The Worship of Sports in America

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How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Citizen Protesters, or Ideological Spin Doctors? Part 2

Continued from Part 1

"It is not the state that orders us. It is we who order the state."

With regard to the anti-tax & spending protests of last weekend in Washington D.C., that quote could just as easily be assumed to be the mantra of those who participated in the protests. However, those are not the words of some famous American patriot who uttered them in defiance of presumed government tyranny, and whom we are so proud of that we immortalized them in the pages of elementary school textbooks. They were not words of the leader of some populist movement leader who turned a cleaver phrase to gain popular support for progressive policy. They are not even the words of an American. They are the words of the former chancellor of Nazi German, Adolf Hitler. But such was the message ostensibly carried to Washington last weekend by the protesters.

Now before I’m inundated with protests myself about how I’m making negative aspersions, I am NOT attempting to compare the mostly conservative activists among the protesters to Nazis. However, what I am doing is illustrating how the tactics of traditionally progressive activists can be hijacked by an ideologically-bound or self-interested few to give the impression of general consensus. That is what the protests in Washington were all about. So this then is a challenge to the protesters’ intent.
Why? Because first and foremost their selective memory when it comes to their complaint that “government spending is out of control.” Take the non-Social Security of the government spending for the last 55 years. The greatest amount of deficit spending (borrowing) occurred under the watches of Republican presidents, with Ronald Reagan and Bush II’s administrations being responsible for the lion’s share of deficit spending during this period. In fact, it was the spending and ill-advised tax cuts of the second Bush which helped to eradicate the budget surplus and pay-down on the national deficit which started under former President Bill Clinton (naturally, die-hard ideologues from the conservative right have disputed this fact by engaging in esoteric hair-splitting of economic theories which challenge the bottom line--that it was under recent conservative stewardship of the government that the deficit spending began to balloon out of control). Furthermore, Bush II had the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress for much of his presidency. "The Reagan Budget: The Deficit that Didn't Have to Be." The Cato Institute; "Bush to Fund a Third of Non-Social Security Spending This Year with Borrowed Money" Citizens for Tax Justice.

This is not leftist propaganda meant to make conservatives look bad; these are historical and economic facts supported by the numbers. And the selective memories of the protesters and their activist organizers ignores the major difference between the motives for spending by the aforementioned presidents and President Obama; neither Republican president didn't have to contend with crafting policies meant to curtail the effects of an unprecedented economic downward spiral, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Great Depression (although to his credit, Reagan did start out with the intent to challenge the growing budget deficit). True, spending is out of control, but so is the economy...desperate times, desperate measures.
So, after years of deficit spending, no fiscal restraint by either political party, and the continued practice of Congressional earmarks—a practice vociferously supported by both moderate and conservative Republicans –why all of a sudden have conservatives found the testicular fortitude to suddenly don the mask of consensus, take to the streets, and protest government spending?
The reasons are simple. It’s a rejection of the legitimacy of the duly-elected Obama Administration which cloaking itself in the free exercise of civil liberties and ideological differences. Its also fear of change (no pun intended), with hints of xenophobia, nativism, ethnocentrism, and willful ignorance, with the latter propensity resulting in the labeling anyone who desires to help the poor and/or disenfranchised as tantamount to “Socialism.” It is a rejection of policy and government based on lies, innuendo, scare tactics, slander, and misinformation by those who unflinchingly hold on to ideological political beliefs in the hopes of shaping the country according to their particular view of how things should be. It is an embracing of the absurd belief that a particular individual or group wants to reshape the American way of life which we have become accustomed to in ways which are alien and antithetical to our core values; heaven forbid that someone simply sees an inequality and wants to address it through the established legislative process. It is a movement which even challenges the legitimacy of birthright, and revealing how easy it is for a relative few to stir up unfounded fears among those who did not have the legal process go the way that they would have liked.
I’m a firm believer in the right protest unpopular policy. I also believe in unfettered free speech—even unpopular speech—mostly because free speech is how great ideas are exchanged and eventually become policy. I am for progressive policy based on need, not ideological adherence. And with 30-40 million Americans without health insurance (many unknown more chronically underinsured), and an economic crisis which has the country a few steps away from a wholesale economic collapse, this is not the time to cling to the safety of economic timidity. We are not going to eradicate these and other problems without spending money. At the same time, we must learn to practice fiscal restraint, an idea the protesters of last week promote, and one in which I share. However, in order to find a policy which works to the best of both our country’s creed of opportunity and of preserving the system we live by, the selfish intent of people like the protesters must be revealed insofar as their desire to portray themselves as representing the best interest if the entire nation as a whole.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Citizen Protesters, or Ideological Spin Doctors? Part 1

It’s been said that the road to hell is paved with great intentions. This caveat is true, whether we choose to ignore it with regard to the decisions we make as the heads of our households, or with consideration to the social and political policies we choose to follow. Perhaps no single recent policy decision illustrates this better than our choice to go to war in Iraq, a decision which has run up a tab of some $700 billion dollars to date, a death toll of over 3000 American soldiers, and a cost to the country’s global image and credibility which will no doubt take years to repair…all with the intention to protect the country from the perceived dangers of a “rogue nation” with “weapons of mass destruction” in a post-9/11 world. In the time since the rationale given the American people for going to war was proven incorrect, the criticism for this costly venture has been limited to political posturing, what amounted to token investigations resulting in no particular blame, and [the] hundreds of publications revealing how in hindsight pre-war intelligence was both wrong and wrongly interpreted.
In yet another policy intention—this one questionably so—a segment of the American people have (and their leadership) have opted to only now concern themselves with the amount of spending that the government engages in on our behalf.
This past Saturday, tens of thousands of mostly conservative marchers gathered, marched, and rallied in Washington DC against the policies of the Obama Administration with regard to the spending it has employed in its effort to shore up the ailing economy, as well as its proposal to revamp access to health care for the uninsured.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with marching and protesting as a way to illustrate to our leaders that the American people speak with one voice; its what led the way toward the signing of civil rights legislation and the country out of the quagmire of the Vietnam War. However, it seems the opponents of progressive policy have learned how to take the tool of mass street rallies often employed by progressives, and use it to project the image that they represent the desires of the American people. These so-called “Tea-Partiers” and other conservative anti-tax activists march with the goal of influencing the government to start limiting spending. Not an altogether bad goal considering the national deficit is $10 trillion and growing.
But for many reasons, these “protests” lack either the credibility or the nobility of a true expression of the collective American will (as exemplified by either the 1963 March on Washington or the anti-Vietnam war protests of the late 60s & early 70s). Consider the lack of broad spectrum ideological representation. Are we to believe that these mostly conservative activists and voters represent the will of all (or even most) Americans? Where are the ethnic Americans who believe that the government is overspending in these protests? The Democrats (or their leadership in substantive numbers)? The Liberals…the Moderates? How about those without insurance who feel that government spending is spending too much in the name of the public interest? Considering that there are somewhere between 30-40 million of them, its hard to believe these individuals represent a cross-section of the American electorate.
But during the television interviews of these protesters over the weekend, many seemed to go out of their way to assert that they represented mainstream Americans, and that they were not “fringe” Right-Wingers. Indeed, there were many protesters present representing many age and geographic differences, some with their children and even pets in tow. Strictly speaking, this is true…these are indeed mostly Middle-Class Americans, many who have no economic stake in the companies and business which benefit directly from the bailouts and spending the government has used to prop them up during this economic downturn. However, it’s a good guess that these individuals are probably and overwhelmingly not among the Americans who voted for President Obama (or any Democrat for that matter) in the first place, so it’s a little hard to believe that they are being objective about the reasons for why the government seeks to infuse large businesses with federal funds. One look at the protest signs carried to Saturday’s rally is proof positive that their motives and fears are more ideologically motivated rather than borne of a measured consideration of need.

A group of anti-tax protesters from Saturday, September 12 (take particular note of the signs, indicative of the ideological bents of their political--not populist--position)

Do I believe that government spending is out of control, of course. But what should be of concern is the selective memory of the protesters as well as their propensity to engage in a revisionist view of reality as they justify their opposition. This in turn calls their intent into question.
What's funny is that only now do Conservatives find alarm in the government’s “rampant level of spending,” when it was former President Ronald Reagan who initiated the era of big spending in the modern era of government.

The fiscal shift in the Reagan years was staggering. In January 1981, when Reagan declared the federal budget to be "out of control," the deficit had reached almost $74 billion, the federal debt $930 billion. Within two years, the deficit was $208 billion. The debt by 1988 totaled $2.6 trillion. In those eight years, the United States moved from being the world's largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation (“Reagan Policies Gave Light to red Ink,” The Washington Post, June 9, 2004).

For conservative leaders who support deficit spending, it didn’t seem to be a real issue as long their political party was the one in power and engaged in tax cuts with no commensurate cuts in federal spending spent. Indeed, former Vice-President Dick Cheney validated this as much when in 2002 he was alleged to have said that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" in regards to former President George Bush’s economic stimulus policies.

To Be Concluded...