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Feelings… Nothing More than Feelings June 7, 2010

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Politics.
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My 83-year-old dad has readily embraced email as a means of communication. He has found several old friends on the internet and regularly emails them, as well as sending bulletins to relatives and immediate family members, neighbors and just about anyone he knows. Lately he has discovered the joys of forwarding email and one of his favorite things to do is to pass along the many right-wing propaganda emails that come his way. He says he doesn’t believe half the stuff he sends on, but he thinks they are funny and wants to see who he can “piss off.” (For some reason I seldom receive any left-wing propaganda emails. I guess I just don’t have the right demographic of email buddies!)

My general practice when I receive propaganda or “Urban Legend” emails is to “snopes” them– verify them on snopes.com or factcheck.org and rebut the claim made with a Reply All email. You would think that people would be happy to receive the truth, but generally they are not. One guy told me that he has decided that the propaganda emails are actually made up by liberals in an attempt to discredit conservatives. “Blah blah blah!” another person told me. “I know all that, but I also know how I feel.” “It’s a perception people have,” my dad said. “Right or wrong, it is what they are feeling.”

He actually hit the nail on the head– people are letting their emotions form the basis for their decisions rather than the facts– and not only that, they want their leaders to do the same thing. During his presidential campaign, Michael Dukakis was sunk by his fact-based question to a hypothetical question about whether he would favor the death penalty for the killer if his wife were raped and murdered. Dukakis responded with a litany of reasons for opposing the death penalty and lost his hopes of the presidency because he had responded factually to an emotionally driven question. Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, knew very well the value of playing to people’s emotions. No matter how many facts his opponents dredged up, they couldn’t counteract his anecdotes of the welfare queen driving away from the food stamp office in a Cadillac or his story of liberating Buchenwald at the end of WW II.

These are very turbulent times. People are hurting financially. They are scared about the future, worried about terrorism and the environment, facing a future in which nothing is certain. In the face of such problems, it’s comforting to believe the emotionalism of rumors, to look for someone to blame, to look for quick and easy fixes– it’s not Americans who are responsible for the economic situation– it’s the illegals or the liberals or the crooks in office! It’s not our foreign policies that are responsible for the way other countries think about us, it’s traitors within our government, the Muslims within our borders. It’s not our financial policies that caused our current economic situation, it’s the tax and spend Democrats. This kind of thinking, however, is counterproductive to solving our problems. Name calling never solved anybody’s problems, even if it does make us feel better in the short run to call the other fellow a double doo doo head. If we want to resolve the many great issues of today, we’ve got to push beyond emotion and look at the causative factors. We’ve got to look beyond the rumors and determine the truth, and we’ve got to work together to try to resolve them.


Domestic Militias Fear the WRONG Administration November 27, 2009

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Right wing.
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The domestic militia whackos are rising again. After nearly a decade in which we didn’t hear much about them, now that a Democrat is in president again, they are resurging. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified at least 50 new right wing militia groups that have been formed in the last two years.

Norm Olson of the Alaska Citizens Militia explains his rationale for Americans arming themselves against the government.

“The federal government can roll into your driveway in the middle of the night and snatch you up and take you away, and you’ll never be seen again.” ~ Associated Press

The last time we saw such activity in the militia groups, another Democrat was president– Bill Clinton. These groups clearly tie democratic presidencies with their fears about government excesses.

So let’s look at this a little bit. I can certainly agree with Mr. Olson that the government should not be able to snatch citizens up in the middle of the night and take them away. I can also agree that our civil liberties are very important. I think I should be able to talk to whomever I want to on the phone without worrying about the government listening in on my private conversations. I also think that I should be able to check whatever books I want to out of the library without the government knowing or caring WHAT I am reading. I think that I should be able to meet with other people without having to worry about whether I am sitting next to a government spy at my rubber chicken dinner. And if I am arrested, I should not be held in prison for years without even knowing what the charges are against me. I think that the government should not be able to go snooping in my bank records, and I certainly don’t want my ISP reporting my internet habits to the Department of Homeland Security.

What’s more, I’m willing to bet that Mr. Olson doesn’t want any of these things either. Yet, it was a Republican Administration, that of George Dubya Bush, that put all these things in place– not only can the government go snooping into your library records, your internet habits and your phone calls, but it no longer even needs a warrant to do so. This was all part of Dubya’s war on terrorism, you know.

Now you would think that, being concerned about the government sneaking around and snooping into their personal business and all, that these right wing militia groups would have been busting out of the woodwork when Dubya was president. But they waited till AFTER he got out of office to start stockpiling their guns and playing soldiers in the backwoods.

Maybe these guys are smarter than I thought. Guess they figured that if they’d gotten themselves together when Dubya was in office, they really WOULD have stood a good chance of being carted away in the middle of the night and never seen again. Now that we have an administration that has SOME modicum of understanding of civil liberties, Mr. Olson can go play soldiers in the backwoods without much real threat of the government coming in and spiriting them away.

An Increase in Whackos? September 29, 2009

Posted by Bill in barack obama, Obama, Politics.
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There’s been a lot of talk in the press about the decline of civility and about whether or not there are more whackos now than there used to be. It’s true that emotions are certainly running high in the country right now, as we saw when the nutters, who have been frothing at the mouth since Obama was elected, went off the deep end over Obama’s proposed speech to American’s school children.

I don’t know, however, that there are more whackos than there ever used to be. What I think has happened is that thanks to the internet, the world has become a much smaller place and the nutters have been able to reach out and connect with each other in ways they have never been able to before.

If you look back, there have always been people who were just a little “different.” Every neighborhood had its resident eccentric, its Boo Radley, as it were. The house your parents told you not to go to during Trick or Treat or the neighbor who kept your ball when you and your friends were careless enough to hit it over the fence into his yard.

These people were usually isolated, and because they didn’t know anyone who shared their delusions or their paranoia or their offbeat views, they were generally pretty harmless as long as they were left alone.

The internet has changed all that because now all of these people who thought they were all alone have suddenly found other people who also thought they were all alone, and they’ve discovered that they have things in common.

Suddenly they are no longer alone and they are feeding off of each other. They are sharing experiences and stories and myths and legends. Urban legends have taken on a new life with the easy spreadability afforded by email, list servs and forums. You can find absolutely everything on the net– whatever your beliefs you can find somebody, somewhere who shares them.

Now that the nutters know that there are others who feel the same way, they are finding that there is strength in numbers. In addition, they are picking up new fans as people who do not necessarily share the more extreme beliefs relate to some of the more innocuous sentiments.

Obama’s election is a testament to the power of the internet as the grass roots movement that played such a huge role in his election capitalized on the social media available on the internet to spread his message of hope.

So now all we have to do is find a way to harness the power of the internet to counteract the whackos, and relate to the complacent middle of the roaders. We know it can be done. We just have to do it again.

Some People Need to Take a Giant Chill Pill September 7, 2009

Posted by Bill in Obama, Politics.
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I simply cannot get over the fuss and bother from right-wingers about President Obama’s proposed speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday, September 8. The President… of the United States… wants to talk to kids about the importance of staying in school, and you have a bunch of nutters protesting because they are afraid their kids are being indoctrinated into some liberal cult.

I frequently tell people that you can’t fix stupidity and here is a prime example of it. For my first example, we have this mother who is so distraught about the prospect of Obama speaking to her children via television that she bursts into tears.

Then we have this highly confused mother, who can’t even remember the question,  explaining why she is keeping her kindergartner home from school on the day of Obama’s speech lest her child pick up cooties or something (it’s never exactly clear what she is afraid that her child is going to pick up, only that she doesn’t want her picking up whatever it is from Obama)

Finally we have some sanity from James Carville who has the audacity to say aloud what the rest of us have been thinking– these people are nutters.

Have we become so polarized in this country that we cannot let the President of the United States talk to our children because we didn’t vote for him? Well yes, it appears that as far as some people are concerned, we have. Where were these people when President Reagan addressed the nation’s schoolchildren– On November 14, 1988 he addressed and took questions from Washington area middle school students in a program taped and distributed by C-Span. During this program he [gasp] strayed from his “stay in school and stay off drugs” message into a message about the importance of low taxes.

Then in 1991 President George Bush (the first) gave a message to the nation’s school children, urging them to stay in school and stay off drugs. Democrats fussed about the expense of the speech, but I don’t recall parents pulling kids out of school and screaming about indoctrination.

A lot of the fuss now is centered around study guides that the Department of Education prepared to accompany Obama’s speech. Parents are outraged about a question in which students were asked what they could do to support Obama. That question has since been removed. Okay, so maybe maybe the question was ill advised, but does this really rise to the level of indoctrination?

Now you have these parents who are so concerned about their children that they don’t want them exposed to a 15 minute speech from the President of the united States. These parents, who are making a big fuss about how concerned they are about their children’s education, are keeping their kids out of school for an entire day lest they get cooties from hearing this 15 minute speech. How does that compute?

I’ve even seen some politicos suggest that Obama’s opponents should be given equal time with the schools. How stupid is that? Are you going to put someone in there to tell the kids they should drop out of school and turn to drugs to solve their problems?

When our kids were growing up, when they were exposed to things that Bill and I disagreed with, we used it as a teachable moment and discussed it with the kids.  I disagreed with just about everything George Dubya Bush did as president. I think he was the worst president in this country’s history, and hold him directly responsible for the economic problems we are experiencing today. However, if he had chosen to address the schools, I would have used it as a springboard for discussion with my kids.

I have always thought that lessons will have more of an impact on kids if they understand both sides and if they are free to ask questions and explore various options. Yet, there are people who clearly do NOT want their kids exposed to anything but their own beliefs.

However, the protests against Obama go beyond that. People are genuinely afraid of him and what he stands for. If you look at the right wing blogosphere, it is full of accusations about Obama’s purported ties to socialism, to Islam, to the Antichrist. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as the irrational musings of right wing nutjobs, but there are far too many politicians who are willing to capitalize on people’s fear for their own political gain. For example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination, said Friday the classroom is no place to show a video address from Obama, while Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer released a statement this week accusing Obama of using taxpayer money to “indoctrinate” children.

Folks, the reaction to Obama’s speech is flat out stupid. Whether you like it or not, Barak Obama is the president of our country. A lot of the parents screeching about the speech make a big deal about how they want to be the ones to teach values to their children. Well fine; while they’re teaching your kids about values, maybe they ought to  spend some time having a discussion with them about respect. In fact, it’s a lesson they might want to learn for themselves since they seem to have missed it somewhere along the way.