Friday, September 01, 2006

Preface to a series of posts on US political issues

I have revived ABAN because readers who come to Executioners Thong looking for mild mannered aphorisms of vaguely humanist bent should not have to endure many long posts in the bile-scented tone of my political exposition that won't let up until November. What energizes me at the moment, beside the predictable bad news the bush league policies are accruing, is two copies of Time magazine, the issues just before and just after Nov 2, 2004. This miscarriage of democracy must not repeated. Except for the picture of Kerry, exhausted and alone for a minute late on the election day, the entire magazine lacks reality and flows with the glib empty talk of "values" and the baseless optimism of Republican party merchants of mendacious mediocrity and the masses they had just duped. The picture of the young faces transported in gleeful roars at the Republican headquarters as the victory emerged from the numbers that evening is truly could so many be fooled? How could such clearly damaging policies and empty promises be embraced so enthusiastically? Are they still roaring? Has their unit been called up yet?

I plan to write up my own series of "resource kit" posts on issues I really care about. I am not better informed and certainly not a better writer than you will encounter in the extensive top tier of blogs that have been calling bullsh*t on Bush/Cheney/Rove for years. My own reading barely gets to my personal top 10: myDD, TPM, Atrios, Daily Kos, Pandagon, Shakespeare's Sister, FireDogLake, Agonist, Scienceblogs. If you read here, you may already be reading those: tell a friend who has not discovered the reality-based alternative to the money+media machine politics. The flag ship blogs are already outflanking the MSM and their "all the news that fits our owners and advertiser's mindset" product.

Why would I do such a superfluous thing? Surely there will be many well crafted bulleted lists of what to say , what facts to cite, which names to name. Surely. But I want my own lists and I want to be fluent in the background.

Before you moan to yourself that you don't need yet another amateur op-ed liberal bleating to other liberals, consider what ice berg must lie before the titanically funded Republican campaign if the hundred or 50 blogroll links found on the side column of most liberal blogs are just the tip. The significance of the thousands like me is that there is an iceberg ahead for government by stupidity, of stupidity for cupidity. I will spot light a few of my favorites among these blueblogging masses with each of my "issues" posts. I will list the best go-to blogs I know of on particular issues as I deal with each issue. As issue-specific bundles, with a set of links on the template to keep them handily collected, they may come in handy. I mean to stick to a format:
  1. link to news, and other's opinion pieces that have informed my views.
  2. list of expert sources
  3. list of worthy amateur political commenters: we are so very many, I tell you.
  4. what I see as the basic mistake [if any] in current policy
  5. what policy I would personally like to see
  6. what heads should roll , who currently is saying the smartest things, my favorite candidate.
  7. optionally, what the issue's effect is on me or my family, something narrative perhaps.
  8. I will revise these posts if anyone enlarges my understanding of the issue and I will rank them based on hits+comment count.
Granted, the opinions will be personal and the facts are a labor to present fairly. I only hope you can use them to arm yourself in your own debates with the forces of darkness. If all I do is show there is yet one more voice to be heard demanding progress, fairness, rationality and representation from our government, then most concretely I have supported the contention that we are many. If all I do, as a formerly apolitical engineer concocting my own set of talking points, is show that any ordinary citizen can come up with a list of dangerously cockeyed and selfish motives and misunderstandings in power similar to the lists from the likes of Josh Marshal or Jane Hamsher, then I ratify the punditry: we ought not take anyone's word if we can't independently reach the same conclusions and we demonstrate thinking for yourself is not just good practice, its inherently liberal. This is how I live in a democracy and why Dubya is afraid of the internets [someone tell him how many internets there are...after the election]. (Well, assuming I don't conclude the party of King George has got it right;?)

Yee Haaw! We're about to find out just how dangerous lame-brained + lame duck really is!

Go Ahead, make my pay

This article that NYTimes put right at the top of its web edition front page Monday morning, [which, will go behind the paywall in a week, sorry, no permalink] should give most Democrats and, indeed, all us whiny lib'ruls, a stout helping of the sad pleasure of "I told you so". We have complained all along that the Republicans took unfair care of industries that donated heavily and lobbied heavily. We have pointed out for six years that Bush policy drains money not only from workers but from the economy as a whole by racking up unprecedented debt and erasing even the pretense that Republicans understand why nations have to balance budgets.

Our worst expectations have included the prospect that Republican prosperity only means corporate prosperity, a kind of wealth that only "trickles down" to the CEO and the boards of directors and the bond holders. If only the Republicans had met their own expectations half so well! The Home Depots, the oil companies, the Haliburtons and so on, are the economy in the minds of Bush and his advisors. I don't suppose many of the super-rich who steer these companies and so generously gave their money and their executives to the Republican campaign and administration have actually sat around thinking or saying to each other "how can we screw workers?" Simply saying "how can we make and keep as much money as possible this quarter for ourselves and our shareholders" has pretty much the same effect as long as that greed enjoys the leverage of unreformed campaign finance laws and massive K Street influence buyers.

So here in black and white is the harvest of Republican priorities, most of us are losing ground:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

And the Republicans still don't think that there is any real problem with their economic priorities.

“Some people who aren’t partisans say, ‘Yes, the economy’s pretty good, so why are people so agitated and anxious?’ ” said Frank Luntz, a Republican campaign consultant. “The answer is they don’t feel it in their weekly paychecks.”

But Mr. Luntz predicted that the economic mood would not do significant damage to Republicans this fall because voters blamed corporate America, not the government, for their problems.

Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration, layoffs and technology — as well as the insecurity caused by them — appear to have eroded workers’ bargaining power.

Blogging is a leasure activity for most of us but my particular data point is that leasure is less available than ever for me. I only make money by working, MY taxes have taken the same size chunk out of my pay all through this administration thanks to AMT. America, do you not know greed when it puts a gun to your ribs?

Theories and speculations are interesting but the facts are damning enough...balance your news intake so you have the facts. When engaged, just don't let anyone misinterpret them. Media manipulation is a problem but we all work with much the same data and the manipulation's worst effect is in letting the average citizen opt for the selfrighteous, selfcongratulating conclusion from the facts. As much as the Republicans have lied to us, more of the problem is in our willingness to opt for the interpretations that make us comfortable or do not challenge the way we like to think of ourselves. These easy lies to voters must not stand, and do not find support in the facts. Todays lie: The corporations are doing OK so you voters must be doing OK.