Monday, July 30, 2012

Midnight Riders

A few days ago I received a note from a fellow traveler who wanted to know how to “counter” a right wing blog received from a right wing friend, written by a man named Lou Pritchett, a former Procter and Gamble vice president. Mr. Pritchett is “scared” by Barack Obama, very scared. He says so twenty one times  giving twenty one reasons why the president scares him. The blog reads like a biblical treatment of God in reverse. He uses the familiar litany of anti-Obama clich├ęs including one I hadn’t heard. “You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale life style and housing with no visible signs of support,” aka “know your place boy.” Evidently Mr. Pritchett isn’t aware of scholarships.

Right wingers differ from us in that that they scan the blogosphere to pick up items like this to send to the faithful. I’ve received a few blogs from fellow lefties for me to simply read, none of this “pass it on” business common to most right wing messages. These people must think of themselves as Twenty First Century Paul Reveres.  

And understandably so! Annoying facts flying around are an impediment to right wing talking points that they contradict, which I think of conjecture or prejudice, take your pick. In this effort they have help from the media, not limited to Fox, where a strenuous effort is underway to present the infamous “both sides.” But even allowing for this “impartiality,” in my opinion if the game is played solely on what the public as a whole comes to consider as fact, the right would eventually lose. The truth often comes out slowly, but it does come out, hence all this missionary zeal.

Compared to the looming threat over admission to voting booths this misinformation is small potatoes. The shared political persuasion of the senders and recipients gives the whole exercise an inbred aura. Presidential campaigns generally last long enough to weed out much of what I once heard a local New Jersey politician refer to as his opponent’s “false facts.” To appear just a little bit objective I’ll refrain from mention his political party. Pretty sneaky eh?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Letter to the Editor-New York Times

While I wholeheartedly approve of severe action against the Penn State athletic program, erasing all Joe Paterno’s victories is an exercise in absurdity. Will this also cancel the opposing teams’ losses? An admitted blown call by an umpire cost a pitcher a perfect game last season. But the mistake became irredeemable with the first pitch to the next batter. This NCAA ruling is reminiscent of college football’s retroactive stripping of Paul Robeson’s honors as an end for Rutgers in 1917 and 1918. The all American college team for those years consequent;y consisted of ten men. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Both Sides

Perusing the articles listed on the internet I came across one with the heading “Study says Obama tax proposal could cost 700,000 jobs.” This was pretty strong stuff for someone who figured the result would be the opposite so I clicked on the text of the article. The first paragraph read ““Republican House Speaker John Boehner* hammered President Barack Obama on Tuesday after accounting firm Ernst and Young released a study funded by pro industry groups hostile to the Democrat’s agenda. (Italics mine) The firm’s results showed that Obama’s proposed tax hikes on the wealthy could cost the already sputtering economy more than 700,000 jobs.”   Anyone reading the heading and not the article could easily conclude that facts have caught up with Obama. Reading the text is essential to understanding that this “study” was paid for by Republicans to an accounting firm that was expected to come to this kind of conclusion.** There should have been no problem with a proper layout on the internet. Something like “House Speaker says Obama tax plan to cost 700,000 jobs” would have sufficed as a heading followed by the text which would then explain among other things who was financing the project.   Whatever the medium, this sort of misleading presentation of news is common and supplies what many, if not most voters consider information. In presenting “both sides” of an issue talking points are given the same respect as evidence. Could this policy be the editor’s intention to help Republicans as compensation for all those facts the “liberal media” have been spreading?   To repeat an old saw, if one party decided the earth was flat there would be headlines reading “parties differ on shape of earth.” There’s no question in my mind as to where the flat earthers would hang their hats.      

*My spell check accepted “Boehner” as it should. After all he is Speaker of the House of Representatives. Two entries it continues to reject are “Barack” and “Obama.” Is there a message here?  

**When Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell was asked on the Dick Cavett show about the dangers of marijuana, he said that a test was underway to be completed in two years that “will prove conclusively “ the dangers involved.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Let 'em Eat Cake

Barack Obama’s plan to ask Congress to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for people with incomes of over $250 thousand has given the right wing a talking point, or shrieking point for Tea Party types. It would raise the taxes of the top two percent of taxpaying Americans, a relatively small number. Still this is double the much maligned one percent we’ve been hearing so much about. You can see where things could go at this annual rate, now 2, then 4,8,16 and 32 percent after four more years of an Obama presidency, the end of America as we know it.   So we must prepare now for the coming onslaught from the right which has as its centerpiece “job creation.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, taxing annual income over 250gs an extra 3.6% would save the Treasury approximately a trillion dollars over ten years. A logical question then is how much of this money would go to businesses intended to create jobs.   Hardly everyone with taxable income over $250 thousand qualifies as a job creator. Many live solely off inherited wealth and others from accumulated wealth or retirement money. Surely we aren’t expected to believe that simply trading in stocks of job producing corporations qualifies. Another question is whether a rich investor would be dissuaded from further investment by having to pay an additional $27 thousand on an additional million income. The claim that “small businesses” would be affected is a major hoax. The CBO estimates that only 3% of businesses make more than $250 thousand profit. (Damn! There goes another percent) Most detrimental to this “jobs” argument is the fact that many of the biggest businesses that thrived through this whole disaster have available money today and are still not hiring, and not without reason. Hiring more means producing more and the buying public isn’t currently in the chips.   This issue appears headed for at least a show of hands in Congress, which can’t be anything but a winner for the Democrats. If it’s talked about enough between now and election, many less intelligent and/or less interested voters will eventually understand the simple logic and even simpler arithmetic supporting it. One side wants to react to a budget deficit by a minor tax increase on those best able to afford it. The other side would rather raise taxes on everybody, including those least able or unable to afford them.   In my opinion this showdown should have taken place two years ago. It’s understandable that Democrats preferred saving their strongest ammunition for a presidential election year. Several Senators, including Harry Reid, might have lost their seats with full scale Wall Street opposition. But the loss of governorships and state legislators in swing states with ensuing voter suppression laws could cost the whole ball of wax and for a very long time.   One of two bromides may apply after the election, “a stitch in time saves nine” or “better late than never.” I hope it’s the second.            

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Crack in the Libertarian Bell

Friends have told me that they’re tired of my crusade against the notion that the terms “conservative” and “right wing” are synonymous. So I’ve chosen another windmill at which to tilt, “libertarian” because, like conservative, in many ways I fancy myself as such. Having partaken of mood altering substances for years, some of them illegally, I object to their prohibition and the rationalizing behind it. In my opinion no act committed against oneself should be criminal, with the exception of suicide for which I recommend mandatory death penalty.  I also resent the compulsory use of seat belts. I’d be happy to pay a reasonable fee to compensate for my share of the added insurance premiums others would have to pay for my daring.   There is no libertarian handbook that I know of and according to Wikipedia “no general consensus on the precise definition” of the word. They “generally advocate a government of small scope relative to most present day societies or no government at all.”So I’m taking the liberty of equating the movement with the extreme right wing because so much of the rhetoric is similar, my apologies to those who don’t fit the stereotype. By this process I conclude that many self proclaimed libertarians are, in significant ways, imposters.   By and large it can be said that “libertarians” oppose birth control from abortion to contraception, particularly abortion. While I agree with Roe v Wade I do find arguments against abortion more reasoned than other right wing talking points, faint praise indeed. Whatever their validity depends on the length of pregnancy and conditions such as the well being of the prospective mother. But when it comes to those squiggly little things that can only be seen with a microscope their arguments are laughable. A female Representative in the Michigan Legislature was banned for a day for using the word “vagina.” I’m at a loss to think of another word to politely describe that part of the female anatomy. Reduced to essentials, these people are advocating government control, federal or state, over a woman’s body and, right or wrong, that’s quite a distance from libertarian.   The same can be said, although less directly, about libertarian attitude towards gay Americans. Rather than taking something away the focus is on not giving anything. In this matter I consider objection to the use of the word “marriage” less important than denying the same legal status to couples whose preference is for members of the same sex that belongs to conventional married couples.   I’ve used these two examples of important issues to make my point, at least as it pertains to women and gays. My guess is that there are others. If anyone has anything to add I’d like to hear about it. And if you come across a libertarian bible please send it to me C.O.D.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No Respect

It’s hard to engage in political commentary today without discussing the Supreme Court ruling on the Constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”* The possible consequences of this decision, which was a surprise to most of us, have been discussed in the media six ways to Sunday. My crystal ball is in the repair shop so what I have to say, apart from the fact that for like thinkers this was the best possible ruling, comes from the heart rather than the head.   What made the strongest impression to me was two women I heard shrieking on NPR the day after the decision. To describe them as Wicked Witches of the West on steroids is to make light of a situation that is anything but comical. “Sad” comes closer to describing my feelings on hearing such venom, particularly from members of the “gentle sex.” There’s no question in my mind that Jim Crow was perched on their shoulders.   Granted, all recent Democratic presidents have received less than civil treatment from the opposition. But in Clinton’s case many of his problems were of his making. Ken Starr may have been hired by a Republican Congress at taxpayer expense to dig for dirt in his private life. But Clinton himself provided the dirt. Putting his wife in charge of health care wasn’t a good way to start his first term.   By comparison much of the disrespect and hostility directed at Obama from the beginning has been distinctly personal. His televised speech to young students on the first day of school was not shown in schools in Tea Party influenced districts. No fireside chats for this president. A presidential request for a meeting with Republican Congressmen was rejected because of scheduling conflicts. A governor staged a picture of herself wagging a finger at the president. A Congressman shouted “you lie” during a State of the Union speech. In the same setting the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, yes that Justice, a man whose duty is specifically to adjudicate and not to legislate, was filmed shaking his head in response to a proposed presidential initiative.   I’m afraid that some independent voters, and independent does not mean intelligent or informed, might feel that having a president of color is a mistake because he is so hated by so many people. While on balance I adamantly reject this reasoning, it isn’t without a grain of logic.   In 1964 a presidential candidate was defeated largely because he defended extremism and condemned moderation. Today another candidate is likely to be elected for this reason. How Sad!     *Shortly after the bill was passed Amy Holmes, a right wing spokesperson or hack in my opinion, used this term ad nauseum on a Bill Maher show. Having already made her point once, she could have saved three syllables each time by simply saying “it.” But these people have their marching orders.