IBI Watch 9/18/11

18 09 2011

Enforcing Orthodoxy – for Laughs or for Keeps?

What does the modern Republican Party have in common with Monty Python’s spoof of the Spanish Inquisition?  It’s the three weapons.  In the case of the Pythons’ over-the-top skit, they were fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency.  Oh, and it was all in fun (though the real-life Inquisition was anything but.)  At least two of those weapons could be attributed to the party of McConnell, Boehner and Cantor, but the real three weapons in play are not at all funny, and are increasingly effective.  As I have said before, give credit where it is due.  The Party knows its program exclusively benefits the few, the mightiest, the wealthiest.  Without the three weapons, winning elections would be exceedingly difficult

Weapon One: Corporate Propaganda

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates of corporate influence on elections.  But corporations have been working behind the scenes for decades, and it’s not just through the time-honored lobbying racket.  Two stories recently shone new light on ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council.  This is the smoke-filled room on a massive scale, where ‘model laws’ are crafted, by corporate honchos and state legislators, benefiting guess who?  Check the Fresh Air and Democracy Now stories for more information.  The organization that dug up hundreds of these model laws is also linked.  And, just for fun, two looks at the work of the Koch Brothers.







Weapon Two: Dirty Tricks

The first linked video is a recent example.  But this is a deep well.  Read about the co-opted Tea Party,  ACORN, Weiner, and even a blast from the not-too distant past.






Weapon Three: Voter Suppression

You will find no more shining example of shameless hypocrisy than this weapon, which is being employed across the country in various forms.  To fight the specter of ‘voter fraud,’ legislatures are enacting all manner of measures making it harder to vote.  The first link is a new story run this weekend by All Things Considered.  Listen to the Kansas Secretary of State, apparently in earnest, twist the facts into a scenario where ‘voter fraud’ could influence elections.  I think the Rolling Stone story on the GOP ‘war on voting’ has it right.  But you do have to wonder – with the House under control of Cantor and company, how much ‘investigation’ will we see?




Had enough of this grim stuff?  A couple of final notes.  The Pythons included a fourth ‘weapon’ – an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.  The Republicans have a fourth as well – a public that is misinformed and/or disengaged sufficiently to accept propaganda as truth, dirty tricks as scandals or business as usual, and voter suppression as legitimate security measures.  But hey, let’s have a laugh.  No one expects the Spanish Inquisition . . . or permanent Republican control!


Climate Change – Reality or Magic?

News this week is that the Arctic is melting more rapidly than expected – sea ice approaching record lows.  Meanwhile, most Republican presidential candidates are falling all over themselves trying to prove who is most scornful of the scientific consensus. The second link looks at the Party’s take on the issue.  This is also a good launching point for a very funny bit done by Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann, lampooning the fact-immune Republican voter.  And to get a little more serious, check Joshua Holland’s piece that portrays modern conservatism as a theology.  And to come back to the topic, a local Minneapolis writer, James Lenfestey, lists several questions we should be asking all politicians – not just anti-intellectual Rick Perry – on this vital issue.






False Equivalence

As an observer and participant in the political scene since the 1960s, my views have evolved of course, but stayed close to my consistent core views – I am a Democrat in the FDR mold.  That is, support a strong private sector, but enact sensible regulation to control the excesses.  But since 1980, those views have been increasingly marginalized, with Republicans embracing extreme free-market capitalism and showing their moderates the exit. (If you don’t believe that, just look at the first link – where John Boehner – admittedly a poor excuse for a moderate – is being challenged in the primary by a Tea Party candidate.)  I think the entire nation has moved to the right, so that what used to be slightly left of center is now widely seen as radical socialism.  Just look at the way President Obama, a moderate if there ever was one, is vilified – credibly to many observers – as a wild-eyed leftist radical.  E.J. Dionne recently published an insightful commentary on this – there really is not equivalent extremism on both sides, mainstream media coverage notwithstanding.



Saving Rain Forests

Who knew Harrison Ford was a conservation activist?  Not me.  The first link – a punchy, short video – was featured on NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me this week.  Made me think it was time to check in on conservation efforts in these crucial ecosystems.




Mad as Hell in Lower Manhattan

Mass media are hardly paying attention, but a major protest is underway in New York City’s financial center.  Marchers are angry that the Wall Street movers and shakers whose wild, unregulated speculation brought us the 2008 collapse largely escaped unscathed, and now are back to their standard procedures, including million-dollar bonuses.  Meanwhile, unemployment remains high, and the Republican-enforced ‘solution’ is low taxes for billionaires and austerity for everyone else.  The last link is for a movie you must see – An Inside Job.






Enthusiastic Apathy

Many have weighed in on one of the most disturbing moments of the latest Republican presidential debate.  No, this is not about Perry’s willful ignorance – we are used to that already.  No, this was about Tea Party enthusiasts whooping it up over the idea of uninsured citizens being allowed to die.  Paul Krugman weighs in; we hear from conservative Christian college students with more charitable views; a song and cartoon from the Austin Lounge Lizards that sums up our health care system pretty well.




Biofuels in Odd Places

You may know about corn-based ethanol’s tarnished reputation.  It turns out to be not a very efficient way to produce fuel, and the idea of using food products as fuel with the earth’s burgeoning population is problematic at best.  Here are two hopeful items from NPR Science Friday.  First, you won’t believe where scientists are finding clues for the next generation of sustainable biofuels.  Second, a video on algae that treats waste and also produces biofuels, though only in small quantities for now.



The Solyndra ‘Scandal’, According to Jon Stewart

This wannabe scandal has a lot of what the pro-oil, anti-sustainability right wants – it involves solar energy and apparent favorable treatment from that radical socialist White House.  Ouch.  Jon Stewart puts it in proper comic perspective. Oh and there’s another inconvenient truth – just discovered – that makes it impossible to pin this one squarely on Obama.



“Man has no nobler function than to defend the truth.”  — Ruth McKenney

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper




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