Who Is Responsible?

I’m reading this NY Times story about the Democrats trying to find a message, etc. I don’t agree that the problem is that the Democrats don’t have a message, or that it is their responsibility to develop one. Politicians RESPOND to the public. That’s their job. A while back I wrote a piece about this, Don’t Blame the Democrats. I’m going to repeat and expand on that piece here, and tell you who I blame – who I challenge to step up to the plate and fix this problem.

I have written about how the right has in place a broad, extremely well-funded “idea development and communication infrastructure” and how this has successfully moved the public to the right. This infrastructure consists of think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (the people who brought you the Iraq war) to develop and refine their ideology, and a communications infrastructure that pumps their message out. This is the “message amplification infrastructure.” Some of the communication channels are Rush Limbaugh and all of AM radio, Fox News and most of the TV pundits, the Washington Times and other newspapers, various magazines, various book publishers, and numerous organizations endlessly repeating the ideological messages to the public.

As I wrote before: “After the public has been barraged with the messaging from The Mighty Wurlizter, the Republican politicians step in and harvest the results.” In other words, politicians respond to the public. To change the country don’t rely on the politicians, instead you must change the public. This is how the right has accomplished so much. They have been pumping their ideological message to the public, following a long-term strategy, and over time succeeded in moving the public to the right. Only then would the public vote for their candidates.

As one example of this process, let’s look at the right’s movement to get rid of public schools. For so many years the right-wing infrastructure has been pumping out the message that “public schools are failing.” After some time, hearing this message over and over, a consensus grows that there is a problem with public schools. Right-wing politicians can then promise “solutions,” like vouchers, and their message resonates with a public that is primed to believe there is a “problem” requiring a solution. This public is also primed, through repetition of other messaging, to believe that private companies are more effective than government, etc. So the environment for accepting private schools as a “solution” to the “problem” of failing public schools has been set up. (It doesn’t matter if there really is a problem, as long as a large enough share of the voting public believes there is.)

Now contrast this with the progressive approach to the health care problem. A progressive politician can come to the public saying we need “single-payer health insurance” or even the shorter “universal health care.” The response from the public is going to be, “What?” because so few of the public have heard of these terms, much less been pounded with progressive messages about the problems with the health care system. So the way things work now, progressive politicians have to come in explaining from scratch the problems, and trying to educate the public with their detailed solutions. This is because the support base for their ideas was not developed in advance by a comparable ideological infrastructure.

Do we blame the Democrats for this? The Republican Party “harvests” the environment set up by the well-funded “idea development and communication infrastructure.” But it wasn’t the Republican Party that set up this infrastructure. So I don’t think we can blame the Democratic Party for the absence of a comparable infrastructure on the left. The right-wing infrastructure was set up by a few right-wing philanthropists with a vision and not by the Republican Party.

So when looking for someone to “blame” perhaps we should look to someone other than Democratic politicians. Perhaps we should look to the people who FUND moderates and progressives. Let me explain what I mean.

Here’s how the right manages to have such an infrastructure in place, while progressives and moderates are left struggling with each other and barely getting their messages out to the public. There’s a lot of money out there on the right, but there’s also a lot of moderate and progressive money out there. The difference is that the right uses its money to provide general operating funding to “advocacy” organizations that exist to come up with ways to convince the public to vote Republican. The organizations on the right are funded just to exist, and the money continues year after year, so they do not have to spend so much of their time raising money, instead concentrating on effectively carrying out their ideological objectives.

On the other hand, moderate and progressive philanthropists have traditionally provided money for specific programs with the intent of doing good in specific ways. This system of “program funding” evolved as the best way to apply scarce resources to projects with goals for which there was a general public consensus of support. This system evolved at a time when helping the poor, protecting the environment were all widely supported by the public.

But now the right’s ideology machine has eroded that public support, and the programs funded by this system are less effective. The right uses their machine to get politicians elected that will carry out their agenda of dismantling almost everything that the moderates and progressives have been funding. When this happens, the moderate and progressive money is wasted. The example I like to use is a program to protect a redwood grove, costing $500,000 a year for the last 10 years. But now an elected official issues a decree that the best way to protect forests from fire is to remove the trees, or an ideological judge rules that trees are better used for industry — and just like that the redwood grove is gone, and the $5,000,000 spent over 10 years is completely wasted. AND on top of that the local radio stations are mocking the funders as “evironmental whackos” or “eco-terrorists,” and perhaps people are picketing their offices with signs saying they are “anti-capitalist.”

Program funding was not designed to counter the current destructive opposition from the right. Moderate and progressive funding must start taking this into account, and start building an infrastructure that reaches the general public with messaging that moves underlying attitudes back toward moderate and progressive principles. This would provide an environment where moderates and progressives can get public support to protect the programs that are so important to all of us.

Moderate and progressive philanthropists must step up to the plate. As with anything that has been in place for a long time, program funding is an entrenched system, with bureaucracies in place, and lots of careers depending on the system staying just the way it is. But moderate and progressive philanthropists and foundations must recognize that this is no longer the most effective use of their money. Moderate and progressive philanthropists and foundations must step up to the plate and begin providing general operating funding to advocacy organizations who will work to move the public back away from this right-wing ideological nonsense that we have been subjected to for so long! This will provide an underlying base of support for the programs we all care about. This will help persuade the public to elect candidates who will protect the programs they care about. This will persuade the public to support the organizations that are trying so hard to protect the environment and help the poor and all the rest. We all need the work done to strengthen the underlying public attitudes of support for these goals, to strengthen and build the base of support upon which the organizations and programs rest.

If you are fortunate enough to have possession of so much of the resources, you have the responsibility to use them in the best possible way. You have the duty to see that there is a threat from the right that must be countered. It is not the job of a political party – politicians respond to the public. It is your job to use your resources to educate the public, to move them back from the right, to counter the ideological propaganda that the right is bombarding us with, to defend the programs we all care so much about.

Agents of "The Party"

You can see the controversial commencement speech where Chris Hedges was “booed off the stage” online now. You’ll see that while some people stood and turned their backs it was actually just a few of the typically nasty and disruptive right-wing thug types who were shouting and blasting air-horns, even sneaking up and pulling the plug on the microphone. Most of the crowd was sitting calmly, wishing the ruffnecks would shut up. Some were shouting back at them “freedom of speech!” When the Dean asked the disrupting Party Members to allow the speaker to continue the crowd clapped and cheered. When Hedges finished there were as many people clapping as booing. Then some of the thugs rushed the state to threaten Hedges. (Keep in mind as you watch this that Hedges’ message was simply, “war is bad.”)

The message-amplification organs of The Party, fresh from their corporate-sponsored national trashing of the Dixie Chicks, trumpeted this event as another triumph for Bush and The Party, encouraging more of this sort of activity.

So here we have another example of what I’ll call “agents of The Party” using thuggery – violating the rights of the rest of the crowd, shouting down a speaker for opposing The Party, and disrupting the graduation ceremony of a college – only to be praised in the media as heroes. Why do I call them “agents of The Party?” Because this behavior is occurring more and more in Bush’s America, encouraged by “The Wurlitzer.” Drudge shouts headlines of another pansy liberal “booed off the stage.” Rush and Sean and all of AM radio talk about the elitist limousine liberal speaker out of touch with or hating America. Fox tells viewers of the heroes of Rockford patriotically rejecting the anti-American rant. Certainly no one from The Party has spoken up to denounce this type of behavior!

Bush’s failure to condemn this signals his support and understanding of how it benefits his agenda. And occasionally he goes beyond silent approval, as he did with his endorsement the organized, coordinated campaign of intimidation against countries threatening to vote against us at the U.N.

While Bush said he did not expect “significant retribution from the government” against Security Council member nations that didn’t line up with the United States, he pointedly left open the possibility of a popular backlash.

This is not a man condemning thuggery, this is a man gratefully utilizing it.

These Things MATTER!

An excellent column in today’s NY Times, by Bob Herbert, Dancing With the Devil. Companies like Haliburton do business with America’s enemies, and cheat our government. Meanwhile, the Dixie Chicks (and France and so many others) are subjected to an orchestrated campaign of derision from agents of The Party, with the press playing along.

All this energy and public attention focused on political protection of The Party. So little energy and attention focused on actually protecting the country and its people. No probe of the failures of our government to prevent the 9/11 attack, and how we can improve the government’s efforts to stop such attacks, and the relevant documents all classified. No press coverage of The Party blocking the probe. But Haliburton and others are left alone, even rewarded with huge government contracts.

Here’s what I think. 9/11 did “change everything.” 9/11 showed why these things matter. 9/11 showed that the people of our country are vulnerable to attack and why we don’t have time for this political nonsense that the right is subjecting us to. Before 9/11 we got used to orchestrated character assassination campaigns, like that conducted against President Clinton. After 9/11 we should all understand that it is important to stop this kind of nonsense, and restore a free press, because a REAL free press looks into the weaknesses of our government’s efforts to protect us! But instead we get a double dose of propaganda and ass-covering. We get an administration with “no policy apparatus at all” — only political manipulation.

For example, here is why it is important to know if the lack of WMD in Iraq is the result of an intelligence screw-up: If they could screw up that bad on such an important issue, then we have absolutely no assurance that they are effectively protecting us from terrorist attack.

These things MATTER! There ARE people attacking us, and right now we need an honest government and an honest press more than ever.

Today’s Google Experiment

Anyone else old enough to remember just after Reagan took office, one of his “kitchen cabinet” was revealed to be involved in an orgy scene with a model who was later killed with a baseball bat? It’s an intriguing story, and reveals a lot about the history of right-wingers campaigning on “morality” to get votes, then once in office divide up the loot from the US treasury.

For today’s Google experiment let’s search on “bloomingdale vicki morgan baseball bat” and see what turns up.

No WMDs

The right wingers now say that the reason for invading Iraq was to topple the dictator and liberate the Iraqi people.

OK, fine. So, in answer to the pre-war question, “Won’t any Iraq war be a distraction from the war on terrorism, taking necessary resources from the battle to protect the country from al-Queda?,” their answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

In the middle of this “war on terrorism” they took time out “free the Iraqi people.” Great. What about US?

Savage Sleaze

A friend of mine has a website, www.savagestupidity.com. From the website:

Stuck Listening to the Savage Nation,

Even Though You’re a Liberal (or Leftist)?

Or Just a Conservative Fed Up With Michael Savage?

This web site is for you!

Well, he’s getting SUED by Michael Savage! Savage is also trying to take away his domain name savagestupidity.com as a trademark infringement! Go to the savagestupidity website for details.

He needs some help. He doesn’t have the money to get a lawyer to defend himself and to get organized, contact organizations, etc. If you have even an extra $5, please go to his site and donate to help him out! Of course a larger amount would help even more.

I’ll post more as I find out more information.

Oops

Remember the tax cut that passed the Senate because Republican gimmicks made it appear to be “only” $350 billion, which the Democrats had already been tricked into approving? Well, oops, it was really $420 billion. But it’s too late to be stopped now because it has already passed out of the Senate.

And the reason for the oops was that the amount was calculated as if the dividend tax cut applied only to dividends paid out of “current-year earnings.” But, from the same story, “Due to a drafting error, the tax cut actually covered dividends based on accumulated earnings.” This is a BIG oops here. It means that companies like Microsoft can issue a huge dividend out of the $40 billion they are sitting on with NO TAXES paid by the recipients! By making this apply to money already saved up in corporations this is just a huge windfall with no policy incentives whatsoever, because whatever reasons for encouraging corporations to start to operate in a way that causes them to start paying dividends certainly doesn’t apply to however they operated in the past, when they saved up the accumulated earnings. Oops. An accident. Right.

A previous “accident” made the tax cut cover companies that do not pay any taxes – meaning the money is never taxed – as well as companies that do pay taxes. This makes the “taxed twice” argument out to be a lie.

Se everything about this dividend tax cut has been a lie or a trick! They just say a bunch of stuff, and then go ahead and do something entirely different.

Creating Jobs

How about this? We launch a Federal program to hire people to retrofit federal, then state, then municipal buildings to be more energy efficient. Then start on private commercial buildings, then homes. Just think about the incredible benefits this would bring to all of us. Lower payments for energy, meaning more to spend on other priorities, public and personal. Lower costs for all U.S.-produced goods because all businesses would be paying less for energy. Lower overall demand for energy, bringing the costs down for the remaining amounts purchased. Lower demand for oil from the Middle-East. Not to mention the boost to the economy from hiring everyone who needs a job (and giving them a good wage and health insurance.)

Pay for this with a tax on wealth. The tax would be, perhaps, 10% of holdings over $100 million. Shucks! A person with $100 million would “only” have $90 million left! But that would quickly be made up by the incredibly boosted economy.