Issues, Policy, and Politics – Parts 5 & 6

The following was originally posted on FaceBook.

Since some of you don’t follow FB, I thought I would repeat this series here.

Issues, Policy, and Politics – Part 5

 If the government we have is not the government we need to solve the big problems that arise, what do we do?

We obviously need to change the government we have.

This may be obvious on its face, and both the right and the left will agree that government needs to be changed, but the right focuses on what IT sees as the problems to be solved and the left has a whole different set, and these two sides approach what’s needed in very different ways.

For the conservative right, it’s all about reducing the size of government, reducing regulations, and cutting taxes paid by the rich. Notice that there is no mention here of solving problems that plague our country or the world. A conservative government is all about winning and holding power and giving their rich supporters more wealth. And they have gotten very good at that part.

The left, on the other hand, is more oriented on issues that effect a larger segment of the population. Income inequality is one of those issues which places them on a direct collision course with the conservative right. The left isn’t as concerned with how large government is IF it serves the people.

The true situation is certainly more nuanced than this, but this is the distilled essence.

For the left, to change government to make it more responsive to solving problems, it will have to overcome some massive disadvantages it faces due to the fact that while the right has been organizing and planning at a national level for decades, the left has not.

There is more to the story than just lobbyists and large corporate and private donors getting candidates elected directly. There is way more to it than just buying congress persons or a presidency. If you want some solid information on how much money is spent directly lobbying for corporations, I suggest you start here:

There are other ways to exert influence on voters across the political sphere. The conservative right has been working on this for decades. They have a complete infrastructure built and functioning.

Here are a few examples:

After the 2010 census the Republican Party undertook a massive effort to redistrict as many states as they could so that even a massive landslide in popular votes for the dems would produce little result in the government. This was called project REDMAP and was very effective in gerrymandering state districts.

Voter suppression has become a huge issue, especially in the south. Active efforts on the part of Republican state governments and officials to remove voters from the rolls who might vote against them has been documented at an all-time high. Likewise, efforts to stop people from registering to vote are on the uptick. In some states letters have been sent from republican officials giving voters in areas that might vote against conservative candidates the wrong election date!

Conservative “Think Tanks” are just another name for funneling money to where it will do the most good to gain influence. The Heritage Foundation and others are behind a vast network of front organizations that spread money around to sway opinion. At one point it was reported that money that could be eventually be tracked back to the Kochs was being given to colleges in exchange for input into curriculum. Similarly, money from these sources has found its way to libraries in exchange for board seats. Even local PTAs have received money laundered through various front entities from the Koch brothers, the Mercers, and others.

The spreading of misinformation has become a science among right wing groups.

Fox News is perhaps the best known outlet, but there are many others. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group is the largest TV station conglomeration in the country and has come under fire for forcing local broadcasters to read prepared, conservative statements at every station.

Misinformation comes unapologetically from talk radio hosts like Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh.

Perhaps social media has now become the single largest disseminator of misinformation. With the growth of social media has come the opportunity for anyone to say anything they want. It is crawling with trolls who just want to create chaos, bots that spread the seeds of hatred, and foreign interests hoping to sway and divide American opinion.

Right wing Evangelical leaders, particularly the “prosperity gospel” types reach millions of Americans online every day. Many preach that God himself has ordained the current president and that he will save mankind. Their avowed goal is to speed the arrival of the rapture. The only problem they are interested in is that we are all still alive. They are helping shape US government foreign policy toward Israel and the middle east in order to accomplish this.

Conservative rhetoric is spread by members of the government itself. Lack of support for education and scientific research are backed up by misinformation and lies every day.

It becomes quickly clear when you look closely at the political landscape that buying legislators is not a stand alone problem. All of this influence machine is part and parcel of the whole.

What has the progressive left done to counter this influence machine over the past thirty years?

By doing nothing for decades, this country not only has put itself in climate peril, but it has created a wall of influence that will have to be dismantled brick by brick before progress can be made. This is a massive challenge.

Getting the government we need to solve the problems we have will mean changing the public sentiment and nullifying all these influencing factors. It means a massive paradigm shift in this country.

Paradigm shifts take time. This one could take generations.

If we take scientists at their word (and maybe it’s time we did), we have 12 years to get Greenhouse gas emissions down 50% or more from current levels in order to stave off the worst case scenarios.

We don’t HAVE generations to wait for paradigm change. We need to solve these problems NOW.

That means we have to TAKE BACK THE POWER we gave to the government. We need to replace it with one that can and will make an effort.

There are two ways to do this.

The 2020 election is the line in the sand. If every democrat and every independent came out and voted for the democratic candidate in 2020, the conservative right could be swept from government. It would have to happen at both the state and the federal level. The Republican Party would never re-emerge in the same form again.

Most of the influence machine will still exist for some time, but it will have its fangs filed.

Even with them gone (or mostly so) from all three branches of government, it will require a massive, expensive effort to reach a 50% reduction in time. It will require putting other problems – big, important problems – on hold and taking money from the very rich to fund the project because that’s where all the money IS now.. It will also require a fast phase out of the fossil fuel economy; all because we have waited too long. This is one reason the corporate elite are so terrified of the Green New Deal. They don’t know what it is, but they know they will have to fund it in large part.

This is a sort of forced paradigm shift, not complete, not a good solution, but a stop-gap measure.

The alternative to voting out the entire right wing and its infrastructure is to throw them out by force. While it is a drastic alternative and we would like to think that it could never happen here, it can, and the chances that it WILL increase daily. There is precedence for this.

Some folks got together once and pointed out that we all have certain rights and that those rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They pointed out that governments are instituted among men to secure those rights and that those governments derive their powers from the people.

They went on to say that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

We have 12 years.

We either change the government or suffer the consequences of worst case scenario climate warming, the cost of which in both economic terms and human ones, will be even higher. Lives will be lost; liberties will fall to the side as dictators rise up to fill the voids in a chaotic world, and no one will be very happy or feel very safe.

We have 12 years.

We either opt for a forced paradigm shift, imperfect as it will be in 2020, or you WILL see revolution on the streets of America later, as the extent of what climate change really means becomes clear and the power hungry in this country continued to seize more power from the people to advance their own agendas.

This is not MY call to arms.

This is YOUR choice. Doing nothing is not viable. Waiting for the politicians to solve this mess is an admission of defeat. You don’t have a bunker big enough for that.

Issues, Policy, and Politics – Part 6

Assuming that we are willing to make the effort and sacrifice to take back the government from the conservative right in two years and institute some form of forced paradigm shift, it would be wise to know exactly where we stand now and what all the issues actually are. Climate warming is hardly the only issue to be dealt with, even though for many it is the most important of all.

It is also important to look at the political and social reality that must be navigated in order to accomplish anything.

Let’s start here: How do you know stuff?

Recently the president backed down on his promise to overturn the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 elections and instead to take up the issue again afterward. (He didn’t mention the legal effort he had initiated through the Justice Department to have it overturned, and whether he has ordered that shut down as well, but… whatever.)

How do I know that?

Well, the president revealed it in a set of three tweets on April 1. Ignoring the date for a moment, this is an important announcement. I got it directly because (as painful as it is to admit) I follow the president on twitter so I know things like if he’s sent a flight of ICBMs loaded with paper towels off toward Puerto Rico in a pre-emptive strike before inflating the figure for aid sent to the island after the last hurricane by over 80 billion dollars.

But since the date seemed suspicious, I went to google and found an article on SLATE that verified and expanded the president’s tweets.

It makes some sense because the senate committees who would have to work on a replacement plan have no intention of doing that. When asked if they were working on one, their chairmen said, “no.” When asked if they were going to begin working on one, their chairmen said , “no.”

How do I know that?

I know that because the investigative journalists at the Washington Post went to the senators and ASKED them. And then they wrote articles about it for me to read.

We know most things in the modern world through media. Setting aside social media for the time being because there is precious little to trust there, media, previously known as “the press,” has always been where we get our news.

Back before social media, 24 hour cable news, and television in general, the print media dominated news gathering. Newspapers had bureaus all over the world with reporters gathering information so that the American public could be informed.

There had been a long and robust tradition in this country of support for the press. That comes, in part at least, from the very first amendment to the Constitution which states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom… of the press.”

This has always been interpreted to mean that government cannot dictate to the press what it can and cannot print. Government cannot put journalists in jail because it doesn’t like what they write. Government cannot shut down news organizations or curtail their ability to print what they think is the truth. Other countries do that; countries without constitutional protection of the press.

Constitutional law is a tricky thing. There’s what the constitution SAYS, and what it has been interpreted to MEAN. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of such things.

An argument could be made (and IS by some) that the constitution specifically says “congress” can’t make laws that abridge freedom of the press through passing laws. It doesn’t say anything about what the president says or does.

But that’s not the way the first amendment has always been interpreted in case law. “Congress” here is interpreted as “the government.”

So when the President of the United States speaks, he speaks as an embodiment of that same government.

And when the President of the United States says that the press is “fake news” and lies all the time he makes it harder for the press to do its job. Every time he undermines the press in his statements and his tweets he undermines the faith people have in the constitutionally protected entity known as the press and makes it harder for them to function in an unabridged way.

And when the President of the United States says the press is the “enemy of the people,” he is actively encouraging people to see them as something to be feared, something “other,” and something to be ignored. This is clearly an attack on a free press and at some point it will be called into question whether it is constitutional or not.

There are clearly reasons this president may want to do this. Read a little about pre-war Germany and Italy if you want to know more.

The only thing keeping government from being your only source of information, telling you whatever they want, is the free press.

Was it fake news when the Post published that senator Grassley told a reporter that his committee was not working on a health care bill and had no plans to take one up? Of course not.

Was it embarrassing to the administration? Yes.

Would they have preferred that the Post had never been able to get those answers? You bet.

Does that make the press the enemy of the people? Of course not. It may make it SEEM like they are the enemy of the administration, but they are not that either.

They are seeking information and truth. That’s their job.

And government intervenes at some risk of peril. As much as some might wish otherwise, this is not Russia.

Yes, you have to be careful what particular media outlets you trust. Breitbart is not the Post. Compare the bias of news outlets at adfontesmedia (dot)com. Research whether what you read comes from fake news source. They are not all equal. You have to make a distinction between news gathering and punditry or editorial opinion.

Yes, even the best news outlets make mistakes once in awhile. When they realize that they print a retraction and an apology if one is justified.

But overall, you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in this country without the efforts of investigative journalists operating under the protections of the free press.

This constant complaint of the part of this administration that they are being treated somehow unfairly and that they are being subjected to false accusations by the press is, quite simply, a power play. They want to control the message, and they can’t as long as anyone trusts the press and the media.

It is important that the American people not fall for this. When the government controls the information the people are allowed to see, that government is not in any way a democratic one. It is a dictatorship, pure and simple. When the president calls for journalists to be locked up because they said something critical of him, that’s not a functioning democracy at work. That’s growing fascism at work. And when a president calls for specific individuals to be banned from television because they do not agree with him, that’s not the government we need. It is a government spiraling downhill toward authoritarian rule.

One of the worst realities of our time is the government’s war on the press. It is a war on truth, education, and the people themselves. It is a war on one of the few entities that the constitution specifically tries to protect.

The local press has been decimated by internet sources, cable news, and the increasing costs and declining ad buys. Few organizations have the ability to maintain reporters in the field or for investigative writing.

Patronize those who do. An on line subscription to the New York Times or the Washington Post doesn’t cost that much.

We will make no meaningful changes to government without a free press.

to be continued…

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3 thoughts on “Issues, Policy, and Politics – Parts 5 & 6

  1. Thanks Roger. Most Americans are clueless and ignorant of Republicans effort since mid 70’s. They have been dam effective in legislation, getting ideolouges in position of power, establishing right wing tv network (Fox) and clear channel. Their think tanks use market research to refine language to instill fear and reaction from peoples reptilian brain functions. While focusing on evangelicals most people miss that Catholic right wing “intellectuals’ fill many positions in think tanks. Hell Paul Ryan on the faculty of Norte Dame.

    Trump is not fucked we are unless they are stopped. Correction not us, you or me, our children, grand children and most of America,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. My children are not providing grandchildren for me because of the 12 year timeline.

    Also, don’t forget ALEC in your list of right wing operatives and think tanks.


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