Saturday, September 04, 2004

More Thoughts on Bush Speech and other news

Charles Aulds: My wife, who is a very spiritual person, has always warned me about lending my tacit agreement to wrong-doing. I never really understood what she meant until recently, I guess. What she was referring to are "situational ethics," that is, conformance to the behavior (and personality) of the groups I found myself in. I never considered myself "guilty" of doing that, but looking back, I realize I probably did it far more often, and for far longer, than I like to admit. It's the norm in the business/work world, you know, just going along, avoiding expressing convictions that are contrary to those of one's co-workers or (more important) one's superiors.

But complicity in evil is evil. When I laughed along with the crowd at some cruel and overtly racial joke told in the office break room (and that happens a lot, still, in rural Alabama), I didn't consider myself guilty of doing anything wrong. It was wrong, though, and so was I.

This week, I took a step away from years of "going along" simply because it just wasn't worth the effort or risk of setting myself up in opposition to the "group" opinion. I was asked yesterday morning ("baited" might more accurately describe what happened) into giving an opinion of President Bush's speech to the RNC convention the previous night. I put on the false smile (you know the one) and I launched into "well, he said a lot of things I agree with ..."

I couldn't continue. What I heard Thursday night was a repeat of the same lies we were told by this President 4 years ago ... the same "compassionate conservatism" crap I believed then, but couldn't believe again if I wanted to. The magnitude of the lying spirit that hovered over that convention should be apparent to all of us by now. And that's what I said ... that no sensible person of honor would believe these lies after what we've seen from this presidential administration in the past 4 years.

And that's how I feel, and that's what I said.

At this point in the election campaign, it is so very unlikely that you'll present any argument convincing enough to sway another person's vote (though you may encourage someone to register and vote!). I do feel, though, that we can all add our voices to those of the dissenters, the protestors, and the patriots who have exercised their rights to free speech and assembly. And we can add our voices to those that this society exploits and disenfranchises, how about the elderly (who have been terribly ill-served by this administration which wants to funnel Medicare and Social Security funds directly into the pockets of their rich corporate backers). "Society of ownership" my butt ... they want access to those monies to finance their wars of convenience for profit. We're being lied to (again) people.

You've heard it said before, I'm sure, don't argue with a fool because bystanders may not be able to tell the difference. But, likewise, don't give your tacit agreement to things you know are wrong. Simply, and quietly if you can restrain the impulse to yell, explain that you aren't going along with what you consider to be wrong.

Complicity in evil is evil.


American Progress points out some contradictions in his speech:

The FLIP-FLOP President

JOB TRAINING FLIP-FLOP: In a second term, Bush pledged to "double the number of people served by our principal job training program." That is a nice idea, but he has spent the last four years cutting funding for job training programs. His 2005 budget, for example, proposed to cut job training and vocational education by 10 percent - that's $656 million - from what Congress pledged to those programs in 2002.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE FLIP-FLOP: Bush also promised to increase funding for community colleges. But he was for cutting funding for community colleges before he was for increasing it. Last year, the Bush administration proposed cutting the largest direct aid initiative to community colleges, the Perkins program for technical and vocational training, from $1.3 billion to about $1 billion. Congress had to step in to save the funding.

THE PELL GRANT FLIP-FLOP: Another Bush reversal: his pledge to expand Pell Grants for low- and middle-income families. For three straight years, Bush has proposed freezing or cutting Pell grants. This, despite pledging in 2000 to raise Pell grants to a $5,100 limit. The maximum Pell grant is currently $4,050.

SOCIAL SECURITY REDUX: Last night, President Bush pledged to "strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account." What he didn't mention: establishing the privatization scheme could cost $1 trillion or more over the next decade, expanding already record federal deficits. Administrative costs could consume up to 40 percent of the funds placed in private accounts. And, since returns in the stock market vary, many retirees would do quite poorly. Bush may realize this is a bad idea. He proposed the exact same thing in his last acceptance speech, but during four years in office with a Republican Congress, nothing has been done. For more the hazards of Social Security privatization read this new American Progress column.

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS REDUX: Bush also plans, if reelected, to "offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them." What he didn't mention: HSAs will likely drive up the annual deductibles paid by workers. And because of their adverse effects on employer-based coverage, HSAs could swell the ranks of the uninsured.

COMP-TIME/FLEX-TIME REDUX: In another nod to business interests, the president reiterated his proposal to "change outdated labor laws to offer comp-time and flex-time." But while the proposals have attractive sounding names, they actually open the door for employers to pressure workers to "accept time off instead of overtime pay." Even absent explicit pressure, employers would be free to "channel overtime work to those who were willing to take comp-time." Moreover, "employees would have to take their earned time off when it suits their employer rather than when it suited the employee." Bottom line: no one is against giving workers more flexibility to take vacations, but when an hourly worker exceeds 40 hours in a week, he or she should receive overtime.

TAX CUT REDUX: As expected, the president renewed his calls to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. But making the tax cuts permanent would be of great benefit to only very high-income households. Estimates based on data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center show that if the tax cuts are made permanent, the top 1 percent of households will gain an average of $58,200 a year (in 2004 dollars) when the tax cuts are fully in effect, reflecting a 7.3 percent change in their after-tax income. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum would secure just a 2.5 percent increase in their after-tax income, with average tax cuts of $655 - a little more than one-ninetieth of what those in the top 1 percent would receive. Moreover, making the tax cuts permanent would swell the deficit and could destabilize the world economy. It would cost $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years, forcing Americans to give up important domestic programs or add to the $374 billion annual deficit. A report by the IMF said the U.S. deficit has already gotten so out of control, it could threaten the stability of the world economy.

El - You might remember he criticized Kerry in the same speech for proposals that Bush says will cost a disputed $2 trillion dollars. Just this one Bush tax proposal alone is an over $2 trillion dollar hit on young people.

George Lakoff describes the dishonest framing used by Zell Miller and Dick Cheney at the convention. The "speeches by Miller and Cheney are filled with classic examples of framing by willful distortion."

Clif points out this article: Soldiers are being asked to vote by sending faxes and emails to a GOP-controlled company which promises to forward the open ballots to the correct locations but refuses to allow observers or even describe the secret process. This is also against the law, non-secret ballots, in many states.

Wrapping it up with Madame Butterfly, for her own recount suddenly thousands of extra votes appeared, contrary to the first line of the state law she would not allow observers at the recount, then she concedes defeat but gets to stay and count Bush's ballots in November.

Finally, I will mention this article that touches on the philosophical undergirding of the neo-Straussians in charge. "The necessary great lies," the secret division of the world into the wise, the leaders and the vulgar masses, the rhetoric of Good vs. Evil, the deification of past great leaders, the disdain for democracy and the rule of law in favor of strong leaders bent on restoring past virtues, the importance of resoluteness for the "right" truth, the belief that "justice is helping friends and hurting enemies," the dislike of multi-culturalism and "girlie men," the belief that you oppose tyrannical regimes by becoming the noble tyranny of the "right," all these and more come from the followers of Strauss.

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