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bigsky11
A couple of weeks ago, I headed off to Big Sky country to help deliver Montana for Barack Obama. In between knocking on doors and handing out reminders for people to vote, we were able to make the drive up to Glacier National Park for a few days.

Lucky for us, the Park was between seasons, so it was practically abandoned and it seemed as if we had the whole place to ourselves. Not even the Visitor Center was open, and we drove in and out of the Park without any rangers at the entrances.

glacier1

This was what we woke up to in the morning!

Although we were certainly disappointed that Montana still ended up a Red State, the colors are changing. And there was a great sense of relief upon the election’s end which could only have been symbolized by the big blue skies and quiet, open spaces of Montana, where the past seems to dissipate into the air and the future seems to splay out on the horizon. Yes, things are changing. Perhaps it was the leaves, the season, the glaciers which seemed to be receding before our eyes, or perhaps it was just the election itself, but driving home– and it felt like home where we were driving– it was impossible to shake the omnipresent sense that it was coming: change.

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How does the Right ever expect to win when they marginalize so many voters? In frequently attempting to define their base as the ‘Real America’ and by smearing everyone else, the Right’s schoolyard bully tactics are divisive and dangerous to the prosperity of our nation’s union.

In a Special Comment above, Keith Olbermann articulates wonderfully how this kind of angry mob mentality does far more to undermine America than the claims of anti-Americanism which get unjustifiably thrown at the Right’s opponents.

On October 25, 1929, the day after Black Thursday, one of the days signaling the start of the Great Depression, where the Dow Jones lost 9 percent of its value in a single day, Republican President Herbert Hoover announced to the American people: “The fundamental business of the country… is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

Sound familiar? In perhaps the biggest political gaffe since then, just three days ago on September 15, 2008– on the very day now being referred to as ‘Black Monday’, where the Dow collapsed by over 500 points– John McCain, seemingly channeling the restless ghost of Herbert Hoover, declared: “I think still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

The parallels are so frighteningly uncanny that one can’t help but be reminded that history, when forgotten, does repeat itself. In fact, it appears to repeat itself nearly word for word.

And the wheels of irony don’t stop churning there. September 15th wasn’t the first Monday to earn the ghoulish title of ‘Black Monday’. In fact, that title originally belonged to October 19, 1987, where the Dow Jones collapsed, as it did three days ago, by over 500 points, which ended up signaling the start of a massive recession in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Despite the eerie echoing of McCain and Hoover being quoted side by side, and despite the pun-worthy reminder that nobody likes Mondays, the ominous connections between these three days are perhaps best put into perspective by their most startling relationship. Namely: all three of these events happened at the end of long-held Republican administrations.

In the case of Black Thursday and the eve of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was the fall guy for 8 years of previous Republican rule. Republicans Harding and Coolidge held the presidency from 1920-1928, instituting many similar economic strategies as have been implemented by Republican administrations in modern times. Of course, the collapse which occurred in October of 1987 rests at the end of a Reagan administration which had unprecedented economic control, instituting policies occasionally referred to as “Reaganomics”, and which focused on massive deregulation and deconstruction of the social programs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Roosevelt’s social reformation was called “The New Deal”– which is what incidentally pulled the country out of the Great Depression. Should we be surprised by an economic collapse instigated by a removal of Roosevelt’s policies?

Reaganomics were, of course, the primary economic inspiration behind the policies of the Bush Administration of the last 8 years, which has unfortunately led us down another doomed road, perhaps already signaling yet another Great Depression.

History has been very clear here: Every time Republican and conservative economic policies are implemented, the results are worse than disastrous: they’re catastrophic. And yet, at frequent historical turns, the American people continually get swindled by the right wing rhetoric. The myth of ‘trickle-down economics’ and the utter destruction of oversight and regulation has never worked.

In a political season supposedly themed by “hope” and “change”, it’s remarkable to me just how closely recent events are paralleled by mistakes and economic blunders of the past. Even in the midst of a monumental economic collapse, John McCain has the naivete to announce that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. Yes, well, the conservative principles which he extols are certainly still firmly in place. But is anyone honestly still being fooled? Those principles have been convincingly falsified by history again and again.

This time, let’s remember history.


Perhaps the most succinct way of describing the conservative agenda of the last 80 years is that it exists entirely to deconstruct, demolish and disintegrate the reforms brought forth in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930’s. In fact, if you were to outline the conservative agenda, you could just list all the reforms brought forth from the New Deal and then think of the exact opposite. Better yet: take that list of New Deal reforms and just cross them all out. The conservative agenda essentially doesn’t have a plan of its own; it exists only to tear down the plan set forth by the New Deal.

If we recall, the New Deal was put forth in a brave attempt to thwart the pummeling economy during the Great Depression. It was a sequence of reforms aimed at giving relief to the poor, stabilizing our financial systems, and protecting the middle and working classes from uneven distributions of wealth. The immaculate success of the New Deal in saving the American economy was not just a shining example of vision and leadership, but its success also demonstrated the utter failure of everything conservatism stands for.

Thus, conservatives have been vengefully dismantling the New Deal at every opportunity since its inception, and as a result they’ve just about put us back into another Great Depression. See, the real result of conservative economics is a total annihilation of the middle class, a radically uneven distribution of wealth between rich and poor, and complete deregulation of corporate plunder. Essentially, conservative economics aim for the same conditions which brought forth the Great Depression itself.

And this diabolical agenda is all hidden under the overarching banner of “privatization”. Conservatives want to privatize everything, which basically just means they think our social programs would function better if their primary goal was in turning a profit rather than serving their purpose in the public interest. Unfortunately, this economic strategy, the simplistic naivete of laissez-faire economics, has been proven disastrous for the public interest at every turn, and for good reason. Privatization shifts the interest away from the public and instead aims at the interest of shareholders and CEOs. It’s such a proven failure that the conservative loyalty to these economic principles can only mean one thing: they’re more interested in making a buck than in serving the public interest.

The latest example of all of this has been the recent debacle over bailing out mortgage giants, Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. In reporting the event, what the media has seemingly failed to tell is the backstory. Fanny Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), was originally a government invention, one of Roosevelt’s– a nationalized program birthed right out of the New Deal. Its purpose was to help prospective homeowners to get loans and to put an end to the escalating list of foreclosures which exploded during the Great Depression. Before the New Deal, there were no long-term, self-amortizing mortgages. Thus, the New Deal is essentially what allowed the home-owning middle class to stay afloat. Most Americans today would not have their mortgages, or their homes, if it wasn’t for this program.

The system worked like clockwork for 30 years. Home-ownership rates flew through the roof, as did the American economy out of the Great Depression. But in 1968, Fannie Mae was “privatized”, and Freddy Mac was created out of Fannie Mae in 1970 under the same principle. It took a couple of decades, but we’re seeing the failed consequences of this privatization today. Basically, it’s what happens when any public program is privatized: the program’s true purpose gets perverted so that a few insiders can get very rich.

In short, here’s how it worked with Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac: Under private management, it went from an explicitly government-backed agency in the interest of the public to a privatized bottleneck in the interest of turning a profit for its insiders at the risk of the public. See, now that our government is bailing out the mortgage giants (a necessity at this point), the debt is being covered by the taxpayers, since it is their welfare which was always being risked. In other words, even while a privatized Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were reasonably stable over the last 30 years, the risks were always held by the public. This allowed insiders to take risks (and rake in the profits from those risks) and make irresponsible gambles which is what ultimately led to the collapse of these companies, and the American housing market, which we’re seeing today; the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

Basically, privatization meant that the insiders could take all the profit, while the public takes on all the debt.

For instance, Fannie Mae CEO salaries remained stable, and ridiculous, even as the mortgage crisis reached its heights. Daniel Mudd, the CEO of Fannie Mae, received $11.6 million in salary, stock and other compensation for 2007. Richard Syron, CEO of Freddie Mac, took home about $18.3 million last year. Freddie Mac even paid for a number of other perks for Syron, such as a car and driver, a home security system, travel costs for his wife, even $100,000 to pay his lawyer to negotiate his employment contract with the bank. [1]

This is the same thing that would happen if we “privatized” Social Security, and all of the other programs created out of the economy-saving, job-saving, middle class revival that was the New Deal. Unfortunately, conservative legislatures and executives have so corrupted so many of these progressive, successful social programs, which we all rely upon for our modern standard of living, that the future looks as dismal as it does. Not even the public seems to understand the vast harm this conservative agenda stands to cause them. For the most part, the public seems seduced by the naive mantra of “privatizing” our government programs.

If the bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac demonstrates anything, it clearly shows the absolute failure of privatization.

The public needs to open its eyes in its own interest and stand against the bastardizing of our society by the gluttonous hand of privatization. The choice for our next President is very clear given this conundrum: If John McCain is elected, it’s been hinted that the top financial guy is likely to be former Senator Phil Gramm, perhaps one of the biggest proponents for reckless deregulation and privatization the Senate has ever seen.

Don’t be fooled: The conservative banshee of “privatization” is just a ploy to replace Roosevelt’s New Deal with a Raw Deal.

You’d think the Republican Party could find at least one competent female to be the Vice Presidential candidate; there’s got to be at least one viable, upstanding, experienced Republican woman who could exemplify the values of her party. You’d think. But as we now all know, in a transparent attempt to swing female supporters of Hillary Clinton, the GOP has instead chosen Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin.

We already know Palin is anything but experienced. Her only qualification in public office prior to being Governor of Alaska (a position she has held for only 20 months) was as Mayor of a town with less than 10,000 residents. But what we didn’t expect at first was that she’d be a perfect portrait for Right Wing hypocrisy too.

Now we also know that Palin, who has been billed as an almost-virginal, family-oriented crusader against sex education, and a proponent of abstinence until marriage, hasn’t even had much success with that platform within her own family. In near comedic fashion, only days after her Vice Presidential nomination was announced, it was discovered that Palin’s 17 year old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was 5 months pregnant.

At every turn, instead of exemplifying the values the Republican Party would like to portray, Sarah Palin seems to represent a complete parody of those values.

John McCain’s campaign must have considered Palin’s cavernous downsides before choosing her as his running mate. The question then remains, given these downsides, what were those campaign strategists thinking? How could Sarah Palin, of all possibilities, be their best candidate?

Well, the only explanations I can muster up are either that McCain is poorly organized and didn’t do his research (a poor prospectus for his qualifications as Commander in Chief), or perhaps the nomination of Sarah Palin represents a proverbial “freudian slip” for how Republicans really view the role of women in politics. That is, Palin embodies the Right Wing, “Fox News” strategy for employing women: so long as you’re young and attractive, people will tune in to watch, regardless of the substance. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and inexperienced. It doesn’t matter if your family life portrays perfectly the failure and hypocrisy of Right Wing “family values”. All that really matters, so assumes the Republican strategy, is if you’re a woman. Palin is so underqualified to be Vice President that her nomination is a near-perfect parody of this Republican facade.

To be fair, it’s possible that the GOP thought they were nominating Tina Fey:

But unfortunately, Tina Fey (who is more popular, doesn’t have any pregnant unmarried children, and is probably more intelligent than Sarah Palin) is a Democrat. Go figure.

The label of ‘war-mongerer’ appears to be more and more appropriate for John McCain every time he opens his mouth about any international crisis. Of course, everyone remembers his “bomb bomb bomb Iran” sing-a-long. Then McCain let it slip that it’d be ‘fine with him’ (and he hoped it would be fine with you, too) if the U.S. occupied Iraq for 100 years. Now we’re witness to his ‘tough talk’ toward Russia over the Russia/Georgia conflict; talk which seems to imply that John McCain’s only strategy to any international crisis is militaristic.

In a recent segment of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Olbermann and Air America talker Rachel Maddow break down the blunders of McCain’s impoverished foreign policy– which is basically just to pound the war drums. It’s definitely worth taking a look how they succinctly expose the neo-conservative fairytale here:

This recent Gallup Poll might be telling us what we already know, but if the U.S. election were held in Europe today, Obama would win in an unprecedented landslide. Undoubtedly, most Americans could care less about what Europeans think; In fact, if anything many Americans probably react to Europe’s opinion by taking a knee-jerk, juvenile opposing opinion, just out of spite. It’s never been clear to me why being respected in the rest of the world is seen as a bad thing by a certain segment of the American populace. I would agree that the favorable opinions of foreigners shouldn’t sway our own opinions, at least not ultimately. But if any particular candidate is seen as significantly unfavorable, especially among our allies in other Western nations, it ought to be a legitimate cause for concern.

And there isn’t much room for ambiguity in these poll results. I mean, in France, only 4% of those polled would rather see John McCain as our next President. Only 4%! I think the only way to read this poll is to read it as a flat rejection of John McCain in Europe. The choice, for Europeans, is already startlingly obvious: Barack Obama is clearly the better candidate.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans will be heading to the polls in a couple of months literally torn between the two candidates. Most recent polls here in America show Obama and McCain neck and neck. I think it’s worth asking, then: Why does the choice seem so easy for Europeans, yet seem so strenuous for U.S. voters? Who is wearing the veil here– us or them?

One thing’s for sure: in Europe they aren’t limited by the American media. The American media has become so nationalistic that it’s nearly impossibly to watch a newscast on cable news, such as on FOX, MSNBC or CNN, without seeing a video animation of an American flag waving in the background. It’s as if the media is utterly terrified of being viewed as anti-American. As a result, most Americans are oblivious to the vast harm the neo-conservative agenda has caused this country and our relationships with the rest of the world. The American media, with its rose, white & blue-colored glasses, just doesn’t report what the rest of the world plainly sees.

It certainly doesn’t hurt their credibility that Europeans (certainly the ones listed in this poll!) have significantly better transportation infrastructures, health care systems, standards of living, educational systems, life expectancy, and stronger currencies. Sure, Europe has its problems too, but I think it’s time to be honest with ourselves and ask: WWED? (What Would Europeans Do?)

Because “more of the same” just isn’t working here in America.

Pew Research Poll

Pew Research Poll

Perhaps the most alarming statistic revealing the average ignorance of the American voter was this Pew Research Poll, conducted about a month ago, which demonstrated that 12% of registered voters still incorrectly believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Even more frightening is that this number has remained mostly constant throughout the election season, even throughout the spectacle about Obama’s former Christian pastor, Rev. Wright, which littered headlines everywhere not long ago. This means that there is a block of the American voting public which is not only uninformed now, but which appears to be persistently uninformed.

And this block of voters might be even more numerous than 12%. If we’re using this poll alone as indication, you’ll notice that only 57% of registered voters actually get it right about Obama’s faith. There are a large number of voters who ‘have heard conflicting reports’ or simply aren’t sure yet one way or another (1% actually believe Obama is Jewish!). Of course, this should be an easy fact to check. But instead, it appears that these uninformed voters are not only ignorant, but also resiliently stubborn about their ignorance. Thus, it’s probable that somewhere between 15 and 40 percent of American voters could be placed in a voting block; we might as well call it the ‘Ignorant Vote’.

What all of this really means, shamefully, is that the candidate which can pander best to the ‘Ignorant Vote’ can literally sway the election. And if any political party has learned to feed, grope and spin the cycle of misinformation which tinkers the Ignorant Vote, it is the modern Republican Party. Not only do Republicans tend to consistently gain the favor of the Ignorant Vote, but I’ve no doubt that they consciously target it.

It’s no different here, regarding misinformation about Obama’s faith. Let’s brush aside for a moment that it shouldn’t matter which Abrahamic religion Obama adheres to: The fact remains that among the voters who aren’t sure yet, have heard conflicting reports or who already falsely believe that Obama is a Muslim, the vast majority sway toward voting for McCain as a result. Thus, if Republicans were going to play dirty here, they’d have a propaganda campaign designed specifically around proliferating rumors, misinformation and straight-up lies about Obama’s faith. And, unfortunately, this is exactly what we’ve seen– and in unprecedented, unabashed, explicit force.

Republican pundits everywhere raise the question about Obama’s faith. They continually reinforce stereotypes surrounding Obama’s unusual name and his race. For instance, Republican pundit and talking head, Tucker Carlson, on MSNBC’s Tucker, has been caught claiming that Obama’s faith has become “suddenly conspicuous”. Meanwhile, a book replete with lies and falsehoods, many of which were literally made up out of thin air, was recently published by conservative strategist Jerome Corsi, wherein Corsi attempts to make the case that Obama is really a Muslim (among a slough of other falsehoods and lies, too). This is the same guy who coined the phrase ‘swiftboating’ and who published an equally fraudulent book which courted the Ignorant Vote and derailed the Kerry campaign in 2004. Corsi has also published another book which is aimed at concealing the scientific consensus about the truth of global warming, wherein he goes so far as to question the “truism that oil is a fossil fuel”. I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, conservative radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have repeatedly hosted Corsi as a guest, presenting him as an ‘expert opinion’ on all of these matters. If this isn’t incriminating evidence demonstrating the conservative effort to court and foster the Ignorant Vote, I don’t know what is.

There are at least two possible ways of countering the dirty politics of courting the Ignorant Vote: We can either play dirty back (by spreading rumors and lies which influence ignorant voters in other ways), or we can nobly attempt to educate the American public by telling the truth, hoping to dwindle down the percentages of the ignorant. Since this election season is about hope, I’ll reserve my faith for the latter.

Unfortunately, it seems that Republicans have sputtered off entirely toward the dark side instead, shamefully propagating the politics of “anything goes”. To the extent that democracy relies upon an informed and politically active populace, these conservative strategies are not only dangerous to the Obama campaign– they flagrantly threaten our democracy. So I’m asking you: What do you think could be done to combat these out-of-control attempts to foster and manipulate ignorance among American voters?


It’s become eerily consistent: it seems the only times the Bush Administration and our media really cares about democracy, liberty and independence in the world is when there’s a lot of oil at stake. While Bush is parading around as a noble crusader for democracy, backing Georgia and hypocritically attempting to lecture Russia about the wrongs of invasion, it doesn’t hurt that Georgia also has a major oil pipeline running through it. The pipeline, which was completed in 2005, is one of the West’s latest attempts to secure its interest in the massive Caspian oil reserves, which diversifies the West’s supply of foreign oil outside of the Middle East. Also worthy of note is that the pipeline, which is controlled by BP, also shares its investment with the likes of Chevron and ConocoPhillips, as well as Norwegian, French and Italian oil giants.

Interestingly, it has been massively under-reported thus far that this conflict began, not due to a Russian invasion, but rather due to a Georgian invasion of one of its territories: South Ossetia, which is not an ethnically Georgian region and has been interested in its own independence from Georgia. While South Ossetia’s rebel forces have been fueled by Russian support– support which had recently been advanced and accelerated– undoubtedly Russia’s support for the region has more to due with the oil pipeline too, and less to do with noble protection of a region’s independence.

Thus, this is the real reason for why the U.S. and Europe are picking Georgia’s side and painting Russia as the invading force: it can only truly be about controlling that Caspian oil supply.

One thing that has always dumbfounded me about most people who consistently vote Republican is how they continue to vote as they do despite the fact that it is so obviously against their own interests. Republicans seem to continuously fool their voter base into fervently believing things which are obviously fraudulent. There are numerous examples of this, of course. There’s the myth of the liberal media (which has hidden the very obvious takeover of the media by the Right, nationalistic and corporate interests…); There’s also, of course, the myth of trickle-down economics (which really just fools voters into shifting the cost of government onto themselves rather than the really wealthy– who just send their jobs overseas anyway). These are some of the more obvious examples of false beliefs which, somehow, consistently rally conservative voters.

These conservative dogmas are often most effective when they demonize Democrats and blame them for the false problem. A prime example is the widely held but fraudulent belief that Democrats spend and increase the national debt, whereas Republicans are more fiscally responsible. In fact, I think this lie has become so ingrained into the American consciousness that most Democrats believe it too. But let’s take a real look at how the national debt has been effected over the last 30 years by Republican and Democratic administrations:

Now, conservatives frequently attempt to hide their lies by claiming that these debt increases occurred due to a Democratic Congress or Senate. But in fact, the Senate was controlled by Republicans during the first 6 years of the Reagan Administration, and in 1981 the Democrats lost 35 seats in the House too (7 worse than in the so-called ‘Gingrich takeover’). You’ll notice that in the final years of the Reagan Administration, when Democrats took back some control, new debt decreased dramatically and leveled off compared to the years when Republicans were in control.

When Clinton took over and had a Democratic Congress, in 1993, new debt decreased rapidly, at a sharper rate than spending rose during the Reagan years. That trend was held in dramatic fashion, when the budget was balanced during the Clinton Administration, but it rose again, out-of-control, as soon as Bush took the helm and we were cursed with a Republican President and a Republican Congress. In fact, never has the neo-conservative agenda had more control of both our Legislative and Executive Branches of government as during the first six years of the Bush Administration, and new debt and spending has absolutely shot through the roof in that time, as demonstrated by the chart.

So I ask you: Why do people continue to vote for conservatives with the belief that conservatives are more fiscally responsible? Why do people continue to believe in such falsehoods? How did they ever come to believe such backwards nonsense to begin with?