Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Confusing Our Citizens

Some acquaintances have recently been discussing the Health Care Reform Bill. One commented that the pending lawsuits in several states would most likely gut the prohibition against denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions. He then stated (hopefully) that,"once the voters become educated about that issue they may not be so opposed to mandatory coverage." 

Another, leaning more to the Right, continually used the word "Obamacare" in discussing this Bill.

Their discussion prompted me to make two points, not so much about the specific issue of health care reform, but rather about the broader issue of today's political discourse.

Regarding the issue of voters becoming educated:  it's hard to imagine how this will happen when so much of the media doesn't present the actual details in any clear fashion and also enables "both" points of view to every issue, even when one viewpoint is completely fallacious.  FOX News is the biggest offender.  But it gets even worse once we consider how many millions of people get all or most of their information from bloviators like Limbaugh and Beck, for whom actual facts are annoyances to be ignored at all costs.

Regarding Obamacare:  Almost everyone today uses this term.  But I think that we owe it to ourselves as well as our Country to call it by its real name, the Health Care Reform Bill.  "Obamacare" is a right wing invention, endorsed by the Republicans, who have convinced themselves that Obama must fail [even if that means the Country must fail as well].  To Republicans, the word "Obama" is anathema, and so, "Obamacare," their word for the Bill, connotes anathema, even though all the main elements of this Bill are things that they endorsed and even proposed just a very few years ago.

I suspect that Karl Rove, ca. 15 years ago, made every Republican read Orwell's 1984 and take to heart its description of manipulating and changing the meaning of words. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that, even today, Rove sends them speaking points of the week and the word or adjective of the day.  Let's pay attention to the words they use, whether "Obamacare," "Government spending spree," or all those modifiers like "job-killing..."  

These words are all about erasing the gray middle and creating an impression of true good (the Right) and true evil (the Left).  A Democrat or a member of the Left, depending upon the particular voice from the Right, then easily can be termed "Socialist" (a demeaning word resurrected from the days of the Cold War), "Communist" (with the demise of the USSR, do they want to send all Democrats to Cuba or China?), or "Nazi."  These descriptors are historically insane as used today, but they do tap into the fear buttons that the Republicans and the Right manipulate so well...and so we come back to the issue of voters becoming educated.

God help this confused country.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Next Dudamel?

While I dig through recent events, including another major snow dump, I thought that I'd share this with readers...a YouTube piece that should assure everyone that the world is in good hands, if only we can keep it alive long enough to pass it on to the youngest generation.



Watch it right through to the end. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where Have You Gone, Simon Cowell?


American Idol’s season 10 got underway on Wednesday night.  I obliged my dear wife and switched to FOX, relinquishing Rachel Maddow and MSNBC.  For me, this is a difficult maneuver in the best of times--as when tuning into FOX for a NFL playoff game--because dialing up FOX induces in me a facial tick, on a par with Chief Inspector Dreyfus at the mention of Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther films.

That metaphorical facial tick went into overdrive Wednesday evening as we were subjected to almost everything except for good singing.  As if acknowledging this point, Idol 10 fleshed out the dearth of singing talent by plucking the viewers’ heartstrings with background stories of war refuge, family cancer and homelessness.

Idol 10 also seems to have embraced the 16-year old, as if physiological and experiential maturity were detrimental in the making a singer.  Mainly, what we heard were a handful of Miley/Bieber Wannabes projecting out-of-tune vocals from the “depths” of their upper palates.  

It almost didn’t matter that we could barely catch the words sung by one contestant, for whom English is a [distant] third language;  after all, Valley Girl talk continues to dominate our teen culture, making diction and proper enunciation irrelevant.

There were a [very] few entertaining moments, mainly in the gestures and grimaces of the new judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, rarely from any singing of this first batch of contestants.

I think that we all will miss Simon Cowell, who not only was willing to put down the mediocre and the unmusical, but whose persona was a real star of the show.  As long as American Idol is a contest, it will have winners and losers.  For this purpose, Cowell acted as its strict upholder of values.  So far, Idol 10’s three judges seem unwilling to bite the bullet, usually looking to one another for support, both when it came to saying “no” and also to saying “yes” to the most borderline of performances.

As a retired college professor, I was witnessing a case of massive grade inflation in this first episode of Idol 10.  Come back, Simon Cowell, please!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Republican Intolerance

Today’s Daily Beast released a list of the most tolerant states, based on issues of fair housing and workplace laws, religious acceptance, legal rights for same-sex couples, and hate crime statutes.  If we correlate this list with Wikipedia’s classification of states as Red, Blue, or Purple (achieved by using the average margins of victory in Presidential elections between 1992 and 2008) we discover the following:

The ten most tolerant states are all Democratic “Blue States,” although the most Democratic state, Massachusetts, is only 18th on this list of the most tolerant.  Wisconsin, the most tolerant state, is the 19th most democratic state.

Of the ten least tolerant states, eight are Republican (red states) and two are purple.  Utah, the most Republican state, is among these (number 44 out of 50).  The two purple states among these least tolerant are Arkansas and Ohio.

Two Republican states qualify as more tolerant than Massachussetts (the most Democratic state), and these are North Carolina and Louisiana.  Could this be attributed to the high level of quality colleges in the former and the recognized cosmopolitan influence of the latter’s major city, New Orleans?

The twenty least tolerant states are all either Republican or “Purple states.”  

Of the twenty most tolerant states, fourteen are Democratic, three are “Purple states,” and three are Republican.  The three Republican states (Virginia, North Carolina, and Louisiana) are among the five lowest Republican states in terms of (Republican) vote percentages.

What is disturbing about this data is a fairly clear relationship between being Republican and being less tolerant today.  This negative association is supported by today’s Republican Party actions which clearly undermine social equality and, in fact, contradict the Republican Party’s purported desire to adhere to our Constitution.  

After all, the Preamble to the Constitution makes it clear that its focus was to “promote the general Welfare.”  Repealing the Health Care Law, as Republicans will attempt to do, does not “promote the general Welfare.”  Extending the Bush tax cuts even to the very wealthiest Americans will only to increase the disparity between the rich and the poor of our nation, again doing the opposite of “promoting the general Welfare.”

No matter what today’s Republicans say, today’s Democrats are clearly the party most committed to “promoting the general Welfare” as called for in the Preamble of our Constitution.  Meanwhile, the Republican Party is thriving most in those states that are shown to be the least tolerant.  This is not a proud position for the party of Lincoln.  Were I a Republican, I’d be red with embarrassment!