Apr 27, 2008

Another Case of Lies & Propaganda by Bush & Co. Not Surprising, but Why Haven't the Media Picked up on this Story Yet?

I am a fan of Bill Moyers. I appreciate anyone who adds intelligence to the dialogue and enhances knowledge. Here come Bill O'Liely and Newt Gingrich, who label Moyers as "far left" and "impressed with those who hate America"! This because Moyers interviewed Rev. Wright. Sure, those "America haters".. as compared to those who love America by foolishly sacrificing American lives--here (no universal health care) and abroad (Iraq War). And, those who use code words, such as "limited government" to mean no protection (consumer, environment, health) and no empowerment (access to opportunities, like education, etc).

The people have a right to know, even if they choose not to know. Libraries should exist even if they're not used by everyone. Same with parks. Certain things are necessary even if most people don't use them. Insurance is a thing you buy, just in case... Same with the court warrants; they're almost automatically given to law enforcement for the asking, but they're a necessary condition of accountability and of creating a record for a particular action by our government!

There's a report that shows how the Pentagon paid "policy analysts" to go on national media and promote the administration's [note: the official views, not what many generals & experts are really saying about the Iraq war] views. The mainstream media swallowed this. Remember how BushCo would feed Judith Miller of the New York Times (formerly) and others who would publicize the lies & misleading information prior to the war? And, then BushCo would say, for example, "as the NY Times reported..." Yeah, that kind of situation whereas propaganda and the media's failure to uphold professional standards [you know, seeking the truth and the facts] was repeated again. It seems that we haven't learned from past gaffes.

It's illegal for the president to intentionally mislead Congress. It's illegal for the government to secretly pay people to propagandize. Since before the invasion of Iraq, BushCo hatched a plan to mislead the country. Part of this plan was to pay for surrogates [at least 75 former military officers, now consultants to the war machine] to "amplify the message" and insert them into the mainstream media as "analysts"! The media were duped, once again. This story has come to light, but the media is not covering it! Finally, News Hour (PBS) did a segment the other day. [Watch it here]

The Iraq war could not have been sold unless for the deceit perpetrated by Bush & Co. I think we deserve better than being lied to and treated like little children. You see, that's the conservative approach: all discipline and no nurture. I'm not looking for a nanny state, because many of us are happy to be adults and take responsibility for our actions. And, we don't want to defer judgment to Big Brother. We're confident enough and can deal with a challenging crisis.

But if someone insists on collectively treating us like a child, then at least they should provide all the benefits a child should have: health care, clean air, education, protection, safe food, adequate shelter, a healthy environment (and a healthy Earth to live on), daycare, and opportunity to success. We don't need reckless parenting--those disciplinarians who are only good at abuse. Even those who feel like kids today--unsure & afraid--should rise up and emancipate themselves. They'll be better off without the bullying and the deceptions of the self-appointed guardians, because those guardians' interest lays in keeping people immature!

I don't think we need guardians, Big Brother, or a messiah, as long as we mature, interested & engaged citizens of this great country. It's time we take control of our government [throw the bums out this November] and demand to be treated with respect. After all, they work for us!

Update 4/28

Elizabeth Edwards wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times on Sunday. Here are some excerpts:

  • The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.

  • The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles.

  • If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie "Network" but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility.
Oh, by the way, Sen. McCain's health care plan wouldn't cover her or even McCain himself! [pre-existing cancer conditions]

Apr 18, 2008

The Mantra of this Imperial Presidency: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...

After a long series of serious abuses, amnesia might set in, or avoiding reality may be a natural response to deal with the pain. I hope that we are not completely numb and that we'll maintain enough energy to rise to the occasion this election year. We have to throw the usurpers out, hold them accountable, and ask for a better social contract from our new government.

I am not trying to saturate the senses or overwhelm the mind with whatever bungles it, but it's important to record the political offenses and the abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration. It's a patriot's duty to do so; it's common decency for common people to refuse to be indifferent and let the violators act with impunity.

There's hope, as long as people care and realize that the bizarro world of BushCo must end. Here's a recent example of the paranoia and the absurdity of this regime.
From Think Progress:
In a recent briefing with Canadian press (which has yet to be picked up in the U.S.), Chertoff made the startling statement that fingerprints are “not particularly private”:
QUESTION: Some are raising that the privacy aspects of this thing, you know, sharing of that kind of data, very personal data, among four countries is quite a scary thing.
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, first of all, a fingerprint is hardly personal data because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world, they’re like footprints. They’re not particularly private.

Gloves, anyone? We also must be crazy for throwing our DNA carelessly around! No privacy, said the Big Brother. Is this crazy or what?

The Fourth Amendment (you know, that one about warrants and proper cause) has been grossly violated under this imperial presidency. We don't need no stinkin' badges seems to be the new mantra. Oh, and since Congress insists upon passing new laws, el presidente has a secret weapon: his signing statements! He says, fine you want to play with me, I'll sign this law, but this what I think of it.... [the law doesn't apply to him!] And, who can forget this trick of ..redefining torture!

Here's another gem from a stalwart of conservatism:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visited Drew University in New Jersey, where he took questions from 20 political science majors there. When one asked him how the government could justify stripping rights from Americans in such pieces of legislation as the Patriot Act, Gingrich said that the government has a “right to defend society,” and when under threat, “people will give up all their liberties"

Well, do you think Gingrich is right that most Americans would be willing to give up all their freedoms for promise of safety? I hope we're better than that. And, I hope if the answer is "no" is not because the people know how incompetent this administration is, but because freedom is an essential condition for us to remain a great country.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Ben Franklin

Apr 11, 2008

The Politics of Tax & Spend and the Role of Government. Pay Your Taxes But Ask for Accountability too!

Should we pay taxes according to ability & earnings?

Ah, the tax-filing deadline is fast approaching. Have you done your taxes? You should file if you want to receive a "rebate" from our government, because this money (that we don't have but will borrow at great expense) will stimulate the slumping economy--or, that's the idea, they say, during this election year! Sure, why not. Our government wastes so much money anyway, what's a few hundred more billions of dollars?
What most people don't get is that our political system is responsive to those who get access to it--either to the multitude who decide to organize and participate, or to those who buy influence through lobbying and personal connections!

As humans see the benefit of organizing themselves into a civil society--hopefully with a good social contract--the question arises of what the role of the government should be. I think it should be to protect and empower the commonwealth, that is, for the benefit of the greatest number of people possible. Yes, of course, I recognize the principle of protecting the minorities, however small they are, so you can not exploit the few for the benefit of the many either.

This philosophical (and, I maintain, practical) approach to the role, scope and size of (our) government is one of the important differences between the progressives and the conservatives today! But, in order for our government to do all the good things for us, it needs money, hence the ..dreadful taxes. The reason to pay taxes is to establish such conditions as to give reasonable opportunities to everyone to reach his/her own potential. Empower & protect--that's my understanding of a good social contract.

Have you noticed who has the strongest voice against taxes? Those who are better off! They usually get their way of tax breaks and lower taxation
as a percentage and ability to pay. This week, NOW produced an excellent piece on the tax policies many states have embraced--policies that place most of the tax burden on those who can least afford it! See, for example, what NOW discovered in Alabama [click on the link to watch the NOW video] one of the most regressive states in the US, where a family of four with as low income as $12,600 [recently raised from $4,500] has to pay taxes. That's pay not file for taxes. The connection to poverty & hunger is crystal clear.

Next Friday, the farm bill expires and Congress is working on a new one. In light of our huge budget deficit, this farm bill is "
the most lavish subsidies in American history" the Wall Street Journal has decried! Yes, that Journal--not exactly a marxist publication. The Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has acknowledged that the insurance companies and the commodities industry are the two most powerful groups that carry great influence with both parties in Congress. Most of the farm subsidies go to rich farmers, big corporations-- a practice which is both wasteful and unethical. This is one of the many cases where we have to stop and think, and ultimately call it as it is.

The smaller government advocated by conservatives means: a big enough government to maintain a trough that feeds the few, but small enough that cannot regulate, inspect, and ensure a more fair distribution of the public wealth! No safety net, because, hmmm, you should be "free from the nanny state!" This is the bottom line. Oh, OK, there's an exception regarding the size of the government: those conservatives that want the government to be strong enough to shove down our throats a particular religious morality they advocate. In this, you are a toddler and you need a ..nanny! Is this clear?

Why is there so much hunger in the US today? Why do we increase the farm subsidies to the rich farmers [there's a fight to limit payments to farmers making up to a $1 mil. instead of the present $2.5 ceiling] but we don't increase food stamps to poor Americans? Most rural poor that get food stamps have little food after the 3rd week of the month. We're talking about working people here, who simply do not make enough to feed their families. There's a great hunger in rural America, 35 million of out citizens, but this is not even an issue discussed in the current presidential race!

Bill Moyers has another excellent piece on the farm bill this week.
Cash Cows and Cowboy Starter Kits from EXPOSÉ illustrates, some of the subsidies in the current iteration of the bill don't go to the stereotypical small American farmer — or even to farmers at all. See how the farm bill gives billions to people who don't farm, or "drought aid" to people who didn't suffer any drought conditions! Or, how people got money from the space shuttle explosion over Texas for a bogus "livestock compensation"!!! Poverty exists in the US and it's bigger than we want to admit or pay attention to. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just slipped a pork-barrel subsidy to owners of ..race horses!

There's another class, the
missing class, of the near-poor. Katherine S. Newman has a great book on this subject. This video explains more about those Americans who are also forgotten, who live on the margins of the mainstream economy, and on the edge of economic disaster. We can cut hunger in the US by half in one year by eliminating the waste in just one area: farm subsidies. But, we need leadership and political commitment. Oh, yes, we also need a politically educated public, and that Americans start behaving as they are in the economic scale not as they'd like to be or "see" themselves in the undetermined future.

I don't know if it's a short attention span or by choice, but we often focus on a few issues and forget others that are equally important--which actually make a big difference in most people's lives.

We should have a serious discussion on the role of the government and to dispel some misconceptions about the infallibility of capitalism. The free marketplace is a great but imperfect mechanism and like a good car needs to maintained and occasionally steered in the right direction. We have to examine ways make it work for the commonwealth and not to privatize the profit while we socialize the risk. There is no rational or moral argument to continue doing what we've been doing on many levels of public policy. We should start re-examining our intense focus on being a very militaristic country and the costs associated with such a strategy, and then re-evaluate the priorities of alocating the resources to benefit the commonwealth. Having a long-term strategy would also be quite beneficial for the next generations (remember them?).

Apr 4, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

How do you think such statements would have been received today in our country? Without the benefit of hindsight...