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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.

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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 part of our lexicon: islamo-fascism. We hear the term used everywhere in the political sphere by Right Wing radio talkers, cable news pundits and even our President. It’s a term that’s been useful for drumming up blind patriotism, religious intolerance, the War on Terror, and all kinds of blatant fear-mongering, bigotry and cultural conflict. But as it is for many of the handy pieces of rhetoric used by conservatives, it’s also an ironically-shaped, deceitful misnomer. For those that use the term, it basically displays a complete ignorance about the meaning of the words involved.

In other words, for anyone who knows the origins of the term, ‘fascism’, they know that it doesn’t have much to do with what Islamic terrorist groups are preaching. In fact, the term much more closely resembles the philosophy of the conservative movement and the principles being applied by the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration than it does with religious-inspired terrorism. The use of the term, therefore, is either hilariously ironic or otherwise frightfully ignorant.

Let’s begin with my 1983 American Heritage Dictionary’s entry on ‘fascism’: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.

In fact, the term was first coined and extolled by dictator Benito Mussolini and neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, from the Italian, fascio, which essentially translates as a ‘bundle’ or ‘union’. The term was therefore utilized to reference a unification of the state with corporate interests; to eliminate the notion of individual and local liberties and to reinforce a governmental stronghold. Fascism was plainly designed to be a political system diametrically opposed to democracy. Mussolini was not shy from stating this directly:

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.

Here are some basic symptoms of a fascist/corporatist state:

Fervent nationalism/patriotism: thus the irony of drumming up patriotism with a term like islamo-fascism.
Government agencies run like businesses: privatization and corporate control of our public programs.
Monopolies: large subsidies favoring particular corporations, numbing out competition
Large corporations successfully lobbying Governments: lobbyists freely roam the halls of Congress and usually write our legislation themselves.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer: tax cuts to the rich, under the mythical banner of the repeated failings of ‘trickle-down economics’.
Favours given to campaign contributors: John McCain’s recent support of offshore drilling has been sharply correlated to a fourfold increase in campaign contributions from Big Oil.

Let’s face it, the marriage of big business to the government, the mantra of ‘privatizing’ our government, a call for American patriotism in the face of an unjust war (and the demonization of ‘liberalism’, another fascist strategy): these are all talking points straight from both the conservative playbook, and Mussolini’s. Don’t believe me? Several of John McCain’s top economic and campaign advisors are former lobbyists for the Oil and Pharmaceutical companies. Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman, was a lobbyist for Enron. The also ironically titled Patriot Act, which does nothing more than strip away the civil liberties that the real patriots which founded our nation fought and died for, undermines our constitution and is one of many ploys to give excessive power to the Executive Branch. There’s the conservative attack on Habeas Corpus. The list goes on and on.

On the political spectrum, these are all traits and trends which steer toward text-book fascism, and which directly oppose and steer away from democracy. Our nation was built to be a representative democracy. If there is anything which is blatantly un-American, it is the fascist-oriented bent of the conservative, right-wing movement. There’s nothing American about conservative thought whatsoever. How, then, do conservative talkers, right wing pundits and the Republican Party get away with making claims about what is or what isn’t truly American or patriotic? Unfortunately, it’s probably because the American people themselves have forgotten what it is that makes them truly American.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned in an April 29th, 1938 message to Congress:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

Saying all of this is not to excuse the vile tactics and political motives of radical religious terrorists, whether they be inspired through the warped fury of Islam, or any other religious fervor. But if we are going to reserve the term, ‘fascism’, to describe anything, it certainly seems to apply far better to the current Bush administration’s policies and the un-American conservative think-tanks which are slowly but surely stripping away our democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian corporatism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mussolini. Thus, when you hear those conservative pundits or cable news anchors warning about the ‘islamo-fascist’ threats to our nation, be careful not to react by becoming devoted to the wrong banner in response.

It’s election season, and that means it’s also campaign advertising season; a contemptible season wrought with doleful cinematic failures. The only explanation for the authorization of these snippets of proliferate misinformation or obvious cliché can be that the folks at Geico already bought up the contracts of anyone with an ounce of advertising wit.

It is therefore an incredible mark of prestige that Barack Obama’s ads have been comparatively good. They are good, certainly, in their quality as ads, but also good in the sense that, so far at least, Obama has been dignified enough to avoid publishing a direct attack ad against McCain. The strategy for the Obama camp has been simple enough: feature his speeches, and use Obama himself as the advertisement’s narrator. Thus, the videos are effective because they’re pointing out a substantive difference between the two candidates: Obama is uniquely charismatic and inspiring. John McCain doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

On the contrary, McCain’s latest campaign advertisements are following the usual disgraceful chicanery: not only are they downright cheesy and horrifically witless, they feature cleverly couched lies and misinformation too. As has been reported en masse, McCain’s latest attack ad compares the celebrity of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton with that of Barack Obama. It’s worth posting the McCain ad here for comedic effect alone:

Yes, folks: that’s the ad that passed through the creative gauntlet and political astuteness of the McCain campaign. That is, not only did this ad have to first gain authorization among (what I assume to be) a slough of other advertisement ideas, but it also warranted such high praise by McCain that it was worth spending campaign money on.

I suppose the idea behind featuring Barack Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” is to suggest that somehow it is a negative quality that his speeches have drawn crowds nearing 100,000 supporters, due entirely to the brute force of his political career and the content of his speeches. The ad also overlooks the ironic fact that Britney Spears is a diehard Republican and McCain supporter (although I’m unaware of her opinion now since the release of this ad).

As you’ve just seen, the video progresses (in completely unconnected fashion) from featuring Obama as a charismatic leader to making claims about his energy policies. The oblivious lack of a relevant transition aside, it is crucial to note that some of the claims McCain is trying to sneak in are actually straight up lies. Since the advertisement does not cite its sources (something we need regulation for!), I decided to look into the claim that Obama wants to raise taxes on electricity myself.

A quick and useful resource for fact-checking political claims like this can be found at factcheck.org, and if you’re clicking that link near the time that I’m posting this blog entry, you’ll notice that the relevant article is actually posted right on the top of the page.

It turns out that Obama never claimed to raise taxes on electricity at all. The only possible source for McCain’s advertisement claim comes from a drastic misquote. During an interview once, a reporter asked Obama if he thought it was a good idea to tax clean energy to help pay for education. Obama responded, in completely rational fashion, that such a tax would be a bad idea, and that if any tax on energy would be appropriate, it would be a tax on “dirty” energy like coal, oil or, to a lesser extent, natural gas. But even so, no tax on electricity, not even on dirty energy (perhaps unfortunately so, if you want my opinion), is part of Obama’s plan.

Thus, not only does McCain’s ad fail in wit and cinematic skill, it is also replete with blatant lies.

When the advertisement ends with a sudden musical shift and a supposedly noble, chin-raised McCain approving the message, you have to check yourself from thinking this might actually be an ironic Saturday Night Live skit; a satire of McCain instead.

Aside from displaying the evident lack of creativity and wit of McCain’s campaign team, which an authorization of this campaign ad must imply, by far the most alarming failure is how the advertisement relies upon complete lies, as if there is nothing truthful which can be negatively said about Obama.

Unfortunately the only thing worse than this advertisement itself is the thought that it might actually be effective with some voters. It’s good to see that Obama is refusing to stoop to the level of old-school negative campaign politics, but something more must be done to combat the spread of misinformation that these ads display. ‘Playing nice’ isn’t enough. We need regulations which, at the very least, require political advertisements to cite the sources for all of the claims being made. As nauseous as those fluffy drug advertisements are since being required to list all of their side effects, it is at least a step up over the complete lack of regulation that currently exists for campaign ads.

The most prominent effect of such regulation would be to show just how much Republican and Right Wing tactics actually rely upon lies, misinformation and smear to prop their candidates up. The constant use of such tactics only display the obvious fact that Republicans don’t think they could win otherwise. Which is the likely truth.