially political ads? Yes? Well, thank the deregulators for that. Back during one of those deregulating administrations the Federal Communications Commission rescinded a rule limiting the number of minutes of commercials per half-hour. They said something like, “Free market competition will control this. People will not watch the station that takes the most in commercial time.”
Like most such pronouncements deregulating business, that market justification was a lot of baloney. It seems that networks have an unwritten code for airing about the same time in commercials, and an uncanny ability to schedule them at the same time – an empowerment somehow enhanced since the advent of the hand-held remote control. (An open agreement, of course, would be a violation in restraint of trade.)
But you are right -- there ought to be a law about that. But just try getting one passed. Notice how hard it is to pass regulation bills lately? Big government is good for consumers, but bad for business.
However, there is another glaring problem with political commercials. Nobody holds these to any standard of truth or fairness, like we are supposed to have legally with other advertising. Shouldn’t somebody have such a responsibility? Politicians seem to be able to say just about anything about anyone or anything, not necessarily their opponent, and get away with it. Should they be able to do that?
We notice that most republicans are running against President Obama to whom they attribute egregious offenses, motives, and outrages as factual. We notice also that they run against “Washington,” or some other vague but dark and evil entity, which is threatening horrible and heinous acts against us. They are able to get away with various lies, misrepresentations, and weird conspiracy theories about Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Reid, and the “liberals” doing harm to our country, even robbing our children. Should they not be required to offer proof or evidence of such allegations? Should they not be limited to that which is factual or validate opinions?
Should there not be some non-partisan group to view and put a stamp of ethical standards on political commercials? Maybe something like the Good Housekeeping Seal or the UL stamp on appliances and electrical stuff?
When nearly 40% of republicans think the president was not born in this country despite clear facts, is that not proof that somebody has been lying to them? There ought to be a law.
Free speech should not really be an enabler for people to lie. At least, not to more than two people at a time – three’s a crowd. Remember?
Should opinion not be separated from facts? Should any offer of opinion validation in ads or by political pundits not be disclosed with some sort of disclosure as to who supports that organization and what the organization’s political orientation has been? For instance, when one refers to the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, the Club for Growth, or the Public Expenditures Council in Oklahoma, should one not have to disclose who the major donors or class of donors are that support the bias of these groups? Should they not all be labeled as “republican think tanks supported by business and corporate interests?”
Removal of limits from political donations by the republican court will bring new money, big money, into play this election. There will now be all kinds of political groups with high-sounding names. There ought to be a law requiring disclosure of supporters. Oops! There would have been a law, but republicans blocked it in the Senate with a filibuster.
Should pseudo news channels like Fox even be allowed on the air? If so, should they be allowed to use the term “news” to represent what they do? Should they not be prosecuted for ever having used the slogan, “fair and balanced,” for their network? If allowed to broadcast should they not have to register a disclaimer, at least every 15 minutes, reminding viewers that this is not a news program but a presentation of the network owner, staff, and advertiser bias? Should there not be a law requiring them to tell the truth? Okay, so this law would force Limbaugh off the air. Great!
We see and hear political pundits representing differing points of view on various networks, and this is all well and good. But should these pundits not be confined to telling the truth? We have seen some of them sit there and tell bald-faced lies, totally in conflict with known truth. Whoever may be trying to debate a liar is at something of a disadvantage. Why should we allow pundits to deliberately state untruths? Should there not be a law?
Well, okay, so we now agree there ought to be some “truth laws” out there. All we have now are libel and defamation, and that is limited civil protection for private individuals, not criminal. But if we had “truth laws,” just how could they be enforced? How about a government commission? Yes, the FCC could do more, but any political board is going to have bias problems.
We need a kind of non-partisan truth commission which operates something like Snopes.com on the internet, but which is empowered to demand facts and commandeer time on any offending medium to give its findings of verity and force corrections of improper verbalizations made on that network. Such a law would make networks more responsible for self regulation of content they send out to the public.
The public has a right to know the truth. There really ought to be a law.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, August 08, 2010
MUSLIM SHRINE A BAD IDEA
Despite the fact that he has always been a strong respecter of constitutional principles of law, this writer will admit to being one of those who is bothered by these plans to build a 10-story mosque, museum, and cultural center for Muslims at this particular place. He must be counted among the conservatives who think that this is a bad idea.
However, one would like to think that his motivation is different than most of those who are loudly protesting this shrine. Certainly this writer does not agree with the defamatory language of their protestations, nor with the hostile, bigoted slogans on their signs. In fact, one tends to feel very uncomfortable being on the same side with such zealots or with the usual members of a tea party type crowd. It is quite embarrassing to find oneself amidst a group of haters of any sort, whether it be Muslim-haters or Obama-haters.
But the premise taken here is quite different, even if it be just by nuance. We are saying that building such a Muslim shrine at that location is a bad idea – it is unwise. It is provocative of the very reactions which it is receiving. It is evocative of emotions and high negative tensions toward all Muslims. It has all the appearance of an “in your face” gesture on the part of its Muslim organizers, and that tends to be generalized by the public toward all Muslims. People have good reason to wonder from whence and why will come the millions to finance this construction
Indeed, it is a bad idea. However, it is legal. It could be argued that it would indeed NOT have been a constitutional error to have had restrictions on new buildings within a certain zone -- such as a five block circle of 9/11 ground zero. Building codes exist everywhere. But that particular board in New York City, being politically correct and overly sensitive to racial and religious issues, wrongly approved the structure. Again, that may prove to have been a very unwise action.
So, the Muslim shrine there is legal. But it is still a bad idea for Muslims to push. One would think that any Muslim leaders involved would be sensitive to the mood and feelings of the people of New York City, the relatives of the victims of 9/11, and the mood of the nation in general. One would think that if these leaders are insensitive to feelings, then other Muslim leaders should have counseled them.
This writer has had association and relationships with Muslims in various ways. He has found most of these contacts quite congenial, with a few exceptions as could be said for all groupings. Most Muslim students attending the college where he presided tended to be polite and cooperative. Their squabbles were mostly with one another, rather than with American students.
We had the honor of a campus visit at our small college, arranged through our State Department, from two of Egyptian cabinet secretaries. One spent time in this writer’s home visiting, even interacting with his Baptist adult class. A half-dozen educational dignitaries from Jordan spent three weeks each as campus guests learning our ways. When they brought the need to our attention, we arranged a private room at our gym so they could say their prayers as the proper hour came while attending a basketball game. We tried to be sensitive to their needs, and they were highly appreciative and very friendly.
For almost ten years we lived as neighbors with a Muslim family. Nowhere would one find nicer people. The children were mannerly, and the adults were always friendly. Interestingly enough, at Christmas time the lady of the house always brought her neighbors a lovely tray of traditional Egyptian goodies. These were among the most sensitive, polite, pleasant people on earth.
We just cannot see our friendly Muslim neighbors being party to any action or project as insensitive as putting that Muslim cultural center near the site of a tragedy killing thousands of people perpetrated by misguided criminal fanatics from the Muslim world. This would simply not be the nature of our former neighbors at all.
The conclusion of this writer is that no sensitive Muslim would be supportive of building the New York shrine. Therefore, those who are promoting this indecency are expressing an unwelcome callousness toward Americans’ feelings about the incident of a decade ago. At its best, this is an unfriendly, insensitive act of rudeness and irresponsibility.
This movement should be corrected from within the Muslim community itself.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, August 02, 2010
THE CLINTON WEDDING
Well, so young Chelsea does seem something of a princess to some of us who have admired and supported what the Clinton family has done for this nation over a period of years. A part of the “ruling class” they are, but Bill Clinton will always remain one of the people. He is made after the pattern of Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. He will always be of the people and for the people.
Like some others, we may have raised the question: “For heaven’s sake, why did the Clintons not plan a simple wedding?” Then it occurred to us that in actuality they did plan a fairly simple one. No, they did not have a home wedding with only a dozen family guests, but for a “celebrity affair” the wedding was planned to be fairly modes considering what was a politely necessary large guest list.
The Clintons did not plan a media circus. They planned something as quiet and secluded as one might practically expect. But immediately the affair was pounced upon by an ever intrusive media being consistently hounded by an insatiable public desire for news about everything surrounding the wedding.
To be fair there were actually very few “celebrity” types attending. Spying media were only able to pick up a half dozen, none currently in the “hot” category. If Oprah were there, nobody had her picture at this writing. There were indeed a few former political figures present, and nobody really knows whether there were former donors attending – even though that allegation has been made by critics.
In fact, there are a lot of critics of the wedding. It was too costly, too political, just an opportunity for publicity, another chance for the limelight, and all such statements were voiced. Some thought Chelsea was being exploited by the elder Clintons for political reasons. To all such critics, we say simply: “Hogwash!”
President Clinton is and was a brilliant man, a Rhodes Scholar attuned and dedicated to public service throughout his lifetime. Only after the presidency has he accepted any work for personal gain, and even then most of his activities have been on the part of the Clinton Foundation’s service for the poor around the world. He has had a prominent role in relief work for the tsunami in Malaysia and the earthquake in Haiti. No former president, other than Jimmy Carter, can boast of so much public service involvement.
Bill Clinton would be ranked by any objective source as one of most intelligent presidents of the last hundred years. Numbered among that group would also be such intellectually outstanding men as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Barrack Obama.
As president Clinton enjoyed the comparison between himself and the idol of his youth, the late John F. Kennedy. Kennedy’s years became known as those in which there was a revival of culture, art, music, literature, and intellectual and artistic pursuits in America. For one brief moment there was again the shining city on the hill which was Camelot.
Guests and programs in the White House once again reflected traditional arts and the modern movements of the day, as in the days of the Kennedys. Government programs enhancing the arts, sciences, and such activities as educational public television were promoted during both administrations.
Entirely too much was made of the Clinton peccadilloes, both factual and fictional. Wealthy men paid thousands of dollars for aspiring “journalists” to pursue National Enquirer type stories about Bill Clinton from his Arkansas years. Witnesses were bribed and books written full of untruths. A business misadventure was made the subject of a two-term legal inquiry full of leaks and falsehoods, only to be finally dismissed as lacking evidence at the end.
An allegation made by a former government worker in Arkansas was eventually turned into a legal circus, through the sponsorship of a rich Clinton-hater and the willing cooperation of political prosecutors. The one apparently real peccadillo became the focus of an ever-expanding legal crusade of harassment by a politically motivated prosecutor into the private lives of the Clintons that endured through all his term, causing the family and the nation much embarrassment.
Both raucous comedians and the right wing media have continued to focus on the mostly unproven negatives about Bill Clinton, his presidency, and his entire family.
There were many Clinton-haters during his years in the White House, although he presided over a period of unbridled prosperity for the rich and the middle class and left the government in the rare circumstance of running a surplus and paying off debt.
There are also those who revel in the presidencies of only average men who have made bad decisions, followed bad policies, and run the country deeply into debt for wars ($1+ trillion) and with tax cuts for the wealthy ($2 trillion). Even that paragon of virtue for republicans, Ronald Reagan, drove up the national debt more than any president before him since World War II. He did that with tax cuts for the wealthy.
Although constantly harassed by his enemies, Bill Clinton managed a presidency which excelled in comparison with others. He is a man of the people. Let’s allow him to revel in that role.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate