Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can America Be Saved?

Our nation and the world are struggling to avoid a complete collapse of our economies. We have a president that has done more in his brief time in office than any other president. We have leaders of the manufacturing and financial industries that continue to shamelessly lavish themselves with bonuses while their businesses have failed or are failing due to their mismanagement. We have a minority party, the GOP, whose leaders, both official and unofficial, are focused only on obstructing the efforts of our president and the majority in Congress. I'll be the first to admit that were shoes on other feet the Dems would probably do the same thing, however; now is not the time for tit-for-tat. Matter of fact, IT NEVER IS, when the participants are our elected officials.

Does their conduct give you hope that we can recover more than momentarily, if at all? I'm talking about more than our economy. I don't want to sound like the Moral Majority, which was anything but, however; the leadership of this country is rotten with greed. The crime rate of elected officials, at all levels, is higher than it is in the general population. The crime rate of business leaders is probably no better. Our business leaders are unethical - generally speaking they don't care if their employees are fairly compensated; they don't care if their employees workplace is safe; they don't care if their manufacturing process pollutes the environment and poisons their neighbors; they don't care if the product that they produce is of "adequate" quality, reliable and safe. Their only concern regarding their customer is that the customer thinks that the product is quality, reliable and safe. I spent more than 30 years working for a large consumer products corporation - PepsiCo. Managers at all levels became less ethical over those three decades. One of the last projects that I completed while working for the largest franchise of PepsiCo, The Pepsi Bottling Group, was to bring all of the companies bottling facilities in the U.S. in compliance with OSHA regulations regarding employee exposure to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an ingredient in most of Pepsi's products. The often antiquated equipment that is used to carbonate and package the beverage continually releases carbon dioxide into the workspace. Every one of the facilities in the U.S. was audited and every one of them continuously exceeded the legal limit. In a few plants the exposure level was almost 10 times the legal limit. The vice president of the engineering group I worked in opposed the project. Companies do the right thing only when they are obligated to do so by law and then only when the government actually enforces the law.

Leaders without ethics are not found only in our businesses. Our politicians are no better. Our major political parties - the Republicans and the Democrats - do not represent the People. They represent themselves. While they are not serving themselves directly they are serving their party leaders, the lobbyists and the PACs without which they would not have been nominated and could not remain in office. Each of us can think of at least a few politicians that have been caught violating the ethics of their office and/or the law. Illinois will soon have two ex-governors in prison at the same time. Our last vice president was recently indicted by the state of Texas for prisoner abuse in some privately owned prisons in Texas - prisons that he owns. And, one of previous attorney generals, Gonzales, has also been indicted by the state of Texas for attempting to stop the investigation of the prisoner abuse. Our previous president is a war criminal who knowingly violated our laws and our international treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners of war; he violated the privacy of American citizens through illegal wiretapping; he manipulated the federal courts and attorneys to protect himself from those who opposed such violations.

We complain that Islamic fanatics threaten our democracy, our safety and our religious freedom, but have you paid any attention to the lying, cheating, thieving, immoral, self-righteous Christian fanatics in the U.S. that want to control your government, dictate how you will live and eliminate other religions? How many religious leaders have been caught doing the very acts that they condemn. How many TV evangelists prey (not pray) on the weak, the poor and the sick to live richly on the millions of dollars that they steal from their followers by making promises that they cannot keep, by offering cures that they cannot deliver?

The worst sign of our decay is our own conduct. How many of us want something for nothing? How many of us will ignore the plight of another? How many of us think like conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, that "people are poor in America ... not because they lack money," but "because they lack values, morals, and ethics?" How many of us respect others and have raised our children to respect others? How many of us cheat on our taxes... not a lot but a little? How many of us drive through stop signs and rush through yellow/red traffic lights? We expect honestly from others when otherwise means a loss to ourselves but not the other way around. If while loading your purchases into your car you discover that the check-out clerk forgot to ring up a $6 item in your shopping cart do you take it back to the store? When was the last time you volunteered?

We have a lot to fix. The problem is not "them" it is "us." We have to change ourselves. We have to start respecting each other. We have to help each other. We have to take charge of our government. The worldwide economic collapse started in the U.S. We have more lawyers per capita and sue more often than any other country. The percentage of the U.S. population that is in prison is much higher than in any other country. We have more murders per capita than any other country. We have more crime per capita than any other country. We are one of the few nations in the world and the only Western nation that stills executes criminals - including minors, the mentally retarded and the mentally ill. The annual production of this nation is higher per capita than any other nation yet we do not have the highest standard of living, we do not have the lowest birth mortality rate, we do not have the highest performing schools. We have more doctors and hospitals per capita than any other nation but we are not the healthiest nation. We are the largest economy in the world but our infrastructure has decayed. We are the most powerful country in the world but we have too often abused that power to serve our national needs while rarely using it to stop genocide as in Sudan and Rwanda.

Can America be saved? What will you do?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Should We Rescue the Automakers?

Letting the automakers fail seems like the right thing to do. Why prop them up, artificially, if they can’t stand on their own. I keep thinking that they made the wrong cars, knowingly, and now they can only make big gas hogs when the world can only afford high mileage hybrids or electric. On the other hand, the American consumer wanted the crap that Detroit was making and these companies were financially successful until Wall Street crashed the market and the consumer quit buying.

So, Detroit is in trouble only because the consumer stopped buying cars. Is that Detroit’s fault? The consumer has stopped buying a lot of things and the companies that were making or selling those things are failing but not because those companies were poorly run. Any company with zero sales is bound to fail.

Now that Detroit is failing for lack of sales we are blaming the failure on overpaid CEOs, union labor and low MPG autos. While all of these may be issues none of them caused the companies to fail.

Obama is going to spend money to recover our economy. It will be costly to most of us but he is using this disaster as an opportunity to restore America to something better than it was before the crash. Since we are going to spend a lot of money, let’s spend it to do all the things that we couldn’t afford before the crash. We have long needed to change our energy resources – now is the time. Our bridges and roads are a disaster; our healthcare system is inefficient; our schools are decaying and inadequate. So, while we have to spend at least a trillion dollars to jump start the economy we will spend it so that we are better than before.

In that spirit, we should do something about the American auto industry. However, “I” am not qualified to decide what to do and how to do it. But, I’m convinced that if we spend money on the automakers they should be rebuilt into a 21st century automaker that builds and sells the cars we “should” be driving instead of the cars we “love” to drive. We just may be good enough to build a car that meets both of our needs.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine - Silence Rush Limbaugh

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was (in the Commission's view) honest, equitable and balanced. The Fairness Doctrine should not be confused with the Equal Time rule. The Fairness Doctrine deals with matters of public importance, while the Equal Time rule deals only with political candidates. According to Steve Rendall of the progressive media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.”

Under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the commission began to repeal parts of the Fairness Doctrine, announcing in 1985 that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. According to Fowler, Ronald Reagan’s White House staff opposed the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine. The staff is supposed to have told Reagan, “the only thing that really protects you from the savageness of the three networks—every day they would savage Ronald Reagan—is the Fairness Doctrine, and Fowler is proposing to repeal it!” Ronald Reagan supported the FCC decision and vetoed an effort by Congress to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. George HW Bush prevented its reinstatement in 1991 when he promised Congress that he would veto such a bill.

The revocation of the Fairness Doctrine has had an effect opposite to that feared by Reagan’s staff. Reporting by broadcasters is typically biased. Fox presents the conservative viewpoint, opposes that liberal viewpoint and attacks liberal broadcasters for misrepresenting conservatives and their views. MSNB C presents the liberal viewpoint, opposes that conservative viewpoint and attacks conservative broadcasters for misrepresenting liberals and their views. Conservatives only watch or listen to conservative broadcasters like Fox. Liberals only watch or listen to liberal broadcasters like MSNBC. Their audiences don’t get an impartial view of any issue although I’m sure that both the conservatives and the liberals believe that the broadcasters that they tune into are accurate and unbiased. I’m sure that neither is totally correct.

Revocation of the Fairness Doctrine meant that stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views. Daniel Henninger wrote, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination." Before the Fairness Doctrine was revoked Rush Limbaugh (aka Rusty Sharpe and Jeff Christie) was a music radio DJ. After the revocation the Rush Limbaugh show was born.

The program gained in popularity and moved to stations with larger audiences eventually growing to over 650 radio stations nationwide. When the Republican Party won control of Congress in 1994, one of the first acts by many freshmen (calling themselves the "Dittohead Caucus") was to award Limbaugh the title of "honorary member of Congress" in recognition of his support of their efforts during this period.

(The preceding is from a Wikidpedia article on Rush Limbaugh.)

It’s an understatement to say that Rush Limbaugh is the conservative star of talk radio. In 2008, Limbaugh is reported to have signed an 8-year contract extension worth $400 million.

I agree that Rush Limbaugh has the right to say whatever he wants as long as he does not promote violence against any person or group. I do think that he and others like him come as close to that line as they can. He is vulgar and insulting and I believe that this is what appeals to his audience. During yesterday’s radio show and an attack on Obama’s healthcare reform plan Limbaugh stated, “Before it's all over, it'll be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Healthcare Bill”; a suggestion that Kennedy won’t live long enough to see Obama’s healthcare bill become law. I’ve heard many excellent descriptions of Limbaugh but my favorite is by Alec Baldwin: “he will always be nothing more than a poorly educated, marginally talented buffoon who has developed a real talent for manipulating the G-spot of the neocon consciousness and massaging the hate gland of so many economically displaced white voters in America.” However, even Alec’s description misses what is most unacceptable about Rush; many of his tactics for promoting his ideology and his candidates are corruptions of our democracy. I don’t think that he is the only person guilty of such corruption but I do believe that he has more impact than anybody else and any such corruption is, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

The Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated. No broadcaster should be allowed to air his opinion without substantiating his claims and accusations or airing the rebuttal of his opponents. The revocation of the Fairness Doctrine is the only reason that broadcasters will carry the Rush Limbaugh and that is cause enough to reinstate the doctrine. Many of the shows on Fox television would not exist or would not exist in their current form if the Fairness Doctrine was reinstated. Other shows on other stations, liberal and conservative, would be affected along with the Rush Limbaugh Show. If you can’t defend what you say via a medium that reaches millions then you shouldn’t have the right to broadcast it.

The following, from Wikipedia, are reminders of what Rush has done and will continue to do until the Fairness Doctrine is reinstated. The first citing is an example of an attempt to corrupt the democratic process during the 2008 primary elections. I consider these acts unconstitutional. I would permanently revoke any person’s or group’s access to the broadcast medium for the following or similar actions.

In an attempt to sow chaos and disunity among Democrats during a divisive primary battle, Limbaugh encouraged his listeners to vote for whoever was behind in the vote, an effort he dubbed "Operation Chaos". Limbaugh then began to advocate that his Republican listeners vote for Clinton, something the rules of the Texas primary permitted. According to a county volunteer, one voter declared "Rush Limbaugh sent me", another "I am voting for Hillary Clinton but I want to see the Democrats implode," and a great many others mentioning Limbaugh. In Ohio, Limbaugh similarly encouraged his listeners to re-register as Democrats and vote for Clinton. Although Ohio does not use an open primary, voters who change their registration must attest that they support the principles of the party to which they switch. About sixteen thousand Ohio Republicans switched parties for the election. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced that, at the urging of Democrat Sandy McNair, the cross-overs would be investigated. Later, the Ohio Attorney General's office stated that it would be hard to prosecute anyone for falsifying a change of registration, because of the difficulty of proving a voter's fraudulent intent. Limbaugh has said that "The dream end of this [of Operation Chaos] is that this keeps up to the Convention, and that we have a recreation of Chicago 1968 with burning cars, protests, fire, and literal riots and all of that, that is the objective here."

On March 19, 2007 Limbaugh referred to a Los Angeles Times editorial by David Ehrenstein which claimed that Obama was filling the role of the magic negro, and that this explained his appeal to voters. Limbaugh then later played a song by Paul Shanklin, "Barack the Magic Negro," sung to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon. Limbaugh had previously referred to Obama as "Halfrican American", a term which he also applied to actress Halle Berry. Limbaugh cited the Ehrenstein editorial, and said that the point of the comment was to highlight "race-obsessed Democrats", who had questioned whether Obama was black enough.

On January 16, 2009 Limbaugh read a letter on his radio show that he had received a request from a national print outlet:... "If you could send us 400 words on your hope for the Obama presidency, we need it by Monday night, that would be ideal." He responded, "I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." He explained that he didn't want "absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work." He continued, "what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here." He also remarked that Obama's status as the first black U.S. President was part of the reason why there was pressure to accept his policies. Limbaugh later stated that it is President Obama's policies that he wants to see fail, not the man himself. Speaking of Obama, Limbaugh said, "He's my president, he's a human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me." On January 27, 2009, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) created an online petition to express outrage at Rush Limbaugh for his comment, "he wanted President Obama to fail". On January 29, 2009, he followed-up his commentary with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal expressing concern about the Obama Administration's government intervention, proposing the "Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009". On February 28, 2009, in a speech to CPAC, broadcast live on CNN and FOX NEWS, he addressed the controversy for a national audience. Among other things, he said, "I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation."

On March 1, 2009 CBS's "Face the Nation" asked chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emanuel: Who represented the Republican Party? He answered, it was Limbaugh. On March 2, 2009, Limbaugh responded to Rahm Emanuel. In remarks aired by CNN on March 1, 2009, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said that Limbaugh, is "an entertainer". Steele later telephoned Limbaugh and apologized. Limbaugh stated he would not want to run the RNC in its "sad sack state". On March 4, 2009, Limbaugh challenged President Barack Obama to a debate on his radio program, offering to pay all of Obama's expenses: travel, food, lodging, and security.

On July 14, 2003, ESPN announced that Limbaugh would be joining ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown show as a weekly analyst when it premiered on September 7. Limbaugh would provide the "voice of the fan" and was supposed to spark debate on the show. On the September 28 episode of Countdown, Limbaugh commented about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb's role in his team's 0-2 start to the season, as well as the media's coverage of McNabb: “Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.” On October 1, 2003, Limbaugh resigned from ESPN.

In his first bestseller, Limbaugh explicitly describes himself as conservative, and is sharply critical of broadcasters in many media outlets for claiming to be objective. He has loudly criticized political centrists, independents, and even moderate conservatives, claiming they are responsible for Democrat Barack Obama's victory over Republican John McCain in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and inviting them to leave the Republican party altogether, while calling for the sincere and serious adoption of core conservative philosophies in order to ensure the survival of the Republican party.

Limbaugh is highly critical of environmentalism and climate science. Limbaugh has argued against the scientific opinion on climate change by stating that the alleged scientific consensus "is just a bunch of scientists organized around a political proposition. You can't have consensus in science... they think consensus is the way to sell it because, 'Oh, but all these wonderful people agree.’ Limbaugh has often used the term "environmentalist wacko" as a reference to left-leaning environmental advocates. As a rhetorical device, he has also used the term to refer to more mainstream climate scientists and other environmental scientists and advocates with whom he disagrees.

Limbaugh is sharply critical of feminism, saying that "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." He also popularized the term "feminazi", referring to radical feminists "to whom the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur."

Limbaugh supports capital punishment, having said "the only thing cruel about the death penalty is last-minute stays."

On the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, Limbaugh said, "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation... And we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day [referring to the U.S. Military service members]. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release?"

Limbaugh has asserted that African-Americans, in contrast with other minority groups, are "left behind" socially because they have been systematically trained from a young age to hate America through a widespread movement headed by figures such as Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and Barack Obama.

Limbaugh utilizes props to introduce his monologues on various topics. On his radio show, news about the homeless has often been preceded with the Clarence "Frogman" Henry song "Ain't Got No Home." For a time, Dionne Warwick's song "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again" preceded reports about people with AIDS. These later became "condom updates" preceded by Fifth Dimension's song, "Up, Up and Away." In 1989, on his Sacramento radio show, Limbaugh performed "caller abortions" where he would end a call suddenly to the sounds of a vacuum cleaner and a scream, after which he would deny there was ever a caller, explaining that the call had been "aborted".