Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Art of Manipulation

If you’ve ever been to a sporting event of any kind, you know that the referee has at least three options when listening to objections. He can consider the objection and be mindful for future calls, she can completely ignore the objection or the referee can follow the advice of the objecting party, and essentially give in. In my experience the ref will likely ignore the objection and uphold the ruling, that is unless the referee is the news media and the objectors are conservative media pundants. As indicated in a recent study, the news media is listening to the objections of the conservatives and making concessions’ which attempt to counter the perceived vast liberal bias. A new study from the people at Media Matters has highlighted the trend of the American Media of moving to the right, in particular, the Sunday morning talk shows.

On the Sunday Morning political talk shows the conservatives show up in droves and pronounce a liberal bias at every opportunity, but in reality, you’ll find liberal representation on these Sunday shows is slim to none. Conservatives regularly appear but not one mainstream liberal has ever been a regular. You're not likely to see E.J. Dionne, Robert Kuttner, Paul Krugman, Hendrik Hertzberg or Molly Ivins, however; Bob Novak, Fred Barnes, Tucker Carlson, Tony Blankley or Pat Buchanan are as ubiqutes as air. Indeed, with the exception of Alan Colmes, one is hard pressed to come up with a single journalist or pundit appearing on television who is even remotely as far to the left of the mainstream spectrum as most of the conservatives are to the right.

An extensive study from the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests that there is a liberal media bias, however the study only looked at the mainstream news outlets. In particular the study looked at the major news programs, ABC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, etc. The examination looked at cable news too, with Brit Hume’s (right of center) evening program on the Fox Network examined (no other Fox News programs were analyzed). Conversely the study looked at The News with Aaron Brown on CNN and found a slight liberal tilt. The Quarterly Journal study is a good start at analyzing the landscape of American journalism, but not as thorough as necessary to uncover the broad picture. The Study did not examine the recent trend of CNN's move to the extreme right by hiring Glen Beck. Mr. Beck is hardly moderate or right of center analyst. Still many on the right side of reality are suggesting a crude liberal bias, all the while the conservatives are gaining ground and the liberals are taking heavy casualties. The root of the problem is this, the conservatives are manipulating the media, “working the refs" , and the media is acquiescing.

Ever since the days of the Goldwater presidential campaign, the conservatives have been complaining about the actions of the referees (the American media) in their struggle to dominate American politics. The refs (the media), according to the conservatives, are biased against them and want the other side (the liberals) to win the game. But recent attempts at fairness, ie. CNN hiring Glen Beck, while not giving equal time to the left, is not going to solve the any part of this issue, it’s only creating another problem - another media bias.
The media does not want to be bias or perceived that way so in usual knee jerk fashion they are moving to the right - far right. This is a way of saying, “ok we’ve done what you want, now leave us alone”. However, a move to the far right is only going to exacerbate the problem, and I seriously doubt that the hardcore conservatives will be satisfied anytime soon. We must learn to expect more from our Media.
Is it too much to ask that our news be delivered without editorial influence and that the editorial influences be balanced by a doctrine of fairness?
Media Contact Information

Monday, February 27, 2006

William F Buckley, one of the country's leading conservatives and former undercover CIA agent, takes a soboring look at the war in Iraq.
His obserations may surprise you.

February 24, 2006, 2:51 p.m.
It Didn’t Work

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."
One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries. (Please select for entire article)

This post is not an attempt at, “I hate to say it but I told you so”. It’s more like a, “So where do we go from here?”
As I’ve said before, the only way that an insurgency will survive is by having the support of the masses. We have seen the Iraqi insurgence grow from a small elite group of foreigners and former soldiers, to a massive homegrown rebellion of the people. This is happening because the majority of people in Iraq believe that the U.S. is an occupying force. Whether or not this is true is beyond the perceived reality. General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” General Abizaid said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.”

So how do we take the wind out of the insurgencies sails? We tell the Iraqi people that we are leaving, and we tell them when. We give the Iraqi’s an end date to the occupation. Simply put, if there is no occuping force, then there will be no support for an insurgency. A recent ABC poll drew the conclusion that “while the lives of individual Iraqis are improving, over Two-thirds now oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, 14 points higher than in February 2004”
They want us to leave so why should we stay?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are where the prevailing opinions are aired and tested, policymakers state their cases, and the left and right in American politics debate the pressing issues of the day on equal ground. Both sides have their say and face probing questions. Or so you would think.

In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton's second term, President George W. Bush's first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows - in some cases, dramatically so.
Among the study's key findings:

The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton's second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were from the right, and 48 percent were from the left. But in Bush's first term, Republicans/ conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2005, the figures were an identical 58 percent to 42 percent.
Counting only elected officials and administration representatives, Democrats had a small advantage during Clinton's second term: 53 percent to 45 percent. In Bush's first term, however, the Republican advantage was 61 percent to 39 percent -- nearly three times as large.
In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, conservative journalists were far more likely to appear on the Sunday shows than were progressive journalists. In Clinton's second term, 61 percent of the ideologically identifiable journalists were conservative; in Bush's first term, that figure rose to 69 percent.
In 1997 and 1998, the shows conducted more solo interviews with Democrats/progressives than with Republicans/conservatives. But in every year since, there have been more solo interviews with Republicans/conservatives.

The most frequent Sunday show guest during this nine-year period is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has appeared 124 times. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has been the most frequent guest since 2003.
In every year examined by the study -- 1997 - 2005 -- more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many righttitled panels as left-tilted panels.
Congressional opponents of the Iraq war were largely absent from the Sunday shows, particularly during the period just before the war began.
In short, the Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are dominated by conservative voices, from newsmakers to commentators. The data from the Clinton years indicate that the disparity cannot be explained simply by the fact that Republicans currently control the government.
Click here to read the full report.

(This article was not penned by Gulf Coast Progressive, the souce can be found at the Media Matters Website.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Don’t Shoot the Messenger; But Question His Motives!

On February 15, 2006 the ABC News program Night Line ran a story about the latest evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The program aired excerpts form a group of 12 hour audio recordings which spanned from the early 1990’s to the year 2000. The tapes were given to Night Line by Bill Tierney, a former Army Intelligence Officer and UN Weapons Inspector. In the story there was a featured recording from 1996 in which the former dictator Sadam Husain warned that the U.S. will be attacked by terrorists, quote:
“In the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction."
Saddam goes on to say such attacks would be difficult to stop.
"In the future, what would prevent a booby-trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?" But he adds that Iraq would never do such a thing. "This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq."
According to Bill Tierney the tapes have been interpreted by the State Department, de-classified and released

However, Tierney, a credentialed Iraqi interpreter, has depicted the tapes from a different angle. Bill Tierney is suggesting that Sadam was going to facilitate a terrorist attack on U.S soil. He goes on the say on the Sean Hannity show: “I disagree completely (with the ABC airing), because Saddam also says in other tapes that the war is ongoing," Tierney said, "And when I was there [in Iraq] as an inspector, what struck me is that these people were still in the fight. There was no change of heart like you had in Germany after World War II. They were still in the fight. It makes perfect sense."

Tierney’s interpretation and the State Department’s are at odds on this point. A spokeswoman for John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said information contained in the transcriptions of the tapes was already known to intelligence officials: "Intelligence community analysts from the CIA, and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that, while fascinating, from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post-war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report," she said in a statement.
"The tapes mostly date from early to mid-1990s and cover such topics as relations with the United Nations, efforts to rebuild industries from Gulf war damage and the pre 9/11 situation in Afghanistan."

Since the interpretations are so variegated and Bill Tierney has had such an unusual propensity to be atypical, I find that it’s important to consider the source in this particular case. By this, I in no way assert that Bill Tierney is incapable of being objective, I am merely suggesting that he has a colorful past, such that, he may be coloring the issue with his own bias.

Tierney is on record as saying, “There was no question that Iraq had triggering mechanisms for a nuke, the question was whether they had enriched enough uranium. Given Iraq’s intensive efforts to build a nuke prior to the Gulf War, their efforts to hide uranium enrichment material from inspectors, the fact that Israel had a nuke but no Arab state could claim the same, my first-hand knowledge of the limits of UNSCOM and IAEA capabilities, and Iraqi efforts to buy yellowcake uranium abroad (Joe Wilson tea parties notwithstanding), I believe the TWELVE years between 1991 and 2003 was more than enough time to produce sufficient weapons grade uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Maybe I have more respect for the Iraqis’ capabilities than some.” However there is no evidence for a post 1991 nuclear weapons program in Iraq.

Tierney has also fused his personal ideology with his professional mission. He appeared on Coast to Coast, a few weeks before the war in Iraq began; an excerpt: "Bill Tierney... was the guest for the first two hours of Friday night's show. He believes that Iraq has nuclear capability ... Tierney claims that he has pinpointed a hidden location in Iraq where there is a uranium enriching processing facility. 'You can't put an underground chamber on the back of a truck,' Tierney said, indicating that if an inspection were made in this suggested area, the Iraqis would not be able to haul off the evidence.
Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. “I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it,' he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. 'Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria,' Tierney said of a power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility."

Tierney is the only former UNSCOM member who also put in some lengthy protest time outside Terry Schiavo's hospital and as an Iraqi’s interpreter he was relieved of duty for praying with a detainee during an interrogation. Again, these events do not indicate that the former UN weapons inspector is incapable of being objective or telling the truth on certain levels. Nor do these events suggest that he is in some way mentally unstable. However I am suggesting that his propensity towards the extreme may be suiting his view about Sadam and WMD’s. I’m interested in seeing how this develops as a news story and how the press deals with the facts of his interpretation. I hope that the press will make an attempt to get to the bottom of this, if Tierney is correct, then a war with Iraq may be justified. But given his track record, he may just be another crackpot attention junkie. I’m leaning towards the latter at this point.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Children in the South face higher health risks

“GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Children living in the South are up to three times more likely to battle poor health and its consequences — including obesity, teen pregnancy and death — than those in all other regions of the United States, even if they receive the same medical care, a new University of Florida study reveals.“Hurricane Katrina gave the world a glimpse of the disparities in the South,” says Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of community pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “Our research documents just how profoundly these disparities impact the health of children in the region.”The study, published recently in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to statistically relate region of residence to measures of child health, Goldhagen says.“In fact, we now believe that where a child lives may be one of the most powerful predictors of child health outcomes and disparities,” he says.” - Source

The poor health outcomes researchers documented include low birth weight, teen pregnancy, death and other problems such as mental illness, asthma, obesity, tooth decay and school performance. In the midst of this finding, last week Governor Bush proposed a $71 billion dollar spending bill that would boost spending on several fronts, but also provide nearly a half of a billion dollars in tax cuts. Currently the State of Florida is flush with a budget surplus of $3.2 billion. And in an election year, Republican legislators want to turn one week in August into a high dollar item shopping spree by suppressing state sales taxes for the first $5,000 on most items. Republicans want to lift the statewide sales tax of 6 percent on items such as computers, furniture and TVs, as well as the first $5,000 of more expensive items such as cars and boats. The tax break would begin July 31 and end Aug. 6 and would benefit individuals, not businesses. The plan already has tacit approval of House leaders. If implemented it would be the biggest single tax cut ever in Florida with an estimated saving of half of a billion dollars.

As House Democrats called the Republicans' tax cut a "gimmick," they offered a counterproposal of a $100 check to every Florida family that takes a $25,000 homestead exemption. The total cost for the Democrats' plan would be about $430-million. . The Democrats have stated that the recent growth in the tax burden has fallen hardest on homeowners, who are paying higher property taxes, mostly for public schools. Those homeowners also are struggling with ever-increasing electric bills and insurance premiums. "Think about whom in our community is under the gun right now. Who's feeling the squeeze?" said Rep. Dan Geber, D-Miami Beach. "We could give every single homeowner in the state of Florida a check from Florida for $100. ... This is the right thing to do." However, the Democratic plan is simply another imposture posing as a solution. It does nothing to solve our long-term predicaments.

I submit that before squandering excess state revenue with tax breaks, lawmakers should make sure their giveaways will serve taxpayers' long-term interests. Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to improve our future and our future generations? In a time when we are faced with low birth weight, teen pregnancy, death and other problems such as mental illness, asthma, obesity, tooth decay and school performance, wouldn’t a long term stratgedy or an attempt to solve these problems seem a more suitable conclusion to a 3.2 billion dollar surplus. The financial benefits of solving our long-term enduring problems will eminently out way any immediate tax relieve and help ensure a strong economic future for our the great state Florida.

As a home owner, I would rather see a resolve to poor school performance for example rather than receive check for a $100.00. Maybe our government is attempting to divert our attention. Maybe Gov. Jeb Bush and lawmakers are trying to cut down on the need to build new schools. Maybe the legislature thinks that universities can meet some of their short-term needs next year by increasing tuition by 5 percent, as the governor has recommended. Maybe they think we the Rabble are not paying attention to our long term problems? Or that they can throw us a bone and divert our sense of long-term vision.
I urge the Floridians who read this blog to contact our representatives in Tallahassee and demand a better solution to the budget surplus. The last thing that our state needs is a gimmick, an attempt to appease tax payers in an election cycle, rather than an attempt to solve the difficult issues which face us and our children’s generation.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2003 by CommonDreams.org

Midnight Ride of the Rabble
by Thom Hartmann

To every Middlesex village and farm, A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear.-- From Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863


told us, in his lecture Angloam, that in America "the old contest of feudalism and democracy renews itself here on a new battlefield." Perhaps seeing our day through a crack between the skeins of time and space, Emerson concluded, "It is wonderful, with how much rancor and premeditation at this moment the fight is prepared."

Let's be blunt. The real agenda of the new conservatives is nothing less than the destruction of democracy in the United States of America. And feudalism is one of their weapons.
Their rallying cry is that government is the enemy, and thus must be "drowned in a bathtub." In that, they've mistaken our government for the former Soviet Union, or confused Ayn Rand's fictional and disintegrating America with the real thing.
The government of the United States is us. It was designed to be a government of, by, an
d for We, the People. It's not an enemy to be destroyed; it's a means by which we administer and preserve the commons that we collectively own.

Nonetheless, the new conservatives see our democratic government as the enemy. And if they plan to destroy democracy, they must have something in mind to replace it with. (Yes, I know that "democracy" and "democratic" sound too much like "Democrat," and so the Republicans want us to say that we don't live in a democracy, but, rather, a republic, which sounds more like "Republican." It was one of Newt's efforts, along with replacing phrases like "Democratic Senator" with "Democrat Senator." But Republican political correctness can take a leap: we're talking here about the survival of democracy in our constitutional republic.)
What conservatives are really arguing for is a return to the three historic forms of tyranny that the Founders and Framers identified, declared war against, and fought and died to keep out of our land. Those tyrants were kings, theocrats, and noble feudal lords.
Kings would never again be allowed to govern America, the Founders said, so they stripped the president of the power to declare war. As Lincoln noted in an 1848 letter to William Herndon: "Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending gen
erally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our [1787] Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."
Theocrats would never again be allowed to govern America, as they had tried in the early Puritan communities. In 1784, when Patrick Henry proposed that the Virginia legislature use a sort of faith-based voucher system to pay for "Christian education," James Madison responded with ferocity, saying government support of church teachings "will be a dangerous abuse of power." He added, "The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves."

And America was not conceived of as a feudal state, feudalism being broadly defined as "rule by the super-rich." Rather, our nation was created in large part in reaction against centuries of European feudalism. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his lecture titled The Fortune of the Republic, delivered on December 1, 1863, "We began with freedom. America was opened after the feudal mischief was spent. No inquisitions here, no kings, no nobles, no dominant church."
The great and revolutionary ideal of America is that a government can exist while draw
ing its authority, power, and ongoing legitimacy from a single source: "The consent of the governed." Conservatives, however, would change all that.

In their brave new world, corporations are more suited to governance than are the unpredictable rabble called citizens. Corporations should control politics, control the commons, control health care, control our airwaves, control the "free" market, and even control our schools. Although corporations can't vote, these new conservatives claim they should have human rights, like privacy from government inspections of their political activity and the free speech right to lie to politicians and citizens in PR and advertising. Although corporations don't need to breathe fresh air or drink pure water, these new conservatives would hand over to them the power to self-regulate poisonous emissions into our air and water.
While these new conservatives claim corporations should have the rights of persons, they don't mind if corporations use hostil
e financial force to take over other, smaller corporations in a bizarre form of corporate slavery called monopoly. Corporations can't die, so aren't subject to inheritance taxes or probate. They can't be put in prison, so even when they cause death they are only subject to fines.

Corporations and their CEOs are America's new feudal lords, and the new conservativ
es are their obliging servants and mouthpieces. The conservative mantra is: "Less government!" But the dirty little secret of the new conservatives is that just as nature abhors a vacuum, so also do politics and power. Every time government of, by, and for We, the People is pushed out of administering some part of this nation's vast commons, corporations step in. And by swamping the United States of America in debt with so-called "tax cuts," they seek to force an increasingly desperate government to cede more and more of our commons to their corporate rule.

Conservatives confuse efficiency and cost: They suggest that big corporations can perform public services at a lower total cost than government, while ignoring the corporate need to pad the bill with dividends to stockholders, rich CEO salaries, corporate jets and headquarters, advertising, millions in "campaign contributions," and cash set-asides for growth and expansion. They want to frame this as the solution of the "free market," and talk about entrepreneurs and small businesses filling up the holes left when government lets go of public property.
But these are straw man arguments: What they are really advocating is corporate rule, an
d ultimately a feudal state controlled exclusively by the largest of the corporations. Smaller corporations, like individual humans and the governments they once hoped would protect them from powerful feudal forces, can watch but they can't play.

The modern-day conservative movement began with Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, who argued that for a society to be stable it must have a governing elite, and this elite must be separate both in power and privilege from what Adams referred to as "the rabble." Their Federalist party imploded in the early 19th Century, in large part because of public revulsion over Federalist elitism, a symptom of which was Adams' signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. (If you've only read the Republican biographies of John Adams, you probably don't remember these laws, even though they were the biggest thing to have happened in Adams' entire four years in office, and the reason why the citizens of America voted him out of office, and voted Jefferson - who loudly and publicly opposed the Acts - in. They were a 1797 version of the Patriot Act and Patriot II, with startlingly similar language.)
Destroyed by their embrace of this early form of despotism, the Federalists were replaced first in the early 1800s by the short-lived Whigs and then, starting with Lincoln, by the modern-day Republicans, who, after Lincoln's death, firmly staked out their ancestral Federalist position as the party of wealthy corporate and private interests. And now, under the disguise of the word "conservative" (classical conservatives like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower are rolling in their graves), these old-time feudalists have nearly completed their takeover of our great nation.

It became obvious with the transformation of healthcare into a for-profit industry, leading to spiraling costs (and millions of dollars for Bill Frist and his ilk
). Insurance became necessary for survival, and people were worried. Bill Clinton was prepared to answer the concern of the majority of Americans who supported national health care. But that would harm corporate profits.
"Do you want government bureaucrats deciding which doctor you can see?" asked the conservatives, over and over again. As a yes/no question, the answer was pretty
simple for most Americans: no. But, as is so often the case when conservatives try to influence public opinion, the true issue wasn't honestly stated.
The real question was: "Do you want government bureaucrats - who are answerable to elected officials and thus subject to the will of 'We, The People' - making decisions about your healthcare, or would you rather have corporate bureaucrats - who are answerable only to their CEOs and work in a profit-driven environment - making decisions about your healthcare?"

For every $100 that passes through the hands of the government-administered Medicare programs, between $2 and $3 is spent on administration, leaving $97 to $98 to pay for medical services and drugs. But of every $100 that flows through corporate insurance programs and HMOs, $10 to $24 sticks to corporate fingers along the way. After all, Medicare doesn't have lavish corporate headquarters, corporate jets, or pay expensive lobbying firms in Washington to work on its behalf. It doesn't "donate" millions to politicians and their parties. It doesn't pay profits in the form of dividends to its shareholders. And it doesn't compensate its top executive with over a million dollars a year, as do each of the largest of the American insurance companies. Medicare has one primary mandate: serve the public. Private corporations also have one primary mandate: generate profit.

When Jeb Bush cut a deal with Enron to privatize the Everglades, it diminished the power of the Florida government to protect a natural resource and enhanced the power and profitability of Enron. Similarly, when politicians argue for harsher sentencing guidelines and also advocate more corporate-owned prisons, they're enhancing the power and profits of one of America's fastest-growing and most profitable remaining domestic industries: incarceration. But having government protect the quality of the nation's air and water by mandating pollution controls doesn't enhance corporate profits. Neither does single-payer health-care, which threatens insurance companies with redundancy, or requirements for local control of broadcast media. In these and other regards, however, the government still holds the keys to the riches of the commons held in trust for us all. Riches the corporations want to convert into profits.
For example, an NPR Morning Edition report by Rick Carr on 28 May 2003 said, "Current FCC Chair Michael Powell says he has faith the market will provide. What's more, he says, he'd
rather have the market decide than government." In this, Powell was reciting the conservative mantra. Misconstruing Adam Smith, who warned about the dangers of the invisible hand of the marketplace trampling the rights and needs of the people, Powell suggests that business always knows best. The market will decide. Bigger isn't badder.

But experience shows that the very competition that conservatives claim to embrace is destroyed by the unrestrained growth of corporate interests. It's called monopoly: Big fish eat little fish, over and over, until there are no little fish left. Look at the thoroughfares of any American city and ask yourself how many of the businesses there are locally owned. Instead of cash circulating within a local and competitive economy, at midnight every night a button is pushed and the local money is vacuumed away to Little Rock or Chicago or New York.
This is feudalism in its most raw and naked form, just as the kings and nobles of old sucked dry the resources of the people they claimed to own. It is in these arguments for unrestrained corporatism that we see the naked face of Hamilton's Federalists in the modern conservative movement. It's the face of wealth and privilege, of what Jefferson called a "pseudo-aristocracy," that works to its own enrichment and gain regardless of the harm done to the nation, the commons, or the "We, the People" rabble.

It is, in its most complete form, the face that would "drown government in a bathtub"; that sneers at the First Amendment by putting up "free speech zones" for protesters; that openly and harshly suggests that those who are poor, unemployed, or underemployed are suffering from character defects. That works hard to protect the corporate interest, but is happy to ignore the public interest. That says it doesn't matter what happens to the humans living in what a national conservative talk show host laughingly calls "turd world nations."
These new conservatives would have us trade in our democracy for a corporatocracy, a form of feudal government most recently reinvented by Benito Mussolini when he recommended a "merger of business and state interests" as a way of creating a government that would be invincibly strong. Mussolini called it fascism.
In a previous Common Dreams op-ed, I pointed out how media and other corporations will suck up to government when they think they can get regulations that will enhance their profits. We see this daily in the halls of Congress and in the lobbying efforts directed at our regulatory agencies. We see it in the millions of dollars in trips and gifts given to FCC commissioners, that in another era would have been called bribes.
These corporate-embracing conservatives are not working for what's best for democracy, for America, or for the interests of "We, The People." They are explicitly interested in a singular goal: Profits and the power to maintain them. Under control, the desire for profit can be a useful thing, as 200 years of American free enterprise have shown.
But unrestrained, as George Soros warns us so eloquently, it will create monopoly and destroy democracy. The new conservatives are systematically dismantling our governmental systems of checks and balances; of considering the public good when regulating private corporate behavior; of protecting those individuals, small businesses, and local communities who are unable to protect themselves from giant corporate predators. They want to replace government of, by, and for We, the People, with a corporate feudal state, turning America's citizens into their vassals and serfs.
Only a public revolt in disgust over this unconscionable behavior will stop these new conservatives from turning America into a corporate-based clone of Mussolini's feudal vision. As Longfellow reminds us, "In the hour of darkness and peril and need/The people will waken and listen to hear.."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Of the $3500.00 you may have paid in Federal taxes:

$1048.89 goes to the military
$651.10 goes to pay the interest on the
$709.58 goes to health care
$230.36 goes to income security
$128.45 goes to education
$120.32 goes to benefits for veterans
$94.10 goes to nutrition spending
$75.03 goes to housing
$60.36 goes to environmental protection
$32.80 goes to job training
$368.03 goes to all other expenses

How can we possibly reduce the federal deficit and find enough money for high-quality public services without raising everyone's taxes? We cannot. With our current tax structure we cannot have both guns and butter.

The Internal Revenue Service recently released a report estimating that taxes owed but not collected in 2001 (the last year studied) ranged from $312 billion to $353 billion. That didn't even count much of the tax evasion by US firms offshore.

Last fall, Citizens for Tax Justice examined federal taxes paid by 275 of America's largest corporations. On average, they paid a rate of 17.3 percent -- lower than the rate paid by nearly everyone who is reading this column.

The statutory corporate rate is 35 percent. The fact that the taxes actually paid were less than half that amount reflects a blend of special-interest laws, shelters, and outright tax-cheating. As McIntyre observes, in the 1950s, US corporations paid 4.8 percent of the gross domestic product in taxes. By 2004 that had fallen to 1.6 percent.

We the Rable have two choices, we can lobby collectively to demand that corporations pay their fair share of the tax burden or we can pay more of our hard earned dollars so that wealthy businesses can pay less. There is of course a third option. This would be to allow our Republican lead government to "starve the beast". If we continue on our present course of tax cuts and increased spending, our government will eventually bankrupt and we will have no other option but to abandon the social programs that have made us an egalitarian society. In short, the citizens that need the most help would receive the least. This trend is gaining momentum in Washington, as reflected in the last budget cuts, and is largely going unnoticed by the majority of Americans. What's more important to you? Tax cuts for wealthy corporate citizens or pre-kindergarten care for less fortunate children?

Famous Quotes:
Only the little people pay taxes. - Leona Helmsley

The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward. - John Maynard Keynes

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Offensive Cartoons in the Arab World

As documented by Palestinian Media Watch, the Arab Press exercises almost no self-censorship in the publications of cartoons which involve gross stereotypes of Jews.
Not a week goes by in the Arab world without a "political" cartoon portraying Jews as either blood-suckers, Nazis, or the indiscriminate killers of Palestinian children.

And for those cretinous nitwits who minimize or deny the atrocity of the Jewish Holocaust ; I say this:

"Lack of education is an extraordinary handicap when one is being offensive”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Depiction That Caused Bloodshed

The Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, suffered bomb scares a day after apologizing for cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed. The negative image of the Prophet prompted protests from Muslims and a boycott of Danish products in a dozen nations. The offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and Arhus were evacuated as the storm continued over its publication last September of a series of 12 satirical cartoons regarded by many Muslims as blasphemous.
The Danish economy has numerous ties to the Middle-East and is expected to lose 1.5 million per day in revenue.

The depiction of the Prophet Mohamed, above, has caused destructive riots, and destruction of property throughout the Middle East. In Beirut, where religious tensions have fueled generations of political violence, the rioting dragged on for hours in the Christian neighborhood of Achrifiyeh. During the protest in 30 people were injured and one person killed.

The Danish Premier said that “the newspaper Jyllands-Posten had not intended to insult Muslims when it published the drawings.” The Danish government has broad public backing for it stance on the cartoons. An opinion poll showed that 79 percent of Danes think Fogh Rasmussen should not issue an apology and 62 percent say the newspaper should not apologize. So far, the Danish Premier has only apologized for the unrest that the cartoons have caused, and not for publishing the cartoons.

As a person who lives in an open society it's difficult to understand why so many Muslims are enraged over this cartoon. Admittedly the depiction is in poor taste. The Associated Press refused to distribute the images; there are 12 in all, because it did not meet their standards in taste. But a cartoon in poor taste should not provoke such arrant outrage. I can only conclude that the violence is emblematic of a deeper issue - intolerance.

The Europeans have expressed concerns that Islamic values are incompatible with their increasingly secular ones. The Europeans are going to have decided whether or not they can accept intolerance. Can their society remain free and open if freedom of expression is expected to be silenced by a steady intonation of antagonism and fear? They likely know the answer. This is presumably why the Danish government is not apologetic for its support of free speech. I just hope that the Europeans have the moral fortitude, courage and fearlessness required to win the war on culture. A the rate the Muslim population is growing in Western Europe, it's going to be a long conflict.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Is Washington out of touch with America?

There is a lot of discussion lately, more than usual, about what’s wrong with our Representatives in Washington. There is a growing concern among the people whom I speak to , personally and in the blogesphere, that Washington DC is far removed from the average person. Is Washington out of touch with America? Many who are attempting an answer to this question are suggesting that the divide is based on wealth, power and influence. While there some truth to this, as evidenced in the latest K Street / Abromoff scandal, the scandals are a side effect, a symptom of a more formidable problem. The real issue is that the party which has historically represented the interests of the individual is now mired by corporate interests in the quest for the almighty dollar. In a strage twist of reality, the Democratic party has become a replica of the “Big Business” party – the Republicans.

The Democrats have become Republican lite and by this they have lost much of their base and public support from Middle - America. I often wonder - whatever happened to Middle-American progressivism? Before inheriting the pejorative titile “the Rust Belt” the Midwest used to be a free market of progressive ideas and solid industries. Now, during televised campaigns all that we see from the Midwest is, well red. I am confounded at how so many in the Midwest will vote against their own economic interests. I’m not suggesting that Middle-America is drunk on tax cuts, or that they would purposely work at Wal-Mart as opposed to Honeywell. I’m not suggesting that Midwesterners are stupid – although some on the left are suggesting this distortion. It is tempting to think that Middle-America has been fooled by pop conservatism – talk shows, best sellers, am radio, etc. But that’s not the likely culprit for the trend towards the right. While the populist rebellion against liberal values has had some success, the people are smart enough to know that many right wing political pundants are nothing but loud mouth blowhards.

So what is the culprit? What is to blame for the failing support for the Democratic Party? Is it those nasty frat boy Republican types who laud that this is there time in history and the old days of the “liberal elite” have all but vanished into the air of personal accountability and private acquisition? This is tempting, but not likely. Instead I blame those latte drinking, Volvo driving, I’ve been to college so let me do the thinking Democrats. My use of hyperbole illustrates a common perception among many in the Red States. A perception that - most Democrats are out of touch with reality and should be ignored. This has been the argument of the cultural warriors (Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc) for some time, but now seems to have a growing awareness among the common man.The question beckons: why this nasty attitude towards the party of the people? Has the progressive movement outlived it’s shelve life. Or as someone put it to me recently, “ Progressives are way past their sell date and are devolving into the usual fetid, fever swamp” This opinion is fairly common, but inaccurate. In the last presidential election 51 million votes showed up for John Kerry – this can hardly mean “way past their sell date”. Some are also suggesting that the Democratic Party is completely out of ideas. I refute this by stating while it is possible that the oldest functioning Democratic Party in the history of the world is out of ideas, it’s not likely. But still, the perception lingers. The shift to the right is not entirly perceptual.

The Democratic Party is failing on many fronts, mostly the Democrats have moved away from their core values. The DLC (Democratic Leadership Council), an experiment hailed by former President Clinton as the wave of the future, has moved the Democrats right of center, too far in my opinion. The DLC pushed NAFTA, GATT and laid the ground work for The WTO and CAFTA. These policies have hurt Middle-America by displacing workers, factories, and depressing entire communities. These trade agreements have put downward pressures on wages, working conditions and benefits just by the mere threat of moving a factory out of our country. Back on point, Democrats in general have moved right of center. With the recent votes in favor of Bankruptcy Reform Bill from many Democrats it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish between an elephant and a jackass! This shift begs the question, “Why vote for those elitist liberals if their policies are so congruent with the Republicans? (please note my use of sarcasism) Why vote Democrat? Why vote for a party that does not represent your political or social perspective? Why vote for a party that has little difference from the opposition party? . There is no good answer.

The Democrats are also losing the cultural war. Lately they are not standing for anything other than standing against Republicans; at least this is a popular discernment of many in the U.S. This is not a winning strategy, it’s is a gimmick. They are not defining themselves with any clarity nor are they attempting to debunk the myth that they are void of ideas. The general perception is that they have become weak and timid. Yet they do little to fight this attitude. They , the party of Jefferson, should be standing on the roof of the capital building yelling, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Instead we hear little about what it means to be a Democrat, we hear little about what the Democrats believe. Republicans own the cultural issues of the day and dominate the political discourse. They are vocal, loud and not affraid of a fight. The Democrats are behaving like timid, amalgamated weenies. The fact that so many Republicans "say" that the Democrats do not stand for anything is not the problem. The fact that so many in our Nation believe this aspersion is. When are the Democrats going to become Democrats again? Six Core Values of a Democrat 1. PROSPERITY - Providing all Americans with the opportunity to succeed and to live a secure and comfortable life, including good jobs here at home, affordable health care, a growing economy with stable prices, investment in new technologies, and fiscal responsibility in government. 2. NATIONAL SECURITY - Guaranteeing military strength second to none, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, building strong diplomatic alliances to protect America’s national interests, and collecting timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home by preventing terrorist attacks before they occur. 3. FAIRNESS - Ensuring equal opportunity for all, including affordable health care for everyone, spending Social Security funds only on Social Security and eliminating tax loopholes so that all Americans pay their fair share. 4. OPPORTUNITY - Providing Americans access to the tools to succeed as they choose: a vibrant public education system, accountable to the highest standards for every school and a chance for all children to reach their potential, including an affordable and accessible college education. 5. COMMUNITY - Working together for safe communities free of crime and drugs, supporting local businesses and groups to keep our families safe and our neighborhoods strong, and enforcing our anti-pollution laws to keep our air and water clean and healthy, with polluters paying for the damage they cause. 6. ACCOUNTABILITY - Holding those in power accountable for their actions, acting responsibly for our children by restoring fiscal discipline and eliminating deficit spending with pay-as-you-gobudgets, and requiring real consequences for CEOs and corporations who break the law at the expense of those who play by the rules.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

As you know, last night was the State of the Union Address. This is when the President is summoned to address the Congress and the Nation with the vision for his term. The historical precedence for this speech is Constitutional -

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

I thought that the Mr. Bush looked Presidential last night. His delivery was confident, proficient and enthusiastic. The speech, although formulaic, was well written but lacked any significant diction that will be remembered historically, i.e. “A thousand points of light” (George Bush Senior January 29, 1991)

I take issue with two themes of last nights Address. It seems that if you disagree with White Housepolicy then you deserve a negative label:
If you are against President Bush’s trade policy then you are a protectionist
If you are against President Bush’s Iraq war policy then you are an Isolationist
If you are against President Bush’s Social Security Reform, well then you are an obstructionist. I find that this type of discourse only confines meaningful dialog.
Also, the president mentioned that our economy grew over four million jobs in the past few years; however, he never mentions the quality of these jobs. Our nation is growing jobs, mostly in low paying service sectors areas, but we are losing well paying professional jobs at an enormous rate (outsourcing, in-sourcing and downsizing). Additionally, growth in many high paying professional occupations is stagnant.
For once, I would like to hear President Bush acknowledge and address this fact.

The President seemed to offer an olive branch to the Democrats then pull it back several times by using obstructionist language.
I had hoped to hear the President offer more words about opening a dialog with his opponents to finding solutions to many of the domestic problems that face our people such as a lack of good paying jobs, lack of health care for millions and insufficient access to higher education. Unfortunately this did not come through with any strength. Instead we heard much of the same rhetoric that we've been hearing from the White House all year long. The difference is that last nights conveyance was slightly more calculating and articulate. The State of the Union Address for January 31, 2006, though an eloquent and well delivered speech, offered very little for we the lowly Rabble.