Monday, February 23, 2009

Thread Does Not a Nation Make

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published at OpEdNews)

On February 14, two of Philadelphia’s finest were sent to the scene of an altercation between a Philadelphia cab driver and a would be thief. The thief warned the cabbie that, if he called the police, he would shoot the cabbie and the police. The cabbie, most likely fearing for his life, called anyway.

Two policeman showed up at the scene. The thief wannabe was wearing a jacket and his hand was in one of the pockets. As the police approached the man, he quickly raised that veiled hand. The hand wasn’t the only thing that the thief raised. In his hand was a .357 Magnum.

A little after nine o’clock PM, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey walked out of the Albert Einstein Medical Center to an anxiously waiting media.

He somberly looked up and said, “It's my sad duty to inform you of the death of John Pawlowski. What makes his death even more tragic is that his wife Kim is expecting their first child. What makes this whole thing unacceptable is that officer Pawlowski was improperly displaying the flag of The United States of America on his sleeve.”

Of course Commissioner Ramsey never mentioned anything about the flag on Pawlowski’s sleeve. In truth, he never mentioned anything about Officer Pawlowski’s wife expecting their first child, but that one is a fact.

This is not glib handling of the senseless killing of one those brave people who work day and night to protect cabbies as well as you and me.

I wonder, though, whether the man who wrote a letter to North Carolina’s Citizen-Times would, indeed, fault the commissioner for failing to mention whether or not the slain officer was displaying the flag properly. After all, he’d been noticing the “improper display of the flag of the United States on the sleeve of various uniforms.”

There’s nothing wrong with knowing the proper placement of the flag. It’s just another piece of knowledge. What’s wrong is that the letter writer states that, “Some of the offenders have included law enforcement…”

Offenders, he says! So “offender” may have been Officer Pawlowski’s status when he lost his life trying to save that of a cab driver. We really don’t know, do we? How the flag was situated on his uniform hasn’t, yet, become an issue. Unless the letter writer from North Carolina gets involved in the investigation, it probably will never become an issue.

I’d like to think that the flag is important because of what it’s supposed to represent. It’s supposed to represent The United States of America and the wonderful participative government for which the founding fathers laid the groundwork. At any rate, they laid that groundwork by penning eloquent words eloquently upon the parchment of the time.

As we know today, much of what they wrote was incongruent with what they practiced. Yet the words are there and, as time has passed, they’ve come to be meaningful. They are the words of which we should be reminded when we see an American flag. That is the purpose of the flag. The flag has a purpose; it is not, in and of itself, a purpose.

Yet, throughout American history, it has somehow become not a representation, but a raison d’ĂȘtre.

We’ve been told that everything’s changed since September 11, 2001. One of the “everythings” is the American love affair with sewn fabric of red, white and blue. Don’t misunderstand. “Old Glory” has always been important to many Americans, more important to some than to others. We’ve even given it a name.

There’s always been a debate between those who see the flag as a representation and those who see it as an end to a means. There have been votes in Congress to amend The Constitution so that it becomes a crime to desecrate the American flag. There could one day be a law which punishes people for “desecrating” cloth while those who desecrate the ideals for which that cloth stands go free.

There exists an opinion that, since the flag represents, for example, the premise that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”, whenever the government of this country has, with malice aforethought, obstructed those ideals, they have rendered the flag what it really, thread sewn into red, white and blue. It ceases to represent good and becomes a piece of cloth worthy of nothing more than the same destruction of that which it represents.

I’m quite certain that the letter writer, who becomes obviously upset when the flag is not displayed “as if it is advancing, that is, the union should be to the front as it would be if the flag were freely flying”, would call for the death penalty if he ever read the above paragraph. I’m not certain that I’m embellishing in this case. The flag, for some, has taken on the importance of religious dogma.

Justice may be found when the letter writer returns to his home after a hard day of covert flag inspections just to notice a figure through the window of his house. He takes out his cell phone and calls the police who send two “offenders” to his home. As the three are standing outside the home, quietly discussing their next move, our flagomaniac notices that the flags on, not one, but both of the officers’ sleeves are a bit off, not quite right.

The letter writer then says in disgust, “Please call for two more officers who know how to wear a flag correctly.” Then, maybe in that particular case, he would make an exception.

By the way, “Emblem makers offer sleeve flags in “right” and “left” configurations. The same should hold true for decals or other representation of the flag on the sides or windows of automobiles.”

It’s good to know, I guess.

To friendship

“I wouldn't trust Nixon from here to that phone.” - Barry Morris Goldwater

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Eugene Debs was a Socialist

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published at OpEdNews)

Some time back, I wrote an article entitled Socialism and Democracy – The People’s Combination. In the article, I tried to make the point that words aren’t inherently “bad”.

As reinforcement for that premise, I invite you to read the late George Carlin’s comedic dissertation in which he substitutes the word “fuck” for the word “kill”. It becomes clear via the great Carlin’s logic that words are emotionless, lifeless character formations which have no particular agenda.

Absent the comic genius of Carlin, I used his logic in my article to talk about the word “social”. The conclusion I came to was that the word “social” in almost all of its variations carries a positive ambiance; in almost all of its variations. However, combine the word social with the suffix “ism” and, voila, Mr. Hyde! A word otherwise used to describe a desired relationship among people becomes instantly dangerous.

I don’t bring this up as a veiled attempt to get readers to go back and read my article. That having been said, I don’t write for practice, so I’d never discourage anyone from reading or rereading any of my articles.

I bring up this article to explain why the following question doesn’t shock me:

“Does anyone reading this realize how close we came to having a completely socialistic government?”

This question was submitted in a letter to the editor of Montana’s Billings Gazette. The writer reminds us that 60 Democratic seats in the senate would have given them “unbridled control of this country.”

The letter writer is determined that this “socialistic” Congress, along with its “Messiah”, would be certain to go from hunter’s home to hunter’s home confiscating rifles and ammo.

Obama’s stance on gun control, and guns need to be controlled to some extent, can be found at the On The Issues web site.

He wants most semiautomatic guns banned and he wants to keep guns out of the inner city where they serve one purpose and one purpose only. Aside from those caveats, it’s clear that it’s not his intention to take sports men’s guns away. The letter writer’s insistence that The President does, indeed, want to take them away shows the lack of research effort that was made before the letter was submitted.

According to the writer, it gets worse. “goodbye Bush tax cuts- which people living on the backs of working taxpayers hate - and goodbye freedom.”

The tax cuts that The Regime passed were passed for the benefit of those who collect their money by waiting, not by working. The tax cuts that The Regime passed lessened the tax burdens for nonworking taxpayers and corporations, not for “working taxpayers”. If people are living on the backs of these wealthy taxpayers, that can be easily resolved. The filthy rich taxpayers and corporate upper management can get them off of their backs and hire them.

“Good-bye freedom” is an interesting phrase. We see this man’s warning progressing from a hunter’s weapons search and destroy mission, to a repeal of tax cuts for people who don’t need them and whose taxes would pump needed revenue into the economy, to some kind of government driven incarceration. The writer predicts all of this because of a change from capitalism to socialism that’s never been proposed by anyone in the Obama Administration. Ah, but let’s not lose site of the “ism” that magically creates high stepping Soviet troops marching through Moscow – or, possibly, Billings - on Mayday.

Fortunately, in the opinion of the writer, “Chambliss, the Republican incumbent senator” won Georgia’s revote. There’s no doubt that the writer attributes this good fortune to the fact that Chambliss’s “Democrat” opponent brought in old drunken, skirt-chasing Ted Kennedy and self-confessed war criminal John Kerry” from the “socialist state of Massachusetts” to stump for him.

Saxby (for the writer's sake) Chambliss, on the other hand, brought in “Wonder Woman Sarah Palin” to campaign for him. Noting that Palin drew thousands and thousands of people to Chambliss events, the writer confidently states that “The liberal Democrats are scared of her.” He reminds us that, had Palin’s husband not been arrested for DUI 20 years ago, she would now be the vice-president of The United States, which, I guess, means that she would have carried McCain with her. At any rate, the writer may have reminded some of you about the twenty year old DUI incident that decided the 2008 election, but I don’t remember that being the case at all.

As far as the writer is concerned, the Palin DUI was but a minor peccadillo compared to Obama’s past during which he’s admitted to smoking pot and snorting coke. The implication is that this should have been taken into account by those who voted in the 2008 presidential election. Again, I could not have taken into account that which I didn’t know in the first place.

Neither Obama nor anyone in his administration has spoken about making the American government “completely socialistic”. I’ve heard no talk by The Obama Administration about taking over the production of refrigerators, shoes or basketballs. That would be complete socialism, wouldn’t it?

The closest The United States has ever come to having a Socialist president was in the 1908 presidential election when Eugene Debs collected 450,000 votes and again in 1912 when he received 900,000 votes.[1]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Obama is not a Socialist, complete or any other brand.

In the article I mention above, I go into much more detail, as do comments posted to that article, about how Americans are still indentifying “Socialism” with “communism” and “communism” with tyranny. This points to the sad fact that there are still Americans who’ve never heard of successful Democratic Socialism. There are still Americans who don’t realize that democracy is a form of governance and Socialism is an economic system which protects a nation’s citizens from unnecessary poverty.

This brings me to my final thought. So what if Obama was or is a Socialist? The Socialist Party and the premise of Socialism do not conflict with The Constitution of The United States. We all know that, after The Bible, The US Constitution is the most “interpreted” non-fiction work ever written.

No, I guess that wasn’t my final thought. My final thought is whence do people like this letter writer come? They seem to be let out of “the hen house” just long enough to repeat the fox’s words.

To friendship,

“There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.” - Bertrand Russell

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[1] . Zinn, Howard. The People’s History of the United States, HaperCollins Publishers, p. 341

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Is Fox Still Guarding the Thought House

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published at OpEdNews)

How can people still watch the Fox News Channel with the idea that they are receiving “fair and balanced” news? Nonetheless, a letter sent to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as many other letters, are nothing more and nothing less than Fox News Channel lying – I mean - talking points.

A truly distinctive feature about the above mentioned letter is how few words are used to spread ridiculous misinformation. There is a ton of misinformation packed into this 91 word letter.

The premise of the letter, which, in itself is “understandable” from a Conservative’s point of view, is that HR1: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes too much spending. This is the ideological difference between Conservatives and Progressives and it’s a logical position for a Conservative to take.

The writer, however, goes well beyond expressing an ideological difference in how government should help those in need.

The writer accuses the “political left” of possessing a “mean spirited “our way or no way” attitude”.

Whatever one believes happened on September 11, 2001 is irrelevant in comparison to a remark made by The Front Man shortly afterwards.

On July 17, 2002, Bush said, “Almost every day is a new phase, in some ways, because we're reminding different countries which may be susceptible to Al Qaeda, that you're either with us or against us. And so we're constantly working on bolstering confidence amongst some nations which may sometimes forget that either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.”

Does the writer consider the above statement a warm invitation to nations of the world to help us track down and capture whoever it was that carried out the acts of 9/11? The statement seems more like “you will fight with us or you will fight us”. Rather than a warm invitation to help us, it’s a threat, and a “mean spirited” one at that.

The writer does admit that the stimulus package vote in The House was a bipartisan vote. He reminds us that, not only did all Republicans vote against the stimulus bill, but 11 Democrats voted against it as well. His reasoning, it appears, is that the partisan aspect of the vote was that only Democrats voted for the bill.

At first blush, one might agree with the writer. One can believe a conspiracy that Democrats met before the vote ever came up and decided that they wouldn’t even read the bill. They decided that they would vote for it in lock step just because it’s a bill originating from the office of a Democratic (that’s Democratic, not Democrat) President.

But wait! How could that be? As the writer tells us, 11 Democrats voted against the bill. On the other hand, not one Republican voted for it.

Rather than looking at the “No” vote as the place where real bipartisanship resides, let’s look at the result as showing that Democrats actually read bills and make their own decisions. They don’t march in lockstep as a party.

On the other hand, not one Republican saw enough benefit in the bill to give it a chance and make some move toward getting the nation out of its present economic tomb before that tomb is hermetically sealed. Are the Republicans still wearing those brown shirts and marching in lockstep?

This difference between Republicans and Democrats isn’t new, of course. That’s if we are to believe that there are Republicans and Democrats and that this isn’t all theater substituting for politics.

Let’s hold our collective nose and go into the way back machine. Let’s revisit the years before Obama. Let’s look at voting records.

In August, 2007, Democrats joined with Republicans in Congress to give The Regime the gift of warrantless wiretaps.

Basically, during The Regime’s reign, congressional Democrats escorted their Republican colleagues down the “unitary executive” aisle which was bespangled with “the suspension of civil liberties, arbitrary detention, official torture and more.”

Some have said that The Democrats are/were just spineless and others note that Democrats have a larger, more inclusive tent and they don’t necessarily look organized in a parade. Another way of looking at it is that they individually think for themselves and either vote their conscience or vote the way they know their constituents want them to vote. In fact, if we were to blame this large and versatile tent for many of their past election losses, we would probably be at least partly correct.

This does not sound like a group who possesses a “mean spirited “our way or no way” attitude”.

The writer isn’t satisfied with merely accusing The Democrats of having that “mean spirited” attitude. He expresses what seems to be almost ecstatic appreciation to Republicans for “finally standing up to this nonsense.”

Since Republicans controlled Congress for five out of the past nine years, it seems that there hasn't been much to which they've had to stand up. The writer could be referring to the actual physically positional status Republicans use when casting their votes, although I think that members of Congress must stand when they cast their votes.

However, let’s go out on a limb here and assume that the writer is implying that Republicans had been sheepish in standing up for that on which they have voted and have “finally” stood up to the Democrats’ “nonsense.”

The writer gives no hint whether or not he’d been on an interplanetary vacation for the past eight years, but what other reason could there be for not realizing that The Republican “President” got almost everything he wanted from a Republican House and a Republican Senate since January of 2001 and especially since September 11, 2001? If the Republicans are standing and speaking out against, HR1: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the word “finally” is an inappropriate adverb.

Many of the criticisms are born of either veiled or not so veiled racism. Maybe the obvious attempts by Republican members of Congress to make Barack Obama look as if he’s not paying attention is thinly veiled racism while the vomitus excrement oozing from the mouths of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh is a very clear attempt to appeal to the basest character flaws of certain groups and stir up racist feelings, dangerous racist feelings. If you think about what white supremacists believe, President Obama has got to be their worst nightmare.

Democrats and Republicans are wealthy people who play this game or put on this act called politics. If you’ve gotten far enough in politics to be well known on a national level, you’ve probably got some confessin’ to do.

I admit that I’ve said and written that I’m going to stand back and see if Obama can prove me wrong. If I’m going to do that, it’s nowhere near time to make up my mind one way or the other. I’m “giving him a chance” – as if he will ever know who I am – but I believe he’ll eventually be exposed as a corporat; a member in good standing of The Corporacracy.

Not so patient have been people like the brown shirted pundits and the republicrats who’ve been hanging on Obama’s every breath with impeach forks in their hands despite the fact that the president can hardly have done anything wrong at this early stage. The ones they call Republicans only need the noose to complete the picture.

Not one Republican member of The House could lend a helping hand to President Barack Obama! It seems obvious that they want him to look like a kid in a grown up’s game.

This may be all theater and most of us are probably not the targets of any political philanthropy. Nonetheless, this theater is playing out very ominously, indeed. It looks like junior high school or high school. The cool kids aren’t even paying attention to the new kid. They’re doing all they can to make him look ridiculous.

What’s the new kid doing? He’s saying, “Can’t we all play nicely with one another?”

If there’s any legitimacy to it at all, he’s six foot fifteen and stronger than superman. It’s his Senate and his House and even his governorships. And he’s the president. He keeps saying economic relief has to be quick. We don’t have time to screw around with politics

There’s only one person who can speed up the process and that person is Barack Obama! If things have to happen quickly, then he has to morph into the famous “NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY”. There’s nothing holding him from stomping on every Republican racist in Congress and just doing what he knows needs to be done. You know, like Bush just did it? Just do it and I ain’t talking about Nikes, either.

If part of his goal was to, unlike The Regime, steer away from abusing his presidential authority, he can check that one off his list. He’s asked for and accepted more bipartisan input in three weeks than The Regime asked for in eight years. He’s even admitted to “screwing up”, a concept kept at least at arm’s length during The Regime’s reign and that’s another hole that can be punched. If the president wants to be better than politics, he has to walk away from the politicians.

Right now he’s as popular as any new president in history. The longer he waits for bipartisanship to kick in, the more his popularity will drop. It’ll be just like the 2006 midterms when Democrats were elected to effect change, but decided to support the status quo.

If he’s nothing else, Barack Obama is an eloquent and convincing speaker. Isn’t it very easy to envision Barack Obama standing before the American people, saying that he’s done all he knows how to do to combine the change he promised with bipartisanship? He can say, however, that not everyone is/was on the same bipartisan page as he is and that the economic crisis transcends waiting for that to happen.

If he doesn’t get the votes to avoid a filibuster, he should merely let The Republicans fillibust away (fillibust?). Let them all speak for hour upon hour, day after day, stalling this recovery package and trying to explain why jobs keep dropping like flies. Let ‘em do it. Even though Fox News will no doubt portray the fillibustering legislators as American heroes, Americans who are losing jobs, pensions and other benefits will view them as the tight assed, non-populist fools that they are and will begin to demand that they shut up and vote.

Most Republican governors want HR1 to pass and that should overshadow the colorful clown suits that congressional Republicans will be wearing during their useless filibuster.

To friendship,

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” - Isaac Asimov, Salvor Hardin in “Foundation”

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