Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin on Death

I am really going to miss George Carlin.

RIP George Carlin

George Carlin in an interview earlier this year talking about the Obama phenomenon.

Do you think that over the past years of the Bush Administration - the FCC stuff and Nipplegate with Janet Jackson and the focusing on 'morality' and the rise of the Evangelicals, all of that - do you see that as being a direct correlation with the American situation as you've observed it?

Well, there are a number of things you've brought up here. First of all - let me go back to an idea that I usually express in a different way, okay? And then I'll get back to your question. I don't believe anymore in my fellow human, or my fellow American. I divorced myself from these two groups a long time ago, somewhere around 30 years ago. I found myself feeling completely outside of the human race and the American experience. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist said, the fully realized man does not identify with the local group. And when I read that it really hit me. I said, "That's me." I really don't identify with these people, I don't feel a part of this - I've never, never felt a part of this. And by "this" I mean - the human race yeah I know, I'm human, by definition I'm in it, I mean feeling like I'm in it. I mean feeling like I'm American. I just don't give a shit anymore. I stopped giving a fuck. And because I did that, it gave me a great deal of artistic freedom - it gave me emotional detachment from which I could operate with a more even-handed look at everything. I didn't have a rooted interest. I didn't have an outcome I was interested in. I didn't have a rooted interest. I wasn't a cheerleader. I was really just an observer. When you're born in the world you're given a ticket to the freakshow; when you're born in America you're given a front-row seat. And some of us in the front row have notebooks and pencils. That's you, Rachel, that's me. We sit there and we say, "Look at the fucking shit that going - look at this. Do these people know what they look like? Let me write this down." And so, that kind of divorces me from any of these attachments. Yeah, underneath it all I'm a disappointed idealist. Yes, I think the Obama story is an inspirational story, it's a wonderfully unique American story and it's exciting and fun to watch but even if he's elected and makes a lot of changes I still retain the right not to belong.
I just like it out here. And I understand that the flame of the idealist flickers underneath, and that's fine - I can't deny that - but I kind of like it the other way because it kind of gives me the freedom to point at everything.

Wow. Okay, so let me ask you this: You brought up the Obama thing, and you seemed to have done so sincerely and not with irony or being jaded. How do you view that as a phenomenon, even as one you don't want to belong to?

Well, it's an exciting story to watch. What's exciting is that it doesn't happen in this country very often. There were moments in the history of the American people - and by the way, one of the reasons I got off the train of the American experience is I think - I'll get back to Obama in a minute - I think that human beings were given great gifts and had great potential and they squandered it all on goods, possession, power, territory and on a superstitious God that watches everything and controls. These things, I think, crippled the human animal to the extend that we never lived up to their potential. The same thing happened in this country. We were given great potential. We were given this great system of self-government, the best one that had been devised so far.
And we've given it all up for gizmos, and goods, and toys and possessions, and - in this country - God, overlooking everything and spoiling everything. So... there have been moments in this country when people have, leaders have emerged who were inspirational, and who could carry the people with them because — in order to effect change in their lives and experience as a group, they need to be led, and they need to believe in something and they need to believe in themselves, and they need to believe that they can change things. And they way that happens is through an inspirational leader. FDR was that, Franklin Roosevelt - he gave people something to believe in, and mainly it was themselves, that they could weather the storm, and he got them through the Depression and a fuckin' World War. So, these things happen and they're interesting to notice - I don't know how much overall meaning it has, I do respect what's going on as a true American phenomenon, this rising up of someone who - maybe, I don't know - has the quality to inspire people.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Response To An Obama Smear Video

This was my response to a friend of mine who forwarded me an Obama smear video and asked me if I thought it was all lies. I think it is worth sharing.

Sorry it took so long to respond, but I wanted to watch the whole thing before I responded to it. I have been busy lately and it took me a while to get the time to sit down and watch it all.

In an interview last year Karl Rove said that the reasons his tactics work are not because Republican voters are stupid, but because they have "short memories" and they "don't pay attention to the news." That video plays off of both those qualities.

The short answer to your question is yes, that video is full of lies. You can tell the guy who made it is an experienced rightwing propagandist because of his opening shot "I invented the internet", which references a popular fallacy that Al Gore supposedly said he "invented the internet". The truth, as I am sure you already know, is that Al Gore said in an interview that he "was instrumental in creating the Internet" and the fact is, he sponsored the legislation that privatized ARPANET and created the Internet. Without his legislation, the internet you and I are using to communicate right now would still be just another "big government" project. (which, incidentally, was started under the last Republican who understood the role of government, Eisenhower)

A better description for that video is "propaganda", because it is more insidious than a mere lie. It will take one true fact and draw a bunch of false conclusions from it. It gathers and propagates all the worst lies about Barack Obama and tries to slip them in randomly to make them seem more legitimate. It also just cherry picks the most unflattering clips and pictures they can find and strings them together to paint the person in an unflattering light. You can find thousands of videos like this about both the Clintons and Bushs all over the internet. It is a very common propaganda tactic.

Basically it piles the bullshit so high, you have a hard time picking out individual pieces anymore. It just becomes one big stinky pile of bullshit.

It partakes in what is called "molehill politics". Taking something insignificant and trivial and theatrically trying to blow it up into a much larger issue than it really is.

"Flag-pins" for example. Seriously, who really cares about flag pins? How does wearing a cheap flag pin made in China mean you are a patriotic American? With everything else that is going on right now, inflation, gas prices, outsourcing, unemployment, forclosures, credit crisis, the falling value of the dollar... who is really concerned about flag pins? Seriously.

It seems to me that if you were a politician who really secretly wasn't patriotic, you would be wearing one 24x7 to cover for it.
Patriotism is caring about the welfare of your country and I think that means caring about the real issues instead of wasting time on meaningless theatrical bullshit like flag pins.

The "National Anthem Photo" is another example, you don't have to put your hand over your heart for the national anthem. All you have to do is stand. You are only supposed to put your hand over your heart for the pledge of alliegence. ...because its a pledge... The national anthem is just a song. Just look around the next time you are at a sporting event, everyone stands and takes their hats off and some people put their hands to their hearts and some do not. The announcer even says it at the beginning of almost every sporting event "Please stand for the national anthem".

Do you see? They take a true photo and draw all sorts of false conclusions from it. They mislead the viewer into drawing the specific conclusion that they want you to draw. That he is supposedly insufficiently patriotic.

Another example is the "danger" that his middle name supposedly represents. They spend quite a bit of time trying to evoke some fear from the viewer because his middle name sounds like the name of a dead bad guy. Even Karl Rove asked Republicans to stop saying his middle name all the time because he said it sounds racist.

It also uses blatent race baiting, even going so far as using a clip of a radical extremist, Ann Coulter, talking about his "three muslim names". Barack and Obama are actually African names, not Islamic. Hussian is actually a very common Arabic name which means "Blessed one". Islam is a religion not a nationality or ethnicity. She is using that term to lump Arabs, Persians and Africans into one group... basically, "brown people". We should all fear the brown people. Thats the real message.

The Rev Wright thing was all just the attempt to redefine Obama as an "angry black man". Before that whole boondoggle, the question that was asked was "is he black enough". They are trying to do the same thing to his wife Michelle. Tell you what, watch her appearance on the View from this week and tell me if you think she is the radical they try to paint her as.

It does state some blatently untrue things, obviously.
The claim that there is no information available about Obama's background is a lie. How lazy can they get? He wrote two autobiographies for pete's sake. All anyone has to do is read them. A good portion of his life is already public record. He has been a public figure in Chicago for decades so the facts of his background have been gone over with a fine tooth comb.

Also the claim that he was raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thats a lie.
He spent most of his childhood in Hawaii and Kansas. He only visited Indonesia when he was a kid. He also traveled all over Africa, Europe and Asia. By the time he was a teenager, he was more well traveled than a lot of Congressmen.

The claim that sitting down and talking to the leaders of countries we don't like is "radical". That's a blatent lie.
Every President before George W. Bush practiced more open diplomacy and they very often met with the leaders of countries we didn't like. George Washington parlayed with leaders of the British Army. George Washington also met with and enlisted Pirates to help the revolutionary army. John Madison talked to the British and Indians during the war of 1812. Jefferson signed a treaty with the Barbary Pirates. They founding fathers all would have talked to King George if they had the chance, but the King had a policy that he did not talk to his enemies.
How did that work out for him?

FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford and Reagan all talked to the Soviets.
Nixon met with the Red Chinese.

Anyway, I think you get my point. The claim that talking to our enemies is a "radical" idea is a big steaming load of crap.

That video is a lot of things, but true is not one of them. I would think that most people would find their intelligence insulted by a video that tries to make all three assertions, that Obama is 1. a radical muslim, 2. a Marxist (athiest), and 3. a radical Christian, all the in same video just a few minutes apart. How stupid does this guy think his audience is?

Anyway if you are curious about doing any fact checking, you should check out these sites:

By the way, if you are curious about my take on Obama, you can read about it on my blog.

Your friend,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good News for Michigan - Drolet Fails Again

This is good news for Democracy and for the rule of law. The far right wing fringe in Michigan failed to get enough signatures for their frivolous recall petition for House Speaker Andy Dillon. Their attempt to disrupt the state legislature would have been harmful to Michigan, especially at a time when we need constructve progress, not chaos from some angry extremists who don't understand how taxes or economies operate.

Drolet and ilk, such as far-right radical Grover "drown government in a bathtub" Norquist, are a group of anti-tax zealots who offer only criticism and negativity and present no solutions of their own to the many problems faced by the citizens of Michigan.

All they have to offer is exactly the kind of minimalist, ineffective government we saw respond to Katrina.

They have a very narrow, ideological view of taxation that is not based in reality or pragmatism. They obviously do not have the best interest of the citizens of the state at heart because they offer no constructive solutions to any of the real problems we face, such as record layoffs and foreclosures.

On the other hand, Andy Dillon has been instrumental in the bill earlier this year which created 29,000 new jobs by investing in Michigan and brought the movie industry to Michigan by offering the best incentives in the nation.

What people like Drolet and Norquist do not understand is that taxes are merely the mechanism by which government generates revenue and that governments are non-profit, so if they really wanted to lower taxes they would offer meaningful ways to lower costs so we can cut spending and thereby legitimately and responsibly lower taxes.

The sad, inescapable truth is that Leon Drolet is more interested in pushing a failed ideology than in helping the citizens of Michigan.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Defining the Candidates - Professor Obama

As the Republicans make their inevitable attacks on Barack Obama as "inexperienced", there are some things the voters should be aware of, but that the conservative corporate media is not going to tell them.

First lets remember that many of the scandals of the Bush administration came out of the fact that he neither knows nor cares about the law. Bush is a CEO president with a background in business. He has open disdain for lawyers, who are the primary mechanism for we the people to redress grievances with business. Bush's ignorance and disdain for the law is reflected in his actions and his exercising of illegal powers, like torture, or the pushing through the Patriot Act which gives the President the unconstitutional power to take away any citizen's rights. This illegal and unconstitutional power-grab by the executive branch is a serious threat to our freedoms and our Democracy. This is understood by all liberal activists and many lifelong conservatives, but because of the partisan "division" which is perpetuated by the corporate media in this country, there is not yet enough reaching across the aisle to work together toward what we know are common goals that would benefit all Americans.

The conservative corporate media has been promoting the idea that Barack Obama is an "unknown" and they used the Rev Wright "scandal" to start referring to Senator Obama as "the black candidate". Instead of fulfilling it's responsibility to the public to inform us and tell us who he is, the corporate media choose instead to lead us along with nebulously scandalous declarations that the people "don't know who he is". Of course they don't know who he is, because after a year and a half of campaigning the media still hasn't properly informed the public about who he is!


Because simply informing us is not as profitable as sensationalism.

Here are some of the facts about Barack Obama that the corporate media has been ignoring that may help you understand who he is:

  • Barack Obama is the son of a black father and a white mother. He is as much a "white candidate" as he is a "black candidate".
  • Barack was raised by his mother in a lower middle class household in a mostly white community in small town Kansas.
  • Barack Obama put himself through college with his own ability and hard work, using scholarships and working numerous jobs to pay the bills.
  • Barack Obama is an attorney and a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago.
  • Barack Obama started in politics as a community organizer in Chicago and his whole campaign has been founded on the values of community organizing and citizen involvement in politics.

Because of its foundation in community organizing, the Obama campaign is more than just a campaign to elect one person. It is a movement to get citizens involved in the political process which is so necessary for us to take back out Democracy. Voting is not enough! If you want your Democracy to work right then you have to get involved! Getting involved means a lot of things. It could mean getting involved by joining a party, participate in setting the agenda and picking the candidates. Getting involved also means learning how to organize with our fellow citizens effectively and one you organize, how to effectively lobby our representatives to pursue your causes. Our represenatives can only represent us if they know what we want.

Hillary lost because she made her campaign about mostly one individual... Hillary. She constantly talked about herself, her experience and what she would do for us. Barack Obama's campaign is about us... all of us. It is about America and it's future and empowering We the people to take back our Democracy. That is why the Rev Wright attacks did little to slow down Obama's growing support, because his campaign is not about one man alone. Many Republicans still have not figured this out and they will continue with character attacks that just will not work. As one Republican talking head who does get it said, "Obama is not a butterfly, he is bulletproof."

If you are one of those people who believes that if only we could get the right people to run for office, they would fix all our problems and everything would be better, then I have news for you.

It is never going to happen.
There will never be one person who gets elected and solves all our problems.

It is when We the people get involved in our own Democracy, that our problems get addressed.

There is a historical pattern here that most people are not seeing. The cycle of freedom in America has not been about the individuals we read about in history class, like Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln or FDR. The thing that happened at the same time those people were in office was a great influx of public participation in the political process.

The Tax Acts from British Parliment effected the daily lives and local economies of many American colonists and thus motivated a large number of people to find some way to act out. The Boston Tea party wasn't committed by founding fathers alone. The 13 states were not each convinced to join in union against the British by just a few men, but rather because enough people got involved who also demanded change.

The same thing happened when slavery because such a hot issue that the nation erupted in a civil war. People did more than fight during and after the civil war. Again, the daily lives of so many average citizens was so impacted that many of those who came home from fighting or didn't fight got involved in the political process and started movements of people for causes.

Again, after the depression and into WW2, so many people's lives were effected that they wanted to do something, to act somehow, and so they got involved in their communities and the political process. Many movements were started or gained surges in membership during and after that period. FDR's many public works projects also brought many citizens into the workings of government and got then involved. Thus the period from WW2 to the 1980s was the greatest period of prosperity and wealth America has ever seen. In the 1980s, government became the enemy and the people stopped participating in our Democracy. Ronald Reagan famously declared that "Government is not the solution, government is the problem."

People who do not believe in government cannot govern effectively. That is why Reagan ran up the largest national debt in history at the time. He has since been overshadowed in fiscal irresponsibility by G.W. Bush because he took the same conservative anti-government ideology one step further. Now we have an era of private mercinary armies that pose as much a threat to our freedoms as any rouge nation.

Barack Obama knows history and he understands this cycle and he knows that what needs to happen for America to make the recovery we all want to see, we are all going to have to start getting involved in our communities. Barack organized his campaign in such a way to help enable the kind of community organization that empowers us. That is why his campaign has been about inspiration and he spoke so much not about himself, but about the possibilities of what we can achieve if we work together.

The presidential campaign of Howard Dean was a similar precursor of this phenomenon and as a result the Dean for America movement survived the 2000 election cycle and grew into Democracy for America, which is now a nationwide organization going around teaching citizens how to get involved in our Democracy. They hold classes regularly and if you are one of those who is waking up and wants to find out how to get active, I recommend you check them out.

When the Republicans inevitably attack Barack Obama on "experience", ask yourself this: What kind of experience do I want a President to have?
Do I want a President who knows and respects the law, like Barack Obama? Or do I want a President who is willing to break even a law bearing his own name, as John McCain is doing? Do I want a President who wants citizens to get involved in the political process or one who just wants us to go shopping?
Do I want a President who's campaign is full of corporate lobbyists, like John McCain's? Or do I want a President who's campaign is staffed and funded by We the people, individual citizens acting out of a sense of social responsibility?

We have tried the President we wanted to have a beer with and who ran the country like a business, now America knows it is time we try a President who could teach a class in Constitutional law and who represents the unique and varied nature of modern American society.

After 8 years of a President with open disdain for the law America is ready for a President who knows and respects the law.

Barack Obama has the right kind of experience for America.