Friday, October 29, 2010

Dangerous Territory

The Republicans are not even in power yet, but this is what we have to look forward to - Intimidation - Threats of Government halts and takeover - Being detained by militia members for being a journalist and asking questions - Getting wrestled to the ground and having your head stomped on for protesting - A whole media outlet spewing racism, homophobic, and Islamophobic hate-speech. A political party that declares it's number one goal is to defeat the President rather than work with him to make America a better place for all Americans during this time of war and economic hardship. This is not the America I want. Why would anyone want that kind of America?

Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, has embraced the sentiment of Rush Limbaugh's hope that President Obama fails. In an interview with Major Garrett (former Fox News White House Correspondent who thought it was a better career move to be in print/ web journalism than work for Fox News), McConnell says: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Really? Nothing more important to work on, Mitch? How's those wars coming, pal? The economy in good shape, buddy?

Two years of this nonsense from the Republicans! And on top of that, lying to the American people - fooling them into thinking that it's President Obama and the Democrats in Congress that aren't fixing this country. Republicans have voted largely in lock step against the President and against the best interests of all of us by living up to their moniker as the Party-of-No!

But what gets people upset? Juan Williams gets fired from NPR? Who gives a damn? Juan Williams should have known better. All people in the media should know better, especially in the last few months. Helen Thomas found out you can't talk bad about Jews when she got fired for saying they "should get the hell out of Palestine." Rick Sanchez got fired from CNN because he had a bug up his ass from Jon Stewart making fun of him and went on the radio and said: "I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they -- the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah." So why shouldn't people in the media be held liable if they make inappropriate comments about other religious groups? This is what Juan Williams, who worked for NPR and Fox News at the time, said on Bill O'Reilly's show:

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Is this a free speech issue? No! Juan Williams can say what he wants to say but, like everyone else, he represents the company he works for. He made the mistake of thinking that since Fox News was paying him to be on O'Reilly's show, what he had to say didn't matter to NPR. Maybe he does feel the way he feels, but he shouldn't have said it, especially if it was just pandering to Bill O'Reilly and his audience. The real question I have is why Juan Williams feels that way? Perhaps he's been watching Bill O'Reilly's Anti-Muslim network and listening to other Islamophobic hate-speech that's been popular lately. Why would he get nervous?

It's not even an issue that what Juan Williams said was politically incorrect, because it's just incorrect. What does, "identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims" even mean? Their "garb?" Is it their style of dress? Are they carrying the Koran? Because the 9/11 terrorists, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and the Times Square bomber didn't look all that different from anyone else. In fact, they made sure that they blended right in. So, I would think that if Juan Williams did see a person who did 'look Muslim,' my guess is that he should safe, and likely that Muslim would fear Juan Williams just as much. What Juan Williams said was wrong, but lucky for him, it turns out Fox News doesn't feel the same way about Islamophobia that NPR does.

NPR takes a stand and fires Williams and then Fox News hands him a $2 million contract to represent Fox News. Of course, Williams and others take the opportunity to slam NPR. Williams telling the Baltimore Sun: "...there's an emotional disconnect, because the way it feels to me is like I just got fired and I'm not even sure what I did wrong." Well sure, how could you feel like you've done something wrong if, on top of being an ignorant bigot, you are rewarded $2 million? Williams goes on in the interview to proclaim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Fox News is not racist: "Just consider the idea that Fox allows me the opportunity to sit in for Bill O’Reilly on their No. 1 show. That’s the franchise. That’s the moneymaker. If that show falls in the toilet, it’s bad for the whole lineup. And yet Fox allows a black guy with a Hispanic name to sit in the big chair and host the show." You mean like how it says a lot about the Republican party that they choose Sarah Palin to run for Vice President in 2008! Really? Fox News is not racist?

Does Juan Williams watch Fox News? Or is there that same disconnect where he doesn't think that what they do is wrong? Like his pal, Bill O'Reilly? Bill O'Reilly didn't just say something once to upset the ladies at The View. When he said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11," this was his typical Islamophobic hate-speech that he spews nightly on The Factor. Nearly every night, O'Reilly discusses what he calls 'The Muslim Problem,' where is fond of throwing out zingers like, "the most unattractive women in the world are probably in the Muslim countries," "we can't kill all the Muslims, so we want to win as many hearts and minds of good, moderate Muslims as we can," and his claim that the media "doesn’t target Muslims because they might get their house blown up.”

It's not just Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, either. The next day Brian Kilmeade on the program Fox and Friends defended O'Reilly's statement on The View by saying, "They were outraged that someone was saying that there was a reason there was a certain group of people that attacked us on 9/11. It wasn’t just one person, it was one religion. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." Yeah, just like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Except NOT all Muslims are terrorists and NOT all terrorists are Muslim while not all racists work for Fox News, but...

Those at Fox News should be held accountable for its part in this wave of Islamophobia hitting the nation. They should be held accountable for filling the heads of troubled Americans, sick and afraid due to economic and social conditions, with this disgusting bigotry. They should be admonished for the network's deplorable, incendiary rhetoric and cowardly behavior by practicing hate-speech and then claiming innocence when those who in the audience turn that hate-speech into hate-crimes. Besides pushing an Anti-Muslim agenda, Bill O'Reilly has blood on his hands over the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a reproductive services provider who performed abortions, whom O'Reilly had spent years enflaming his Anti-Choice audience by referring to Dr. Tiller as "Tiller the Baby Killer." While Bill O'Reilly didn't actually pull the trigger, he certainly did all he could to help ensure it. In July, Byron Williams, an unemployed ex-felon and big fan of Glenn Beck, was influenced to arm himself and drive to the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, two groups Beck constantly attacks on his radio and television program. After his car was pulled over by police for swerving, it was then that the 45-year-old burst from his car, bullet-proof vest on and guns a blazing, beginning an action movie-like shootout with California police. Later in an interview, Byron Williams told Media Matters that he was influenced to violence by the rantings of Glenn Beck and Mike Savage and that his intention was to "start a revolution."

Juan Williams may not understand it yet, but others at Fox News know exactly what they are doing. Former Fox News employee, Major Garrett, now free to express his view without fear of recrimination said on MSNBC's Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough:

"For a certain amount of marketing points of view, Fox actually wants to keep that polarization. They can say look, we're different. We're dramatically different, you can see how we're different. And if you like that difference you better come over here and you better stay here. That is an embedded part of the marketing that surrounds what happens in the news division at Fox. It's been incredibly successful."

Tell the audience what they want to hear and they'll tune in. If need be, turn up the heat or raise the stakes. If things get out of hand, if someone should be incensed towards violence, then claim ignorance.

Fox News knows what its intent is and it's not reporting the news or truth or facts; it's about making money by pandering to an audience of Right-wingers who fall somewhere in the categories of racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, Homophobic, xenophobic, Anti-women's rights, anti-gun control, war mongering, oil thirsting, Evolution denying, climate change denying, militia joining, Christian extremists who fear and hate the blacks, the gays, the Muslims, the Jews, the Mexicans, the Commies, the Socialists, the IRS, the Doctors who perform abortions, the women who undergo abortions, the police, the government, the President, and, oh yeah, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. Do they realize that they are puppets to the corporations? No. Would they care if they did? Maybe. But I'm sure they would find a way to blame Obama.

I'm worried about the elections. I'm worried that the Republicans and the Tea Party crazies will take over government. I'm worried that the little progress we've made these last two years, thanks to Republican obstruction, will be halted and reversed. I'm worried that the Tea Party and Birther movements will waste valuable time in their bullshit attempts at Impeaching our President and demoralizing the American people. I even worried what will happen if the Republicans don't take over Congress. These are people that don't want to compromise. These are people that can't be reasoned with. With everyday that passes, everything I hear from the right makes me think less about them. The things they believe and the things they unabashedly say reminds me of that Department of Homeland Security Report on Rightwing Extremism and how when it came out in April 2009 the Right picked up the slogan "Proud To Be A Right-Wing Extremist" and put it on buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. That DHS Report makes these important points:

"...rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment."

"The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers."

"The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by rightwing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement."

"Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers."

"Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during times of economic uncertainty. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy. Antigovernment conspiracy theories and “end times” prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement."

"Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent."

"Fear of Communist regimes and related conspiracy theories characterizing the U.S. Government’s role as either complicit in a foreign invasion or acquiescing as part of a “One World Government” plan inspired extremist members of the militia movement to target government and military facilities in past years."

So, when I hear Republicans and Tea Party Republicans talking about "Second Amendment Remedies" and keeping violence "on the table," I worry. When I hear the potential Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will be campaigning on the behalf of Rich Iott, Ohio Congressional candidate and Nazi reenactor, I worry. When people talk about overthrowing the government and our President, I worry. The elections this week will decide the future of this country and I worry. We are wading into dangerous territory here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Can We?: Election 2010

With elections less than two weeks away I wanted to write something about how the country was getting back on the right track nearly two years after George W. Bush left the White House. I wanted to raise points, toss out facts and figures; you know, the whole laundry list of why we all need to elect Democrats this year and why it was imperative that we not allow Republicans to take over government, especially not the Tea Party Republican Holy-Cuckoo-Asshats who are so far from the mainstream that it is frightening how their ideals, rhetoric, and lack of intelligence can be popular with any crowd in 2010. I was going to say how if the Republicans were back in charge we'd end up headed back onto the road to another Great Depression. How we'd be in Iran and North Korea faster than you can say, "You Betcha." How Wall Street, Big Business, and Big Oil would be let off their chains and really massacre us. I was going to say how things were getting better now that Barack Obama and the Democrats were in charge, maybe not as fast as some would like, but still, better. But I have to tell you, I'm not really in the mood.  The thing is (to bastardize the idiom), I realize that you can lead a person to water, but you have to teach him/ her to fish and most people just can't be bothered. It's hard and it's dirty and it requires time, patience, and understanding and most people just don't seem interested in that kind of shit anymore.

You see, I've ranted and I've raved. I've said it plenty of times in plenty of ways and the message can't get any louder or any clearer: George W. Bush And The Asshole Republicans Ran This Country Into A Hole! I am right. End of discussion. I get it, there are people who don't like Obama, fine. I'm sure they have a reason beside the ol' he's a Muslim, N-word, anti-American, blah, blah, take my gun away Hitler mustache nonsense. And there are people who are under the delusion that Democrats are responsible for taking 'their country away from them,' fire Pelosi/ Reid second amendment remedies whatever. You can't make all the people happy all the time. But me, I just call it like I see it. If I see bullshit, I call it out. If I see bigotry, I call it out. If I see stupidity, I call it out. And for this I have been criticized, vilified, and ostracized for my opinions, style, and bluntness. Well, at least I'm not being completely ignored. I know that writing a blog or posting on Facebook is nothing compared to real political action, but I wouldn't completely discredit it in the age of grass-roots, 'get out the vote' internet campaigning. It's not much, but I feel like I just have to do something and politics is what I'm interested in. These issues matter to me. The future of this country matters to me. It might not matter to some people and it's okay for people to have different interests. I, for one, don't give a shit about Farmville. So if you feel that you are not affected by politics, no point in reading on. This doesn't really concern you. Go back to whatever it is you were doing.

Now, I'm a down to Earth guy. My head is not in the clouds. I'm a healthy mix of skeptic and pessimist and realist. I can see that we have problems. The economy is not getting better fast enough. Jobs aren't returning. The war effort is a never-ending nightmare. There is growing anti-government sentiment. A lot of people are hurting and some are afraid that things will get worse because while they are looking for that metaphoric light at the end of the tunnel, they see those real bills piling up. And a lot of these people don't see our leaders addressing these concerns enough, partially because there is so much on the plate for President Obama and the members of Congress, but also because the news media has become more like the bogeyman than the messenger of truth; where agitators and extremists, as they've always done, have preyed upon people's fears and weaknesses by propping up scapegoats, whether it be Muslims or immigrants or gays or blacks, for political reasons, or worse, for ratings. So much for this false claim of a Liberal media when it's all about ratings and dollars and news outlets have figured out that you can misrepresent all you want as long as you get the viewers to tune in to shows like Glenn Beck where he makes millions by playing a cross between Father Coughlin and Lonesome Rhodes, spewing hate and lies by pandering to an adoring audience. So, back to my fish idiom again: People like Glenn Beck would be happy to feed you fish if you don't want to learn to do it on your own. All you have to do is tune in to his show, buy his books, and take him seriously. If that sounds easier to do than the work required to help yourself, then fine, you can enjoy your fish or Kool-Aid or soylent green or whatever else he decides to feed you, but it's just not for me. I can think and reason and draw my own conclusions and I choose to express them. Ready? O.K.!

So, I've been hearing a lot about how so many are disappointed in President Obama and the Democrats in Congress and how the Republicans are going to sweep the elections this year. After all, Democrats became the majority party in Congress in 2006 and Obama won the White House in 2008, so there should be double rainbows and gumdrops falling from the sky, right? Well then, at the very least, there should be a chicken in every pot, right? How about if everyone who wants a job, has a job? Okay, so that hasn't worked out either. Actually, there are a few things that haven't quite gone as well as we hoped and yes, that is sad and I can understand the frustration many Americans have with Obama and the Democrats, but I really have to ask: How the hell can Obama fix the country in only two years?

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last ten years, you would have noticed that the problems we face now are thanks to the eight years of the Bush Presidency. Sure, Republicans will say that Democrats like to blame all the country's current problems on Bush, but really? Come on! The economy: Bush. The wars: Bush. The lack of regulation on...Wall Street: Bush. Banks: Bush. Oil drilling: Bush. Mining: Bush. Health Insurance costs up 300%: Bush. Our national debt: Billions for Bush's tax cuts for wealthiest top 2%... Billions for tax breaks to corporations to send jobs overseas... Billions to fund two unnecessary wars... While our infrastructure suffered; dams, bridges, and schools falling apart... While we lagged in education and technology because science wasn't considered important... Bush and the Republicans threw away the surplus left from the Clinton years and ran us into the ground and even since before Obama was sworn in as President, he has had to run around putting out the fires that Bush and his cronies started all the while getting bashed 24/7 by fear-mongering Fox News, crazies that think he's a foreign born Muslim Communist Socialist terrorist, weak-spined Democrats running in Red districts, Republicans in Congress who unite against him even if it means standing against their own policy in order to block every bill he favors, and an inpatient, uninvolved public who expected he could solve all these problems single-handedly as if political and social change was attainable as easy as ordering a latte.

The American people voted in 2008 for a Democratic President and a Democratic majority in Congress for a reason: because the Republicans were not working for the American People and a change was necessary. That change is still in progress, but Republicans have taken every opportunity to play party politics in order to slow it down or even halt it at times just to make President Obama and the Democrats look like failures come election time. And it's working. The Right has always had Public Relations down to an art and now this year more than ever, thanks to the conservative leaning Supreme Court's ruling in 'Citizen's United' granting corporations unlimited, anonymous spending into campaigns, the Republican party have used the media to fool the public into thinking that the Democrats are to blame for the nation's problems. Deception is their modus operandi. After 9/11, the Republicans used their tricks to instill fear and sway public opinion to start wars. Before the 2008 elections, they painted Obama as an Arab terrorist. Since being thrown from power, the Republicans have become so desperate that they will stop at nothing in order to regain control of Washington. They have done everything in their power to undermine the President at the sake destroying America. They have distorted the facts. They have stirred up controversy where there was none. They have riled up the public by stoking fear and prejudice. They have purposefully written bad legislation into bills under the guise of bi-partisan compromise to render them ineffective or unpopular. They have sold us out to Big Oil, Big Business, Big Insurance, and Wall Street. They have undermined democracy. And in doing all this they have dishonored those they claim to represent and the men and women who serve this nation at home and abroad.

What choice do we have in this election? If you think you're unhappy with the way Democrats have been handling things then ask if you really want things back to the way they were under Bush. Ask yourself where we'd be if our course wasn't reversed and this country did fall into that Great Depression we were headed for. What if Wall Street, Health Insurance companies and other Big Businesses had no regulations? What if banks and creditors continued their predatory lending practices. Sure unemployment is still high. Sure there are foreclosures still happening. But we're still here aren't we? And sure our deficit is high because of spending on things like TARP and the Stimulus, but these were emergency measures that gave working families and small businesses tax relief, saved jobs, and put people to work. They were not cure-alls, and the economy is still in rough shape, but at least now it's headed in the right direction. Consider what would have happened if those measures were not taken. Too many things have been ignored for too long and while there are those who believe that we should just stop and do nothing and hope these troubles pass as if it were a storm, we have to move forward and spur growth. Right now actually would be the best time to refocus on our crumbling infrastructure. For example, right now material costs are cheap and work on our roads and bridges, rail, and other transit would create jobs now as well as benefit us in the future and that goes for investment in clean, renewable energy as well. We should not squander this opportunity to retool our auto industry to build the electric and biofuel cars of the future. If the Republicans had their way, there would now be no American auto industry. There would be no investment in clean energy jobs.

Republicans would see to it that those jobs went overseas as they and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have spent the last ten years doing by removing regulations on corporations and demonizing labor unions. As they have overseen the near extinction of the manufacturing sector and the collapse of the middle-class, allowed Health Insurance companies to raise premiums and deny coverage, and allowed banks and lenders to take advantage of people on hard times and watch millions foreclose on their homes, Republicans stood by and let multinational corporations take over America in order to help their Corporate friends and line their own pockets. And then times being tough; people living in poverty and people now out of work collecting unemployment and barely scraping by, you have Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, Steve King, Ron Johnson, Sharron Angle, John Kyl, Andre Bauer, Dean Heller, Tom DeLay, and Carl Paladino among many, rubbing salt in the wounds by calling those unemployed people lazy, drug addicts who should be forced into work camps and taught personal hygiene. The relationship between the corporations and the Republican party have always been obvious, this year they are practically rubbing our noses in it. Millionaire CEO's running in this years elections in California, Nevada, and Connecticut are campaigning on their business credentials, apparently proud of their records. In California, Meg Whitman of Ebay, who so far has spent nearly $140 million dollars of her personal fortune not to mention millions in corporate contributions running for Governor yet somehow still calls herself a fiscal conservative, and Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard are both guilty of downsizing and outsourcing American jobs for corporate gain and exploiting workers; though Connecticut candidate Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment takes the cake for the exploitation of workers as they annihilate themselves with steroids, injury, and pain-killers all for the amusement of a paying audience.

Tea Party Republican candidates this year are by far the worst candidates ever selected to run for political office. Out of the Tea Partiers running for Congressional seats, no other Tea Party candidates have gotten more attention than Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, and Rand Paul. I could fill pages with the idiocy displayed by this group including the usual stances on Gun Control and Reproductive Rights, but I'll limit myself here: Angle can't tell Latinos from Asians and has called for Second Amendment remedies to take out elected officials should they not do as we please. O'Donnell (who is not a witch, in case you cared) doesn't believe in masturbation because it's adultery, nor evolution because she's never seen a monkey evolve before her eyes. Joe Miller wants to get rid of the Board of Education, the Minimum Wage, Unemployment Benefits, and thinks East Germany was a good model for Border Security. Ken Buck thinks being gay is akin to alcoholism. Rand Paul believes it's ok for a restaurant owner to not serve black people if he's a racist and called President Obama un-American when the President criticized BP in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that if the Paris Hilton of Politics, Sarah Palin, can have a career in this field anyone can.

For all the talk about the Tea Party this year, how they claim to be real Americans with real American values though they are often exposed to be a crowd of anti-government, ignorant racists, the true story of the Tea Party is that the Tea Party didn't start as a grass-roots movement but rather a corporate funded Republican plan to protest Cap and Trade, Health Care and Wall Street Reform. Billionaire oilmen, brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, continue to pour cash into the Tea Party group 'Americans for Prosperity' and Republican Dick Armey and his Chamber of Commerce friends funnel corporate donations into the Tea Party group 'FreedomWorks' are only but just two examples of how corporate interests have figured out that it's cheaper and easier to trick people into lobbying for their causes than to pay real lobbyists. The most interesting part about the Tea Party is, that though it started out as a Republican project and was represented by the far-right-wing of the Republican party's base, the Tea Party has actually become Frankenstein's monster by attacking the establishment and pitting Tea Party Republicans against the 'Old' in the 'Grand Old Party.' Some Republicans have decided to latch on the Tea Party wave this year in order to maintain their slight relevance, such as Sarah 'John McCain, who?' Palin and Newt 'now with even more crazy' Gingrich, while others have fallen victim to the Tea Party, such as Charlie Crist now running as an Independent for Senator against Marco Rubio in Florida and Lisa Murkowski who lost in the Alaskan primary to Tea Party nut Joe Miller and now running as a 'write-in' candidate.

They say every election is the most important election. They say every election is different from the last and more critical now than ever before. I get it. But look around. Sure party politics is an old story; the same back and forth over the years, but this year really is different. In the past you could possibly side with the Republicans. After all, who doesn't want to be on the side of the group that calls itself fiscally conservative, anti-tax, and pro-military? Support the Troops! Go U.S.A. and all that. But the Republicans now are not the same Republicans you remember. For one, they are not all that fiscally conservative if under the eight years of the Bush Presidency they spent like drunken sailors and put us under a huge pile of debt. And saying you're anti-tax is fine, but don't let the super-duper wealthy throw a party on the tab of the middle-class. And supporting the troops doesn't mean you send them into battle unequipped to oust a dictator you put in place to begin with to secure oil or mineral rights and leave them there for a decade with no plan of them ever returning home. The problem is, these Republicans don't care. They do as they like and if you don't like it they will manipulate facts and have you blame someone else. While they idolize Ronald Reagan, Reagan would be rolling over in his grave. These Republicans today are not the Republicans of your parents generation or even your grandparents generation because the Republican party this year has been hijacked by the lunatic/ racist/ homophobic/ xenophobic/ Islamophobic/ classist/ corporate sponsored/ Christian extremists who do not understand our Constitution while they claim to live by it, nor support the troops though they'll gladly use them as props. They are running, hoping that we have amnesia and have forgotten what they did to this country; hoping to fool those who do remember that they will do things differently if we give them another chance. But why should we believe that they'd do anything differently than they've done this whole time? Why should we believe that they wouldn't just go back to the way things were under Dubya? Could we believe them if they said that they learned their lesson? Should we just elect Republicans, knowing full well what would happen if we do, just because we are a little unhappy with the way things are under the Democrats? You know the answer. America, it's time for a gut-check. Do we elect Democrats and stay on this rough, bumpy road to change or do we elect Republicans and head back into the ditch the Republicans left us in the last time they were behind the wheel?

President Obama is not perfect and he has made mistakes; he is only human. I myself feel, like many who voted for him and the other Democrats to run the Republicans out of power in 2008, that the President was overoptimistic in believing that he would find support from Republicans. Arriving in Washington, he hoped to work with the 'GOP' in the spirit of unity while it was clear that the Republican Party made it their mission to see that he fail, becoming the 'Party of No' - unwilling to work with or compromise on anything favored by the President on behalf of us. For nearly two years we witnessed the President waste his political capital and disenfranchise his base by appeasing the losers of the last election by vowing to work together in the spirit of bi-partisanship even if those losers are sore losers who wish for and work for his defeat. Recently, though, the President has seemed to wisen up to Republican contrariness and obstruction. In September during one speech he said regarding Republicans, "If I said the sky was blue, they'd say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no." It's about time he realized this and listened to his base rather than try to appeal to the haters. It's better late than never because the rest of us want him, no, need him to lead this country out of the deep dark hole that those who hope for his failure have dug for us all.

When we elected President Obama in 2008, did we really think that he was going to step right in and fix everything we didn't like overnight? Did we really think he was the messiah or Superman? Sure his campaign was positive and inspiring with that 'Hope/ Change' message, but we had to know that hope alone wasn't going to change anything. I knew before the election and I've said it before and I'll say it again - real change takes work, not just hope.  Change takes courage, faith, and discipline. Change requires sacrifice. Change requires taking risks. Change requires time. Now two years later we find ourselves at a crossroads. Some of us have made great sacrifices. Some of us are tired or scared. Some of us have lost faith along the way. But do we turn back now, knowing what that road leads to, or do we summon up the will for something better? Do we gather up our strength, our determination, our faith, our hope, and move forward to meet any challenge head on and succeed as America has always done in the past? Do we? Can we?

Never Forget: Sad State of Freedom in America (Repost from Sept. 2010)

September Eleventh is a day that Americans mark with reverence. It is not a holiday nor religious observance; it's not a day that is celebrated, but on this Saturday the eleventh of September we mark the ninth university of the 2001 terrorist attacks that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and forever changed this country and the world. This year, as every year since and assuredly every year following, we pay tribute to those who lost their lives in rural Pennsylvania, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the World Trade Center, since known as Ground Zero, in lower Manhattan; as well as salute those who died in the efforts of saving the lives of others - the firefighters, the police, the EMT's, and rescue workers whose bravery and selfless heroism on that horrific day will be remembered forever. Time has past and will continue to pass, but we have not forgotten and we will never forget. Those lost will be remembered. Their sacrifice shall be honored.

In New York, Ground Zero has become to many a sort of sacred place. The scene of terror and devastation nine years ago today now sits representing not just a terrible reminder of that tragedy and the final resting place of so many who were taken from us, but it also represents a promise for a more peaceful, more hopeful future. The towers that once stood there may not be replaced, most likely could never be replaced, but as before and so too now, America will rebuild, stronger, better than ever before. This is the optimism that makes America great. The belief that tomorrow's dawn will be brighter. That a new day means a new beginning. Our country, through all of its trials and tribulations, through all its misdirections and redresses, has been and will continue to be the beacon of hope and liberty throughout the world.

Sadly, though there has always been some in this great nation who choose to focus on the negative and rally behind cynicism and divisiveness rather than compassion and commonality. Now is no different. Since the attacks in 2001, there has been a growing movement in this country to demonize and demoralize those of the Islamic faith and the latest contention: plans to build a place for Muslims to gather and worship in lower Manhattan, blocks from Ground Zero, has stirred up a deal of controversy. 

Protestors of the plan to build Park 51, an Islamic community center blocks from Ground Zero, say that its building close to the 9/11 terrorist attack is a sign of victory for Islam and/or that it is offensive to memory of the victims and to the victim's families. It is rather clear that they equate the Muslims in al Qaeda who attacked us with all Muslims. That belief is plain ignorant, downright stupid, possibly xenophobic, and borderline bigoted.

What many opponents to this so called 'Ground Zero Mosque' fail to remember, and what some politicians and media outlets do a disservice by not reminding us all, is that among those who died in the terrorist attacks there were American Muslims in those buildings and on those planes. There were American Muslims who were among the firefighters, the police, and the EMTs who responded and also perished.  And there are American Muslims today, nine years later, who are among the family members of those that died on 9/11 who have gone to this building, Park 51,to pray for over a year now before the start of this media circus, sparked by rightwing politicians, conservative talk show hosts, and hate groups. For a full year before anyone heard about it or had any vague opinion of how what happens in New York City affects their lives, American Muslims have gone to Park 51 without incident to pray and remember their lost loved ones in the same way as the other family members who lost loved ones on that horrific day. But now, thanks to a misinformed, irrational group of people riled  up on fear and hate by the likes of the rightwing propaganda machine known as Fox News and the talking heads in its employ, this plan to expand a place of prayer into a community center complete with basketball court and culinary school has turned into what fools think is a terrorist day camp right next door to sacred land.

Nine years ago our great nation was shaken to its core by an attack that we couldn't foresee because we couldn't believe was possible. We believed we were the nation all others adored and admired and should there have been enemies, surely, our leaders would have led us true for we too were the nation to respect and fear. But those leaders failed us and we did suffer a defeat the likes of which we have never before suffered and so it was only natural that we were left with feelings of deep unease. As a nation, we all pulled together, united we stood and we were embraced by the rest of the world in empathy, but it was short lived because when we looked to our leaders for leadership they instead gave us a narrative to focus our feelings of unease upon. Since 9/11 we were manipulated into believing Middle Easterners were a threat. Al Qaeda, Muslims, Arabs: all lumped together. We were manipulated into believing that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. It didn't, but that fit the narrative.

Thanks in large part to that narrative, created by the former administration and fostered by Fox News and racists such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, we have been witnesses these past few years to the rise of Islamophobia in America. Racial profiling at airports, stereotyping young Middle Eastern men as radicals and militants; we have taken our eyes off the true enemy and instead focused on our own people. When polls show that 1 out 5 Americans believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim when he really is a Christian, why does no one ask, first, how the public can be so misinformed and, second, what difference does it make?  Why, while this country slowly heals from the wounds suffered on that terrible day by a group of evil, hateful people known as al Qaeda, do some here find it necessary to fight their fellow countrymen with the courage of their ignorance in evil, hateful ways?

While two separate wars are waged in the lands of the Middle East, where thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims have died, we forget that there are American Muslims in our Armed Forces putting life and limb on the line every single day to protect the freedoms we all enjoy and believe in and value. And it too must be remembered that the point of the continuing conflict in the Middle East, in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that our brave men and women over there are fighting repressive regimes to secure the blessings of liberty for the people of those countries. Those people being of the majority Muslim. It cannot be without pathetic irony that Americans would be willing to sacrifice our own to protect the freedom of Muslims in foreign nations while restricting the freedoms of Muslims at home.

The latest non-controversy and phony outrage on display over this mosque is just another drummed up, overly dramatic, overblown media event perpetrated by those that seek to divide us and capitalize on that division. This new crowd claiming to be the 'real Americans,' the Conservative Republican Libertarian Tea Party Christian anti-government rightwing militia devotees of con artists like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, sycophantically regurgitating nonsense and lies they've been force fed by these sideshow actors on TV and radio about the Founding Fathers or the Constitution and flying the Gadsden flags that say 'Don't Tread on Me,' are not patriots and they do not represent most Americans, they are simply confused and misguided people having fallen victim to these sociopaths who prey upon people's deepest, darkest prejudices in order to sell books and increase ratings; people who are not interested in democracy; not interested in freedom or the will of the people. They are only interested in power and money and they will lie and re-write history if it suits them.

That this group of people should claim the Founding Fathers as the heroes of their movement is bizarre and would be disturbing if it wasn't comical. It would seem that they have no interest in reality or history. They brandish books and pamphlets claiming that they say the things they believe deep in their hearts, but one would be led to believe by their words and actions that they have never taken the time to read any of them. To speak of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and the framers of the Constitution with awe and than fall back on backwards, backwoods thinking is preposterous.

"Common Sense," Thomas Paine's celebrated work that gave voice to the American colonists seeking independence from Great Britain is today being heralded by Glenn Beck and his followers because they believe Paine felt as they do about big government when he wrote about ending tyranny, yet no one in this group seems to realize that Thomas Paine isn't one of them at all. In that famous work, on his criticism of the tyrannical monarchy of English rule over the American colonies in 1776, Paine wrote:

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one...For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest...Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our will, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and or reason will say, it is right."

Furthermore, most fail to realize that Thomas Paine, not a Christian but a Deist like many of our Founding Fathers, was staunchly opposed to institutionalized religion, writing in "The Age of Reason," published in 1794:

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit...Soon after I had published the pamphlet Common Sense, in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion...Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."  

Thomas Jefferson, also a strong critic of Christianity; so much so that he penned his own version of the Bible in an attempt to remove the mysticism of the religion and instead focus on Deist philosophy and the teachings of the man, Jesus Christ, was an outspoken, diehard advocate of separation of church and state and in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence which he famously penned there are no mentions of "endowed by their Creator," or "Supreme Judge of the world," or "Divine Providence." Jefferson makes one mention of any sort of god and it is to "nature's god," a common inference made by Deists at the time. These supposed references to god in the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, phrases that people like Glenn Beck mistakenly parade on, were added by those at the time who lobbied for their inclusion in the document. Jefferson and his associates were likely the first to make the mistake of compromising with the lobbyists of the religious right. It should be noted here another very important edit to the original Declaration of Independence that had it not have been removed by the powerful influence of those representing the states of South Carolina and Georgia at the time, this country would have seen a far different version of history. Referring to further grievances with the King of Great Britain, Jefferson wrote:

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death, in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. He has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable commerce, determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die."

Thomas Jefferson, writing again in 1779 for a bill enacted in 1786 in the state of Virginia entitled The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom:

"...That, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right... Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters or religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

When our Founding Fathers gathered to create our nation's first constitution, The Articles of Confederation enacted in 1781, it was again their full intention to guarantee religious freedom to all under the law as stated in Article III:

"The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever."

James Madison, in a strong argument against state supported religion, writing in 1785's "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" in opposition to a proposed bill establishing a provision for the teachers of Christian Religion:

"If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government how can its legal establishment be necessary to civil government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another."

Document after document, law after law, the principle of religious freedom has been advocated and upheld throughout the original colonies and all newly annexed land such as The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, concerning the government for the newly acquired territory northwest of the Ohio River, that states:

"No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory."

And finally, it is to the United States Constitution signed in to law in 1787, were it is written plain as day in the very first Amendment to it in our Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 

This is America and among the many liberties that we cherish here is the freedoms of religion and expression. America is not a Christian nation. That is not an opinion, it is fact. The founders of this republic held various religious beliefs and the history of immigration to these lands even before the formation of this nation included a large number who were escaping religious oppression and persecution. The founding documents that we hold dear in America do not mention the establishment of religion, Christian or otherwise, as its basis of law and governance. In fact, these documents explicitly define freedom of religious expression as a cornerstone principle of this uniquely great nation.

The 'War on Terrorism' that resulted from 9/11 is not a Christian vs. Muslim fight; it is not an American vs. Arab fight. It is a fight between those who stand for freedom and those that stand for the restrictions of freedoms in the name of religious fundamentalism. And religious fundamentalism comes in all varieties. Religion can easily be made to stand as the ultimate excuse for the evils men do. It has been made to do so in the past and it likely will in the future. But is it a case of one bad apple spoiling the bunch? That horrendous, often violent acts committed by people who claim to be of one faith using religion to justify evil makes all of that faith evil? If it was those claiming to be Muslims who murdered people on 9/11, should we really blame all Muslims and forbid them from building mosques? Should we also forbid the building of churches because hospitals and clinics have been bombed and doctors murdered by Christians who believed that they were doing God's work? It was after all an American Christian named Eric Rudolph who bombed several clinics and the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta. It was also an American whose Christian faith and anti-government views that would have fit right in with those self-proclaimed 'Real Americans' in the Tea Party today that blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people, nineteen of which were children under the age of six, yet no one protested the building of churches in Oklahoma City.

There are nearly 3 million American Muslims living in the United States today who revere 9/11 the same way as other Americans; who share American values and beliefs but who in recent years have been treated like outcasts because of what a few have done and find little opportunity for outreach and communication. There are nearly a million American Muslims and easily over a hundred mosques in New York City today despite these hateful, spiteful, misinformed Park 51 protesters who must also be oblivious to the fact that there is already a mosque in lower Manhattan that has stood there since the early seventies, before the World Trade Center was even built. If we hold them to their word, the founders of Park 51 seek to open interfaith dialogue, build bridges with the community through common goals, and forge strong relationships in an effort to spread understanding about the true nature of Islam - not the distorted, ugly form of al Qaeda's Fundamentalist Islam that too many believe to be the only Islam. And where better than the capital of the world, New York City? Where better than the place that, unfortunately stands for the worst of it? So, while a minority of people oppose the buildings of mosques or Islam or Muslims outright while claiming sensitivity, it must be asked: "Where is your sensitivity?" As for Ground Zero being a sacred, holy place I ask that you would consider why a place for people to go to play basketball, learn to cook, and yes, worship is any more offensive than the burger joints and strip clubs in the area now or perhaps more offensive, than a shopping mall built on Ground Zero as opposed to blocks from it, contained within the new Freedom Tower. It should be a question now as to why the founders of Park 51 would want anything to do with that area, now that the crazy viewers of Fox News flock there daily to abuse the Muslims going there along with the thousands upon thousands every year who make the pilgrimage to this tourist mecca. But that is their choice; part of the freedom that comes guaranteed in this country.

So what is the argument to be made now? It is not legal or moral issues. It is not sensitivity issues. What else can it be besides plain, 'they are not us' arguments? Well, to those who oppose this community center I ask that you ask yourselves: What kind of people are we to say that we stand for freedom but restrict it for such nonsensical reasons? What kind of people are we to say that we're proud to be American but don't consider other Americans 'American.' Are they not good enough? The wrong religion, maybe? The wrong sexual orientation, perhaps? Not quite the right color, even? In a land where all people from all lands have come and continue to come since its inception, how could anyone claim that there is any one right kind of American? Yes, some of us look different and talk different and think different and, yes, worship different, but we are all Americans and, may I add, human beings. Where does it come from that we have to be so judgmental? Why do we need to question other peoples motives? Why do we suspect each other and fear what's different? Why do we get angry at what we don't understand?

Rest assured to know that there are those who seek to capitalize on these divisions and use these feelings of unease, fear, and anger to their advantage. Politicians with the help of the media can sway public opinion like a sword and with that sword we have often times cut ourselves. With a little suggestion unease can lead to fear. A little rhetoric and fear can lead to anger. Turn up some vitriol and anger can lead to hate and there are those that can coax that hate into war and genocide. Have we forgotten history? You need not go back to post-World War I Germany for an example of a nation seeking a scapegoat in a minority group for its troubles.  Here in this country we too have the sorry history of the mistreatment of Jews and Catholics and Mormons and Irish and Italians and Chinese and Hispanics and Latinos and Homosexuals etcetera, etc. Do we forget the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II? The relocation of Native Americans? Do we forget slavery ever happened? Do we pretend there was no before and during the Civil Rights Movement?

Back in the 1950's, when schools and public utilities were segregated in the south, it was the popular opinion that blacks were inferior to whites. There was no logical or intellectual basis to this argument, just accustomed irrational thinking that when challenged by reason was met with hostility. When the decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas came out ending segregation in public schools, there was a backlash of white people against blacks and against the federal government. These people were furious.  They didn't exactly know why they were furious, it may have been the false fear that their way of life would be taken over by blacks or the government, or that they were no longer safe, whatever that means, but this group was not at ease and there were those agitators then who whipped up the public into fury and hate. Blind, dumb hate. Soon enough it was angry, violent people that made up the majority with the full backing of the popular opinion, the police, and the KKK. It is hard to look back on history to see similarities today and not be dismayed that we have not learned from our mistakes. We should remember what hate has done in our past. The beatings, rape, and murder. Children's heads bashed in. Hate did these things. Hate blew up homes and churches. Hate blew to pieces the bodies of four innocent little girls who were at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama one day in 1963 learning about forgiveness and love. And this was a church. White people blew up a church because black people prayed there? Was it not to the same god the black people prayed to as the white people? There was no respect for religion or god, just hate for the different people. So why today, do 'good Christians' say they stand up for their religion when really they just hate the different people? Why do they hate Muslims, Hispanics, Homosexuals?

These 'good Christians' who you'll find rallying over the building of mosques, immigration, and same sex marriage shouting and cursing and threatening violence are exactly the same hateful, ignorant type of people back then that screamed at children entering school, set fist and fire hose and dogs and billy clubs on people in the street, murdered men of god who preached of change through nonviolence, and others including those four little girls. So I ask that we think of them when there's an arson at a mosque.  Think of them when people are beaten and stabbed for being Muslim. Think of them when 'good Christians' take to burning the Koran. It makes absolutely no sense to me because they all believe in the same god and here in America we are free to practice whatever religion we choose and it is a choice; no one is born Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist or Agnostic or Atheist or what have you. Religion is not in the blood and it is not in DNA and neither is hate. So where does this blind, ugly, stupid hate come from?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why the Resistance to Health Care Reform? (Repost from Aug. 2009)

It's the hot issue... Health Care Reform. President Obama, by mandate from the voters, told Congress to get a Health Care Reform bill by August. It wasn't a exactly a deadline, he only meant to light a fire under them and get the process moving, but unfortunately, two many hands were in the cookie jar and disagreements over the particulars stalled the process until Congress was set to take a summer vacation.

While little is actually being done on getting a bill written, Senators and Congressmen and women are holding town hall meetings in their respective districts to discuss the issue and some are being confronted by angry, hostile crowds. The media has been capturing these wild town hall meetings where a very vocal minority of people are shouting at their Congressmen and Senators, calling them liars, cronies, and Nazis; hanging them in effigy, some carrying signs that read: "Death to Obama," and others who come with knives and guns. Protests are as American as Apple Pie. The right to Protest is guaranteed in the Constitution. But shouting down debate and cursing death threats isn't exactly helpful.

Poll Numbers suggest that President Obama's 'Approval Rating' is dropping over the issue of Health Care Reform and critics are quick to say that the majority of the country share the views of these protestors. There are, of course, a number of reasons why President Obama's 'Approval Rating' has taken a dive. For instance, there is the percentage of the country that did not vote for him and simply refuse to support anything he puts his name on, even if they put his name on it. For example, although the current working Health Care Bills in the House and Senate were composed of ideas from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it is still referred to by some as, "ObamaCare."

Maybe it was the blatant racism or plain ignorance and stupidity of a good deal of people (Bush did after all still have around a 30% approval rating at the end), or maybe, the voters had legitimate reasons not to vote for Obama, but either way the ones who lost the election walked way sore losers and won't like Obama no matter what and will oppose everything he does. Reason for part of that is that those people still actually believe the lies told by Republicans aided and abetted by the Fox Propaganda Network and shock jocks like Rush, Bill O, and Beck. You know, the people who said those classic myths: 'Iraq and 9/11 are connected,' 'Saddam has W.M.D.'s,' and 'The U.S. Does Not Torture.' It was same group that claimed Barack Obama was a Muslim who hated white people, paled around with terrorists, and wasn't an American citizen.

That crazy conspiracy/ racist fringe of the Right Wing still can't accept that Obama is our elected President so they clutch to the insane idea that Obama wasn't even born in Hawaii or use Freudian Defense Mechanisms and claim that it is Obama, not they, who are racist. There are nut jobs out there that think Obama has a 'deep-seated hatred of white people' even though he was raised by his white mom and grandparents; and crazier, say that Obama is a Nazi even though Nazis don't exactly let black people join their club.

The opinions of those people affect poll numbers. Then you can't forget about the people in this country who just don't like government at all! There are a lot of folks that say they'd be just fine with anarchy as long as they have the right to carry assault weapons. Yeah, you know the type... the ones that claim they want the country to be 'as the Founding Fathers intended,' which if you thought about it, sticking only to the Bill of Rights would mean that there would still be slaves, women would have no right to vote, and all Supreme Court cases since on civil rights and segregation, etc, would mean nothing. Actually, it's that 16th Amendment that bugs them the most - makes them think the Government is one big, scary country club that just steals people's Income Tax money. So they shout about 'Big Government,' which is music to the ears of the corporations with their Laissez-faire argument against regulations and anti-trust laws. So the two crowds join forces to rage against 'socialism' in all it's forms such as the government 'take over' of health care or Social Security or the Post Office or Medicare or the FDA or public schools or public transportation or Firefighters or Police... Well, actually, I'm not sure if they even know how far they want 'Big Government' out of their lives. For instance, they seem to want FEMA to show up ASAP after a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or flood wipes out their neighborhoods.

Then you have the people that were under the impression that Obama was the Chosen One who was going to magically solve all the problems that the Bush Administration left us - the collapse of the banks, the fall of Wall Street and the Auto Industry, two wars, etc, all without spending money and all immediately. Seven months in with 'Stimulus' money going out and us not falling into a Depression, GM and Chrysler reorganized, Cash for Clunkers' rebates getting people buying cars, Wall Street rebounding, refocusing on Iraq and Afghanistan, work on Energy Reform and now Health Care. There are people who want it all now and there are those who criticize Obama for taking on too much! Guess he can't win either way.

Well, there could be a hundred more reasons why Poll Numbers are dropping, but my point is, a lot of people are angry and they have a lot to be angry about. There is still that whole war thing happening, people are seeing jobs go overseas, many are out of work, many are underpaid, many don't have health insurance, many are under-insured, many are mad that Banks got loans and they didn't, many are mad that the government didn't just let Wall Street and the Auto Industry collapse, many are scared that the country is in so much debt that they will have to foot the bill. These people have a lot of real concerns and not a lot of hope that things will get better anytime soon and they turn to the so called 'news' and then they hear that the government, led by a black Kenyan Muslim, is putting together a secret plot to kill them. Match to the powder keg.

Not that anyone should expect people like Rush and Beck to be responsible in their news reporting - they freely admit that they aren't journalists, rather entertainers who have neither the time nor inclination to read and research anything regarding history or politics or law. They are simply like the old relatives, misinformed and stubborn, that we are embarrassed to introduce our friends to in fear that they'll tell that story about how the old neighborhood was better before the blacks moved in. The only difference is Rush, Beck, et al. have microphones that reach our embarrassing relatives who then feel vindicated and empowered to think that backward, irrational talk or violence is legitimate political discourse. Everyone is entitled to free speech, even the dumb.

Which brings us back to the Health Care Reform Debates and those town hall meetings that have been getting a lot of attention lately.

First of all, Barack Obama, the candidate, ran with the plan of reforming Health Care in this country. Specifically, he talked about how the Health Insurance Corporations had risen rates 300% in the last 10 years while 47 million Americans go uninsured plus another 10 million underinsured and how 60% of Bankruptcies filed by individuals are medical related. At this rate, the Health Care System was only going to be a larger and larger drag on the economy and a burden that too many Americans could not and should not bear. The Health Insurance Business, like many other corporations throughout history, had become too large too much profit-driven. As an alternative, Obama talked about offering all Americans the same Health Care Plans that the members of Congress enjoy, about streamlining the system to increase efficiency and reduce costs, and give people the opportunity to choose who provides their Health Care.

Long story short, and you all know it, Barack Obama was elected President and the Democrats on his coattails won the majority of both House of Congress. The majority of the country voted on this. This is what the majority of the country wants. Yet Barack Obama feels the need to appease the losers of the last election by vowing to work together in the spirit of bi-partisanship even if those losers are sore losers who wish for and work for his defeat. Can't say he's not full of hope and optimism. But while the Republicans say they are all for Health Care Reform, they just say 'No' on every detail along the way and then claim that they never had a chance to voice their ideas. Not true. They don't want it, never wanted it, never will want it; just like they didn't want the recent expansion of Health Care for children (called it 'socialism'), and will do anything including throwing the country under the bus in order to score political points. In their eyes: Kill Health Care Reform and Obama fails, but they win.

The Right has Public Relations down to an art with plenty of money to spend and their modus operandi has been, for at least the past decade, to lie and instill fear in order to sway public opinion. The trick worked to get us to invade Iraq; a country we were told was part of the attacks on 9/11. Now with passing of the 2008 elections and being thrown from power, the Right-wing talkers feel even more compelled to spew outrageous lies because they are desperate and willing to say anything to, never mind regain power, but to at least stay relevant. And they will stop at nothing... No boundaries, no morals. Scaring the American people, ginning them up on fear and turning them into what resembles an angry mob. This is nothing new; this fear tactic. The Republicans spent all this time since 9/11 keeping us afraid of another Terrorist attack. Even making us afraid of each other. Even declaring that if we voted for Democrats we would be attacked! Now it's Health Care Reform equals Death panels and offing Grandma?

Who wouldn't be angry if someone tried to off our grandmas? The problem is it's a lie! A sick, sad, desperate attempt at making people afraid of the government that is trying to bring down the costs of Health Insurance, make things easier on the middle class, and provide health care to the millions who currently go without it. Why? Because if Health Care Reform happens, the Health Care Corporations will stand to lose the profits that they make by gauging the American public. Reform means that they couldn't do things like charge $50 for a Tylenol at the Emergency room or deny a claim from someone for a procedure or surgery that the doctor says is necessary but the insurance company says isn't. See, the Republican argument is that a 'Government-run Health Care System' will put a government bureaucrat between a patient and their doctor when actually, right now, it is a Health Insurance bureaucrat between a patient and their doctor.

A minority of American people, perhaps those I mentioned before, are standing in the way of Health Care Reform. Odd, since Health Care Reform is meant to help them, yet they are so misinformed by the Right Wing PR Machine in paid for by the Health Insurance Corporations websites, advertisements, Talk Radio, and Fox 'News,' that they shout down any facts that defer from the lies they were told by these commercials, corrupt empty suits in Congress, and fake news reporters with their own TV or Radio shows. Pretty easy job to come up with and say ridiculous things without having to produce any shred of evidence. Or make wild, baseless accusations without fear of recrimination. Speaking off which, did you hear that Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs enjoy hot, gay sex together while Sean Hannity and Bill O give each other sponge baths with a loofa. Actually Bill refers to it as a 'falafel,' but Sean doesn't bother correcting him. Now, I'm not saying you should believe that, but does anyone have evidence that it isn't true? This is easy actually, you can even play at home, but these people make good money doing it day in and day out. All it takes is a little moral ambiguity over the truth and that little side effect of possibly having a guilty conscience, but luckily, Big Business is there to heal all wounds. All that money that the corporations make robbing the average American (like that $50 Tylenol) goes to lobbying against what will keep them from making those plundered riches - like paying for those commercials and lining the pockets of anyone to do their bidding.

So, actually, I guess you could blame the political parties for playing politics instead of working to help Americans or Joe and Jane Shmoe for believing what they hear and acting out or these entertainers on TV, Internet, and Radio for playing to audiences for ratings, but the real blame should go to the Corporations that control the country. In the same way they can manipulate prices, stocks, Government policy, and the economy; they can manipulate the people. So if Health Care Reform does fail, it will be a loss to the American public and a victory for the corporations and you can bet that those CEOs, lobbyists, corrupt Politicians, and talkers in the media will be well compensated for their efforts.

Oh, wait. I forgot another part of America that may contribute to Obama's 'Approval Rating' going down recently.... People like me. You see, I voted for Barack Obama because he said he would fix the economy, fix Health Care, repair all the damage done during the Bush/ Cheney years, and take on the corporations among other things. I didn't and don't expect the President to fix everything all at once. Things take time. But I am frustrated now, like a lot of people who voted for him and the other Democrats to run the Republicans out of power, that the President wants to cooperate with the 'GOP' in the spirit of unity when it's clear that the Republican Party has become the 'Party of No' - unwilling to work with or compromise on anything favored by the President on behalf of us.

So the Single-Payer plan gets taken off the table because the Right won't do it, then Public Option doesn't look promising because the Right won't do it, next Co-ops gets tossed because the Right won't do that either. Still, some Republicans say they want Health Care Reform, but they're really only talking about (surprise) tax credits and Tort Reform. Tort Reform, though needed to some extent to stop frivolous lawsuits, simply means to Republicans that lawyers not be involved and that patients can't sue their Doctors and Health Insurance Companies for malpractice if the Doctor is negligent, nor sue Pharmaceutical companies should a drug they manufacture cause irrevocable harm. Again, it's all about protecting the corporations.

The American people voted for a Democrat President and a Democrat majority in Congress for a reason: because the Republicans were not working for the American People and a change was necessary. There are no excuses now for not flexing that muscle and getting these important jobs done. The country needs Health Care Reform and shouldn't be held hostage just because the Democrats want to try and work with Republicans who just want to play political games. Think about it - If the Republicans had the majority in Congress and a President in the White House, do you think they would work with the Democrats or just push their own agenda and get bills passed? Actually, you don't even have to think about it, it happened - recently. Now it's our turn. We mustn't let the naysayers and fear mongers hold us back any longer. We mustn't be fooled by the Health Care Insurance Corporations propaganda. We can get strong Health Care Reform and we don't need the Republicans' help to do it. It won't be easy; change rarely is. And you can't make all the people happy all the time... But we've got to do this because we just can't afford to do nothing.

Health Care for All Americans!