Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Liberal Dose of Reality

It's time for a rant. I've had it with this "so called liberal media". They are the real cause for the debacle that was the 2004 Presidential Election. In what was supposed to be a referendum on the four year performance of Bush Administration, we ended up spending more time hearing about and discussing "Flip Flops", how Kerry "voted to raise taxes 350 times", how Kerry was illegitimately awarded 3 purple hearts, 1 silver star, and 1 bronze star, how he did the Vietnam veterans a disservice by becoming a vocal protester of the war in which he honorably served, and how Kerry represented the liberal elite - "a liberal lawyer from Massachusetts", "A Tax and Spend Liberal".

The liberals tried to fight this election fairly - by pointing at the miserable four-year track record of the Bush Administration. The results should have been enough to speak for themselves. With absolutely nothing to run on, other than a massively underfunded mandate, ironically named the "No Child Left Behind Act", the Bush re-election campaign went on the offensive - and spent their entire resources attacking the character of John Kerry - and they got away with it? Are you kidding me??? uh, oh, um-hmm....I guess not.

It's not the public that it to blame for this. Well, I guess they are partially -- At least the homophobic, red-stater crowd that decided that it was more important to vote for the cause of bigotry, intolerance, judgment, and ultimately, hate towards their fellow man, than it was to vote against an administration that lied about the reasons they were going to war.

...And the blame does not lie solely with the media. Part of the blame has to go to Fox News and the Right Wing Talk Radio Network. The Bill O'Reillys, Sean Hannitys, Rush Limbaughs, Ann Coulters, and Michael Savages of the world had a massive influence on the election's outcome -- you cannot dismiss this. Al Franken likes to call these guys the low-hanging fruit -- the easy targets. I sometimes like to turn on O'Reilly or Hannity for a while just to mock their intellectual dishonesty - it acts a motivational tool when I witness first-hand the propaganda spewing machine that is Fox News.

...The root cause goes deeper than what the public generally recognizes as the mass media. The root cause is the neoconservative think tanks and political organizations, such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, that collectively make up the Republican Noise Machine. These are the people that we should be focusing our anger on....and, yet, the average American has probably never heard of most of these organizations. When the names of these organizations are mentioned in a newscast, they sound like legitimate organizations -- The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Media, The Media Research Center. The average American will most likely hear the name, subconsciously file it away in their memory, and forget about it as a trivial detail a few seconds later.

It shocked me earlier today, while watching an episode of 24, when the Heritage Foundation was casually name-dropped a few seconds after the senator was rescued from a terrorist operation. You can see where they are going with this -- Six episodes into the season, right after the first major climax -- the senator is rescued - a feeling of elation among the viewers -- and they casually drop the name of the Heritage Foundation. It had nothing to do with the plot, but there it is - trying to ingrain and legitimize this name among the American public. I wonder if Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes had any direct input into this little change. Not to mention that they overtly displayed about 10 seconds of Fox News coverage in the middle of the episode -- this isn't even the first time they tried pulling that stunt off.

It may seem like I am nitpicking about the content of the tv show 24. That may be true, but it isn't the point. There is a constant and concerted effort by the right to legitimize the voice of the neoconservative. David Brock laid out all the groundwork for this very clearly in his excellent book on the subject, The Republican Noise Machine. Also recommended are Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media, Al Franken's Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Out-Foxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, and Big Lies by Joe Conason.

If we want to level the playing field of American Politics -- if we really want to win back the hearts and focus of the American public -- we need to recognize the true nature of our enemy. Politics and democracy isn't supposed to be about winning and losing -- it is supposed to be about forming policies for our nation's future that ultimately present a plan for a better and future for our nation and our planet. Sadly, that just isn't the case -- The neoconservative movement has destroyed every last bastion of hope that we will ever return to a day of fair politics and intellectual discourse in the mainstream media. The neoconservative think tanks, backed heavily by donations from men, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, racist Peter Coors, Rupert Murdoch, are, quite plainly, destroying the democratic process, and, if I may say so, ruining America.

The truth is that we can win this battle -- With or without the help of the mainstream media. The neoconservative movement really only benefits about 5% of the population. The progressive movement represents the needs and desires of the other 95% of the population. If we can simply demonstrate to the world that the progressive movement represents a worthier and healthier alternative to the neoconservative movement in almost every manner imaginable.

The republicans like to cast the democrats as a party of "tax-and-spend liberals" and "big government". Why doesn't the media hammer rhetoric back down the throats of the republican party. When Reagan came into office in 1980, our government had inherited a reasonably manageable one trillion dollars in accumulative debt in the history of our government. By the time Clinton came into power twelve years later, the accumulated deficit had skyrocketed to over four billion dollars, with an annual deficit that was hemorrhaging money out of the US economy. In eight years of fiscal sanity, the Clinton Administration was able to bring this all under control, and was scheduled to bring us into an era of budget surpluses. When Bush came into office, our fiscal plan had us scheduled to produce a 5.8 trillion dollar surplus over the next eight years. If Al Gore was instead elected, we would've been that close to paying off the national debt.

Instead -- Bush gave a massive tax cut to the wealthiest 20 percent of the nation, the economy tanked, and we are now facing the largest budget deficits in this nation's history. And yet, the media let the Bush Administration get away with running on a plan to reduce the national deficit in half -- I mean, this is completely absurd. I mean the guy spilt the milk, and the media stood around applauding him for offering to clean half of it back up.

On the issue of big government, consider this: This is an administration that thinks it is important to impose their set of morality onto the public at large -- This isn't an issue we should take lightly. The Bush Administration is quickly cutting individual civil liberties, and reducing restrictions on corporate behavior -- and the 50.8% of America that voted for Bush is gleefully letting him get away with it. Why? I ask you again, what were you thinking, America?

Back to ranting -- This neoconservative dream of complete industry deregulation and unfettered capitalism is absolutely the worst thing that could ever happen for the average American citizen. You think the American public would recognize this by now. The American Dream has fallen by the wayside, as the gap between the wealthy of this nation and those that struggle from paycheck to paycheck continues to grow.

Ask yourself this: "What, as Americans, have we gained from the feminist movement? As a progressive, I can honestly say that we have gained plenty. But, I'd like you to specifically focus on the issue of workplace productivity, and the reciprocal benefit provided to American citizens. In the fifties and sixties, a single wage earner was able to work a forty hour work week, and provide for his whole family. Now, there are more dual-earner families than ever. Are the American people better off for it? We are producing and consuming products at a greater rate than ever. Does this make it worth it. Instead of investing 40 hours a week into American economic production, there are many families working 80 or more hours a week - and, are we better off for it? The answer is no -- it has become almost expected that both parents in the family trudge off to work each day, grinding away in the name of productivity.

Did you know that in Europe, workers are routinely encouraged to take 4, 6, even 8 weeks of vacation per year. But, wait, aren't all Europeans lazy? I mean, that's what Fox News tells us, isn't it. Why do you think they do that? What do you think would really happen if all of the citizens in this country demanded more respect in the work place? Why do we put up with working 50 out of every 52 weeks each year for the majority of our lives, in constant risk of being layed off, or fired, the victim of a corporate decision to move production offshore, or to an outsourcing firm that can produce the product slightly cheaper.

The Fox News pundits will tell you that it ain't all roses in Europe and in Canada -- England, France, and Germany all have higher unemployment rates than the United States. There is, however, a difference. In more progressive countries, there is a strong initiative to maintain a social safety net. In the United States, if tragedy strikes, you are on your own - Ask yourself, what would happen if you suddenly developed cancer, got in a horrible car accident, fell off a ladder, lost your job to outsourcing, got laid off. Bad things happen to people. In any respectable country, there is a basic level of support that is guaranteed to keep you afloat while you recover. Not in Bushland - Thanks to the new Bush initiative for an "Ownership Society", it will soon become more "every man for himself" than it already is. I haven't even begun to mention the issues involved here - regressive tax cuts which increase the burden on the poor, and the plans to basically eliminate social security, which is the only real safety net currently provided in the United States.

Just take a look around you -- the American dollar is declining every day against the Euro. Under the Bush Administration, the Euro has climbed from 45 cents on the dollar, to double the rate, at 90 cents on the dollar, in only four years. The once mighty American dollar is at risk of losing its role as the world standard of currency. With the all-time low reputation of the United States, thanks to Bush, do you think the world will think twice about jumping ship to the Euro.

I've had it with the Neoconservative Christian Coalition. I myself am a Christian, but, I will never in a thousand years associate myself with the neoconservative movement. I simply do not understand this relationship. Just the other day, James Dobson accused a cartoon video featuring Spongebob Squarepants, designed to promote tolerance and understanding, as promoting the "homosexual agenda". We have a real problem in America - by not accepting responsibility for this, James Dobson is, in effect, condoning violence, bigotry, and hatred towards LGBT youth and teens. The video was created in an effort to promote tolerance, understanding, and diversity. James Dobson claimed that "tolerance and diversity" were codewords for the homosexual agenda.

I've had it with unfettered capitalism, and the deregulation of the marketplace. I mean, in theory, I am supportive of capitalism, and the free market. But, there has to be limits and regulation. There is no clearer example than Wal*Mart. Ahh...you know what....I'm getting pretty tired here. Stay tuned to groupThink for the next installment of "A Liberal Dose of Reality, Part Two", where I continue my rant against all that is wrong with America today, and all that we can do to fix it.