Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Reader’s Response to "The Assassination Cartoon"


A Reader's Response to "The Assassination Cartoon"

The NY Post overstepped any excusable boundary of journalistic propriety with this editorial cartoon. It is overtly offensive to such a degree that I would have probably accepted an apology from their corporate board alongside an excuse that it was unaware that the paper's editorial management were reprobate racists, and that the publishing of this cartoon had been the cause of their termination of employment at the paper. Instead the NY Post's asinine unapologetic rationalisation for the cartoon would be comical under different circumstances. "Oh hey, we're not racists, we're derelict journalists without an 'effing clue about reality in America"

Still, I disagree with an underlying assumption in your post, and would ask you to contemplate why I believe it is not only false; it is also counter-productive in working towards a society that does not make assumptions about humans, based solely upon easily discerned external differences; a goal I believe both of us share.

This is not an artifact of true conservatism. "Radical Conservative" is an oxymoron. You made a distinction between neocons and radical conservatives. It would be better to further divide the political right into a more truthful classification. I grew up in Las Vegas in a very politically conservative family. When I was young, Vegas bore the shameful nickname: "Mississippi of The West", and was a very segregated city. In 1964, both of my parents became registrars of voters, and went to the other side of the tracks into the Black neighborhoods to register voters there, stating loudly that the disenfranchised Black population in The Nation was not only Un-American, it was an obscenity to anyone who believed they belonged in The Party of Lincoln. My parents had also supported Vegas headline stars, led by Sinatra, when they threatened to boycott the showrooms unless the Hotel/Casinos welcomed all visitors without regard for the color of their skin, and backed the local musicians who pressed for inclusion of Blacks in the Musicians' Union and in showroom orchestras. Back then, at least in Las Vegas, the integration debate wasn't divided on party lines.

It is also worth remembering that it was the Warren Supreme Court that unanimously decided Brown v Board of Education, and Chief Justice Earl Warren was Eisenhower's appointee. It was President Eisenhower that sent the National Guard into the South to enforce Brown. The truth is that no Real Conservative, nor Old School Republican is racist. This is not the same as saying that some of the policies that were borne from a Conservative political world view does not aid in perpetuating racism though, and there are many places where Conservatism deserves to be harshly criticised.

When Nixon played the Southern strategy in 1968, the GOP decided to turn away from principles seeking electoral wins instead, and welcomed into their midst the racists, and right-wing extremists. The Neocons turned away from their conception by former Trotskyists hard right, when President Carter had the temerity to stand up and say that Palestinians, whose homes were adjacent to centuries' old cemeteries in which their ancestors had been buried, had a natural right to live free upon that land. The Republican Party's embrace of the New Right, The Religious Right and the Neocons runs against the grain of true conservative thought, which posits at its very foundation axioms that a proper government is the smallest one necessary to insure the Nation's Defense and domestic tranquility; that a state has no business interfering into the private matters of its citizenry, as long as their public actions do not violate the liberties of other humans.

Over the past four decades, what is defined as being conservative has been drastically changed, and has now become nothing more than a synonym for all things that are mapped to the right-side of a linear political model. This has aided in the polarisation of America, and turned politics into an either/or distortion of reality. Scalia and Thomas are not conservative jurists, they are right-wing activist judges who actively seek to radically change precedence settled a long time ago. Conservatives do not believe in radical change; they believe in a steady-state status quo. Radical change, be it to the right or the left is antithetical to true conservative theory.

American Conservatism is presently facing a dilemma, and many conservatives are doing some deep soul-searching about where contemporary conservatism has gone wrong. Many are very unhappy about the manner their political ideology has been jacked by the radicals who hide their true being under conservatism's mantle. They want to separate themselves from it. The best course of action is to give Real Conservatives some breathing room; to help them differentiate themselves from the racists, the theocrats, the warmongers, the pro-torturers, the thieves of human rights. If they are forced into a corner, grouped together with all of the right-side, then forced to choose between that or the left, they will have no other option than to remain on the right.

There are people with whom we disagree with politically, and there are also people who are enemies of freedom and justice for all. It's a propitious time to separate the wheat from the chaff here. Choose your targets wisely.

My Reponse:

I fully agree with every point you made, to the comma. Your criticism is right on the money and very well stated (in fact, so much so that I'm going to take this comment and send it to everyone in the "Progressive Network" who regularly receive my column. I also intend to post it on "Your Black World," along with this response).

It was remiss of me not to make it clear that I didn't intend to paint ALL conservatives with the same broad brush. You are also correct that the phrase "radical conservative" can be construed as being oxymoronical when applied in a political context. I should have used the phrase "reactionary conservatives." That would have been much more specific in pointing out those in which I was referring.

But I was using the term "radical" with respect to the American Heritage Dictionary definition,
"Departing markedly from the usual or customary." While that should have covered the point that you are making in your response, the fact that I was sufficiently unclear to motivate your need to respond, clearly demonstrates a failure on my part. As Ms. Emmel, my old English teacher, used to constantly tell me, the point of writing is to communicate. If you fail to do that effectively, the entire exercise is meaningless.

Therefore, I want to thank you for bringing this issue to my attention, and relating the shortcoming on my behalf with such civility and eloquence. You've taught me something that I'll never forget--to never assume that the reader understands what's going on in my mind.

If it is my intent to communicate effectively, I have a responsibility to avoid intellectual shorthand.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Ya Want Me to Beat 'em for ya, Massa?"


The Assassination Cartoon
I’m all for freedom of speech, but there are limits. Along with freedom comes responsibility, and the New York Post demonstrated the complete absence of responsibility with the publication of their cartoon depicting the assassination of the President of the United States.

While freedom of speech and expression are indeed a cornerstone of American democracy, it is against the law to shout “fire” in a crowded theater–and with good reason. It is necessary for a free society to protect itself from those who don’t have the common sense to recognize that what they consider funny, or a practical joke, can get people killed. Thus, even in a free society it is sometimes necessary to jail a free citizen for behavior that amounts to criminal stupidity. While I’m not an attorney, I think they call it criminal negligence.

That is exactly the rationale that should be used to prosecute, and jail, all those responsible for the publication of this criminally ill-considered cartoon. Most of the criticism that’s being lodged against this cartoon seems to have more to do with its incredibly poor taste. But it’s one thing to be petulant, immature, and bigoted–we expect that from ultra-conservative extremists. But when you begin to advocate the assassination of the President of the United States, you’ve crossed the line–a line that separates merely stupid, from that which is criminal.

That cartoon literally sent a message out to every deadbeat, bigoted loser in the country that they can finally make something of themselves. They can finally find purpose in their previously miserable and lackluster lives by assassinating the President of the United States. Thus, what the New York Post is calling a meaningless joke is actually a clarion call to every bigoted fool in the United States. It says that there are people in this country who will consider you a hero, if you bring violence against the president–and they know it. Can you imagine the hue and cry coming from Republicans if the New York Times had run a cartoon depicting the assassination of Ronald Reagan?

The mere thought of perpetrating violence against the President of the United States shouldn’t even be a part of the public discourse. It serves to desensitize the public to a possibility that should be unthinkable in a civilized society. But history has clearly demonstrated that one of the most lethal weapons in the conservative arsenal is subliminal suggestion--along with suggestions that aren’t so subliminal--such as, liberals are aligned with drug dealers, criminals, and welfare cheats; Obama sympathizes with people who hate America and “pals around with terrorists;” and anyone who is against spying on American citizens, torture, or the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is un-American. Now we have this, and they’re complaining, “What’s all the uproar about? It was just an innocent joke.”

We’ve had enough experience with neo-cons and radical conservatives where anyone with even an ounce of common sense recognizes that nothing is a joke with them–especially when they’re out of power. They’re dead serious, and they’re desperate. Conservative Republicans know better than anyone that considering their atrocious eight years of governance, combined with President Obama’s competence and responsible statesmanship, that the Republican Party faces an extremely bleak future. So they’ve gone to plan B, to eliminate Obama at all cost, and by any means necessary. As ugly as it seems, anyone who doesn’t recognize that reality has blinders on.

Look at the facts. Their proven method of operation is to demonize, dehumanize, then eliminate. When the neo-cons decided to exploit Iraqi resources instead of going after Osama, as was the intent of the American people, they first began to demonize, then dehumanize Saddam Hussein–a former ally--in order to prepare the American people to accept the idea that it was necessary to take him out.

Now look at what the conservatives are doing with respect to President Obama. First, they portray him as a monkey, then they have two police officers (respected members of the community) killing him, with a captions suggesting that it was justified based on his political activity. Then here comes Allen Keyes slithering from under his rock, saying that “Obama is a radical communist,” and that “He’s going to destroy this country.” He then went on to say, “We’re either going to stop him, or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.”

Again, it’s a blatant attempt to call all fools to arms. His malevolent intent couldn’t be more evident. He’s effectively given every fool in America carte blanche, indicating that “stopping” President Obama would be an honorable and patriotic act.

The American people simply can’t tolerate what’s going on here. It’s time to send these lunatics a clear message that we’re not having it. This is not a third world country, and we’re not going to allow them to turn it into one. So at the very least, we’ve got to insist that the people responsible for creating, and allowing that cartoon to be published, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Let them explain the humor of the cartoon to a jury.

In addition, congress should introduce legislation clearly outlining what constitutions criminal negligence in exercising our freedom of speech. We already have a precedent for it–while I do have freedom of speech, I can neither incite a riot, nor advocate the killing of my neighbor with impunity, so I’m amazed that we don’t have something on the books about advocating the assassination of the president.

But of course, the New York Post’s defense will be, “What’s the big deal? We didn’t mean it that way at all. The liberals are just overreacting.” But presumably, there’ll be a few older people on the jurywith that quaint, but pointed wisdom that we tend to be losing in this nation. They aren’t as caught up in technicalities as we are, and they have an adage regarding such nonsense. They’ll say, “You’re peeing on my head and trying to tell me it’s raining.”

So I’m confident that they’ll send a message to both the New York Post, and the world of conservative anarchists in general. They’ll make it clear that we don’t find jokes about the assassination of our president the least bit funny. Then they’ll make them pay, dearly.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Republican Leadership–They Just Don’t Get it


The Republican Leadership–They Just Don't Get it

It is completely unconscionable how far the Republican leadership has strayed from anything resembling responsible governance. While they thrive on their claim of patriotism, their petulant obstructionism during one of the most serious financial crises in American history betrays a total disregard for this nation, and an absolute disdain for the American people. Their childish behavior is nothing short of political malfeasance.

But true to form, they claim that their attempt to sabotage President Obama's rescue program is for America's own good. They claim that they're concerned about reckless spending, and the huge debt that the president's initiative is going to leave our children. But that claim is disingenuous on it's face. Where was that concern when they literally threw away a trillion dollars, off budget, in Iraq–a meaningless war that only served to enrich Republican cronies, and has caused so much wear and tear on the U.S. Military, that it's going to cost us an additional trillion in order for the nation to recover.

And where was Republican fiscal responsibility when they committed to building an embassy in Iraq that's rivaled only by the Vatican in terms of size and opulence? The embassy that was originally budgeted to cost 592 million to build is now estimated to cost $736 million at last count, due to the shoddy workmanship of the Asian labor force imported to do the work--Bush spent all of that money and the fire suppression systems didn't even work. It is by far the largest embassy in the world, built on 104 acres of land, and it has been estimated that it is going to cost a billion dollars a year to maintain.

The Republican Party's fiscal responsibility also seemed to be missing in action when, according to a Washington Post article, the Defense Department's inspector general says that the Pentagon "cannot account for almost $15 billion worth of goods and services ranging from trucks, bottled water and mattresses to rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns that were bought from contractors in the Iraq reconstruction effort." And the article goes on to indicate that "The Pentagon did not have the proper documentation, including receipts, vouchers, signatures, invoices or other paperwork, for $7.8 billion that American and Iraqi contractors were paid for phones, folders, paint, blankets, Nissan trucks, laundry services and other items." The article also points out that "the inspector general found deficiencies in accounting for $5.2 billion of U.S. Payments to buy weapons, trucks, generators and other equipment for Iraq's security forces. In addition, the Defense Department spent $1.8 billion of seized Iraqi assets with "absolutely no accountability."

But now that it comes to rescuing the American people, the Republican Party has all of a sudden found Jesus. And just as suddenly, now that they're in the minority, they also see a moral imperative for bipartisanship. This, from the party that forced Democratic lawmakers to meet in the basement when Republicans were in the majority.

Now that they're in the minority, they seem to be fully embracing Rush Limbaugh's position that "There is no bipartisanship in President Obama's plan. President Obama's definition of bipartisanship is when Republicans cave and agree with his plan so he can then claim it's bipartisan." Limbaugh goes on to say;

"Mine is a genuine compromise. So let's look at how the vote came out, shall we? Fifty-three percent of voters in this country -- we'll say, for the sake of this proposal, 53% of Americans -- voted for Obama. Forty-six percent voted for Senator McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Let's give the remaining 1% to President Obama, so let's say that 54% voted for President Obama and 46% voted for Senator McCain. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009, $540 billion of the one trillion will be spent on infrastructure as defined by President Obama and the Democrats. The remaining $460 billion, or 46% that voted for Senator McCain, will be directed towards tax cuts, as determined by me."

Someone needs to point out to Limbaugh and the Republican leadership that their newly embraced idea of bipartisan governing is un-American. They're proposing another form of government–a coalition government--and that's not how we do things in the United States. If we did govern in that manner, however, Al Gore would have controlled the government after the 2000 election. After all, he did win the majority of the votes.

As usual, Limbaugh's retreaded, Republican answer for everything is tax cuts for the rich. But we've been down that road before, several times, and it's always been a disaster. Why should we give the very same people who recklessly wasted the initial bailout money even more tax cuts?

The fact is, this Republican plan, as all Republican plans, is nothing more than yet another attempt to undo the New Deal. The Republican Party's only reason for being for the past seventy years has been to reverse the provisions of President Franklin Roosevelt's landmark legislation that literally rescued Americans from having to sell apples on the street to survive. But the New Deal is much too popular to be successfully attacked legislatively, so the neo-cons decided to use this farce of a war in Iraq to both rob the American people of the means to fund the programs created by the New Deal, and at the same time, enrich themselves beyond measure. But their greedfest got out of hand, as it always does (see Ronald Reagan disaster), which led directly to our current condition.

The Republican stimulus plan is ridiculous on it's face. In short, it's a scam. Fact: No one is going to create jobs until the average American has enough money to purchase what is produced. It is that fact has always made Republicans miserable failures in managing the economy, going all the way back to the Great Depression.

So why should we listen to Republicans? Why should President Obama even consider allowing people who lost their own child for child abuse to become foster parents? If it was up to me, I'd relegate them to the basement. That's the only good idea they've had in seventy years.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Republican Rape of America


The Republican Rape of America

The Republican leadership and their corporate cronies have systematically brutalized and raped America. Now they're insisting that we give them a bonus instead of treating our wounds. Those are literally the facts, but why are so many Americans blind to the assault? In short, we've been brainwashed.

The Republican Party has demonstrated repeatedly that they are lousy at governance but there are none better when it comes to marketing their philosophy–and they should be, because they have but one philosophy–to divide and conquer. It would be inaccurate to call them racist, however, because they don't care any more about poor and middle class White people than they do minorities, but neither do they have any qualms about using racism and division to advance their interests.

Ironically, conservative Republicans have taken the Democratic Party's primary strength and used it against both the Democratic Party, and the American people as a whole. First they took the Democratic Party's penchant for being concerned with the plight of America and coin phrases like "bleeding heart liberals" and "tax and spend Democrats." Then they played on middle class frustration by tying civil rights, welfare, and crime into one neat bundle, and then attributed all of America's problems to the Democrat Party's tendency to be compassionate, or what they call, "bleeding heart liberals."

The genius of that strategy was by engaging it, the Republican Party not only managed to demonize minorities as welfare cheats and criminals who only want to avoid work and prey on the middle class, but it also allowed them to tie all of those negative images to the liberal agenda. Then by using people like Rush Limbaugh and other Republican propagandists, they repeatedly hammered that message home until they convinced many poor and middle class White people to vote against their own best interests. After all, they didn't want to be aligned with "liberals," welfare cheats, and criminals–they're loyal and "hard-working" Americans.

Thus, the Republican Party's entire agenda is about smoke, mirrors, and demonization in order to distract the American people. Take that ugly word "liberal" for example. The American Heritage Dictionary defines liberal as "Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry." What? An undereducated person wouldn't even recognize that definition. The way Rush Limbaugh spits it out you'd think liberal meant "one who stomps kittens and molests young children."

On the other hand, The American Heritage Dictionary defines conservative as, "Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change." While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that definition–that is, unless you happen to be a woman, Black, gay, poor, or different in any way--the definition is just as significant in what it doesn't say as what it does. In the final phrase under "liberal" the definition says, "free of bigotry," while in the final phrase under conservative it says, "tending to oppose change."

That distinction is not insignificant since "traditional views and values" render each of the groups indicated above subservient–and by definition, conservatives oppose any change in that regard. In addition, the phrase "free of bigotry" is conspicuously absent in the dictionary definition. Thus, Republican talking points not withstanding, even the dictionary recognizes their underlining agenda.

But what Republicans are against is just as instructive as what they are for. During the recent bailout, Republicans responded to corporate fat-cats giving themselves huge bonuses with taxpayer bailout money with just a few whimpers and some scattered and perfunctory whining. But when President Obama proposed spending taxpayer money on schools, police and firemen, you could hear their wail across the land. What makes protecting our communities, and educating American children more wasteful than giving out huge bonuses, perks, and jets to corporate fat-cats? There are three answers to that question.

First, when we spend money on the American people, it takes away from their piece of the pie. They'd rather take that money and give even larger windfalls to their cronies--the very same fat-cats that they bought the jets for. While they claim the fat-cats are going to use that money to create jobs, we just saw exactly what they're actually going to do with it by the way they handled the bailout money--they're going to use it to wine, dine, and enrich themselves.

The second reason that every Republican member of the house, and all but three in the senate, voted against helping the American people is that they didn't want to risk undoing all the time and effort that they put into brainwashing us. It wasn't easy trying to teach the American people that thinking of themselves was selfish, morally repugnant, and a form of socialism. But you've got to hand it to the Republicans, when you consider the unrestrained greed of the corporate fat-cats that we just witnessed, it is truly unbelievable how they continue to keep Americans in the dark.

Which brings us to the third reason–education. After addressing the first two issues, it shouldn't be hard to understand why Republicans are against funding education–their very survival depends on an undereducated electorate. It's not easy to get people to vote against their own interests, and it would be next to impossible if the people were properly educated. The survival of Republican Party is totally dependent on a non-thinking electorate who will have a knee-jerk reaction to the fallacy of the "isms."

In spite of the fact that the only way that America can possibly survive is through a highly educated citizenry, the Republican Party simply cannot afford an educated electorate. How can they survive in an environment where you have citizens asking, "Now, how is giving these fat-cats my money going to get them to create jobs, if you don't leave me with enough money to purchase what they produce?" They simply cannot have that kind of independent thinking running rampant throughout the nation. They need a population that's so dumb that every time they holler "socialism" we'll hand over our piggy banks.

They need to keep us so ignorant that they can convince us that a government job is not really a job, it's just meaningless work, while at the same time, blind to the fact that they've been feeding from the public troff for the past thirty years.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Republican Party–a Threat to America


The Republican Party–a Threat to America

One of the Republican Party's most enduring talking points is that the Bush administration has kept America safe since 9-11, but what evidence do we have of that? Even as the Bush administration bragged about their security efforts, they left both our front and back doors wide open. The two primary entry points into the United States are all but short of a welcome sign.

In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on September 27, 2007, Greg Kutz of the Government Accountability Office testified that GAO investigators were able to cross into the United States from Canada with a duffle bag filled with contents resembling radioactive material on three different occasions during the fall of 2006. He went on to testify that they did so without encountering even one law enforcement official. And as everyone knows, our Southern border is an absolute sieve. If Jose Garcia can simply walk across the Mexican border into the United States, what's to prevent Osama Abdul from doing exactly the same?

So the Republican claim that they've kept America safe is clearly a myth. It's much more likely that America has not been attacked since 9-11 because Osama Bin Laden rationalized, why waste perfectly good terrorists to destroy America when Bush, Cheney, and the Republican Party were doing the job for him.

America is much more than a piece of real estate. The heart of America is the American ideal. Even George Bush somehow recognized that, but even as he claimed that terrorists hated America because they hated our freedom, he was actively assaulting those very same freedoms. So if Bush's claim was indeed true, both he, and Dick Cheney, were Osama's most valuable allies.

The problem is, the Republican leadership suffers from a sense of entitlement. They feel they have a moral right to control the power and resources of America, for the enhancement their own personal benefit and greed. Thus, the American people are nothing more than pawns to them. We represent inconvenient but necessary nuisances to help them further their imperialistic goals. After all, without us, who's going to fight their wars? Their strain of thinking was clear even as this nation was being established.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the fathers of the conservative movement stated the following:

"All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and wellborn, the other the mass of the people.... The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and as they cannot receive an advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government."
Debates of the Federalist Convention (May 14-September 17, 1787).

So Mr. Hamilton took the condescending attitude that unless you were rich, or as he put it, "wellborn," you didn't have any sense, so your right to even participate in government should be limited at best. The "wellborn," on the other hand, should be given a "distinct and permanent" share in government.

We see that very same kind of condescension toward the American people in the Republican leadership today. That accounts for why the neo-cons--in spite of the fact that almost to a man, they all avoided military service--saw no contradiction in sending the children of the poor and middle class Americans to fight and die in the desert for lack of proper equipment. That's why they also had no problem with making these same Americans pay for their own meals as they laid in the hospital fighting for their lives from wounds sustained "in defense" of this country, while at the same time, these neo-cons were indulging in a greedfest, and throwing billions of dollars away so recklessly that it can't even be accounted for. It also explains why Dick Cheney's Halliburton saw nothing wrong with grossly overcharging the American taxpayer to provide our troops with contaminated water.

And this isn't the first time that Republicans showed a reckless disregard for the American people. After the stock market crashed during Herbert Hoover's administration, 15,000 WWI veterans marched on Washington demanding that they be paid what they were owed by the government. Hoover responded by calling in federal troops to throw these ex-servicemen off government property. Hoover's Republican administration tossed these brave veterans to the side like they were dealing with soiled toilet paper.

That brings us to our current situation. As I pointed out in a previous article, there should be no doubt in our minds that the Republican leadership has a vested interest in doing everything they can to work against America. As they see it, the only way that they can regain control of this government is for Americans to suffer like they've never suffered before–and they're doing everything in their power to see to it that is exactly what happens. So America needs to keep its eyes open, because the harder President Obama fights to cure America's ills, the harder the Republican Party is going to fight against him.

Clear evidence of that is their elevation of Michael Steele to Chairman of the Republican National Committee–the very first Black man to that position in its 153-year history. Coincident? Republican enlightenment? I don't think so. They simply figured that they needed another Black man to get down-and-dirty with President Obama--because it certainly couldn't be because of Steele's brilliance. His very first pronouncement was to try to convince a hungry America that the jobs program that President Obama created to meet their needs is an illusion"it's not a real job, it's just work." But somebody needs to inform Mr. Steele that whatever he chooses to call it, rather it be "job" or "work," it serves to feed children and save homes.

Further evidence is that Rush Limbaugh was dumb enough to admit that he hopes Obama fails. Put plainly, what he was actually saying was he hopes that America suffers, because that's exactly what's going to happen if the president doesn't succeed. And finally, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that the GOP should look to the Taliban for guidance on how the Republicans should go about disrupting President Obama's rescue program. And that's exactly how the American people should look upon the Republican Party, just like we do the Taliban–as a fierce threat to the American people.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Secretary of the Arts? Sounds Like a Plan


Secretary of the Arts? Sounds Like a Plan

Quincy Jones, musician, composer, and arranger extraordinaire, has started a petition that has drawn to date more than 220,000 signatures , asking President Obama to consider adding a Secretary of the Arts as a cabinet level post in his administration.

At first blush that might sound rather frivolous in a nation that's involved in two wars, have people losing their homes, and is currently involved in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. But when given thoughtful consideration, it might just be exactly what America needs, and could very well turn out to be one of the most important cabinet posts in an Obama administration.

What President Obama needs right now is a way to offset Republican efforts against him, and to rally the American people around his programs, initiatives and efforts--and there's no better way to do that than to enlist the assistance of the entertainment and arts community.

Everyone one is essentially in agreement that America is in for some hard times ahead, but America's economic woes are not the biggest threat to this nation. We're going to get past that-- the biggest threat to this nation is the loss of the American spirit, and our confidence that we can survive this crisis. Thus, an organized and highly motivated arts and entertainment community can help us to address that issue, and they can also be of tremendous value in our foreign policy efforts.

Look at the value that our entertainment community provided during the Great Depression and WWII. They rallied America's efforts close to single-handedly. They both kept America focused on its goal, and also gave us the motivation to reach that goal. It was a well trained and courageous military that won the battles overseas, but it was Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and the Maguire Sisters that won the battle on the domestic front. And as a result of these efforts, the thirties and forties turned out to be one of the most highly productive and creative periods in this nation's history.

We must also acknowledge that America has a cunning and insidious domestic foe to overcome. In spite of their rhetoric and pledges to the contrary, the Republican Party has a vested interest in seeing America fail. They see they're interest as totally opposed to that of the American people. So when Rush Limbaugh said he hopes President Obama fails, he wasn't alone in that point of view, he was just the only one dumb enough to say it out loud.

So let there be no doubt about the fact that there is nothing the Republican Party won't do to undermine President Obama's efforts to cure America's woes--with the possible exception of promoting those initiatives that enhance the business interest of their fat-cat friends. We should also not delude ourselves in the understanding that absolutely nothing would make the Republican leadership more effusive with delighted than seeing the American people suffer like we've never suffered before for the next four years. Therefore, we can expect them to pull out all stops to obstruct, frustrate, and delay, all efforts to bring relief to America's poor and middle class under President Obama's administration.

That's where a strong and influential secretary of the arts would be of great value. An organized entertainment and arts community could be used to put both social and political pressure on the Republican leadership against sabotaging the American people. The arts community could rally the people to such a fever pitch over curing our national woes, that any efforts by the Republican Party to sabotage that effort would be political suicide. If the American people can be rallied to give their lives in a senseless war, they can certainly be rallied in their own best interest.

Finally, and just as important to the nation's long-term goals, an innovative and influential secretary of the arts could have an extremely positive influence on both artistic responsibility, and the use of the arts as an educational tool. He or she could engage the nation, and the arts community, in a discussion over using the arts to enhance our lives, rather than drag us down. That doesn't mean to engage in censorship, but rather, to promote, educate, and encourage personal responsibility through the arts--with everything from cartoons, movies, and music, to the advertising billboards along our roads and highways.

We could use the arts to change the way we relate to one another. We could promote knowledge, education, and community enhancement as cool, and crime, drug use, and irresponsibility as uncool–in other words, do just the opposite of what we're currently doing.

So I'd say, let's go for it. It may be just what we need to turn our society around. We already have everything we need in place, so now all we need is the will to do it, and someone influential and creative enough to change our mindset. We could even take a page out of GW's book, and call it, "A War on Ignorance."

Now that's a war I could rally behind.

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Republicans: "Look Y'all--We Got Us One Too"


Republicans: "Look Y'all–We Got Us One Too!"

I hate to be cynical, and I certainly hate to drag the issue of race back into the public debate while President Obama and literally millions of Americans of good will are working so hard to put this ugly issue behind us, but where I come from we believe in calling a hat a hat. And the fact is, the Republican Party's selection of Michael Steele as the very first Black chairman of the Republican National Committee in its 153 year history just reeks of political manipulation.

But I'm virtually certain that my Republican friends are going to say, "We just can't win–first you criticize us for not being inclusive enough, now you're criticize us for electing a Black man as head of the party. Exactly what do we have to do to make you happy?"

Well, I can't answer for the rest of America, but I can answer for myself. What I would personally like to see is a Republican Party that INCLUDES minorities, not use them–and I think that's exactly what's going on with Steele–he is being used, even though it's with gleeful delight on his part–but that's exactly why the effort is going to fall flat on its face.

One of the Republican Party's biggest assets is also its greatest liability–it's clumsy. The party leaders are so out of touch with any reality other than the acquisition of power and wealth that they're totally oblivious to how clumsily transparent the elevation of Steele actually is. But their clumsiness and lack of finesse is also they're greatest asset, because many people in this country (and I'm sure I'm going to hear from them) simply refuse to believe the Republican leaders are so dumb that they think they can fool anyone with such a ploy, so they accept the gesture as sincere.

But anyone with an ounce of sense can see that this is a gimmick. Republicans were defeated so badly in the last election, and Obama is so popular, that they figure Black must be the political flavor of the season, so they went out and "got them one"–it didn't matter who, just long as his skin was dark. But again, they're so politically jaded that they're completely out of touch with the American people.

The American people didn't elect President Obama because he's Black, they elected him because he demonstrated that he was an intelligent, competent, statesman. He was also elected so overwhelmingly because for the past eight years the Republican Party has clearly demonstrated that it was overflowing with corruption, incompetence, and greed . So while it's hard for the RNC to believe, for the very first time, we had an election that was based strictly on the issues and relative competence, and not race.

But back to the RNC's failure to understand the American people. If part of the Republican calculation was that by making a Black man head of the Republican Party it was going to help their numbers in the Black community, they're going to be sadly disappointed.–in fact, they've hurt the Republican brand even more. If they'd ever taken the time to truly get to know the Black community, they would have known that the only thing more toxic to Black people than a flat-out racist, is a Black conservative, with the notable exception of Colin Powell–because we suspect he's not truly conservative, just loyal.

Most Black people have very little use for Black conservatives. It's not that we disagree with everything they say, but because we're suspect of the reasons they're saying it.Without exception, every Black conservative I've come across is an opportunist. Their conservatism tends not to be so much grounded in their actual philosophy as it is an opportunity to gain exposure. They realize that conservatives are looking high and low for Black people who will step forward to validate their views towards the Black community. So they gleefully allow themselves to be used in return for personal wealth, position, and notoriety.

Clarence Thomas is a case in point. There is no way that a man of his renowned level of mediocrity should be sitting on the highest court of this land--he shouldn't even be allowed to sit in traffic court. But due exclusively to his willingness to validate the conservative view of Black America, he's been given one of this nation's highest honors.

Thus, most Black people look upon Thomas precisely the same way as White American's look upon a man guilty of treason against the United States--and other Black conservatives are not far behind.Why? Because most of these people would have voted against the Civil Rights Act for their own personal gain if they'd had the chance. And to demonstrate how transparent they are, Thomas took the unprecedented action of lobbying his colleagues to except a meritless challenge to Barack Obama's eligibility to become president, but he didn't say a word as the Supreme Court literally appointed George Bush president after the 2000 election.

People like Thomas tend to be self-serving, and wholly lacking in character. Black people have suffered with a long history of such people, going all the way back to slavery. These were the very same people who would informed on slaves who were trying to escape to freedom: "I don't know what's wrong wit him, boss. Ya jest can't get him to appreciate nothin' you do for us. What he needs is a real good beatin'. Want me to do it?"

But I guess one could say, that's a gross generalization. How can you justify putting that baggage on Michael Steele? Well, a Wikipedia article points to some of his activities during his 2006 run against Benjamin Cardin for the Paul Sarbane's U. S. Senate seat:

"The Washington Post reported that on election day the Steele campaign arranged for buses of low income people from Philadelphia to distribute fliers at polls. The flyers contained incorrect information, including a statement that Michael Steele was endorsed by prominent state Democrats and African American leaders who had not, in fact, endorsed him. The homeless people were falsely identified as volunteers although they were paid, and the campaign funds used for this purpose of hiring the homeless were not timely or properly reported or attributed to the campaign".

Then, "Just prior to beginning his campaign Steele defended former Gov. Bob Ehrlich's decision to hold a $100,000 fund-raiser at a country club that did not have any non-white members, saying that the club's membership's policies were "not an issue" because "I don't know that much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't play golf.'"

Eric L. Wattree

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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