Democracy Soup

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Archive for October 2010

Jon Stewart rally fighting for reasonable solutions to political problems

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The MSM’s reaction to the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally is understandable.

They seemed concerned that there was a political agenda, because they look for political agendas in everything. They don’t get that the rally is about blasting the modus operandi of the MSM, because they are as oblivious to self-criticism.

Was the rally political? Naysayers will say “yes” and that it leads Democratic and it’s a desperate ploy to rally people to vote against the teabaggers on Tuesday.

As Stewart put it, sanity is in the eye of the beholder.

If the rally was political, you would spell it with a small p. Political in the sense of getting politicians to get things done, to come up with solutions, to recognize that there are problems and they need solutions.

There is a strong disconnect between the people who elect the politicians and the politicians themselves, which is really bad given that we live in a representative democracy.

Jon Stewart’s agenda is to tap into that disconnect.

Stewart was also trying to showcase that what goes on in the Capitol and on cable TV doesn’t reflect America or Americans.

He notes that the 24-hour pundit cable news channels “did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder.”

There was a lot of music:  the Roots, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Sheryl Crow, Yuself Islam, Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, the O’Jays. Comedy reigned supreme with the Daily Show and Colbert people along with Father Guido Sarducci.

There were messages in the comedy: Medals of Reasonableness. Colbert’s fear mongering was tempered by Stewart’s reasonableness.

The analogy at the end of cars going from several lanes to one fit Stewart’s vision of America: regardless of one’s positions, it’s “you go, then I’ll go.” Compromise as part of a normal day’s activity leading to solutions.

“Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often, something they do not want to do. But they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible through the little reasonable compromises we all make.”

What Jon Stewart really wants isn’t to vote for a particular politician or party. What Stewart wants, and what the Americans who were there really want is for politicians to say, “We know there are problems. We may disagree on what the solution will be. And even if we disagree with them, they are not evil.”

Stephen Colbert’s character personifies the things that Stewart attacks, but they want the same thing but go about it in different ways. Spotlighting the fear and showing that there is a reasonableness to the world is better than preaching for three hours on tolerance.

“We live now in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies.” Stewart got a nice round of applause for that line. That line struck a chord with the crowd and perhaps millions more who watched live at home either on Comedy Central or on C-SPAN.

The only question is whether the people who really needed to hear it — politicians and cable pundits — can or will hear the message. And the only question for the people is whether they will vote for people on Tuesday who understand that. Oh, and whether they will have the enthusiasm to vote.

Too often, the people are told that they don’t matter, that reasonable Americans don’t matter in the cable TV news landscape. Stewart and Colbert and a mess of other people showed them that they do matter.

And a representative democracy works best when the voices of all the people are heard by those in power. If they aren’t going to listen to Stewart and Colbert, they should think about reasonable people who gave up their weekend to hear what Stewart and Colbert had to say. If those people, and millions of others, utilize that power, they can get the change they want, real chance through active solutions to our troubles.

pictures courtesy of Lisa Beuning

MSM wants GOP to take House and Senate, but voters can say otherwise

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Having worked as a sports writer, the adage I always remembered was that “there’s no cheering in the press box.”

You don’t openly pull for a team to win the contest. You might root for a good story, but you don’t do it out loud, and you certainly know that a good story can come from different outcomes.

What we have in this campaign is a MSM trying desperately to root for a GOP takeover of the House and Senate.

That outcome could happen, but you still aren’t supposed to root for it. And if this was 2006, you wouldn’t root for a Democratic takeover either.

But the MSM is pouring it on thicker than real maple syrup because of 1994. The MSM didn’t predict the GOP takeover of both houses, and clearly regretted not sucking up before the race. The MSM is determined not to make that same “mistake” twice.

There is a tiny technicality that the vote hasn’t actually happened yet. Oh, some states have early voting, and Dems are much more likely to vote early.

The people get to decide the outcome, all day on November 2.

Now you might say, “If all the polls point to a GOP landslide, should we not report that?”

But the reporting goes beyond poll numbers, and a lot of polls are pretty close. And the polls aren’t literal; it’s just a snapshot.

There is this inside baseball game among the status quo Beltway media members that conflict makes for better stories. This is exceedingly annoying and completely unprofessional, but isn’t as dangerous when economic times are decent. Economic times are still very dire.

Then there is the open boredom and hostility toward one-party rule when the Dems have it, but not when the Republicans have it. When Campbell Brown and John King spent Election Night 2008 being negative about the prospects of Dem one-party rule but ignored all the Republican one-party rule, that was the symptom of a much larger disease.

The MSM wants what it perceives to be conflict: they want a Republican-led Congress in 2011. They want the House and Senate to be in charge against President Barack Obama.

Now they likely want this deep down inside, and we might never know. We could applaud the honesty, but the lack of professionalism drowns out the bright spots of honesty.

The potential stories due to conflict (which also can account for their strong interest in everything the teabaggers are all about) wouldn’t be as bad if they felt the same way in reverse. There was no push for a Democratically controlled Congress in 2001 or 2003 or 2005.

Even when it looked like the Dems could retake the House and Senate, there was not this level of enthusiasm exhibited in 2010.

Since 1981, there have been four years of Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and the stories reflected in those terms paint a picture where the MSM isn’t crazy about this scenario. The worst coverage happened when the GOP was in control of the White House and Congress.

So is the MSM’s wish a fait accompli?

Despite what you have heard, the vote trumps all (assuming all who want to vote gets a chance, and all the votes are properly counted).

You can make the pundits eat their words. The only one standing in the way of their desires is you.

As for the lack of passion in the 2010 election, we will deal with that more on Monday and Tuesday.

Written by democracysoup

October 29, 2010 at 8:11 am

Politics is more than just ‘vote for me because I’m not the incumbent’

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“A Fresh Start”

“A New Beginning Starts Now”

There are two candidates running for public office that has smothered the neighborhood with signs. The person running for Congress has “A Fresh Start” on the signs. The other slogan is someone running for the state senate.

Who are they? Have no idea. What party do they belong to? Not on the signs. What else are they offering? Does it matter?

These candidates are running on one major platform: “we aren’t the people in office.”

“We’re different” is an exciting slogan to be sure, but it only tells us to vote against someone else, but says nothing about why we should vote for that person.

Not that long ago, politicians made promises and you had to decide whether that politician would keep that promise or not. In 2010, we don’t need no stinking promises or platform or ideas. All we need is “hey, we aren’t them.”

Whether these new people will be better than the old people doesn’t seem to be relevant. Maybe the new people will be better. But we would feel better about them if we knew more about them.

Yes, the signs are there to let us know they exist, and we can use the Google to find out more. Hopefully.

But they haven’t given us much credit. The signs are everywhere for both candidates in a rather obnoxious fashion. And even if I have the time to do the research, most people don’t.

Again, they haven’t reached out with the best foot forward, so being anxious to find out more isn’t on the radar.

They could have kick-butt proposals, extensive and well-considered, that we might be missing.

But let’s consider a candidate running for governor within the same state as these people: Bill Brady.

Brady is a state senator who is the Republican nominee for governor of Illinois. Brady is running against Pat Quinn, who took over when some guy named Blagojevich was impeached.

Brady is trying to run as an outsider, even though he has been in government. And Brady says he has a plan to deal with the extensive budget deficit, but he won’t tell us what that plan is.

Brady has much more name recognition than the other two candidates mentioned earlier. And he is in a higher profiled race. But Brady feels, because he is not the incumbent, that he doesn’t have to tell us his plan.

Quinn has a plan, and you are entitled to like or dislike his plan. I basically like the general idea of his plan, but would modify it a bit. In the Democratic primary, the two major candidates had a discussion of their plans, and I would have picked the plan of the one who didn’t win.

At least Quinn has a plan that we can like or dislike. As you might imagine, Brady doesn’t like Quinn’s plan, but against the suggestion of just about any grandmother, Brady won’t come up with a plan of his own.

Oh, Brady says he has a plan. But since he won’t tell us, there is no way to know.

The two unknown candidates might be playing a smart political strategy: reveal as little as possible and hope that on Election Day, people will go blindly into the booth and say, “I don’t know that name, that person will do a better job at representing me.”

But that smart political strategy relies on a cynical public and a clueless voting pool. Not every incumbent is bad. Not every challenger is awesome. It’s lazy politics, and some will use it because, sadly, sometimes it works.

Running for political office isn’t easy. Making it easier by not running on anything doesn’t make for better politics or better politicians.

Written by democracysoup

October 22, 2010 at 7:07 am

Virginia Thomas, not Anita Hill, owes us an apology

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We interrupt this election season to go back in time to a simpler time: 1991.

The name Anita Hill probably hasn’t been on your mind, but if can crawl a little bit inside Virginia Thomas’ mind, Anita Hill is still on her mind.

The story that came out that Thomas wants an apology from Hill, and went as far as leaving a voice mail message on Hill’s phone is as bizarre as they come.

For all you youngsters out there who don’t remember, when Clarence Thomas was up for the nomination for associate justice on the Supreme Court, Anita Hill had accused him of sexual harassment. If you Google “pubic hair” and “Coke can,” you can relive some of out memories of that time.

Despite Hill’s accusations, Thomas was confirmed. And some of those politicians suffered as a result in The Year of the Woman. Alan Dixon (D-IL) voted for Thomas, and lost to Carol Moseley Braun in the 1992 primary.

You would think that the Thomas couple, Clarence and Virginia, had the last laugh. Clarence — assuming good health — will have one of the longest stints on the court in its history, and Virginia has been a significant conservative activist enjoying the ties to a Supreme Court justice.

But Clarence Thomas will go down in history as being the least-curious justice in its history, being a standout for not asking questions when cases go before the court. To those who criticized his lack of experience (myself included), our fears were more than confirmed.

Regardless of party affiliation, Thomas has been an intellectual disappointment. If Thomas is a smart, vibrant judge, he has yet to show it in his 19 years on the court.

Virginia Thomas is right about one thing: an apology is in order. But not from Anita Hill — Virginia Thomas owes us the apology.

We are taught that in the world of justice, integrity is a core issue. Justices are supposed to lead lives where conflicts of interest aren’t an issue.

The Thomas family has lived lives as if conflicts of interest are as common to them as .

If the Thomas family believed in conflicts of interest being a problem for justice, Thomas wouldn’t hear a number of cases before the court. The number of cases where Thomas has recused himself is still zero.

You could cite Virginia Thomas’ current work  as a teabagger leader. You could cite Clarence Thomas’ work with Monsanto, yet heard cases involving Monsanto before the court.

But the largest conflict of interest still remains Bush v. Gore. Virginia Thomas was soliciting resumes for the Bush team, while her husband ruled in the majority of a case with no legal precedent and the advanced decreee that the decision couldn’t be cited in future cases.

Thomas and Antonin Scalia had direct conflicts in Bush v. Gore thanks to their relatives’ relationship with the case. Neither justice gave any serious consideration to withdrawing from the case.

The trade-off to being the spouse of a Supreme Court justice is that you do have to give up certain things as part of that life. Perhaps that is unfair. Perhaps Virginia Thomas would rather have a life where she gets to be a conservative activist, and Clarence Thomas gets to work in the private sector and make a lot of money.

And Virginia Thomas could have had that — in 1991. As soon as her husband was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, she lost the right to continue that line of work.

Just for the record, this would apply to any Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic president, or any that became less conservative over the years (e.g., John Paul Stevens).

We consider the Supreme Court justices to be the highest authority of the land. We consider them above the kinds of conflicts of interest that would get a case thrown out on the local level.

But Virginia Thomas wants her cake, other people’s cakes, and eat them and get to whine about how she has cake. So, Virginia Thomas, you owe us an apology and a cessation to your activities, effective immediately. Or Clarence Thomas could resign from the Supreme Court. This wouldn’t undo the damage you and your husband have done, but it would get us closer to a system where the Supreme Court can be respected once again as justice free of conflicts of interest.

Christine O’Donnell right on masturbation, but still inconsistent on pre-martial sex

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Editor’s warning: Today’s column deals with seemingly graphic content. If you freak out easily, perhaps you will want to skip today’s column. Then again, if you easily freak out, you shouldn’t be on this Web site anyway.

Whether or not Christine O’Donnell wins on November 2, she should be remembered for getting something right.

Boy that was hard to type.

The truth is O’Donnell is right about one thing: masturbation is a sin. According to the teachings of the mainstream conventional Christian thought process in the United States, masturbation is a sin. In fact, any loss of sperm outside marriage and pro-creation is considered a sin.

Right now, the Monty Python song “Every Sperm Is Sacred” is probably going through your head.

Masturbation, sex outside of marriage, sex among divorced people, and gay sex all fall into one big category of sin, according to this school of thought.

Whether this is something that you believe to be correct is up to you, your conscience, and your religion. But if you are going to believe this, you might as well be consistent.

Masturbation and gay sex are seen as being on similar grounds, sin-wise. Our societal reaction of one is laughter, the other is scorn.

Imagine if we said those who masturbate couldn’t get married, couldn’t serve in the military, couldn’t visit their loved ones in the hospital, couldn’t inherit property. Any political candidate that pushed for that would get laughed off the political stage. Yet when you substitute “gay” for “masturbater,” the proverbial knives come out.

Sure, you could argue that there are millions of masturbaters in the United States, far more than the number of gay people. And masturbaters have been in positions of power longer and more prominently than gay people.

Heck, those who fight for their religious views to be brought into the law don’t go after divorced people for their sins. Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, among others, ought to be grateful for that mentality. There are certainly more divorced people than gays, but far fewer than masturbaters.

Christine O’Donnell is slightly more consistent on this point than most of the right-wingers. And for sharing that view, O’Donnell received scorn and ridicule.

You would think that we have reached the point where attacks on gays and lesbians would also received scorn and ridicule. But whenever a right-winger slams gays and lesbians, their actions are almost treated with a yawn by the MSM. Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a “racist” with no proof whatsoever and Beck still gets light treatment from the MSM.

O’Donnell goes after those who masturbate, and people don’t even attack her. Then again, we still tee-hee over talk on the subject, no matter the message.

The right-wingers know if they were to be consistent on this subject, they would suffer ridicule and scorn. But by limiting it to just bashing gays, they gain political points through ignorance and “morality.”

O’Donnell said repeatedly in a debate that she didn’t know the Constitution mentions the separation between church and state. She doesn’t seem to understand that in the First Amendment, the government shall make no religion means no religious interference in the running of government.

Literally, the term “separation of church and state” didn’t come until later, but it is based on what is in the Constitution.

O’Donnell is also probably not aware that if she were to win on November 2, she would have to swear to uphold and defend the Constitution. She is clearly familiar with the Bible she would use to swear onto, but she could use a few lessons as to what is in the Constitution. So could the other teabagger candidates who could potentially swear to uphold and defend.

If she becomes the junior senator from Delaware, there would be hope that she would submit a bill that would punish those who masturbate. She could sign the bill with a stroke of a pen. She could hand it over to be processed. She might even have her palm greased by corporate interests who would want this to happen (though maybe not the lotion companies).

Because if O’Donnell and the teabaggers get elected on November 2, the education on the Constitution will be an ongoing process. Come along for the ride.

Should companies do all they can to help in the recession?

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Are companies doing all they can to help in this depressive recession? And if they aren’t, are their actions unpatriotic?

You hear the stories. Companies are sitting on money. Companies are threatening to lay off people in reaction to proposed legislation that doesn’t affect employment.

It does feel as if companies are rooting for the Dems to get their butts kicked on Election Day.

Yes, companies are making this personal, which is convenient since they are now people, thanks to the Supreme Court. And they are very used to getting their way, so we can’t be surprised that they are spoiled.

(One side note: even though companies are now people, we still use non-personal words to describe them. As we learned in Animal House, “Vegetables are sensual, people are sensuous.”)

Whatever your political stance, horrible economic times should be a moment when the country should pull together and help each other. After September 11, 2001, this country did pull together, even if the events were milked for political gain later. In the short-term time after the attacks, there was some level of harmony.

And unless you’re really old, these are the worst economic times of your lifetime. And it is absolutely disheartening to see multiple powerful forces fighting with all their might to make sure the miserable elements continue.

Companies that could hire people that don’t. Wall Street people still whining that they are being picked on. Politicians who weakened the stimulus, said “No” when we desperately needed “Yes.” They are all guilty.

To make one thing absolutely clear, notice in the previous paragraph that no political party was specifically identified. Republicans have been the worst, but a few Democratic politicians make the list.

Watching people get rich and powerful from others’ suffering is something the preachers and holier-than-thous should be screaming about. But some of them are rooting for those in their powerful positions to become even more powerful.

As long as companies are people and then some, as long as companies are rewarded for treating American citizens with utter disregard, this behavior will continue.

If these companies get what they want: Republican control — and they actually start hiring once the GOP is in charge, people should rise up and say, “We’re not going to work for your company. You weren’t there when we need you. We are not going to reward your lack of patriotism.”

Some will take the jobs because they literally have no other choice. But it would be good to see companies get punished for their really bad behavior. As to whether the companies’ behavior is or isn’t patriotic — well, even if they are people, they aren’t Americans. Their loyalty isn’t to America or even their shareholders.

Their flag is green with numbers on it. They salute it every day. And we pay the price.

Written by democracysoup

October 19, 2010 at 8:12 am

Eric Cantor does ‘The Daily Show’ minus the lessons of John McCain

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One of the surprises of the late stages of the 2008 presidential campaign was that John McCain was mysteriously absent from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” McCain’s last appearance on the show was May 7, 2008, his only 2008 appearance. Even as of late 2010, McCain still holds the record for most appearances on the show, though McCain hasn’t been on for almost 2½ years.

Meghan McCain is the last family member to do an appearance on the show, on September 9 of this year.

“The Daily Show” would have liked to have had him on, but clearly the campaign felt the show no longer served its purposes.

When I saw that Eric Cantor was on the guest list this week, I did wonder whether this would be the start of another Republican comfortable to go on the show, given the possibility of a Republican majority in the House.

Cantor had advantages that most Republicans can’t claim: like Stewart, Cantor went to William & Mary, is the same age as Stewart, and is Jewish.

Despite the reputation, Stewart can be very respectful to people he disagrees with (for proof, see Stewart’s interview with Condoleezza Rice the following night).

Cantor had his chance, both in the on-air version and the extended interview on the Web, to bring to an atypical GOP audience what the Republicans would do if they get to be in charge.

Stewart enjoyed debating McCain because McCain — at that point — was the Republican who had the respect of Democrats and independents. You may not have agreed with McCain, but there was a smart dialogue.

Cantor could have been warm, charming, self-deprecating, and ready to play to the audience. Cantor could have even taken some hints from McCain. Despite McCain’s curmudgeon role, he does have some humorous moments.

But Cantor is no John McCain. He played to the audience once, only when Stewart mocked Cantor about bringing up 1980 as being long ago. Cantor asked the audience how many of them were born in 1980. There were a few applauders.

For those who think Stewart is liberal, look more carefully. Stewart has a balancing act that doesn’t so much have to do with ideology, but consistency. Stewart will debate Bill Kristol, because while he disagrees with Kristol, Stewart sees him as fairly consistent. And Stewart’s best tongue-lashing to date is still his visceral attack on Chris Matthews.

Cantor brought nothing to the table during the interview, and Stewart ripped him for it. Cantor kept saying how it was all about jobs, but never offered one way the GOP would help increase jobs. The standard submission has been cut taxes, but that hasn’t worked for the last 30 years.

But even if you believe that it works, Cantor didn’t say it during the interview. While the extended conversation went on further, any Daily Show guest has to be smart enough to get key points in the first 6 minutes. What goes out over the air makes much more of an impact that anything said on the Web version.

Cantor talked in phrases that sound good but don’t mean anything. Few things upset Stewart more than to hear someone speak that way. While Cantor really should have prepared by watching McCain’s old interviews, the Stewart-Matthews battle should have been the first video to watch.

One reason why Republicans struggle on shows such as this, the Colbert Report, Letterman, etc. is that they are used to being treated like kid gloves on news shows, broadcast and cable. They get to say what they want, get passive questions, and no one challenges them on what they say.

Stewart actually asks guests to back up what they are saying, especially when he smells hypocrisy in the air.

Cantor noted that the GOP heard the message from 2006, how they weren’t doing what the people wanted. Cantor leaves out the various scandals: Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham in that explanation.

Cantor doesn’t even see this in terms of anybody outside the base. His thought process is that the base was upset. The GOP lost control in 2006 because those outside the base had enough.

But this election for the GOP isn’t about them. Cantor and his fellow GOP members in the power structure know that rallying the base is what the GOP needs to do.

So perhaps Cantor isn’t upset that his performance on the Daily Show didn’t go well, that there were no ideas where Stewart’s audience could relate.

John McCain understood that he needed to get his ideas to an audience that wasn’t used to them. McCain knew humor was needed to relate to this potential audience of voters. And for a long time, McCain was very successful with this formula.

Yes, McCain forgot all about this once he ran in 2008, but by then, McCain was a different man and a different politician. Cantor says the GOP has learned from the past, but what was clear Tuesday night in a New York City studio is that Cantor still doesn’t get it. Even though Cantor and Stewart has a striking amount in common, they live in two different worlds, but amazingly enough in the same country.