Monthly Archives: September 2012

Get out the vote

The day is fast approaching.  Voting day 2012.  It is 37 days away, and I have resigned myself to several facts.

The most significant is that despite the fact that there are many other candidates running, several of which are likely more qualified and better candidates, we are once again going to be faced with either a Democrat or a Republican president.  This is not because these are the two best choices.  This is not because these are the least two evils.  This is quite simply because of two basic reasons.

The first reason is because most people are unaware that there are any other choices.  As was discussed a few weeks ago in this space, there are at least 22 other candidates of varying seriousness running across the country.  The vast majority of which have received no attention whatsoever from any significant media source, much less from the mainstream media.  If the citizenry are unaware of their options, then how can they legitimately consider them?

The second reason though is the more insidious and more significant.  Inertia – the widespread belief that we have to vote for either a Democrat or a Republican because those are the only two legitimate parties.  As though they have always been the only two options.  If people do become aware of a third party option, they dismiss it.  Granted, they have been around a long time, and they have dominated the Presidency since their founding – the Republicans in 1854 and the Democrats in about 1829, both of which arose from the Democratic-Republican party.  (Not really the party name, by the way.  Just how historians refer to it.)  The Whigs held the Presidency twice.  The Federalist party once.  This is just the presidency.  It does not account for the Representatives or Senators.  Nor does it account for state or local offices, and it is not my intent to teach a class on the history of political parties in the United States.  The point is that we are not bound to vote for these two parties for the presidency, and we have not always had to.  Some of our most revered presidents were not from these parties – George Washington (I) and Thomas Jefferson (D-R), for example.

Even recently we have seen reasonably successful third party campaigns, and yet, we still hear people saying all too frequently, “I can’t afford to throw my vote away.  This election is too important.”  Every election is too important.  The single largest impediment to real change in this country is not corruption.  It is not money.

It is not even the media.  Not any more.  Not thanks to the internet and social media. We have proven that with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, the people are very capable of spreading information, gathering and acting.  When they choose to.  The single largest impediment to change is belief.  The belief that you actually matter.  That your single vote counts.  That your voice matters.  That you should get out there and speak your peace, and that when the time comes to vote, you should.  Some places are already allowing early voting.

This cartoon has been making the rounds and it speaks volumes.  It is unattributed, of course.  (If anyone knows the proper attribution, please let me know.)

Power of the people

All the money of the Koch brothers or the Soros’ of the world matter not, if we the people stop playing their games.  We actually do have the power.  Abstaining from the vote though, is not the answer.  If you abstain from voting, then you are simply consenting to allow them to do to you whatever they wish.

A conservative friend said to me the other day that even they distrust their leadership.  If they are distrusting their leadership and the democrats are distrusting their leadership, then why are you all continuing to elect these people?

However, that wasn’t the real point here today.

The point is this.  I will be voting for Rocky Anderson this election.  I will write his name in on the ballot because he is only on the ballot in 16 states.  There are 8 states in this country that do not recognize or count write in votes.  I will do this because I believe he is the best candidate that is running.  I do not expect that he will win.  However, as I have always told my children, we do what is right because it is what is right; not because it is what others are doing.

As a responsible liberal, when I compare the candidates, I can reach no other conclusion.  If more people were to vote based on their beliefs rather than on fear, we could actually achieve change this year.  Or, we can sit back and watch the right continue on their path to burn the country down.

On a related note, if you doubted that Obama was part of the right-wing, please remember that his signing statement for the NDAA 2012 indicated his regret that it included indefinite detention of Americans without due process and a promise that his administration wouldn’t use it.  However, his administration is now vehemently defending this in court, including “emergency appeals”.  “Oh, but he must.”  Really?  Just like he must defend the defense of Marriage Act?  Oh, no.  That’s right.  His administration stopped defending that because he decided that it was wrong.  To me this says that his signing statement was a lie.

As my father says, we get the government we deserve.  Our apathy and willingness to accept this kind of behavior means that we deserve this.  Wake up.  Change it.

In St Ronnie’s Name We Pray? Nay, men!

There seems to be a lot of confusion lately about the use and presentation of Ronald Reagan’s name, image and legacy by those on the so-called left and those on right.  Let’s look at this phenomenon a little bit more closely.

There are a number of factors going on here.  One is the typical nostalgia of the past that happens in society.  The belief that times gone by were better than today.  Whether they were or not is irrelevant.  In our heads, they tend to become golden.  We tend to see them as easier times.  We look back to the 80s and we forget the hardships.  In the case of Reagan, the upside of his presidency is put forth, by both Democrats and Republicans.  This is easy to do, since both are putting up the same information!  They are both pointing out that Reagan inherited an economy that was in poor shape, and by using government spending, the economy did, in fact, rebound over the next 8 years.

Both leave out those little details like the Iran-Contra affair, trading arms for hostages, the multiple crises around the world, the cold war that was still going on, the turmoil we felt, the bombings of abortion clinics, and so on.  The leave out the role that he and his administration played in these things.  They leave out the strong allegations that he negotiated with Iran to hold American hostages past the election so that President Carter would not get credit for their release and thus gain any advantage in the election.

Of course, the so-called left is far more honest about it, as usual.  The right is doing so with the intent of trying to show the incompetence of Obama, so they leave out the facts that Reagan raised taxes 11 times during those years, so that while some taxes did go down, overall the top marginal income tax rate stayed at 50% throughout Reagan’s presidency.  Reagan himself argued for closing loop holes, because, as he said:

And, because the right loves to argue this is taken out of context, here is a link to the transcript of the entire speech.  What you will find is that it is not taken out of context at all.  What makes it so clear that it is not taken out of context is the call and response you see in the video, “Do you think that the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?” and the crowd’s response, “MORE” which is met, not with protests from that Lion of the Right, but rather with a gleam in his eye and an approving chuckle.  This rather interesting, and short article on NPR, nicely sums up a balanced look at this issue.

However, what is more important to me, is that the moderates often misunderstand.  In this context, by moderates, I sadly mean those who not only consider themselves moderate, but often those who consider themselves liberal as well.  You see, I expect those on the right to misunderstand either deliberately or otherwise.  That makes sense.  They are stuck in their religious devotion to a dogma which is not supported by the facts.

I will reiterate the same challenge that I issue repeatedly.  It is a standing challenge.  Show me the facts which support continuing, much less increasing, the economic policies which led us to the situation we are in now.  I do not believe that they exist.  Every shred of datum shows that these policies are destructive to the very free market and economy that the right purports to support and believe in.  Not cherry picked data that leaves out the big picture, but the whole set.  Don’t try to show me one month here and there in a ten year period and claim success.  We can look at it on your terms, but it must be contiguous, whole, long term data.

But, I digress.


Making mountains out of molehills

There has been great brouhaha for months this year, as there is every year, regarding movements to restrict voter access.  These movements always come up in the months leading up to elections, and they almost always arise from the far right wing.  These are always put forth as some means to protect the integrity of the voting process, and yet, they inevitably have the added benefit, unintended consequence, true purpose, side-effect of targeting demographically likely moderate, i.e. Democratic voters.

One component of this is inevitably the push to require voters to show photo identification at the polling place.  Let me give you the simple acceptable solution to this first, and then we’ll discuss the real situation.  Shall we?  It is so simple and yet, no one that I am aware of has proposed it.

If we wish to require photo ID at polling places to allow voting, then election supervisors must issue voter cords with photos on them.  La voila problem solved.  Oh, but wait.  There are complications with that, too, aren’t there?  It makes it much more difficult to have voter drives, and all of the other things that we have instituted in order to facilitate voter registration.  There are solutions to these issues.  They are not reasons to not implement this solution.  For example, for states that allow voter registration while getting your drivers license (so-called motor voter states), the picture that is taken can be provided to the Election supervisor along with the voter registration.  If private organizations are going to be having voter registrations then they can take photos and provide these along with the registration cards as well.  There are solutions.

However, this is really a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  There are almost no documented instances of this kind of voter fraud in America.  That is, the situation where a person walks in and pretends to be someone other than who they are in order to cast a vote.  That is the only type of voter fraud that photo ID requirements would address.  So, we have these battles to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

If we read defenses of these pushes by right wing no-think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, then we find such wonderfully charming, and pointless anecdotes such as:

The fraud denialists also must have missed the recent news coverage of the double voters in North Carolina and the fraudster in Tunica County, Miss. — a member of the NAACP’s local executive committee — who was sentenced in April to five years in prison for voting in the names of ten voters, including four who were deceased.

And the story of the former deputy chief of staff for Washington mayor Vincent Gray, who was forced to resign after news broke that she had voted illegally in the District of Columbia even though she was a Maryland resident. Perhaps they would like a copy of an order from a federal immigration court in Florida on a Cuban immigrant who came to the U.S. in April 2004 and promptly registered and voted in the November election.

There is also the recent embarrassing for Democrats story of Wendy Rosen who voted in both Maryland and in Florida in the same election cycle.  (It might ought to be noted that it was her own party’s officials that reported her.  It was not the muckrakers from the other side.)

However, what do these things all have in common?  Presenting a photo ID would do absolutely nothing to have prevented any one of these things.  The only one that it might, possibly have had an impact on was the Tunica case, and even that is questionable for two reasons.  One, getting false ID is really very easy.  Two, as is so frequently the case, they provided no source.  This remains an unverified allegation, and no, I haven’t heard of it anywhere else.


Rights AND Responsibilities

Richard Duncan and Ricky Johnson – Independent

Sheila Tittle and Matthew Turner – We, the People

Jeff Boss and Bob Pasternak – Independent

Dean Morstad and Josh Franke-Hyland – Independent

Jill Reed and Tom Cary – Twelve Vision Party

Jerry Litzel and Jim Litzel – Independent

Randall Terry and Missy Smith – Independent

Will Christensen and Kenneth Gibbs – Independent American Party

Jim Carlson and George McMahon – Grassroots Party

Jerry White and Phyllis Scherrer – Socialist Equality Party

Merlin Miller and Virginia Abernethy – American Third Position Party

Tom Stevens and Alden Link – Objectivist Party

Andre Barnett and Ken Cross – Reform Party

James Harris and Maura DeLuca – Socialist Workers Party

Stewart Alexander and Alejandro Mendoza – Socialist Party USA

Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan – Peace and Freedom Party

Tom Hoefling and J.D. Ellis – America’s Party

Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio – Party for Socialism and Liberation

Virgil Goode and Jim Clymer – Constitution Party

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala – Green Party

Gary Johnson and Jim Gray – Libertarian Party

Rocky Anderson and Luis J. Rodriguez – Justice Party

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – Republican Party

Barack Obama and Joe Biden – Democrat Party

What do these 24 pairs of names have in common?  This is not a trick question.  It shouldn’t be difficult even.  In fact, though I would imagine that many of you do not recognize more than 6 of those (and one of those you probably don’t recognize from this context), you probably did guess from the last few entries that what they all have in common is that every entry on this list has thrown their hat in the ring for election to the Presidency of the United States in 2012.

“But, we have a two-party system!”  No, not really.  We have a winner take all voting system.  That is not the same thing.  We have a media system that is based on feeding the lowest common denominator.  It is definitionally conservative, in that it has monied interest in conserving, maintaining the status quo, and is also populated by people who have been fed by that same lowest common denominator for a long time.  It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.  As with any other form of education, we cannot simply sit back and expect to be spoon-fed.  It is a process that requires full engagement.  It requires us to be actively looking for information.  We cannot simply expect that we are being told the truth, particularly when we know that we have been lied to repeatedly.   Not in the general, “Politicians lie” or “The news got the details wrong” sense.  We know that these specific politicians intentionally lied.  We know that these specific news outlets intentionally misreported information.  What’s more, we know that they continue to do so.

And, in case the electorate simply isn’t ignorant enough of the choices that they have, the Great Satans will actively act to remove them from the ballots, so that no one would accidentally find out about them at the last minute while in the ballot booth.  In Pennsylvania, the Republican branch had managed to have the Constitution Party remove themselves from the ballot simply by threat, and they are challenging the Libertarian party and its candidate to have him removed from the ballot.

As Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results.  So, why would we expect that we could expect known liars to tell us the truth this time?  As adults, do we not remember hearing from our parents that the problem with telling a lie is that everything we say after that is suspect?  As parents, did we not tell our children essentially the same thing?  So, why is it that we allow our politicians and our media to get away with this?

Last week, I discussed fact checking.  Why do we have to have such a proliferation of fact checking, to the point where it has become a career unto itself?  Because we know that we are being lied to.  We have come to expect it.  We expect it from our politicians.  We expect it from our media.  We expect it from our bosses.  We expect it from our co-workers.  We generally expect it from everyone around us.  We have even come to expect it from our educators.  Entertainment became enmeshed with information, and truth became almost indistinguishable in the public venue from lie.  As a result, we developed the careers of fact checkers.  But, even that wasn’t good enough, because then, we decided to revert to the old religious standby of attacking the source.

The Lost Art of Truth

Fact checking has become an incredibly valuable tool, and yet, all too few people are actually using it.  It would seem to be a popular past time, right?  With the abundance of websites and newspaper columns dedicated to it, you’d think that people are jumping straight to a reliable source to check some new information or graphic prior to believing it as accurate, right?

We’ve got :



The Fact Checker

Not to mention every major news paper, online journal and TV network.

That’s just a partial list, and, yet…

Every day, the facts are stated incorrectly and when that is pointed out, there is always some argument.  When someone does bother to pull out the fact checkers, then the fact checkers are attacked.  The most obvious and clear recent disdain is, when Neil Newhouse, a pollster working for the Romney campaign, flatly stated, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

But, then, Mitt Romney hasn’t exactly been the standard bearer of consistency has he?  This is just another in a long line of flip flops.  This position espoused by Newhouse, and not yet contradicted by the Romney campaign, is in direct contradiction to the words Romney himself spoke back on August 9th.

You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them

Or, perhaps more accurately, it is typical of the double standard that both the far right and the center right wish to apply to each other, but it is a particular hypocrisy with which the far right is even more comfortable.  Perhaps because they have more experience rotting in that particular filth.  Perhaps because the far right generally is more comfortable subscribing to the belief that the ends justifies the means.  They want to demand that their prime opponent be held to a higher standard of accuracy than that to which they themselves should be held.  For so long, the center and what has remained of the left has played the role of the honorable party.  We have made the attempt to remain decent and play fair despite what the right has done.  Despite the dirty tricks of Watergate era Nixon, Iran Contra Reagan, blatant lies of pill head Rush Limbaugh, false patriotism of Glen Beck, and so on, and yet we have tried to remain above it.  Not all of us, certainly.  Some of the politicians have gotten in there and played dirty too, but not as well and not as dirty.  Again, it likely comes down to experience.

So, the piece to which Romney was referring above, an ad run by a SuperPAC  supportive of Obama, Priorities USA Action, which gave the impression that Romney was responsible for the death of a woman because Bain Capital had closed a plant thus removing her health insurance.  An ad, which fact checkers have called false, saying:

The ad uses innuendo for a serious allegation, but there’s no proof directly linking the death to Bain. We rate the claim False.

This should be called for what it is.  It is wrong.  It is deceitful.  It is completely in keeping with the center right politician that Obama is.  It is typical of the politics of fear that the right wing plays.

So, when an image like this pops up:

RNC debt clock - We built this juxtaposition

It looks very legit.  Both of these things were at the RNC this week in Tampa.  It gets posted quickly and without checking.  However, someone had, very likely, superimposed two images.  Sadly, it is actually also factually accurate.  The supply side economics, unpaid for wars built on lies, an unpaid for Medicaid drug coverage, and ineffectual, morally offensive, and economically destructive tax cuts for a very limited number of people did, in fact, build that debt.  Want a dispassionate, non-partisan look at which presidents are responsible for the debts?  Here:

US Debt Accumulation by President

But, of course, you don’t, do you?  It is unlikely that very many people with an open mind are reading this far along.  The sad reality appears to be that very few people remain that are willing to consider facts any more and that is the point, isn’t it?  Politics has become religion for many.  So many whine about wanting change, but so few actually do.  Most of us are doing one of two things, either we’re pissing into the wind, or we’re simply bitching and moaning because we are preaching to the choir.

It is my fervent hope to actually open a dialog with people who are undecided or who are on the other side of the fence.  I posted a while back in response to someone asking, “What are you going to do?”  Part of that response was, to educate as many people as possible with actual facts.  The trick is finding people who are actually willing to having open and honest discussions.

As Bernard Baruch said, (and was later repeated by, and usually attributed to, Daniel Patrick Moynihan):

Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. – Deming Headlight (New Mexico), 6 January 1950, as cited in the Yale Book of Modern Proverbs

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