Tea Party movement is healthy — Palin not so much…

February 8, 2010

If you take your country, the USA, seriously, and if you take its politics and public policy debates seriously, you have to be somewhat concerned that an electorate who elected George W. Bush could conceivably elect Sarah Palin. I’m serious. While on the one hand I don’t think she has ever demonstrated any knowledge of the issues and she is a terrible public speaker — she can deliver snarky one-liners like asking President Obama: “how’s that hopey changey stuff working for you?” but not complete paragraphs — on the other hand, George W. was not much of a communicator and not much of a student himself.

But while I have nothing good to say about Palin herself, and while I tend not to think much of what I have heard so far from the so-called “Tea Party” set, I have come to the conclusion that what they are doing is healthy for the democracy —  that is unless somehow they get Palin elected president one day. But it is healthy because both political parties — the establishment itself — needs a good shaking up.

The Republicans at this time seem to have the most to gain from the Tea Party movement, but it has been noted that it could come around to bite them in the posterior, for the tea partiers indicate they are in nearly just as much a mood to throw out rascal Republicans as Democrats. And also, since although a true political ideology is hard to identify among them, they do seem to come across as conservative to reactionary conservative, and that means the GOP is likely to move even farther right than it already has, thus alienating that many more folks who might not identify with Democrats but would find it hard to go along with an unbending attitude of the far right.

The Democrats would seem to have the most to lose from the Tea Party movement and I think it befuddles most of them. They’d like to curry their favor for votes, but it is hard to please any group that is just plain anti government (are they pro-anarchy?). Of course if the Tea Party splits up the GOP, then maybe the Democrats actually have the most to gain from the Tea Party.

But make no mistake about it, we do have a government that is unable or unwilling to control spending, but not borrowing, and piling up a staggering national debt, even in the face of declining revenues from a stagnant economy. And as far as public policy, the government at this times seems nearly dysfunctional.

People need to raise a fuss, and maybe that is what is happening via the loose-knit Tea Party group.

I think there are entities or special interests trying to take advantage and even take control of the Tea Party, but as far as I can determine from reading on the web it is a true and spontaneous movement.

Sarah Palin. I believe, should have had her 15 minutes (or so) of fame as the surprise VP candidate selection by John McCain and then faded out of memory. But those years of beauty pageants taught her something. You don’t have to actually learn anything much at school if you can learn how to profit by selling yourself (and I’m not referring directly to the world’s oldest profession). She may well have been surprised as much as anyone else when John McCain called her. And she had to know that she was ill prepared. But she quickly discovered she could cash in on fame and boy has she –book sales and public speaking engagements and a gig on Fox News. She quit being a political office holder, not enough money in it (although she surely would not turn down the presidency).

Palin is supposedly a political commentator on Fox News. Well, first of all, FOX News, as far as I am concerned is not even a legitimate news organization. It is a strictly for profit operation (with no higher journalism calling) that just happens to have created a niche with the reactionary right that brings in bo coup advertising dollars. I am pretty sure that no original thoughts come from Palin herself.

It was reported that she made some weird commentary to the effect that if President Obama were to get a little tougher with his foreign or defense policy, such as do something like declare war on Iran, he might get a lot more political support. Does Palin suggest we need to go to war with Iran? Or does she just want to be able to criticize him for not doing so (knowing full well she does not have to shoulder the responsibility for any such decision)?

(Personally, with the latest news reports that Iran is continuing with its work on nuclear weapons, I would say if what we are being told is true, let’s not make a lot of noise, let’s just take care of the situation with a pre-emptive strike and be done with it — the only rub being that we would have to depend upon our intelligence community, and it has not had a good batting record over the years.)

 

Anyone who adores Palin probably would not be reading this, but if they are, I challenge them to read any transcript of what she has said and say with a straight face that she has demonstrated she has an ability to put forth clear thoughts — and I mean get beyond the cheap one-liners.

David Gergen, noted political animal who works both sides of the fence, said that the Tea Party is a populist movement, but unlike the historical populist movements which were essentially liberal, this one is conservative.

Now in my own thinking, I may have an answer to why that is. In the past vast numbers of everyday Americans may have had a beef with the establishment. And when you want to change the status quo, you are a liberal. But the American experiment has been so successful that the bulk of society has worked its way up to so-called middle class (although just what that is is debatable). So now the problem is that the heretofore silent majority is afraid that they are losing ground. They have been comfortable until the most recent economic shock wave, so they do not want to change things; they want to preserve the status quo or what was the status quo. So the modern populist movement is conservative, being that conservative is the opposite of change.

(I hate to use the term middle class, because I have never been clear on exactly what it is, but it’s what we all wish we could at least call ourselves).

After Gergen said what he did, a Democratic spokeswoman opined (and I paraphrase) that although Palin seems to be the titular leader (no pun intended, but what the heck) or spokesperson for the Tea Party and has even indicated she might run for President in 2012, she would need the backing of Latinos and blacks and other groups that do not seem to be represented by the Tea Party (it’s fairly white so far), and that might turn the Tea Party fans against her.

The way it looks to me now is that if the economy improves measurably, and barring any other unforeseen circumstance, Obama could be re-elected.

But if not, if the economy continues to be dismal, he is in trouble. And since a good candidate is so hard to find, the whole nation could be in trouble if Palin is ever seriously considered as a choice for President of the United States (remember, she reportedly did not know there was both a North and South Korea and that Africa is a continent and not a single nation. And she was not even up to speed on the wars in the Middle East until her son went over there).

The Tea Party needs to guard against being captured by the likes of Paln or other opportunists. If it really is pure, it needs to remain so, and it will have a big effect. I think it probably already has.

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People may soon beg for health care reform, but first things first…

February 4, 2010

Health care reform will come when the people really need it and that day may be near. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on its website that for the first time in history more than half the national cost of health care is projected to come out of government programs by next year and the amount paid by private insurance is dwindling as more and more people lose their jobs.

Kind of hard to buy private health insurance when you don’t have a job or unless you are independently wealthy.

So, in my perhaps simplistic way of looking at things this reinforces my now long-held opinion that President Barack Obama needlessly overreached in his bid to revamp the whole health care system.

What will the mass of people, even the tea party folks, do when they can no longer afford private health insurance and/or their insurance at the job plays out because their job played out. Get sick and die, I suppose, and maybe that is the way God meant it to be.

Of course many of the tea party folks clutch onto their Medicare or Medicaid cards already, no doubt. But they don’t like “big giverment” running things.

Personally I would rather see Obama tackle the unemployment problem a little harder. Even some government make-work programs would not hurt. There is always litter to pick up — clean up America! All able-bodied people should sign up for some type of government labor pool to clean the road sides and other such stuff before they get any public assistance benefits. And seasonal industries, such as agricultural harvesting, should not be subsidized by government unemployment checks.

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ADD 1: And that last sentence does not seem to go along with the general thesis of this blog post. Guess it was just on my mind. While I think it is a good idea for government to do what it can to promote employment I think it’s kind of contradictory of those business people and farmers who likely see themselves as stalwarts of free enterprise to actively participate in a scheme that has employees getting government checks for when they are not working at seasonal employment. Whole industries are subsidized in this method by the taxpayer. I’m not an expert in unemployment benefits and I do realize that it is a kind of insurance, hence the name “unemployment insurance”, and employers pay into the fund (a lot of workers think they pay directly into the fund, but I don’t think that is the way it works), but it is a government funded and staffed program nonetheless. In this economy what I seem to have come out against probably is a good idea — we need employment. I should have just excised that sentence. 

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I would like to see Obama do something to wind down these wars we are in if at all possible. We really need to seriously reassess what our objectives are and whether they are attainable. Fighting them over there before they come over here was a nice, if misleading and specious, catch phrase for the previous administration, but we have grownups in charge now — let’s rethink the whole thing.

On the other hand, the armed services do provide employment. We ought to have a larger recruitment effort and expand the military and free up the National Guard to go back to being a home guard available for natural disasters. The National Guard should not have to serve overseas, except in exceptional circumstances. Both the Guard and the regular military should be available for all types of public work here at home, such as fighting forest fires.

I have mixed emotions about the all-voluntary military. On the one hand we probably have the best fighting force we have ever had (not sure, of course, but from all appearances), but on the other hand we have relieved the public of the responsibility  and the need to worry about risking life and limb to fight for our country, so we may be winding up  doing more than fighting for our country, and when we do, I think we go wrong. From what I have read, if there was one thing most of our founders did not want was for this nation to revert to the old world ways of constant battles over territory and wars for wars’ sake.

And if ever the government could play a role in offering incentives — tax breaks, tariffs — to commerce, now seems the time to revive the near moribund United States manufacturing sector. Even the economic eggheads are starting to discover that service cannot stand on its own. It has to service something — and why not a restored and robust American manufacturing sector?

One problem I note from reading a recent story in my local newspaper is that we face the dilemma of bringing ourselves down to third world levels in trying to compete head on with other nations. A case in point is the famed 20-mule team Borax operation in California’s Mojave Desert (remember? Ronald Reagan used to be the host of Death Valley Days, sponsored by Boraxo). Seems the workers there have been locked out in a labor dispute with management. And now management has brought in cheaper workers. It also seems that we have to compete with places like Turkey in the production of Borax (mining) where wages are far less (I forget what, but here workers have been pulling down more than 18 to more than $20 per hour  –not huge, but nothing to sneeze at either for most folks).

While I believe American industry has to try its best to be competitive with other parts of the world, bringing down wages is not a good thing. And you have to ask yourself, do companies who bring down worker wages at the same time reduce management wages?

The answer is that we really don’t want to bring down anyone’s wages, labor or management. That is what threatens our economy today.

But back to where I started this blog. Come on Mr. President, start on the must do first, some of the rest will come in its time — and even though I personally support universal health care, it’s time may not have come — trust me, though, it soon will — very soon. People might even beg for it.


Clich’e as it is, positive attitude best weapon against Waldenstrom’s…

February 2, 2010

I think it’s been nearly a year since I have written about Waldendtrom’s Macroglobulinemia (WM), a non-Hodgkins lymphoma (cancer) that I have. It  is incurable but treatable and if you have it you really don’t know what your life expectancy is — but you do have a strong clue that you are not going to live out that long life you thought you might.

If my math is correct, I was 58 when I was first diagnosed — I’m 60 now. Life expectancy for WM patients used to be considered something like five years from diagnosis, but that has changed.

I chose today to write some more about this because for one, as I mentioned, it has been nearly a year since I wrote anything about it, and for another, I have an appointment with my oncologist today. I’m currently in what you might call remission (or at least I have been), although my oncologist kind of waffles on calling it such — he did tell me that for all intents and purposes that is the condition (remission) I was in, however. I have not felt any new symptoms, but then again it is hard to determine. I am getting older, so I have become used to feeling a little more tired and possibly a little less able to do what I did before. Then again, sometimes I feel stronger than I was when I was much younger (lifestyle, what you are doing at any one time, perhaps, makes a big difference).

Not all of those with WM feel the same symptoms. My first was a tingling of the feet. Along about the same time, I suffered from uncontrolled bleeding of the tongue. Actually, a lot of people who are diagnosed with WM feel no symptoms at all; it just pops up in routine blood tests.

One of the main things WM does is make your blood thicker and that makes you more susceptible to things such as strokes. So, as if it were any consolation, doctors will sometimes tell you that WM will not be the cause of your death — trouble is, it will set up the conditions for you to suffer something else that will be.

I’ll try to blog more when I get back from my oncologist. The only useful thing I can say to anyone, especially anyone who has just been diagnosed, is to force yourself to have a positive outlook. I had a survivalist outlook at first and that helped. But after things calmed down a bit, I think I developed a more positive outlook, and that has helped even more.

Our days on this earth were limited the day we were born, so really, in a way, my condition has not changed since birth. I try to make the best of each day. This sounds cliché, I know. But some clichés have truth to them.

I’ll blog more, hopefully later today.

OKAY, BACK FROM THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE:

Pressed for time here, but I can tell you that my blood work showed that I have made improvement since last time. As I said, basically, I am in remission, but some of the indicators from my blood tests show abnormalties, but nonetheless, I have made improvement from several months ago. Wished I could write more, but I have to go to work. I will follow this up soon, though. And that is an important point. This WM threw me off work for about two years. But I have been back to work truck driving (my main occupation for the past some 15 years) since last July. So, there is life, and work, after WM.


Mass ignorance is the worst enemy of democracy…

February 1, 2010

One of the biggest problems facing our democracy is mass ignorance. A large portion of our population has little to no understanding of our system of government and our history (I make this judgment based on what I hear on the street and read on things such as those man and woman on the street interviews).

What little so-called info that does seep in often comes from the ratings-driven right-wing hate mongers, primarily on Clear Channel radio and Fox television. Since so many listeners are ignorant they tend to take all of what is said as gospel. To be sure there can be propaganda from the other end of the political spectrum, but it usually does not seem to be filled with nearly so much hate — a little class envy perhaps. The hate from the far right actually gives true conservatism a bad rep. My idea is that a true conservative is slow to change what seems to be working (for him or her at least) — a cautious person by nature — and does not believe in taking undue risk (unless it’s all your money). But the far right hate mongers are simply opportunists who go for the gut in human emotions and play on the fears and jealously that reside somewhere in the hearts of most humans. The left can use this tactic too and has at times, but has not been nearly as successful with it as the far right crowd has in recent decades.

We still carry the frontier mentality in this nation that carries with it the promise or illusion that as bad as things might be at the present, anyone can strike out on the trail and lift himself up and to change his station in life. You don’t want to vote to tax the rich if you might have a chance of becoming rich. (And by the way, I do not suggest that “taxing the rich” is the way to go. We all have to pay our fair share for this thing to work. While I am not sure it is the way to go, I always wonder if some form of consumption tax might not be better than an income tax.)

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And I have to insert this thought in here: I laugh my head off when the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, both of whom the every-man-for-himself-pull-yourself-up-from your-own-bootstraps crowd usually worships, say they are not taxed enough. They’re not supposed to say that. It really throws the not-quite-as-rich and rich wannabe crowd a curve ball.

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But back to this ignorance thing:

I don’t know what other folks learn in school. Besides English grammar and arithmetic and some science, I learned the basics of history and government and geography in school, and this was all before high school. But somehow so many others either did not or did not pay attention or have some type of collective amnesia.

I once mentored a college journalism student who worked for me as a cub reporter. She was in college and had no idea of basic civics — and she was a journalism major. She did seem to be able, though, and I’m sure if she stuck with it she probably did fine, or better yet maybe she realized that there are more rewarding pursuits out there. The point is that you can go to school and even get a degree and be absolutely ignorant of our own history and government (and probably functionally illiterate to boot). I don’t care what field you are in, you are a citizen and you should know about your own nation. How else can we preserve democracy? Ignorant people are easily misled. They can be convinced to support wars that are not in their own interest at the drop of a hat. They can be convinced that they have to save billionaire bankers before they lose more of our money so the bankers can recoup what they lost and lose more of our money.

Related to all of this, I cannot figure out why I have to listen to the British Broadcasting Company or BBC to hear a comprehensive report of world news (with reports based on the point of view where they originate). In order to be good American citizens and citizens of the world we ought to know what is going on outside our borders. It’s not all about us after all. But for some reason it has been an American tradition to be Americacentric. We think if it did not happen here, it did not happen.

This is not a new thing. My father did his masters thesis back in the 1930s on the Latin American Press and noted that while at the time (and now I might add) U.S. newspapers ran little news of Latin America, the Latin American press was full of news about the USA.

And now many of our local newspapers with a deficit of advertising, plummeting circulation, and little resources have drastically cut out news of the outside world, or any real news at all. Commercial broadcast news goes for ratings and fills its time with glitzy reports (more style than susbstance) almost entirely about the American point of view, along with endless feature fluffs.

Our public schools need to push knowledge of history and government and current events much more than they do. They do not need to reach for ways to entertain their students in order to get their attention. It is up to the students to pay attention and up to their parents to make sure they do.

And I know most come from dysfunctional homes because society has been so consumed with consumption and self-gratification that family means little, but that’s another subject in and of itself. All children were  born of parents, nonetheless, as far as I know. Those parents should be responsible.

If we keep our education requirements up for employment and keep public assistance hard to get, the value of education will naturally sink in.

(The excuse makers in public education will say I just have not been in the local schools and do not know what is going on — good or bad. Not true. I raised two children and went to all the back to school nights and encouraged their education. I covered school news — went into classrooms — as a reporter. I served a stint as a substitute teacher. I have attended many, too many, school board meetings. I know what goes on and what does not. Naturally good students progress, despite the system, not quite as good students suffer. Too much money is sucked up by administrators who do not want to rock the boat and call attention to the mess that while not working so well for the students works quite well for their lifestyle.)

Or we can just as a nation go on being ignorant and scratching or heads to figure out why nothing gets done.

P.s.

My grandson is in fourth grade and is studying the early California Spanish missions as I did way back when, so I know history is being taught, to some extent anyway.

I also note that at times the extreme left can be as bad as the reactionary right. I wound up listening to some type of radical left radio station the other night because it was the only radio station I could get on my truck radio that was playing the president’s state of the union speech. I was taken aback when listening after the speech the commentators started going into some kind of diatribe against the American flag and against any use of military, presumably even for self-defense. But this kind of stuff brings little advertising, so it is not nearly as prevalent as the afore-mentioned reactionary and ratings (advertising) driven right wingnut propaganda machine. It’s too bad that reasoned discussion does not seem to produce high ratings on commercial outlets (there is C-Span and NPR, thankfully, although NPR does lean a little left at times).

You really can’t ensure balanced news presentation and policy discussion while going for ratings. The act of trying to attract viewers (or readers) tends to make one match the message to what the audience is thought to want to hear or read. But again, better education would teach people to be more critical and discerning in their viewing and reading.