Posts Tagged ‘Government’

h1

The Death of Senate Bill 987

December 23, 2010

In May of 2009, Illinois Senator Dick Durban introduced bill 987 to the Senate[i].  As bills go, it is relatively small, only ten pages, with an estimated cost of $108 million over the next five years.  While $108 million is nothing to scoff at, the all too common bills in the billion and trillion ranges dwarf it.  From its heft in paper and its cost, the bill is unremarkable.

What makes S-987 special is the contents of its mere ten pages.  The title alone illustrates its importance – “The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010.”  While it is an awkward name, it simply defines what constitutes child marriage, states the United States is against the practice, requires the collecting a reporting on statistics regarding it, and requires the President to develop a policy in dealing with the international problems of child marriage and to discourage it.

Who could be against such a bill?  In fact, it is one of the rare, extremely rare, bills to receive unanimous support in the Senate.  Forty-two senators went so far as to co-sponsor the bill[ii].  Its passage in the house seemed a sure thing.  That is until Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 18th District set her sights on its defeat.  In other words, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is against such a bill.

An article by Josh Rogin in the Cable cites a letter Rep. Ros-Lehtinen circulated to her Republican colleagues urging them to vote against the bill based on cost[iii], something that every representative, not just the Republican ones, should take into consideration.  After all, with our current fiscal mess, can we afford $21.6 million a year, for the next five years, to prevent children married off before they are old enough to decide for themselves?  Every single senator thought so.  Even a majority of representatives agreed we could afford it.  Given that, it is truly remarkable the bill did not pass the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi set the stage for defeat when she brought the bill to the House floor under a procedural maneuver known as “suspension of the rules.”  It basically prevents amendments to a particular bill but requires a 2/3 majority to pass.  It is normally used for issues like naming of a post office or federal building.  In the case of S-987, its use proved fatal.

Having lost her argument of cost, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen employed the sure-fire method of whipping up the GOP base, she claimed it will use federal money to pay for abortions; something the bill, prevented by law[iv], cannot do.  To put is another way, she lied.  The net effect of the lie was energizing the Pro-life right-wing of the Republican Party against supporting the bill.  They had enough votes to undermine the 2/3 majority required and effectively killed the bill.

A large portion of the blame for the bill’s defeat belongs to Speaker Pelosi.  Had she not played parliamentary tricks with the bill and allowed normal debate, the most likely outcome would have been the bill becoming law.  While there can be no excuse for Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s lie, we can at least understand she resorted to it having been denied her say in the matter.

That last part is the real point.  We send people to Washington to do our bidding.  When the use of trickery and procedural posturing deny a member their say, a member will use trickery of their own in response.  That is the sad state of affairs in the U.S. Congress.  Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s concerns needed exploration.  Given the number of fiscally conservative senators sponsoring the bill, answering the concerns of representatives should have been easy.  Instead, we now have a representative that is a liar and a leader in the House that bends the rules to deny rightful debate.

Unfortunately, there is little chance things will change when the new leadership takes over.  Given the polarization of the two dominate parties such posturing will only increase, leaving us with a government that is incapable of getting the simplest things done.  Belligerence in politics only produces short-term gains, never lasting results that serve the best interests of a nation.  That is the point that neither Speaker Pelosi or Rep. Ros-Lehtinen seem to understand.


[i] “Text of S.987 as Referred in House: International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 -… OpenCongress.” OpenCongress – Track Bills, Votes, Senators, and Representatives in the U.S. Congress. Web. 23 Dec. 2010. <http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s987/text>.

[ii] “Bill Summary & Status – 111th Congress (2009 – 2010) – S.987.” THOMAS (Library of Congress). Web. 23 Dec. 2010. <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:S.987:>.

[iii] Rogin, By Josh. “How Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Killed the Bill to Prevent Forced Child Marriages | The Cable.” The Cable | FOREIGN POLICY. Web. 23 Dec. 2010. <http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/12/17/how_ileana_ros_lehtinen_killed_the_bill_to_prevent_forced_child_marriages>.

[iv] “USAID Health: Family Planning, Policy, Restrictions on Support for Abortions.” U.S. Agency for International Development. Web. 23 Dec. 2010. <http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/pop/restrictions.html>.

h1

Same Crap, Different Day

October 25, 2010

As the saying goes, it seems some things never change.  2011 is quickly approaching and the approaching New Year calls for some reflection.  The problem with that reflection is, only the insignificant details change, it is the same picture, with the same problems of last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and so on.  The people may change, even a place or two, but the core subject of the problems we face never do.  In other words, we are not solving problems; we simple dress them up in different clothes.

Regardless of topic, we wrap issues in political rhetoric, make changes around the edges of a particular problem, and beat our chest like King Kong standing atop the Empire State Building.  All the while, nothing really changes.  Take sex education for instance.  Every since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996[i] whether or not to teach children (teenagers) about contraceptives has been a purely political issue going back and forth.  The statistical data supports teaching the subject of contraception[ii] but does not address objections on moral grounds.

In truth, the issue goes back further than 1996.  Lewis Grizzard gives a humorous example in his book Don’t Bend Over In The Garden Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes[iii]. Humor not withstanding, this issue illustrates just how politics prevents improvement in our lives by preventing true progress on a subject.  The subject of contraception further illustrates inconsistencies within the conservative movement’s position on individual and states rights.  On the one hand, they claim the federal government should not interfere with a state’s ability to legislate within its boarders, on the other hand, the refuse to provide funding to any state that does not follow the federal government’s rules.  Talk about “passive-aggressive” behavior!

It is over twenty years now since Mr. Grizzard published his book and the federal government is still taking half steps.  President Obama’s administration has now swung the pendulum back the other way[iv] but conservatives are already gearing up in opposition.  It seems they intend to push the same “moral high road” line as before that proved a failure in preventing teen pregnancy, not to mention failing to keep the STD rates down, that in no way excuses the Democrats from fault, as they are just as happy to continue churning the same old issues as the Republicans.

In the end, Congress will simply perpetuate the fight and fail to address the problem.  That is the key to many problems today; they become political and allow both sides to stake out positions that keep citizens separated rather than seeking to genuinely solve problems by finding common ground.  Of course, that leads to “Same crap, different day.”

We, the citizens of the United States, become pawns used by political groups for their own ends.  The particular group is irrelevant, Green Party, Republican, Tea Party, Democrat, or others, they all pervert issues and keep constituents confused with half-truths and outright lies[v].  Sex Ed. and abstinence-only face the same difficulties that cuts across every major issue today – political belligerence.  If we allow political groups to take quarrelsome positions, it will result with the government attempting to legislate things like morality instead of things they can actually fix.

Political parties have pushed fear in issues like sex education, abortion, same-sex marriage, and people here illegally, to the point it is near impossible to achieve any meaningful solution.  Fear is the propaganda politicians employ to retain power.  They see the issues we face as tools to use rather than problems to solve.  Their political rhetoric creates a sort of toxic ooze that corrodes everything it contacts; even the politicians that spew it become putrefied.  In the end, crap is simple too weak a word for what our politicians gives us – same shit, different day.


[i] H.R. 3734, 104 Cong., Congressional Record (1996) (enacted). Print. <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ193/html/PLAW-104publ193.htm>

[ii] Brody, Jane E. “Abstinence-Only: Does It Work?” The Religious Consultation Home Page. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. <http://www.religiousconsultation.org/News_Tracker/abstinence-only_does_it_work.htm>.

[iii] Grizzard, Lewis. Don’t Bend over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes. New York: Villard, 1988. Print. Ch. 9

[iv] Crile, Susan. “Obama Eliminates Abstinence-Only Funding In Budget.” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. 05 Aug. 2009. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/07/obama-eliminates-abstinen_n_199205.html>.

[v] “PolitiFact | Statements We Say Are Pants on Fire!” PolitiFact | Sorting out the Truth in Politics. Ed. St. Petersburg Times. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. <http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/rulings/pants-fire/>.

h1

Nothing Can Destroy A Government More Quickly…

October 2, 2010

As Justice Tom C. Clark said in Mapp V Ohio, “Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws[i].”  Of course, he was composing the majority opinion in the landmark case that forced individual states to exclude evidence obtained without a proper warrant.  His warning goes far beyond the reaches of the Fourth Amendment[ii].

Everyone, at some point, find themselves in a situation wondering, “How did I get here?”  It is easy to understand the consequences of a car wreck.  Understanding the way a child from a “good” family ends up a delinquent may not be so apparent.  We have to look to a series of events to truly understand the situation.  It is the later example that illustrates the danger the United States faces with our moves ever closer to the tipping point since Justice Clark’s observations back in 1961.

Over time, our freedoms, as citizens of the United States, have eroded.  With small steps, a government that seeks to control the population rather than lead it diminishes each freedom held sacred.  People often use the analogy of a pendulum swinging back and forth when talking about changes to our freedom.  In other words, laws restricting freedom are passed, then over time, changed to restore freedom.  This analogy is simplistic and misleading as restoring freedom always falls short of where it began.

A better analogy is a “rising bottom[iii]” trend (Figure 1).  Stock analysts us it to describe a company’s stock where the price is going up and down but the overall tend is up.  The lowest price of a particular swing is higher than the lowest price of the swing before.

In much the same way, our freedom swings from more restrictive to less restrictive and back again, but the overall tend is more restrictive.  The restrictiveness of our law is more restrictive than its change before.  Changes to the Fourth Amendment are prime examples of this theory.

Since its adoption with the Bill of Rights[iv] in 1789, the Fourth Amendment has received over sixty[v] reviews by the Supreme Court, most within the last one-hundred years.  It is understandable given criminals use it to try to get out of trouble and law enforcement pushes it to its limits trying to put criminals in prison.  On its face, that level of review might seem like a good thing, but in reality, it makes for an unsettled situation where nobody understands just what the right covers anymore.  Regardless, the overall trend is the cases limits the protection of every citizen and increases the power of state and federal governments to intrude in our lives.

For example, in Mapp v Ohio, the case overturned because the police failed to obtain a search warrant and simply intruded into the home.  Another case, United States v. Leon[vi], the court modified the ruling in Mapp saying the police can use evidence seized with an illegal or invalid search warrant, if they acted in good faith.  The key being what constitutes good faith.  In other words, if there is a mistake on a warrant or it is not specific enough, a judge can allow the evidence as long as the offices did not intend to violate the principles of the Fourth Amendment.  Sort of a “trust me, would I lie about it?” statement from the police.

While the Leon ruling does limit the protection granted in Mapp, the findings in the Arizona v. Evans (1995)[vii] and Herring v. United States (2009)[viii], in truth, blow it away.  The Evans case found if the police obtain a warrant based of false information retained in police records, the search is valid.  In Herring, the court further found if the police rely on false information provided by a different law enforcement agency a search is valid.  The net effect being the police can simply allow data to remain active, even when it is not true or accurate and then later rely on that false data to obtain a warrant.  In other words, it creates an atmosphere that encourages bad behavior by law enforcement with little or no recourse by citizens.

For about 130-years the Fourth Amendment went without challenge.  After that, the court muddled its meaning with weak and vague findings.  In 1961, in the Mapp case, the court again place clear definitions on the amendment’s meaning only to have later cases again whittle away at our individual protection, just like the raising bottom chart illustrates.  It is easy to side with the government and law enforcement as most of the people in these cases were trying to get away with some illegal activity.  To do so is a mistake; supporting the erosion of our Fourth Amendment protections allows the persecution of individuals without the proper oversight of courts or a grand jury.  Further, it allows and encourages an atmosphere of corruption within the various law enforcement agencies.

By no means is this action restricted to the Fourth Amendment.  Our freedom is under attack by the government our constitution seeks to limit.  The government takes our freedom in little bites we hardly notice and justify it with claims of national interest and serving the greater good.  We think of limitations, of the sort imposed after the terror attacks of 9/11, as temporary.  The government sees them as a windfall and will be hard pressed to ever return them to us.

This is exactly the point that Justice Clark tried to make.  You see, while the quote at the beginning is widely known, it leaves out most of the point Justice Clark intended.  Here it is in its entirety:

“Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence. As Mr. Justice Brandeis, dissenting, said in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928):

Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. . .  If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.[ix]

This is the danger we face today.  In a misguided effort to allow law enforcement to prosecute criminals, we encourage criminal behavior by law enforcement and give up our rights in the process.  The time to stem the flow is now; waiting too long will lead to the anarchy Justice Brandies worried about.


[i] Mapp v. Ohio. Section V. Supreme Court. 19 June 1961. FindLaw. FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters Business. Web. 2 Oct. 2010. <http://laws.findlaw.com/us/367/643.html>.

[ii] “The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment 4, <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html>

[iii] “Rising Bottom Definition.” Investopedia.com – Your Source For Investing Education. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/risingbottom.asp>.

[iv] “Bill of Rights.” National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights.html>.

[v] “MediaWiki Talk:United States Constitution/Amendment Four.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution>.

[vi] “United States v. Leon.” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 17 Jan. 1984. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0468_0897_ZX.html>.

[vii] “Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1 (1995).” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 07 Dec. 1994. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1660.ZS.html>.

[viii] “Herring v. United States.” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 07 Oct. 2008. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-513.ZS.html>.

[ix] reference i

h1

Just How Stupid Can We Be?

September 30, 2010

It really turns my stomach to listen to the Tea Party Bund and far-right Republicans rant about taxes.  Don’t get me wrong, taxing people is at best a necessary evil, but what people like Dick Armey, Sara Palin, Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the rest, are doing is lying to the public.  They simply hope to scare people in an attempt to keep them from understanding just how close Republicans and big business came to destroying the country.  By scaring you, they hope to have another bite at the apple and finish running the country into the ground.

It’s like the nation threw a big party for eight years and ran up a huge bill.  Now that we’ve started to clean up the mess, they want to complain about the cost of the cleaning supplies.  Where were Tea Party Bundists and Republican stalwarts when we spent the nearly ten-trillion[i] in long-term public debt during the Bush years?  No, they want to ignore that and complain about the less that one and a half-trillion President Obama financed the same way to fund programs to stabilize the economy.  While I can admire the gall of these people, I do recognize what it really is, an attempt to shift blame.

Recent news is full of comments about raising taxes.  Representative Boehner, Sara Palin, and the rest of the clan, make comments akin to “you don’t create jobs by taxing job creators.”  I happen to agree with that thought but their lie is President Obama is not talking about taxing job creators; he is talking about taxing the top 2% of income earners at the pre-Bush tax cut levels.  Republicans are fond of pointing out that small business drives our economy and small business is where job growth occurs.  Small business owners do not make the sort of money that would put them in the top 2%.  While small businesses may generate large amounts of money, profits are slim and it’s profit that gets taxed, not gross receipts.

You want to talk about wasteful spending, I’m there.  You want to express the need to control cost – I’ll carry a sign for you.  Now, if you believe the crap these liars promote to give a billionaire a tax break, forget it!  These idiots ran our economy into the ditch.  Even if I don’t agree with President Obama, I am not stupid enough to give the morons that created the problem another shot.  Again, it is small business that drives our economy and that is where tax breaks need to be, not with the super rich and big business.  They, along with their political cronies, are the ones that put us into this mess in the first place, regardless of what Tea Party darlings want us to believe.

I’ve refereed to the Tea Party as a bund; it is one.  Just as the German-American Bund’s goal was to promote Nazi ideals in pre-World War II American[ii], the Tea Party’s goal is to promote its ultra right-wing ideological views with the same propaganda styled tactics.  Grass-roots members buy into the idea of returning to an America that never existed in the first place.  Just as the German-American Bund tried to usurp American history by placing images of George Washington next to a Nazi flag[iii], Tea Party-ists (and Glenn Beck specifically) try to usurp our history by laying claim to our history and tying American ideals to their perverted ideology.

The Tea Party is simply the cutting edge for extreme right-wing ideologues like Dick Armey[iv].  Grassroots members may wish for it to be an organization to return government to the citizens, in reality it is an organization whose sole goal is to return government to the people that nearly destroyed the American dream.  If you buy into the Tea Party Bunt’s rhetoric, you are as misguided as the loyal Americans that believed the Nazi propaganda prevalent before World War II.  Just because you don’t agree with the direction President Obama is pushing policy, you don’t have to buy into this tripe.


[i]“U.S. National Debt Graph: What They Won’t Tell You.” ZFacts on Controversial Topics. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. .

[ii] “German American Bund.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_American_Bund&gt;.

[iii] Color Guard at American Nazi Rally. 1939. Photograph. Bettmann, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA. Corbis Images. Comp. Bettmann/CORBIS. Corbis Corporation. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. .

[iv] “Dick Armey’s Tea-Party Coup.” The Daily Bell. 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. .

h1

The Danger of Unknowns

August 19, 2010

We live in a time when the best choices a particular politician made in years past are used as a club against him or her today, when times and situations call for different choices.  It really does not matter if a politician is liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, or any other flavor of alignment, votes and positions of yesterday haunt them today.

Imagine if such attacks happened around our Founding Fathers.  George Washington would never have been elected as president, he lost more battles than he won and seemed to always be retreating.  John Adams, president # 2, forget it, he represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, resulting in the acquittal of most and only two soldiers guilty of manslaughter and not murder.  As for Thomas Jefferson, he was a deist who was critical of organized religion, a death knell for a politician today.

Politics has never been a business for the thin-skinned, but what takes place today goes beyond simply pointing out ideological differences and extends to character assassination.  Every vote or position becomes a vulnerability for any politician with a few years of experience.  Moreover, it encourages the creation of proposed bills and legislation designed to force opponents in voting for or against something solely for use later as ammunition against them.

The ultimate result is electing individuals without a record or history.  While this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, it does open the door to placing people in positions they are not fully ready to hold.  For example, after the corruption surrounding the Nixon administration, the country turned to a little known governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.  The country wanted an honest man, and President Carter is that.  His inexperience in dealing with national politics made his time in office difficult and prevented him from achieving much he tried.  America’s experiment with national political newcomers ended with the election of Ronald Reagan.

Following eight years with President Reagan, again voters elected the better-known candidate in then Vice-President Bush.  During his term, the national economic situation turned and a modest tax increase was deemed necessary for the good of the nation.  The Republican right-wing threw a fit, as Bush campaigned on no new taxes.  Not even the good of the nation is enough to overcome past statements and political parties will throw their own candidate under a bus to make that point.

After that, the nation elected another relatively unknown southern governor, Bill Clinton.  Unlike Carter, President Clinton understood the nature of national politics.  More importantly, he understood the nature of Washington politics.  Through his political savvy, his lapses in judgment regarding his personal affairs did not derail his presidency; in fact, the nation ended up in a stronger position than when he took the helm.  Clinton is an example showing an unknown can get the job done, but leaves the question of should we take the risk.

The conservatives picked up the mantra of electing an unknown in George W. Bush; you know “dub-ya.”  Unlike President Carter, this Bush played to his base.  In fact, in playing to his base, he did little else.  After 9/11, instead of finding the bastard that attacked us, he started two wars he was not willing to finish.  After eight years under his control, he left the United States with a wrecked economy, homeowners loosing homes in record numbers, the military stretched to its breaking point, fewer American’s with the ability to afford healthcare, and our returning veterans left to suffer all sorts of physical and mental problems overwhelming the Veteran’s Administration.

The nation blamed the conservatives.  While President Bush certainly is conservative, that was not the problem, he was simply the wrong man to run the country.  We elected, twice, a guy not fit to run a lemonade stand and left the competent conservative leaders marginalized.  The tide-swell of voter frustration was not to be turned; rather than accepting blame for electing an unknown moron, voters looked to liberals and picked another unknown, President Obama.

While certainly competent and far from being a moron, President Obama’s inexperience in national politics is proving to be an Achilles’ heel.  Much like President Carter, Obama seems incapable of controlling the political party he sits atop.  They are fractured, disorganized, and impotent when it comes to passing meaningful legislation.  Of course, they blame the Republicans but in doing so simply show they’ve been out foxed, or as some might say out “FOXed,” à la Rupert Murdock.

Back in my military days, I went through some very interesting training.  In one course on intelligence matters, the instructor made a statement like “In geopolitical affairs, always side with the despot you know and understand rather than the despot you know nothing about.”  That is good advice for our national politics too.  While we may not like the good-ol’ boys of either political party, we at least have a sense of who they are.  We, voters of both political parties, need to stop electing people we know nothing about.

Does that mean only elect career politicians, no, it means we must elect people with a record of action that points to how they will lead.  For instance, if you never worked in politics and your only experience with financial matters is balancing a checkbook, you might not have the qualifications to lead the nation in a financial crisis.  Warren Buffett, on the other hand, has the same political experience, but carries a financial pedigree that proves his ability.

As the mid-term elections approach, we need to stop firing the despot we know for the one that we know nothing about.  We can really make matters worse.  Politics in the United States has devolved to the point truly smart people avoid it like the plague.  The partisan bickering and backstabbing must end.  We need people who are willing to engage each other to solve problems rather than stand on ideology.  Firing an individual because he or she is not conservative or liberal enough and replacing them with some ideological robot without properly understanding who they are is a dangerous way to run a country.

h1

The Danger of Distractions

August 3, 2010

The other day, President Obama appeared on The View[i], with Barbara Walters and the rest of the ladies.  I was at a friend’s home with a few other people and we stopped to watch.  The show seems to be a popular destination with politicians; I guess that is in recognition of the greater importance politicians place on the female vote and the need to speak to that audience.  Do not get me wrong, I think that is a good thing; they should appear on Sesame Street if that is what it takes to reach the voting public.

As is normal while watching shows with a major elected official, we started talking about current political events when another friend made a comment along the line of “he’s not even a U.S. citizen.”  I bit my tongue.  She said it again but this time adds that he was also Muslim.  Again, I bit my tongue, as these arguments are really beating a dead horse.  After the third comment about his citizenship, I could not take it anymore and had to speak up.  She simply looked shocked that I would dare accept his citizenship as fact and not the stupidity of her argument.

It seems not even God could satisfy the individuals that still push this issue.  People making comments like “why won’t he show the birth certificate?  Not a copy but his REAL birth certificate.”  In the first place, no one has his or her official birth certificate of record; the state maintains it.  The state provides citizens a certified copy, which is what President Obama has provided repeatedly.  Secondly, the actual document of record has been examine and reported as authentic by President Bush’s Justice Department (Republican leadership), the government of the State of Hawaii (a Republican), the director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, and not least of all, state and federal courts.  At some point, the issue becomes a question of what is the real motive of people that will not accept it as true.

Partly, people are misguided; citizens that follow the conservative attack-dogs are fed a constant diet of this crap, it is at least understandable how they are misled.  What about the motives of political organizations and the news media that promotes this issue?  What possible reason is there to keep this issue and others just as stupid, alive?  The answer to both questions is simple; they follow the principles of The Big Lie Theory[ii].

I have written about it before in response to Reverend Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh but it is a tactic the Tea Party movement and the GOP also employ.  Here is how it works, find an item of controversy, and use the media to:

  1. Never allow the public to cool off
  2. Disseminate the lie as widely and quickly as possible
  3. Always be vague and use innuendo
  4. Never admit a fault
  5. Never concede that there may be some good in your target
  6. Never leave room for alternative possibilities
  7. Never accept blame for anything and concentrate that blame on your enemy and blame him for everything that goes wrong

The theory assumes people will readily believe a big lie because as it is easier to accept smaller ones as lies.  The boldness of the statement gives it an air of truth and if repeated frequently enough people will eventually believe it.  This is exactly the tactic employed in President Obama’s birth certificate issue.  It should be noted that Adolph Hitler put forward the theory in his book Mein Kampf [iii] and Joseph Goebbels, his Reich Minister of Propaganda, used it during the Nazi horrors leading up to World War II.  Just to be clear, I am accusing Fox News, the Tea Party movement, and the conservative right-wing of the GOP of using the same propaganda tactics as Nazi Germany.

We face real issues that need addressing.  The time spent on useless pursuits, such as chasing President Obama’s birth certificate, only take away our ability to deal with important issues.  The organizations behind such distractions hope to keep citizens confused and disengaged.  There goal is to keep our focus from the important issues.  Their hope is to undermine the ability of the Democratic Party to make progress at all costs.  This propaganda goes hand in hand with the Republican obstructionism going on in Congress.

Unfortunately, for the average citizen, they will bear the costs for this action.  There is much to question about how the current administration is governing, but by employing obstructionist tactics along with propaganda, we hardly noticed the GOP blocked a bill to take care of the health needs of first responders from the terrorist attacks on 9/11[iv].

We need to focus on that and push aside the thunderous distractions that surround us.  The question for each of us is whether we allow ourselves to be taken in by charlatans selling snake oil or walk past them to important issues of the day.  Only by taking the latter option will we begin to restore the nation to a healthy political discourse.


[i] “Featured | President Obama: “Don’t Bet Against American Workers”” The View.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://theview.abc.go.com/blog/president-obama-dont-bet-against-american-workers>.

[ii] Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941.  Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.  Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP.  1941, pp. 364-369

[iii] Hitler, Adolph.  “Mein Kampf.”  Project Gutenberg Australia.  Trans. James Murphy.  Sept. 2002.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200601.txt>

[iv] Condon, Stephanie.  “Anthony Weiner Erupts at Republicans for Rejecting 9/11 Responders Health Bill – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.”  Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News.  30 June 2010.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20012217-503544.html>.

h1

The Good ol’ Days… Really?

July 25, 2010

Often conservative news organizations promote the idea of returning the United States to the values held decades ago.  Liberals are quick to point out the inequity in civil rights of that time but in fairness to conservatives, that is not the aspect they put forward.  No, it is the improving social and economic situation of the middle-class back then conservative talking heads promote.

Let’s take them at their word.  The question is understanding the values of the times.  Unless you lived through the daily turmoil, it is impossible to fully grasp the nuances that motivated the conversation.  We can however, look at stated conservative objectives.  To that end, the Republican Party’s 1956 national platform[i] sheds some light.

It is not fair to paint all conservative with the Republican brush, but the platform does point to the majority conservative view held.  While it has many parts we would recognize today as purely republican, there are many points that show how far right the Republican Party has moved.  The below bullet points are taken from the published platform.

 

From their declaration of faith:

  • We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.
  • We hold that the major world issue today is whether Government shall be the servant or the master of men.  We hold that the Bill of Rights is the sacred foundation of personal liberty.  That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.

These two statements do not reflect were the conservative movement is today.  Conservatives tend to loath and fear the United Nations.  While they do stand for individual rights, the current conservative trend is to sacrifice civil rights in the name of national security.

On taxes:

  • Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle-income families.
  • Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes.

While conservatives of today still seek lower taxes, the focus on low and middle-income families is lost.  Moreover, anyone addressing “inequities” today receives  bombastic tirades from Rush Limbaugh, Glynn Beck and other commentators that are closer in belief to fascism than a Republican political policy.

On business and economic policy:

  • We have eliminated a host of needless controls.  To meet the immense demands of our expanding economy, we have initiated the largest highway, air and maritime programs in history, each soundly financed.  [emphasis added]
  • Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations;
  • Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement;

Yes, our big-government, federalized national highway system was dreamed up by Republicans.  Imagine trying to undertake the national highway system in today’s political environment.  These same Republicans sought to limit corporate influence and power.  If only it worked, perhaps today’s government would not be owned by corporate and special interests.

On Labor:

  • Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;
  • Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;
  • Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;
  • Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;
  • Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;
  • Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;
  • Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.

Conservatives of today would run a candidate out on a rail if he or she dared promote such socialistic “welfare” programs and pro-union laws.

 

On Human welfare and advancement:

  • Republican action created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.
  • Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.
  • We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease, and other dread diseases.
  • We demand once again, despite the reluctance of the Democrat 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.
  • We have encouraged a notable expansion and improvement of voluntary health insurance, and urge that reinsurance and pooling arrangements be authorized to speed this progress.
  • We have strengthened the Food and Drug Administration(FDA), and we have increased the vocational rehabilitation program to enable a larger number of the disabled to return to satisfying activity.
  • We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.
  • We initiated the first flood insurance program in history under Government sponsorship in cooperation with private enterprise.
  • We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system.

Republicans created: the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education), the program that grew into the National Flood Insurance Program 12-years later, fully funded the FDA, increased funding for medical research and hospital construction, funded low-income housing and sought to extend the social security system.

The platform is full of ideas that today we label as liberal.  With the relevant names removed, the document seems more Democratic than Republican in thought.  Any fair-minded liberal could easily support a candidate promoting such ideals. So there it is, Democrats today are the Republicans of the 1950s.  There is no good definition to describe the metamorphosis the Republican Party has endured.  The creature it has become is beyond words.  The best I can put it, when I hear pundits like Anne Coulter push the Republican message of today, I am reminded of the Sinclair Lewis quote “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

In looking at it, we might be better off if we follow through on the thoughts of our Republican leadership from decades ago.  Of course, to do that, it seems Rush, Glenn, Anne, and the rest of the conservative talking-idiots are suggesting support for the Democratic Party.  As much as they would like to deny it, the ideals Democrats put forward today are the same ideals of Republicans in the “good ol’ days.”


[i] John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25838.

%d bloggers like this: