Friday, July 18, 2008

Big Oil's Ox Gored by Big Al

I haven't written on the subject of the environment here, yet, despite that it is a subject to which I have devoted hours and hours of my time in both study and action over the past year. Yesterday, something happened to change that. Former Vice President Al Gore--the very man who would be our president today if not for the greatest political embezzlement ever perpetrated upon the human race--gave a speech on the necessity of converting 100% of America's energy production to solar and wind power within ten years. I strongly urge you to use the link on the left side of this page--under "More Deserving Dots"--to see and hear the 30-minute speech yourself. Al Gore says more in this speech that could secure the future of our children and our children's children's than all of the speeches made by the current administration over the past seven years.

I'm not going to summarize what Mr. Gore says in my blog. I'd rather use the bytes to urge you to contemplate two things: 1) What might the US and the rest of the world look like today if the occupant of the White House over the last seven years had been AG instead of GWB?; and 2)How did it happen that American presidents are chosen not for the content of their ideas or character but by the timing of their sighs or their appeal on television?

How is it that GWB's dereliction of duty in the Air National Guard during wartime and his connections with Big Oil received less air time on the major networks and cable channels than AG's alleged "exaggerations" about his influence on the development of the Internet? Does a candidate's style really matter more than what she or he does? Answer: only if her or his style can be spun to instill enough fear in the electorate to overcome the things she or he does that scare the hell out of the people who own the news media.

I fault Al Gore--and his party--for being far too wimpy about the events of November and December of 2000. It seems to me that liberals/progressives are overly sensitive to the feelings of others--to the point that they let neoconservative's zealotry run roughshod over the truth, even at the cost of a very important election.

However, the mainstream media also had a vital role to play, in that--as Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols explain in their brilliant book, Our Media Not Theirs--they were far too amenable to listen to the Republican mantra that the voters had declared Bush II the winner and the Democrats were trying to forestall their will. This came about the moment the networks and newspapers became businesses and not purveyors of news. With staffing cutbacks and greater fiscal dependency on advertising, reporters became--as McChesney and Nichols claim--mere stenographers, capturing the words of partisan elitists of the left and right without inquiry into wherein lay the truth. It took Greg Palast, writing for British news media, to reveal the truth about the disenfranchisement of thousands of poor Florida voters--a direct attack on democracy that could well have, by itself, changed the outcome of the election.

Well, you may say, but that's ancient history. It couldn't happen today. If you feel this way, I encourage you to post a reply and tell me why you feel that way. I only see things getting worse when it comes to mainstream media in the US.

As for Al Gore's energy plan, all I can say is that it's bold, workable, and will be fought tooth-and-nail by the likes of Exxon/Mobile and the coal and natural gas industries. I'm with him 100%, however, and will give time and money to the effort to bring it into fruition. I don't call myself "Legacy Guy" for nothing. I believe that the greatest mission of my (Baby Boomer) generation is to make it possible for my children and their children to live, first of all, and, beyond that, to live healthy and happy lives. I'm willing to make sacrifices to make that happen but I don't see Gore's plan as being one that calls for a great deal of sacrifice. I see it as one that will do far more for real people than did Kennedy's dream of putting an American on the moon. It will be expensive--Gore estimates as much as $3 trillion over the next decade. That's roughly what the ill-advised and -fated war in Iraq will cost us before it's over. Consider what we will have when the money's spent on Gore's project compared to what we will have when all our soldiers are home from Iraq.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Case against Moderation, Part 2

Arianna Huffington said it best, I think, in her recent blog piece titled, "Memo to Obama: Moving to the Middle Is for Losers". She wrote, "Fixating on--and pandering to--[undecided swing voters] is all about messaging tailored to avoid offending rather than to inspire and galvanize....In 2004, the Kerry campaign's obsession with undecided voters--voters so easily swayed that 46 percent of them found credible the Swift Boaters' charges that Kerry might have faked his war wounds to earn a Purple Heart--allowed the race to devolve from a referendum on the future of the country into a petty squabble over whether Kerry had bled enough to warrant his medals". [For more, see]

Since I wrote the first installment of The Case against Moderation three weeks ago, it has become pretty plain that Sen. Barack Obama has been told by his oh-so-well-paid advisors that the way to win is to take a lesson from the New Democrats/Democratic Leadership Council/Blue Dog Democrats crowd and tack right until the left shore is out of sight. With his newly-minted positions on "Free Trade", FISA, gun control, the death penalty, and, now, "faith-based" social programs, Sen. Obama risks so compromising his political cache and audacity of hope that, like Gore and Kerry, he will find the McCain campaign defining him to the voters in their way, not his. He is beginning to look--unfairly or not--like any other Washington beltway politician. Perhaps that is because he spends too much time listening to Washington beltway pundits.

So-called "swing voters" are, by their very definition, the political equivalent of vanilla ice cream--they take on the flavor of whatever is poured, spooned, or dipped over them. This may also be true of many independents, though I'm sure not all. Swing voters are as likely to be swayed to vote for someone because of the color of their spouse's hair as any one issue. The fact is, for many of them, they couldn't care less about politics, history, science, or political genius. They like what they like, end of story. Moving to the right to appease these voters on the issues is a very risky gamble. Mostly importantly, it confuses and alienates the very base that gave Obama the nomination. Secondly, it confuses those voters who don't quite understand what Democrats stand for and validates those who say there's no difference between the two parties.

We all know what Republicans stand for--small [ineffective] government, low [skewed in favor of the rich] taxes, a strong [exorbitant] defense, cozy relationships with big business, and winning at all costs. But what does the Democratic side of the slate look like? Right now, it's blank because Democrats keep erasing what was written there yesterday and replacing it with something designed to offend as few voters as possible. They used to be for a strong social safety net for the poor and the elderly, civil rights for all, prudent budgets with a vital middle class, and a best-in-the-world military. That was the legacy of FDR and Truman. Now, the Democratic mantra seems to be, "we have to work with the Republicans to avoid the appearance of obstructionism (or elitism or lack of patriotism or whatever other pejorative the other side happens to be slinging at the moment". The Party of the People that used to stand against injustice like a mighty oak has turned out to be hollowed out, filled with worms...just when the country needs it to stand strong the most.

Here's what I would like to say to Senator Obama:

If our country is ripe for change, as you seem to believe it is and as your campaign's success in the primaries seems to prove, that change will not come from the middle. As Albert Einstein once said, "The same thinking that got us where we are is not going to get us where we should be (I'm liberally paraphrasing)." We need a president with a rare vision to see the future and the path that will steer this ship of state away from the shoals. The people see you as a leader with the vision to take their hands and lead them to a more gentle America. Not everyone has that same vision and like all great leaders--Abe Lincoln comes to mind--you can listen to them for what they might have to offer. But there comes a time when a leader must connect the dots where others may not even see dots and lead, not cajole, nor pander, nor equivocate, BUT LEAD US TO THE LIGHT AS GOD HAS GIVEN HIM OR HER TO SEE THE LIGHT.

So, keep your eye on the prize, be true to yourself, and take us there by the strength of your convictions. We will be there beside you, proud as you, and just as confident that our world will heal, not from making nice with tyrants, but from pursuing the hard, tough course that will lead us away from sure madness and destruction. Surely, the challenge you face is no less daunting than that of Lincoln. If you are not willing to risk division, as he did, you cannot bring a resolution to the existential issues that face us today.

FDR once said in a fireside chat that he "welcomed" the hatred of those of the well-healed elite who felt that he was a traitor to his class. If you pursue the course that I have recommended, you will be hated by some, Sen. Obama. But you will be loved by many others. This is the fate of those who have the courage of their convictions and the power of effect real change. It cannot be helped. Welcome it. Your legacy will save our children and their children and they will sing your praises unto the seventh generation. Godspeed to you, Sen. Obama. A proud nation awaits.