Friday, October 29, 2010
THE DUMB HAD BETTER BE TOUGH
Although this was not intended to be a political cartoon, and the hunter was not really supposed to be representative of the unruly tea party crowd, it was so much on target that one could not help forging an analogy.
In particular, that hunter who thinks he has a trophy worth photographing so represents this year’s crop of ignorant voters who are so confident that they have a winning strategy and winning candidates everywhere. These candidates, supposedly representative of the regular guy, even if backed by corporate and billionaire money, are supposed to “take our government back” for those tea party folk. And, they have some of the craziest, screwball, nut cases for candidates one could imagine.
In any other year these candidate heroes, as well as those parading celebrities of the tea party, would simply be laughed out of town. But not this year. We wonder why?
Probably Mr. Obama’s biggest problem with many of those folk is that he is black. A second problem is that he is a democrat. Third, he is progressive and he wants to change the way the country has been run to benefit business, banks, and corporations, and make it more responsive to the people. All these combine to incite big money from the business types who have had free rein in the country for the last eight years, and entirely too much influence for the last fifty years.
With the sinking of the economy and job market, in spite of valiant efforts of the president and his party to save these, there has been enough general dissatisfaction to make a large segment of the public vulnerable to seductive slogans vilifying the president and tolerant of vicious words pillorying him and his good efforts. There was a right wing fringe rabble ready to take advantage of those feeling the economic pinch, but who have failed to reason well about the cause.
All this right wing rabble needed was a few good slogans, the financing from a few billionaires, and the coordinative work of some political pros from the republican party to bring this “grass-roots” movement into the limelight. Aided by the right wing radio talk shows and Fox News channel the group had much more publicity than it deserved. Mainstream media always apishly pick up on anything that is different and attracts attention in some controversial way.
So, there we have it. The rabble turns into a faux populist movement and the ignorant and the gullible jump onto the bandwagon.
Some of us recall the movements of the sixties and the seventies of the last century. “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” was the cry. Obviously, that excluded anyone with any experience at all with anything.
The cry of this movement has been, “Don’t trust any career politician!” Don’t trust intellectuals!” Those include people with college degrees, in research and analysis, or with expertise of accumulated knowledge in various areas of endeavor. “Don’t trust the elite!” “Put the man-on-the-street in charge!” “It’s time they listened to us, we’ll tell them!” “I’m just like you, vote for me!”
And, sure enough, we have a bunch of candidates wearing the republican label who just fell out of the political tree and onto the turnip wagon. Some of these are as nutty as fruitcakes, and know just about as much about governing as George Bush’s White House mutt. These people, along with the entourage of negative republicans who just can’t say “Yes,” possibly may make up a ruling and obstructive coalition of congresspersons and senators in the new Congress.
What a fiasco that would be!
This writer once had a philosophy professor at O.S.U. who boldly declared, “I am not a believer that from pooled ignorance springs forth knowledge.” Neither am I, Professor Scherich.
The voters would do well to look for the brightest, best educated, most knowledgeable, and most experienced candidates among us who believe in government for the people versus government for special interests and corporations, and who are best qualified to lead good government for this nation.
We should not be looking for candidates whose crowd of supporters carry the American flag upside down, who put racial slurs on their signs, who speak of “second-amendment solutions” against our democratically elected government, who dredge up and misapply evil names like “Nazi” or “Hitler,” who vow to wreck our security systems and safety nets, and who don’t know a government run health program (Medicare) from health insurance company regulation (recent health bill).
If you vote to put ignorance in charge and cast out knowledge and experience, then beware of the consequences. Let the corporations and the billionaires buy this election with paid propaganda and you pervert your vote.
But if you are going to be dumb, you had better be tough. And, so had we all.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, October 25, 2010
DON'T GO TO THE MINES
Oklahoma’s historical experience with mining disasters, while replete with a few miraculous escapes and a couple of instances of heroic rescues, has not been nearly so positive. We have had terrible tragedies. Witness the once-popular ballad of the plaintive coal miner’s daughter, the lyrics of which are shown as follows:
MINER’S CHILD’S DREAM
A miner was leaving his home for his work
When he heard his little child scream;
He ran to the side of the little girl’s bed
She said, “Daddy, I have had such a dream.”
Chorus: “Oh, Daddy, don’t go to the mines today,
For dreams have so often come true.
Oh Daddy, oh Daddy, please don’t go away,
For I never could live without you.”
I dreamed that the mine was all covered with fire,
The men all fought for their lives;
Then the scene changed, and the mouth of the mine
Was covered with sweethearts and wives.
The miner was stroking his little girl’s face,
And was turning away from her side,
When she threw her small arms around her daddy’s neck,
She gave him a kiss and she cried ….. (chorus)
“Go down to the village and tell your dear friends
That as sure as the bright stars do shine,
There is something that’s going to happen today;
Oh, Daddy, don’t go to the mine.” ….. (chorus)
Thought by some to have been written in commemoration of the Wilburton mine explosion in 1926, the year of this writer’s birth, this tune is actually a folk song adapted from Victorian England. It was sung to him often as a child by his mother, usually producing tears. After a time in the midst of the rural coal fields of western Arkansas, the site of that horrible tragedy would ultimately become his own hometown in early 1939. Perhaps the worst of Oklahoma coal mine disasters, the Wilburton explosion entombed 105 men forever in the bowels of the earth.
It may be surprising to some that in eastern Oklahoma, formerly the Indian Territory, there have been some 500 men lost in coal mine disasters. It is no surprise to our friend and former governor, George Nigh, who grew up in McAlester, taught history there, and represented that area in the Oklahoma legislature. He tells me of his surprise at encountering in an unexpected place a picture of his own mother serving meals to distressed miner families. Neither have any of these incidents escaped the attention of our friend and celebrated Oklahoma journalist, Frosty Troy, also of McAlester.
Explosions around McAlester include: 2 killed in 1905; 30 lost in 1908; and 30 killed in 1930. Nearby in Krebs 100 were killed or entombed in 1892 when a mine exploded with 400 miners working underground, a rival for the worst such disaster. Close by in Alderson 12 died in 1919, and 10 at Dow in 1902. In 1908 Haileyville lost 29 miners, with newspapers noting that some were “foreigners.”
Wilburton had lost 13 miners earlier in 1905, and a nearby Lutie mine lost 13 killed and 17 trapped in 1930. In all, 17 coal mine accidents have been documented for the eastern Oklahoma fields. Numbers cited here are mostly from contemporaneous newspapers, hence may not be official or final.
While these are mere statistics to most, they are family lore to others. Before I was born, my father spent short stints in the Arkansas coal fields and at Picher, Oklahoma. My father-in-law spent time in the mines. I attended school with miner’s children, and spent time in their homes. We played with carbide miners’ cap lights. We saw fathers come home with blackened bodies and dark, gritty overalls. It was always easy to recognize a miner, even on Sunday.
A few schoolmates were orphans from mining accidents, and some had relatives killed or injured. A number of my classmates were the sons and daughters of immigrants who came there to work in the coal mines. Most were Italian, but there were some from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Germany, Slavic region, or elsewhere.
In the thirties it seemed that there were three main causes of disabled and maimed men – World War I, farming accidents, and mining injuries. When miners worked free of injury, there might later be “black lung” – not properly recognized or understood. Of course, there was neither workers compensation nor Social Security disability provisions in those times. Men and their families had to live with the personal consequences of their work injuries. Survival was made even more difficult by the dark times of the Great Depression.
No one rejoices more at the good fortune of those who escape from traps in the dark depths of the mines of doom than do those who grew up in communities in a culture shared with mining and its concomitants.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Friday, October 15, 2010
STATE BALLOT QUANDARIES
744 Requires OK to spend per pupil average of surrounding states
This is a highly significant issue, and the television has been full of advertising. It poses conflicts for most supporters of public education, particularly those in higher education. Since it carries no added tax to pay, it would force a “no-tax” legislature to take funds away from higher education and other state functions. The consequences could be devastating. It is opposed by leaders in both parties and higher education. It has stirred bitter attack ads from anti-tax groups.
746 Requires voter government-issued photo ID
It is supposedly intended to prevent voter fraud. Since that has not been much of a problem, it is seen as an unnecessary hassle increasing voter time and lines and costing money. Some believe it is aimed politically at immigrants or poor people, and it adversely affects older or disabled people who might not have a driver’s license.
747 Sets term limits on all state elective offices
These would be 8 years for all elective offices except Corporation Commissioner, which would be 12. This is based upon faulty reasoning that experience is somehow a deterrent to performance. The legislature and the state suffer now from that false premise.
748 Legislative Redistricting
The governor, the pro-tem, and the speaker appoint 8 democrats and 8 republicans and the Lt. Governor chairs the Commission. New provisions add to the power of legislative leaders.
750 Lowers petition signatures required
This would make it easier for various interest groups to get measures on the election ballot for a vote. It allows special interests to go around the legislature and load ballots with “hot” issues or fiscal items, some difficult for the public to understand. It would make for abuse of the initiative process, as has been seen in California. This list of state questions demonstrates similar abuse of the referendum process by the legislature.
751 English language in “official actions” of the state
This has been debated in the legislature for decades. The fact that it is being pushed by legislators with less than friendly records in immigrant affairs makes it suspicious. There are exceptions for Indian tribes and federal requirements. This is offensive to the feelings of the Hispanic minority, and it is difficult to point out good reasons either for or against it.
752 Workers’ Comp Court Judges
The Governor will now appoint from a list provided by the (changed) Judicial Nominations Commission, and confirmation by the Senate is now required. Places controls on appointments, and makes them subject to legislative blocking. “Reform,” restraining adjudication of worker injuries, has long been an issue for republicans and their employer supporters, and this would put them into control of that judicial system if they dominate the legislature. Workers oppose this as biased and unfair to their injured people.
754 Anti-744 Amendment
This language negates any use of averages, practices or processes of other governments or entities in determining appropriations of the legislature of the State of OK. It overturns the requirements of any other amendments passed simultaneously or in the future which would make such requirements. This is an effort to void #744, if that passes, and to prohibit all future amendments of like nature. This seems unwise and bad over-kill policy.
755 State courts limited from applying Sharia or international law
This prohibits state courts from referencing international law or Sharia (Muslim) law in deciding cases, as if any had done so. This question was sponsored by the usual and customary radical suspects in the legislature. This appears to be a vote looking for a relevant issue and finding none – a case of shameful referendum abuse.
756 Nullifying federal health care law
In 2014 citizens who can afford health insurance, but do not have it, will be required to purchase health insurance (thus removed from taxpayer dole). There is a fine if they fail to do so. Sponsored by the usual and customary radical suspects, this amendment is a vain attempt to nullify federal law with a state constitutional amendment. (harkening back to start of the Civil War). The “commerce” provision of the U.S. Constitution has been consistently court-construed to cover all such federal requirements. Should some future Supreme Court declare otherwise, they would put such federal laws as Civil Rights and the Disabilities Act, among others, into question. Not likely. This is futile political ballot referendum abuse.
757 Increasing Rainy Day fund
Because of the immense shortages in funds from one fiscal year to another, the legislature is requesting the Rainy Day amendment be altered to allow up to 15% (now 10%) of the previous year’s budget to be deposited into the rainy day. Current state income problems make this irrelevant for a long while. Providing there is no legislative trickery involved (not spending money on hand), this would seem to be a sound long-range fiscal policy change. It would increase that fund by half. It is supported by responsible leaders of both parties.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Saturday, October 09, 2010
CAMPAIGN CONFUSION AND CORRUPTION
One ad tells me that Ms. Fallin went to Washington for a while, but did not like it there. That part I understand. But then the ad goes on to say that she is coming home to run for governor to fight Washington. She now wants to fight the President and the “Washington liberals” by running for governor of Oklahoma.
Now I could be wrong, but wasn’t Congress the place to fight with all those other folk in Washington? She represented Oklahoma there for several terms. Oklahoma has its own problems, and most of them have nothing to do with Washington.
Our major problem in Oklahoma is the lack of sufficient state funds to finance education, higher education, corrections, mental health, children’s support services, homes for the mentally and physically challenged, highways, and other needs. Washington has done more to help us with that problem than anyone else, in spite of our state legislature.
Our fiscal problems have been exacerbated by the tax cuts made recently by republican legislators. Only the democrat-sponsored federal stimulus funds, criticized by republicans, have enabled the state to keep its school house doors open and to fund other needed state services at severely reduced levels. Why then is “Washington” the problem in Oklahoma?
Then there is the matter of the outsider attack ad accusing her democratic opponent of voting against legally allowing everybody in Oklahoma without a criminal record to carry concealed guns. Well, duh, the only ones in favor of that were her party extremists in the legislature. They also had bills to allow anybody on college campuses to carry guns. Remember? What sensible person would not oppose such crazy legislation? Even Wyatt Earp kept Dodge City in better control.
What about the accusation of voting against tax cuts – in the midst of a financial crisis threatening the state with bankruptcy, bond failure, and ruin? Who are the fiscally foolish ones on that issue? Who cuts income with the wolf at the door?
And, her opponent voted against “spending limits,” an ad says. That is not a very specific accusation. There have been a few attempts to “freeze” everything in place, as though whatever is now is right forever, and as though conditions and needs will never change. Bills and referendums like that are foolish, and they have proven disastrous elsewhere.
Then there is the ad saying that the republican candidate is against “government run health care.” But any informed person knows that the new health bill regulates insurance companies, and it tries to provide ways for everyone to buy private insurance from some company. The only “government run” health programs in this country are Medicare, Veterans Administration, and Indian Health Care. Eliminate those? Do we not know the difference?
What about that hated “bailout” measure, sponsored by Bush and passed by democrats over republican opposition, to save the nation from breakdown of its banking system and throwing the economy into panic? It turns out that pay backs have already reduced that $700 billion cost to less than $50 billion. And, it worked.
A lot of money is coming into Oklahoma to finance those attack ads. Billionaires and corporations have been made free to try to buy elections legally by a vote of the five republicans on the Supreme Court. They are taking advantage of that opportunity all over the country.
Money coming into republican political attack groups this year is running past $80 million, compared with $16 million two years ago. Republicans have a 7 to 1 advantage over democrats on money coming into their interest groups. Their political groups are airing attack ads against democrats all over the nation.
These republican political attack groups go by high-sounding names. American Futures has given away $7 million already, all to republicans. American Crossroads, handled by Karl Rove, has handed out $18 million to republican ads and is due to spend $50 million to defeat democrats this next few weeks.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the bastion of big business, is funneling $75 million to defeat democrats, some of it alleged to come illegally from foreign corporations. From the United Arab Emirates has come 450 donations of $8,500 each. Notice any odor about that?
The faux grass roots tea party movement has been sponsored by billionaire money. Enough is traceable to know that is true. They are a “front” for big money and most don’t know it. But tighter efforts are being made by these special interest groups to keep their donors secret. Not in the public interest? Then tell that to the republicans in the Senate who have blocked the bill to make all donor lists public.
This next election may well be in the process of being bought by corporate and billionaire money.
It all depends upon the gullibility of the American voter to their campaign attack war. They are counting on voters being ignorant of the facts, and easily swayed by simple, false arguments repeated over and over. Buying an election means buying a government. Voters beware!
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate