Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Protest Needs a Concise Message

Marshall McLuhan
coined the famous aphorism "the medium is the message" in his book, Understanding Media. He defines the term medium as "any extension of ourselves." and acknowledges that "the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others." If the medium is the message then the framing of an issue is very important. How an issue is framed, and therefore, how an issue is spoken will determine what message is being delivered to others.

The Need for a Concise Message

That is the very point that Ted Rall, a
political cartoonist, commentator, and author wrote about and posted on his website on September 26th regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement. He finds that there is no concise message for people to latch onto. That may be the reason why, according to Rall, the Occupy Wall Street protest appears to be fizzling out.
#OccupyWallStreet, in its second week as of this writing, is and was important. It is the first major street protest inspired by the economic collapse that began in 2008. It is also the first notable public repudiation of Obama by the American Left. Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Canadian “culture jammer” magazine Adbusters asked people to converge on lower Manhattan’s financial district in order to protest corporate greed in general and—in a reflection of the influence of social networking culture—to develop one specific major demand after they gathered.

Occupy Wall Street now seems to be fizzling out.

For me and other older, jaded veterans of leftist struggle, failure was a foregone conclusion. From the opening words of the magazine’s updates to the participants, which it referred to as “dreamers, jammers, rabble-rousers and revolutionaries,” it was evident that yet another opportunity to agitate for real change was being wasted by well-meant wankers.

Michael Moore complained about insufficient media coverage, but this non-movement movement was doomed before it began by its refusal to coalesce around a powerful message, its failure to organize and involve the actual victims of Wall Street’s perfidy (people of color, the poor, the evicted, the unemployed, those sick from pollution, etc.), and its refusal to argue and appeal on behalf of a beleaguered working class against an arrogant, violent and unaccountable ruling elite—in other words, to settle for nothing less than the eradication of capitalism.

Don’t just occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Main Street. Get ordinary people interested and involved. After all, college kid, it’s not just your struggle.

While a lack of political education should not preclude a person from participating in politics, organizers of a movement seeking radical change should make sure they don’t waste the whole time strumming a guitar and flirting. Zuccotti Park should have offered daily classes and study groups to reduce the odds that an attendee will sound like a moron when she gets questioned by a journalist.

A protest is a stage. All over New York City and around the country, people are watching on TV. Ideally, you want viewers to drop what they’re doing, to come join you. At bare minimum, you want them to approve of you. To identify with you. Maybe even send a check.

Back in July, Adbusters wanted the “one simple demand” expressed by Occupy Wall Street to be “that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”

What do we want?

A bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to study the extension of campaign finance reform!

When do we want it?

As soon as the committee completes its work!

Unsurprisingly and rightly, that uninspiring (and easily satisfied) demand has been set aside in favor of something better but hardly worth taking a rubber bullet for: “a vague but certain notion that the richest percentile of the country remains fat and happy as the going-on-five-year-old recession continues to batter the middle and working class,” as The New York Observer put it.

Occupy Wall Street should have demanded something majestic, reasonable and unobtainable, in order to expose the brutal nature of the system. Something like the nationalization of all corporations, equal wages for all workers, or the abolition of securities exchanges.

Some organizers also called Occupy Wall Street “Days of Rage”; along with organization and focus, rage is what is lacking.

How to Frame an Issue

Rall's analysis of the NYC revolt of Wall Street leads to a discussion of how to frame an issue. An expert on the importance of framing an issue is George Lakoff, a linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Lakoff's application of cognitive linguistics to politics has led to a dialogue on how to best get a messages across. Lakoff explains how language influences the "terms of political debate."

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.

If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" - something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.

Lakoff made this point during the Wisconsin union-busting controversy. Many of the issues involved in the Wisconsin stand-off, are at the heart of New York's Occupy Wall Street protest.

The Wisconsin protests are about much more than budgets and unions. [...]

The media, with few exceptions, is failing to get at the deeper issues. [...]

What is standing in the way of having the real story told? It is the frame of collective bargaining itself, which only points to the parties that are doing the bargaining and what they are bargaining over.

The real point of collective bargaining is the idea of fairness inherent in democracy. Without unions, large corporations have an unfair advantage in hiring individual workers: Workers have to take what is offered, a fair wage for work done or not. Unions help to even the playing field, enabling workers to have a fair chance against wealthy, powerful large organizations — whether corporations or governments.

But public employees’ unions, in bargaining with governments, are raising deeper issues in which wealthy corporations and individuals play a huge role. The public employees’ unions are aware that the top one percent of Americans have more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent — a staggering disproportion of wealth. The wealthy have, to a large extent, amassed that wealth through indirect contributions to them by governments — governments build roads corporations use, fund schools that train their workers, subsidize their energy costs, do research they capitalize on, subsidize their access to resources, promote trade for them, and on and on.

Meanwhile, over the past three decades, while corporations and their investors have grown immensely richer on the public largesse, middle class workers have had no substantive wage increases, leaving them poorer and poorer. Those immensely wealthy corporations and individuals have, through political contributions, have managed to rig our politics so that they pay back only an inadequate amount into the system that has enabled them to become wealthy.

The real targets of the public employees’ unions are the wealthy free riders who, in a fair political economy, would be giving back more to the nation, and to the states and communities they function in.

That is the obvious half of what the Wisconsin protests are about. The other half concerns the rights of ordinary people in a democracy — rights conservatives want to deny, whether gay rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, retirement rights, or the right to the best health a nation can provide to all its citizens. Unions, through their political contributions, support the basic freedoms, protections, and resources we all require to have a decent life and live in a civilized society. If those unions are destroyed, American life will become unrecognizable in a remarkably short time. [...]

If Democrats are not talking out loud about these deeper issues, then they are, by their reticence and silence, helping conservatives destroy unions, defund the Democratic party, and take over the country.

The real issue is whether conservatives will get what they really want: the ability to turn the country conservative on every issue, legally and permanently. Eliminating the public sector unions could achieve that. Collective bargaining rights are the immediate issue, but they are symbolic of the real issue at stake. That is the story the media should be telling — and that Democrats everywhere in America should be shouting out loud.

There are common threads to the Wisconsin and New York protests. The issues in Wisconsin were being framed by the conservatives. In NYC, the issues are not being framed. The media's limited message about the Wall Street occupation is either taking the conservative view that this is a rag-tag group of youth or it searching for the reason why the protest is happening. It is evident that a message needs to be conveyed to the public and to the media by the protestors in Zuccotti Park. The issues are real. But without framing a cohesive to-the-point message, the media will not pick up on the issue and public support will be difficult.


Declaration of the Occupation of New York City and the call to action, adopted last night by an enthusiastic consensus.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, formerly divided by the color of our skin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or lack thereof, political party and cultural background, we acknowledge the reality: that there is only one race, the human race, and our survival requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their brethren; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give CEO’s exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

They have poisoned the food supply, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have continuously sought to end the rights of workers to negotiate their pay and make complaints about the safety of their workplace.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty book keeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.

They have participated in a directly racist action by accepting the contract from the State of Georgia to murder Troy Davis.

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

This is a beginning. The movement is forward.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Occupying Wall St.

An NYPD officer looks with scrutiny at the photographer taking his picture during the Occupy Wall Street protests, 09/24/11. (photo: Peter Harris)
An NYPD officer looks with scrutiny at the photographer taking his picture during the
Occupy Wall Street protests, 09/24/11. (photo: Peter Harris)

This is a protest against Corporate Greed. Have you heard about the "Occupy Wall Street protest?" Probably not. The mainstream media has had limited coverage this protest. Is this the start of a new social movement? Is this the start of a revolution? Is this the frustration of a society where the rich get richer, the poor and middle class get the shaft, the control of monetary policies are in the hands of large corporations, the politicians are being bought for the corporate good not the people's needs and the banks and money makers are the new Robber Barons?

A report from a front that may soon be shut down.
Before you read on, watch this: a video from the base camp of the #OccupyWallStreet protest that is now in its seventh day. It's called "Nobody Can Predict the Moment of Revolution." (The video was produced by Martyna Starosta and her friend Iva.)

Danny Schechter from Supported News reports that this is a 2011-style protest.

These are the faces of a wannabe revolution, more than a protest but not yet quite a major Movement. The spirit is infectious, perhaps because of the sincerity of the participants and their obvious commitment to their ideals.

Occupy Wall Street is more than a protest; it is as much an exercise in building a leaderless, bottom-up resistance community with a more democratic approach to challenging the system where everyone is encouraged to have a say.

But saying that also leads to a conflict between my emotional identification with the kids that have rallied in this small park/public space on Liberty Street to exercise some liberty, with a despairing analysis that wishes this enterprise well but harbors deep doubts about its staying power and impact.

This privately-owned park, devastated by debris on 9/11 and then rebuilt by a real estate magnate who named it after himself, is also a place that is under 24-hour surveillance from a hostile New York City Police Department which has put up a fence on one side of the park, brought down a spy tower from Times Square to track the participants from on high, and sprinkled infiltrators into the crowd.

By the time I left, late on Saturday afternoon, the police had arrested 70 people who had joined a march that went from Wall Street to Union Square, New York's traditional gathering place for political rallies for nearly l00 years.

You can watch it all on a live stream.

In many ways this is a 2011-style protest modeled after Tahrir Square in Cairo. It is non-violent, organized around what's called a "General Assembly" where the community meets daily to debate its political direction and discuss how it sees itself. There are no formal leaders or spokespeople, no written-down political agenda and no shared demands. They focus on using social media. Twitter is their megaphone.

They have no sound system. When participants want to make an announcement, they yell "Mic Check," which is repeated by the whole crowd. They also repeat the announcement a few words at a time so everyone can hear it.

This bottom-up anarchist sensibility and ideology conflicts with the mass mobilizations of old where an organization issues a call and a coalition of groups carries it out.

I ran into some of yesterday's movement leaders: Leslie Cagan, who ran United for Peace and Justice and organized the massive anti-Iraq War protests and marches in New York and Washington before and after. She was as intrigued as I was about this gathering of the committed. She found the focus a bit vague, but seemed willing to give it a chance to grow and learn by making its own mistakes.

Other 60s activists like Aron Kay, known as the "pie man" for all the famous and infamous people he pied in the face to protest their crimes and misdemeanors - including Andy Warhol for dining with the Shah of Iran - was also showing his solidarity by turning up and squatting in the park.

Lower Manhattan on a Saturday is usually a Mosque-less Mecca for tourists visiting Ground Zero, a crime scene if there ever was one. It is a symbol of a national failure to defend this country as well.

It's also the place where the 911 Truth Movement shares its findings weekly with visitors about what "really happened."

Just a few blocks away is another crime scene: Wall Street, which symbolizes an ongoing economic failure. In this past week, access has been limited and in this free country of ours protestors could not parade in front of the NY Stock Exchange, another privately-run financial institution. That led Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism blog to opine, "I'm beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US."

Many banks like Chase doubled their security forces and put up fences to protect themselves from the people the NY media have labeled "kids and aging hippies."

The panic in the exchange is mirrored in the insecurity in the streets where surveillance cameras, private police forces and NY cops defend the bastions of privilege.

The police went on the offensive Saturday with mass arrests of activists. Scott Galindez filed this report on Reader Supported News, "While the live feeds were up I witnessed a very powerful arrest of a law student whose parents were recently evicted from their home. He dropped to his knees and gave an impassioned plea for the American people to wake up! There are reports of police kettling protesters with a big orange net, at least five maced, and police using tasers."

There were also reports of the use of mace, tear gas and pepper spray which hit two old women. We are so used to these storm-trooper tactics that most expect them. There had been fewer arrests last week, although the police seem to now have identified key organizers and are singling them out.

On Saturday, police gave out a notice saying that it is now illegal to sleep in the park. They then put up a sign on a park wall. I watched a member of the police command, a "white shirt" named Timoney, march into the park and gruffly order the communications team that spends most of its time tweeting out the latest news to take down some large umbrellas the activists were using to protect their computers from rain.

The police consider these "structures" and prohibit them. Earlier in the week, they arrested people for using tarps to protect their gear. (They don't see the irony in that term given the way the TARP law bailed out the banksters.)

Many of the people in the park believe the end may be coming with the police eager to end what they see as a Woodstock on Wall Street, complete with topless teens and long-haired militants. This assemblage clearly affects their macho Identity as upholders of law and order as they define it. The probably agree with the right-wing Red State website that calls the protesters a "menagerie."

I wouldn't rule out mass arrests once a provocation, theirs or the protesters', provides the pretext.

Will the Occupy Wall Street collectives be able to continue to occupy a zone that has been occupied for years by the greedsters of the finance world?

More importantly, will the issues they are trying to draw attention to, however symbolically, be taken up by others?

Will it take more cracked heads, or even a police killing, to move New Yorkers to support a campaign to rein in Wall Street?

Where are the unions and New York's progressive democrats and organizations? Why aren't they in the streets?

Why don't they realize that economic justice issues are essential to transforming this oligarch-driven country?

I have been calling for years for more protests on Wall Street to put the issues of Wall Street crime on the agenda. But with media barely covering this "occupation," with the activists being denigrated for their youth and inexperience, will this one have the impact I was hoping for?

It seems unlikely.

The reality is that the so-called "grass-roots" movement of the Tea Party was actually a well organized corporate funded operation which began with Anti-Tax Tea Party rallies in many states across this country on April 15, 2009. It's message of no more taxes was identifiable to numerous people. There was a cohesive message and a united front that was picked up by the media. The NYC protest, although extremely important, is disheveled in organization. It has no visible leader. It has no cute tag lines. It has little momentum. It's message is against the influence of corporate money in politics. This protest is not picking up people momentum.

The Wall St. Journal observed that "Wall Street has survived much worse than some ragged protesters trying to occupy it."

CNN Money stated that "Occupy Wall Street is a "leaderless resistance movement" spearheaded by activist magazine Adbusters. Organizers want people to swarm into lower Manhattan on September 17 and set up camp for two months, then "incessantly repeat one simple demand."

On the other hand, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation is extremely critical of a New York Times article about the protest in her article, "Correcting the Abysmal 'New York Times' Coverage of Occupy Wall Street." Kilkenny criticizes the depiction of the protestors as "scatterbrained, sometimes borderline psychotic transients" while not reporting the "more serious aspect of the protest—the “scores of arrests” that occurred and the fact that protestors were maced.

Michael Moore on Keith Olbermann acknowledging that people across this nation need to go out and protest. He suggested that people all over the country need to bring the Occupy Wall Street movement to their communities. WATCH:

A man interviewed in the Olbermann video, stated the obvious: "This is a difficult story to tell...and that it's still an unfolding story. And, I think, until there is a compelling narrative of why people have decided to peacefully occupy Zuccotti Park, I think it is very hard to communicate that story to everyone else., I think it is very hard to communicate that story to everyone else."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is it Funny or Pathetic?

Wright - The Detroit News - COLOR Fox News - English - News of the World, Fox News, full of crap, phone hacking, scandal, privacy, crime, tapping, UK

A lack of empathy and aversion to facts were shared by of the eight Republican Party candidates and the audience attending the recent GOP Presidential debates. Cheers for the death penalty, executions and the death of a hypothetical uninsured man in recent debates have stunned liberals and left them wondering whether there are any moderate Republicans remaining in the GOP.

Bill Maher enlisted the help of Keith Olbermann to "try to use facts to get through to a "typical GOP voter" who was, in fact, sitting in a plastic bubble." WATCH:

Facts, Fiction and Intellect

Keefe - The Denver Post - Rick Perry University COLOR - English - rick; perry; texas; education; creationism; evolution; global; warming; tea; party; ignorance
In her New York Times' column, Maureen Dowd comments on the intellectual acumen of some Republican Tea Party members and candidates for President. Dowd finds a correlation with what is happening in Republican politics today with the message from the movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” THE MESSAGE

Jimmy Stewart is the young attorney who comes West to Shinbone and ends up as a U.S. senator after gaining fame for killing the sadistic outlaw Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin. John Wayne is the rancher, a fast-draw Cyrano who hides behind a building and actually shoots Marvin because he knows Stewart is hopeless in a duel. He does it even though they’re in love with the same waitress, who chooses the lawyer because he teaches her to read.

A lifetime later, on the verge of becoming a vice presidential candidate, Stewart confesses the truth to a Shinbone newspaperman, who refuses to print it. “When the legend becomes fact,” the editor says, “print the legend.”


Perry conceded that he “struggled” with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated “in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.”

Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president.

Perry told the students, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world.” What does that even mean?

Another “Don’t Know Much About History” Tea Party heroine, Michele Bachmann, seems rather proud of not knowing anything, simply repeating nutty, inflammatory medical claims that somebody in the crowd tells her.


Sarah Palin, who got outraged at a “gotcha” question about what newspapers and magazines she read, is the mother of stupid conservatism.


The Republicans are now the “How great is it to be stupid?” party. In perpetrating the idea that there’s no intellectual requirement for the office of the presidency, the right wing of the party offers a Farrelly Brothers “Dumb and Dumber” primary in which evolution is avant-garde.


So we’re choosing between the over intellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ronald Reagan vs GOP Tea Party

Steve Greenberg - Freelance, Los Angeles - Reagan shrug - English - Ronald Reagan

Bill Maher, comedian, TV host, political commentator, was on the Jay Leno show on September 9th, after the Republican Presidential Debate and President Obama's speech on the job situation. When discussing why Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman's political stance does not fit into today's Republican ideology, Maher suggested that "at some point, the left moved to the center and the right right got on a short bus to crazytown!

If you think that Maher is extreme in his analysis, just look to Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who recently observed: “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican” in today’s party." To emphasize the obvious, Sally Kohn, in her article Forgetting Reagan, states that
"by today’s Tea Party standards, the Republican icon would have been a Leninist-Marxist-socialist America hater." Kohn lists at least 5 ways Reagan would have been in hot water with the Tea Party.
At least by Tea Party standards, Reagan was kind of liberal—a fact that seemed to escape the GOP candidates claiming his mantle. Here are the top five ways the real Reagan would have landed in hot water with Republicans beholden to the Tea Party.

1. Reagan Gave Amnesty to Undocumented Immigrants

When the debate last night turned to immigration, John Huntsman said that if “President Reagan was here he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms” how to get to positive immigration reform. It was a fitting homage from the race’s only moderate.

After all, when conservatives today complain that a stringent legalization program requiring all sorts of hurdles and fines in exchange for citizenship is equivalent to amnesty, they forget they’re swiping at The Gipper’s record. It was Ronald Reagan who passed the law making any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for real amnesty—no fines included. The bill helped millions of new Americans gain authorized residency in the United States.

In his farewell address as president, Reagan envisioned America as a city on a hill: “And if there had to be city walls,” he said. “The walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Strong words from the idol of those who now want to build even taller, electrified walls.

2. Reagan Shored Up Social Security

Last Rick Perry reprised his attack on Social Security, calling the program that has kept millions of seniors out of poverty a “monstrous lie.” But if Perry is going to keep insisting that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, that would make Ronald Reagan its Bernie Madoff.

After boasting of his plans to privatize Social Security so that “those who can make better provisions for themselves” be allowed to do so, Reagan bailed out the program to the tune of $165 billion. In fact, Republicans can thank Reagan that they even have a Social Security to rail against.

3. Reagan Was a Union Leader

Before running for office, Reagan was a union leader. He ran the Screen Actors Guild and boasted of being the first head to lead it in a strike. Once in the White House, Reagan said, “Collective bargaining … has played a major role in America’s economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere.” True, Reagan is famous for busting the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (Patco) union, but he supported the right of government workers to form unions and bargain collectively—and extended these rights to public-sector workers when he was governor of California. And not only did Reagan win Patco’s endorsement for his 1980 presidential campaign; The New York Times reported that in pre-strike negotiations with the air traffic controllers, Reagan “directed his negotiators to go beyond his legal authority to offer controllers a pay raise before their strike—the first time a president had ever offered so much to a federal employees’ union.”

4. Reagan Opposed Weaponization

In his memoirs, Reagan wrote that he dreamed of “a world free of nuclear weapons.” During his presidency, conservatives within his own party accused him of “appeasing” the Soviets in signing a nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev. Following the negotiations, Paul Wyerich, a leader of the New Right, wrote, “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as clout.” Yes, Reagan redeemed himself with conservatives by presiding over the greatest military buildup in U.S. history and, in so doing, increased the nation’s deficit by from $700 billion to $3 trillion—more than any president since George Washington combined. But by refusing to send more troops into Beirut in 1983 when Hezbollah murdered 243 U.S. service members, critiquing Israel’s preventative strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and seeking to draw down the weapons cache worldwide, Reagan never quite fit the image of a right-wing hawk.

5. Reagan Raised Taxes

All of the candidates in last night’s debate pushed the conservative Kool Aid that tax cuts will save America’s economy. For kicks, Mitt Romney went a step further, endorsing tax cuts for the rich while complaining that poor people who don’t pay taxes aren’t doing their fair share to support the troops.

But when he was governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state” until that point in an effort to balance the budget (How would that sound to todays’ GOP candidates, all of whom indicated they would not raise taxes by a single dollar even if it were offset with $10 in spending cuts). Once president, Reagan raised taxes seven out of eight of his years in office—including four times in just two years.

Basically, Reagan was a giant disappointment for arch-conservatives. He did little to tighten restrictions against abortion as president and actually passed pro-choice legislation as governor of California. He grew the size of the federal government tremendously, adding 60,000 new government jobs (versus, for instance, Bill Clinton, who shrank government payrolls by 373,000). As governor of California, Reagan supported and ultimately expanded Medi-Cal, which is the nation’s largest Medicaid program. Both as governor and president, he was one of the most proactive presidents in restricting smog emissions and protecting wilderness. And after his press secretary was shot during an assassination attempt against him, the president came out in support of stricter gun-control laws.

Sally Kohn notes, "The GOP candidates may have been standing in the Reagan Library, but they were a million miles away from Reagan’s legacy."

Jimmy Margulies - The Record of Hackensack, NJ - Republican identity crisis - English - 2008 campaign, Republicans, Republican party, GOP, McCain, Palin, Reagan, Bush, Goldwater

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Just a Tale, Not a Miracle!

Jim Hightower is a Texan who is bringing truth into the spotlight that Rick Perry is now latching onto. Hightower, a Texan, is America’s #1 populist who has been following the antics of Rick Perry for years. Perry is not who he says he is says Hightower in his commentary, Perry Tales: jobs creation.

The "Texas Miracle"

Presidential wannabe Rick Perry is flitting hither, thither and yon, spreading little "Perry Tales" about the economic miracles he has produced in Texas.

Fantasy number one is a creationist story about jobs. As he recently flitted across Iowa, he gushed that he has built "a job-creating machine in the state of Texas," and a Perry aide flatly said, "The governor's job-creation record speaks for itself."

Just a Tale

Actually it doesn't. Probe even an inch into the million-job number that Perry tosses around like fairy dust, and you'll learn that these are mostly "jobettes" that can't sustain a family. Most come with very low pay and no health care or pension, and many are only part-time or temporary positions. Indeed, more than a half a million Texans now work for minimum wage or less – a number that has doubled since 2008, leaving Texas tied with Mississippi for the nation's highest percentage of its workforce reduced to poverty pay.

Public vs Private Sector

Spreading even more fairy dust, Perry claims that his Texas Miracle is the result of him keeping the government out of the private sector's way. But peek behind that ideological curtain and you'll find this startling fact: during Perry's decade, the growth in private sector jobs has been a relatively paltry nine percent, while the public sector has more than doubled that, increasing the number of local, state, and federal workers in Texas by 19 percent. One out of six employed Texans are now teachers, police officers, highway engineers, military personnel, and other government workers – and many of these jobs were created with federal money, including cash from Barack Obama's stimulus program that Perry-the candidate now loudly denounces. There's his "miracle."

Meanwhile, joblessness is on the rise in Texas, and the whole Perry Tale is about to go poof – thanks to his recent multibillion-dollar budget cuts that will destroy more than 100,000 good jobs throughout the state.

No Government Mantra but Yes Government Monetary Personal Support

Interestingly, even his tea-partyish hatred — nay, loathing! — of big government's intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens turns out to be just another Perry Tale. In fact, there would be no Rick Perry without the steady "intrusion" of government into his life.

Local taxpayers in Haskell County put him through their public school system — for free. He and his family were dry-land cotton farmers, and federal taxpayers helped support them with thousands of dollars in crop subsidies — Perry personally took $80,000 in farm payments.

State and federal taxpayers financed his college education his at Texas A&M, even giving him the extracurricular opportunity to be a cheerleader. Upon graduation, he spent four years on the federal payroll as an Air Force transport pilot who never did any combat duty.

Then, in 1984, Perry hit the mother lode of government pay by moving into elected office — squatting there for 27 years and counting. In addition to getting regular paychecks from taxpayers for nearly three decades as a state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor, he also receives platinum-level health care coverage and a generous pension from the state, plus $10,000 a month for renting a luxury suburban home, a covey of political and personal aides and even a publicly paid subscription to Food & Wine magazine.

So when this taxpayer-supported lifer flits into your town to declare that he will slash public benefits and make government "as inconsequential as possible," he means in your life, not his.

Hightower fights on behalf of "consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks." He knows Texas, and knows the real story behind the self-absorbed, fantasy driven, hypocritical Rick Perry.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Limited Government Leads to Limited Society

John Atcheson's article, Atlas Mugged: The Ayn Rand Six Step, is a provocative evaluation of how the Republican platform of a smaller, shrinking government leads to societal demise.

Rand's philosophy incorporated her concepts of "Objectivism", ethical egoism and rational selfishness. In other words, "Ayn Rand's stories celebrate the individual who lives—not for the sake of others, or for some abstraction, but for his own well-being and happiness. Hers was an ethic of enlightened egoism, or what she called rational self-interest."

Atcheson has an interesting analysis explaining the dichotomy between Ayn Rand's philosophy of limited government and a productive society.

Relinquishing Responsibility
Imagine your landlord coming to you one day and saying, “It’s everyone for himself. We’re not going to supply heat or water or electricity any longer, and we’re not going to conduct repairs.”

Of course, you and the rest of the tenants wouldn’t stand for such a thing . You’d kick him out if you could and move out if you couldn’t.

But suppose, over the years, he cuts the part of the portion of your rent that goes to utilities and repair work. Year after year, he’d stop by and announce his cuts with great fanfare, telling you how much money you’ll save.
Blaming Others
On each visit, as he handed out the meager savings, he’d rail about how the utilities were incompetent, and filled with lazy workers, and that repair and maintenance work was a rip-off perpetrated by equally lazy laborers.

“We’re gonna show them,” he’d say, “The market will take care of these bozos.”

Meanwhile, year after year, you pay a little less. Things might get a little ragged. The maintenance man might not show up every day; the fire alarms might stop working; the elevators get stuck more, there’s an occasional power outage, water’s a bit murky … but there’s those savings.
Keeping the Money for Self Interest
Unbeknownst to you, most of the money the landlord saves is going to upgrade the top floor where he and his cronies live, bringing in their own dependable power and clean water. But you don’t investigate much because … there’s those savings.

Every time you passed him in the hall, he’d give you his spiel. “Those repair guys are thieves,” he’d tell you, again and again. “And you might as well burn money as give it to the utilities,” he’d say with a sage nod of his head. “Just wait ‘til those market forces hit, that’ll show them.” But he’d begin to add a new verse to his rant. “And hey. What about those gays in 3G? Or the Mexicans in 2D? Disgrace how they double up like that …”

Then finally, one year, he announces he can no longer afford to supply heat, electricity or water, and he can’t be repairing anything that breaks any longer. “Just not enough money – besides, look what’s happening around here … throwing more money at those lazy good-for-nothings is no solution.”

Now imagine complaining to him about the frozen pipes, or your child’s pneumonia and him responding with: “Hey. It’s all about the market – if you want it, figure out a way to get it – the market will provide if you’re diligent. Look at the top floor. Besides, it’s all the fault of those Mexicans. Or those gays … or …”
What Would You Do
Would you believe that crap? Would you put up with it?

Of course you wouldn’t.
The Ayn Rand Six Step
Yet that is precisely the game the Republicans have been playing for years. Call it the Ayn Rand six step.
Step one: discredit government.
Step two: starve it.
Step three: when the underfunded government can’t perform, stand back and say “I told you so.”
Step four: create the myth of the individual uber-alles – the Marlboro man on steroids.
Step five: if anyone gets wise, find a scapegoat and blame it on them – gays, immigrants, government workers; government working gay immigrants.
Step six: when things get bad, divide and conquer – “if it wasn’t’ for them…
So now we are waiting for the magic market to deliver us from a crisis caused by the unconstrained market; we are loath to give the government a penny even though no one else is going to do the things it used to do and do well – the things that created the conditions for a broadly shared prosperity and an open, fair, and transparent market. Now, we are on the verge of shivering in the dark, as we point fingers to any of the various scapegoats the Republicans have created.

Now, their plutocratic bosses have free reign, and they’re gutting the building as we fight among ourselves.
The Solution
The solution to bad government is good government, not no government.

The solution to envy and jealousy at public sector employees’ pension and benefits is not to strip theirs, but to get ours back.

Our strength comes not from how the strongest or luckiest among us exploit the rest, but from how we come together as a country to do that which we must do together. Indeed, we are great in proportion to how we treat the least fortunate among us, not the most.
Why We Need Government
The reason it feels like the United States is collapsing around our collective ankles is because it is – if we relinquish all responsibility to “the market” it will strip the walls, tear out the pipes and wires and raise the roof, selling our present and future to make a quick buck. That’s what markets are supposed to do.

And if we buy into some uber-individualist fairy tale about survival of the fittest, we’ll all be handing over a bigger share of our rapidly diminishing paychecks to the CEOs and CFOs of Goldman Sachs or Exxon and we’ll be SOL, as our biggest export will continue to be high wage jobs to China, India, Germany and other countries that haven’t bought into the Ayn Rand fantasy – or nightmare.

That’s why we need government. Because our freedom and welfare are indeed in danger – but not from government; rather from those who point fingers at government in hopes that you won’t notice they’re robbing you blind, in the name of a mutant form of free-market economics that’s really only existed on the pages of a second rate polemic masquerading as a novel.
Limited Government, Limited Society, Limited Message

The Republican Tea Party message extols the importance of limited government as found in Ayn Rand's writings. What both the Tea Party and Rand's message of the "virtue of selfishness" have in common is the fight against their belief of oppressive restrictions and heavy taxation of a socialist government. Of course, the Tea Party conveniently discards other beliefs of Rand.
Yes, Rand was a staunch advocate of capitalism and limited government. She was also a staunch advocate of abortion rights and sexual hedonism, and an atheist to boot, which her conservative admirers have largely ignored. Rand and her characters maintained that morality wasn't something that could be imposed by outside institutions, rather should be a consequence from individuals acting in their own rational self-interest. Which, obviously, steps way out of line with the thinking of the Tea Party, which encompasses the religious right .