Letter to an Ignorant but Beloved Friend

I get it.  You’re in a different place than I am.  You weren’t into school, or it just didn’t work out for you.  Or you did that but your career didn’t pan out like you thought it would.  You didn’t have any job security.  You don’t make enough money.  You’re raising a family.  You’ve had health issues.  You can’t afford cable.  So all of your information comes from free media — in other words, Fox, Rush, and word of mouth.

If I tell you that you’re being fed information by corporations whose only interest is themselves, you say both sides are biased. It’s all opinion. Yes, I’ll, grant you, it’s true.  But you’re listening to the stupid side.

You know what I learned in school? Something called “critical thinking.”  You may have learned it at one time yourself, but you’re just too tired or busy to deal with it. You turn on the TV to relax, not to think.

Well, friend, if you’re willing to do a little critical thinking, you’ll discover some pretty important stuff.  Like the fact that Fox is controlled by a single billionaire whose only real interest is in remaining a billionaire.  Said billionaire has freely admitted that he used his media to support the Bush agenda. Certainly it kept people watching, “Shock and Awe” and all. That’s one man.  Just one man has enough power to manipulate the opinion of millions through something he calls “news.”  You bought the product he was selling.

Critical thinking leads to the discovery that Rush is paid by CC Media Holdings, which owns Clear Channel Communications, Premiere Networks, and over 850 radio stations across the country.  Headquartered in Texas, 70% of the company is owned by two partners, one of which is Bain Capital (Romney’s old haunt).  Do you seriously think these people are interested in what’s good for you?  Please.  They’re interested in selling you the products of their advertisers, and their programming had better keep you listening. That Rush guy is pretty compelling, isn’t he?

Let me save you the time and give you the benefit of the critical thinking I’ve already done:

Money = Power;  Wealth = Control;  You = Screwed.

Get the picture?  Now turn off the damned TV.

White Privilege for the Good of All

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One Easy Thing All White People Could Do That Would Make The World A Better Place

Sometimes I don’t have to say anything because someone else has already put it perfectly.

Thanks go to Upworthy and CrackingtheCodes.org.  Click the blue link above.

Occupy Istanbul

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Turkey’s Civil Revolt: Istanbul Rising

Halfway across the world, young people are rising up to tell their government that they expect it to work for them, not against them.  That’s a fundamental principle of democracy somehow embedded in the consciousness of a generation raised under the shadow of authoritarian rule but lit by the light of a million computer screens.  Educated, informed, and techno-savvy, these young Turks are possessed of Western values and American-style expectations.  Watch the video linked above and see it for yourself.  One young woman was absolutely aghast at the oppression of her government. The job of the Prime Minister, she says, his “obvious duty,” is to protect her; she grew up in a free society.  The problem is that the Turkish state defines freedom a bit differently than she does.

In the USA, the Occupy Wall Street movement built tent cities across the country. Young people gathered to demonstrate against the federal government’s propping up of the private sector at the expense of the citizenry (a gross but roughly accurate oversimplification).  In some places, local police forces used pepper spray on the crowds, but the tactic was met with scorn by politicians and the media alike.  Since, according to the Constitution, the people have a right to peaceful assembly, there was no official federal response.  The protests lasted in some cases for months, leaving individual cities to deal with the resulting sanitation and traffic issues, but they were largely nonviolent and of little lasting effect.

In Turkey, young people are today filling the streets to protest the actions of their government in privatizing public assets (another gross oversimplification, but a decent gloss nonetheless).  The Prime Minister has responded with threats and demands and a prodigious amount of street-clearing teargas.  The people, horrified by the brutality of their own elected officials, are driven by greater anger to hold larger demonstrations.  Both the protests and the violence are escalating.  While the Turks themselves believe that they have a right to assembly and freedom of expression, their government disagrees.

The difference, dear readers, is in the document.  As I tell my students, one should use the active, rather than the passive voice.

The most recent iteration of the Turkish Constitution dates to 1982. Yes. That’s right.  The place has been changing quite a lot over the centuries and they believe in regular updates.  Of course they tend to follow military juntas, but in general, updates are not a bad idea.  They’re due for another one.  But for the moment at least, here’s Article 34, circa 1982 — the one that is supposed to guarantee freedom of association:

(1) Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission. [There should be a giant BUT right here.]
(2) The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall only be restricted by law on the grounds of national security, and public order, or prevention of crime commitment, public health and public morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
(3) The formalities, conditions, and procedures governing the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be prescribed by law.

Read it carefully.  Note that it guarantees nothing.  Note that it uses the passive voice: “Demonstrations shall be restricted.” That says it all, really, although the active voice would have been so much more clear: “The Government shall restrict demonstrations.”

Now read the First Amendment to the US Constitution, circa 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now that’s the active voice:  “Congress shall make no law.”  (Passive voice: “No law shall be made.”)  Thus we end up with a list of very specific stuff that the government cannot do.

The Turkish people need a better editor.

The Site is Back Up!

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I have finally managed to resolve the technical issues that took down this website at the beginning of the month, so thanks for your patience! As you can see, fixing it necessitated a change in the look of the site, since the WordPress theme was as the root of the problem.

I’ll be back with a new podcast soon. Promise.

Prebut of the Rebut: 2013 SOTU

2012 state of the union

I can save you a lot of time tonight, when the President will deliver his State of the Union Address. The entire affair is completely predictable.

First, the President will tell us that the State of the Union is strong. He will then go on to address its points of weakness: jobs, immigration, education, voting, and guns. He will offer practical strategies for addressing all of these, and he will go out of his way to do so in a manner that studiously avoids offending anyone.

Next, the GOP will tell us that the President is a socialist who represents the worst of “big government” intrusion into our private lives. His economic plan will hurt small businesses.  His immigration policy amounts to nothing more than a free ride for illegals on the backs of hard-working Americans. He’s taken God out of the classroom – which explains both poor test scores and school shootings. He’s coming to take your guns away and his wife wants to outlaw corn syrup.

Then they will go home to their districts, where they will proceed to manipulate the democratic process to a state of near-inversion wherein one man has $1 billion votes and most of us have none. Their gerrymandering at the state level will give sparsely populated white Republican districts each their very own representative, while starving the more densely populated urban districts down to just a few. They will change the way their states vote to eliminate the possibility of Democratic victory.

They will continue their prodding – literally – of women along The Handmaid’s Tale path toward losing all reproductive autonomy. They will work to overturn Roe v. Wade, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, to revive Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to constitutionally prohibit gay marriage. They will scale the clock tower and turn the hands of time back at least half a century, and they will do it all while proclaiming themselves to be “the party of small government.”

An unwilling coalition of Ayn Rand capitalists and Christian fundamentalists, they are the New Theocracy. The only thing small about them is their minds.