Friday, July 30

You @#%$@#^& Nutbag: Our Freedom to Criticize

I'm not sure this is news, but Americans love their freedom of speech--mostly as it applies to criticizing others. Whether the criticism is for the President for choosing to appear on the View or the mayor for a quote he made, people online and "live" are all over it. Modern media probably couldn't exist without it and certainly is encouraging of it. Still, is it that people are afraid that their freedoms are being taken away and so they are getting in their final digs before the socialist-, Nazi-, Big Brother, Corporate-, Dictatorial-Government boot finally comes down? Or is it that Americans are predisposed to believe that their ideas and opinions are as valid as anyone elses, regardless of the subject and without regard of anyone elses' feelings?

In any case, all this critic-speak and punditicism seems to be leading to cautious action or poor action from our political leaders--fearing they will either lose power or cede power to the other side. We the people do not play by the same rules (and perhaps why we are so "mouthy"). To illustrate my point, think of a decision you make every day--going to work, taking your child to school, whatever. Now imagine if the roof of your house were removed if and giants were looking in on you as you were getting ready to do your daily routine. How weird would it be for someone to tell you how to dress or what to feed your child? Yet every day we opine about other people and their choices like somehow we know better than them what is best for them to do.

In the political realm this makes politicans do nutty things like making legislation that made sense when proposed into legislation that is, well, not very good. Thinking back a few years, do you think the "doughnut hole" in Medicare magically appeared? Probably not. Probably a perfectly well-crafted bill was watered down because of well-orchestrated criticism. So, rather than scrap the whole bill, legislatorive staff hammered out the details to make the buill palatable until, guess what, there was a doughnut hole in Medicare.

I'll grant you that being the President or the mayor carries extra weight than the rest of us carry, but it does not mean that their humanity should be sacrificed in the wake of someone else needing to express their opinion. And it certainly goes double for others whose opinion you choose to slash in burn as a comment to a newspaper or over the phone when you call in to speak on a radio talk show.

I do not suggest that people shouldn't be critical of others. That would be hypocritical coming from a blogger like me--particularly as I am currently being critical of others (maybe even you, I don't know). I do suggest that being critical should also balanced with a recognition that we are all human beings and should be treated with respect. I have failed on this point in the past and likely will in the future. However, if we can't hold out higher standards for ourselves, what good is all the freedom?

And, by the way, in the unlikely event that our freedom of speech is going to be taken away in the near future by whomever--to that oppressor I respectfully say in advance, go f!@k yourself.

Monday, July 26

What's the Alternative?

Al Franken said it best when addressing the Netroots Nation, " I know progressives are frustrated...because it feels at times not everyone in our party is pushing at the same pace." Al's absolutely right, it isn't even closer to the direction that many in the progressive movement thought that the 2008 election outcome would propel us. So far many things, from healthcare, the environment and global climate change legislation, Wall Street reform, and civil liberties have been co-opted or watered down in a race to make sure "we" can win the mid-terms.

So many of us are ruminating on the idea that helping the mainstream Democrats will bring us more of the same. If this is progress, why bother? We are told to consider the alternative. If Republicans are able to win the House or Senate back, what will happen to even the short-term gains that have been made? And this is a truly frightening--not hopeful-- proposition

We are asked to "hope" a little longer, be willing to wait for "change" a little longer, but so far the return on our investment has been questionable. What the mainline has to consider is that when you make promises at election time, people really do count on you delivering on them. It is likely that some of the people who joined the Tea drinkers did so because they felt that what was promised was not being delivered. We all wanted "change we can believe in"--sadly, what we have gotten is politics as usual.

We are told that change is not instant, that we must keep our eye on the larger prize. We must do more to keep hope alive. But while platitudes make for great conventions, legislation is how we get things done. And does anyone really believe that the legislation pushed through in the last year and a half is for the people? If it is, I hope every Democrat running for reelection can articulate how it helps us on Main Street. We need to ask the mainline to consider the alternative of losing support by the people who pushed the hardest for change to happen.

Sunday, July 25

Shirley Sherrod and Us

Shirley Sherrod, the USDA employee who was summarily fired last week, as it turns out, is everything that America should embrace. She has overcome her own personal barriers and prejudices to help small farmers be protected by those that would take their land, regardless of color. Yet, this week, as Keith Olbermann nicely summarized was "thrown under the bus" by the Obama administration, the NAACP, and other groups before examining the evidence to the contrary.

As Iowans, we should be particularly outraged at our former Governor and attorney, Tom Vilsack who said, when the story from Fox and other news agencies first came out, "We have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA. This controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices." After his rush to judgment and learning that there was more to the story, he made the correct decision to rehire Sherrod. At the moment, it is unknown what the outcome will be, but Mr. Vilsack may find himself under the wheels of the bus, if that is what is called for justice to be served.

The failure of the press in reporting this story is almost unforgivable. Clearly we are in an age of propaganda, the likes we have never seen before, where a foreign owned news company is acting as a mouthpiece to drive a rightest agenda (and doing so with great success). However, where was the fact-checking by CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, etc.? How embarrassing must it be for seasoned news professionals to look at each other and say "I thought you checked the facts."

Also, how simple are we as people to jump with the press to the conclusion that a person was guilty without so much as a chance to be heard? What a disservice to our shared humanity?

I hope that Shirley Sherrod is rehired. I hope that she is considered for the Secretary of Agriculture position. It is clear that through her actions, the citizens of the United States were better serviced than by her bosses or others that sip from the teat of the USDA.