Monday, August 5, 2013

A Threat to Justice Everywhere

“A second year under sequestration will have a devastating, and long lasting, impact on the administration of justice in this country,” “slash operations to the bones” "profoundly compromise" “We do not have projects or programs to cut; we only have people. We must adjudicate all civil and criminal cases that are filed with the courts,” the judges wrote. “Our workload does not diminish because of budget shortfalls. … Another round of cuts would be devastating.”

The Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Tribune have done fantastic jobs of detailing how the sequester is threatening the U.S. justice system. The sequester is literally a threat to the justice of our justice system and also a threat to the just Catholic social doctrine of the "preferential option for the poor." This blog entry is the place for the who, what, where, when, and why of the sequester.

In August 2011, with the Tea-Party led Congress holding the United States' credit hostage, Congress and the President agreed to the "Budget Control Act." A majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for the Sequester but in the Senate it was a majority of Democrats. Obama may have thought up the idea under duress, but it was 98% of what the Tea-Party influenced House wanted.

Journalist Bob Woodward basically said the idea for including the military in the sequester was Obama's idea. Now this is being used by Republicans, who got 98% of what they wanted, and can blame Obama for it. The Republican impetus for the sequester was threatening not to raise our nation's debt limit. As blogger Billmon put it, this tactic was akin to the guy in the movie Blazing Saddles who took himself hostage. In retrospect, it was a horrible move for President Obama to give in to these shenanigans. To make matters worse, the U.S. credit rating was dropped despite the sequester compromise.

Furthermore, in car accidents the driver who has the "last clear chance" to avoid an accident are supposed to take it or it is their fault. The Republican Congress has failed to stop the sequester, therefore it is their fault.

Sequester is for all practical purposes a misnomer. Sequester makes it sound as if Republicans could be in favor of cutting the budget while being against sequester. It makes it sound superficially plausible that President Obama wants to raise taxes instead of cutting the budget and still be the one to blame for the sequester. Calling it deep budget cuts instead would reduce this confusion.

(The "fiscal cliff" sounded much more alarming and many of us thought disaster was averted on January 1 of this year. In reality, only lessening tax hikes had been accomplished. That compromise was not so bad. I wish the parties could compromise on the sequester. There is no room for compromise due to gerry-mandered districts. Because of gerrymandered districts there is no fear of re-election and no room for compromise due to deeply red and deeply blue districts.)

Indeed, when you realize that if the Republicans in Congress didn't want they sequester all they'd have to do is vote to repeal it--as they've done to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) 40 times. But in contrast to repealing Obamacare, repealing the sequester would be able to pass the Senate and be signed by the president. The only reason Republicans won't repeal the sequester is because they want it's deep cuts, or even deeper ones with the exception of military cuts.  So Politifact notwithstanding, Republicans should not only own the sequester, they love it!

Admittedly President Obama's idea of the Sequester as a supposed deterrent--a Mutually Assured Destruction, if you will, was flawed. MAD worked in the U.S.-Communist Cold War, but is outdated in defending against terrorists. For MAD to work, you have to have a rational opponent not hell-bent on destruction. Followers of sociopath Ayn Rand want "moochers" to suffer while followers of Grover Norquist want to shrink government and "drown it in a bathtub." Such right-wing nut-jobs hate the government. I just wish they wouldn't run for elected office and that no one would vote for them. These are not rational opponents.

Lastly, if air traffic controller furloughs had continued the sequester would be over by now. As Martin Luther King, Jr,, put it “When you impede the rich man's ability to make money, anything is negotiable." That leverage should never have been given up by the Democrats.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Marking 25 Years of Excrement In Broadcasting

Rush Limbaugh has now been syndicated for 25 years. It has been over 10 years since I have listened to him at all. I stopped listening after I complained to a co-worker after lunch about something I heard Limbaugh say.

My co-worker asked, "Why do you listen to him?"

I replied that I only listen critically.

He said, "but you give him ratings and that's what he cares about most."

I thought about it and he was right. So I stopped listening. But the following are some of my criticisms back when I listened to him first-hand. For more recent Limbaugh lies, Media Matters now tracks those for us. So without further ado...

Quick Quiz: What do G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Rush Limbaugh, and Ted Nugent have in common?

Did you say convicted criminals? Wrong.
Only Liddy and North are actually criminals, and, besides, North's conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Let's see, Liddy worked for Nixon, North was in the military, Ted Nugent is a rock star, and Rush Limbaugh is a conservative talk show host. But wait, Liddy also has a talk show, so does North, but Ted Nugent? That's right, even Ted Nugent. All four are conservative talk show hosts.

Brief History of Talk Radio
Talk radio was first heard after 11 PM on top 40 radio stations. KABC became the first all-talk station in 1962. Gradually, many "impartial" hosts were replaced by opinionated ones. Now with no fairness doctrine in sight, conservatives proliferate the airwaves with their views.

Although not alone, Rush Limbaugh epitomizes this group, which I like to call "rechtsdreck‏ radio." Rechtsdreck is the German word for "garbage right." And no, I am not inferring that conservative radio has anything in common with some, limited aspects of 1930s fascism in Europe, I am implying it. You can infer it!

Focusing on Rush Limbaugh, now Senator Al Franken wrote a book called Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. A lot of people had big problems with this title. Even I have a small problem with it, namely, there should be a comma between the adjectives "big" and "fat." I gleaned this Rush-Limbaugh timeline from that book:

  • Rush Limbaugh was born in 1951. At age 16 he got his first job in radio--at his father's radio station. In 1969 he enrolled in college. In 1970 he dropped out, but still avoided service in the Vietnam War.
  • From 1974-1978 he was hired by 4 radio stations
  • In 1977 he married for the first time
  • In the early 80s he divorced and remarried. He got back into radio after working for the Kansas City Royals. In 1984 he began work in Sacramento where his syndication began.
  • After revelations in  a newspaper column that he had never done so, in 1986 Limbaugh first registered to vote.
  • In 1989 he divorced for the second time
  • In 1992 his best-selling book railed against "uglo-Americans," "environmentalist wackos," and "feminazis." Its 1994 sequel denounced negativity.
  • In the mid 90s he married for the third time. He also spreads rumors like the one about Vince Foster being murdered.
  • In 1994 the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1955. Instead of listening to professors of political science and policy wonks, Congressional newcomers are lectured by Rush Limbaugh.
It has been my experience that listeners of Rush Limbaugh tend to be ill-informed, yet confident about what they think they know at the same time. Psychologist might call this the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I call it a "Limbaughtomy." Multiplied multiplicities and multitudinous examples of Limbaugh-misinformation could be sighted, but here are three:
  1. Limbaugh has claimed, "There are more American Indians today than when Columbus arrived."
  2. "There are more acres of forestland today than when Columbus [arrived]."
  3. Even if polar ice caps melted by the greenhouse effect, the oceans' water level would not increase.
The facts are quite the opposite:
  1.  The Native American population has decreased in what is now the U.S. by at least 60%.
  2. America has at least 250 million less acres of forest than in Columbus's time.
  3. Ice melted off land, such as from on Antarctica and Greenland, would supply more water for oceans, increasing their levels. Hence, these are not just like ice cubes floating in water. There is water flowing from land into the oceans.
Rechtsdreck Radio, a phrase I have coined on my blog, is replete with Rush Limbaugh and Rush Limbaugh wannabees who claim to be bastions of truth in opposition to the "liberal" media (by which they don't mean just MSNBC, the former radio "Air America," or soon-to-be-former Current TV, but NPR and The New York Times).

Except for the egregious highlights (or should I write "lowlights?") I see on Media Matters, I no longer listen to Rechtsdreck Radio (or the video version, Fox News [sic], for that matter). I simply don't waste the time getting pulled into parallel universes where Hillary Clinton rubbed out Vince Foster, Styrofoam is biodegradable, and cigarettes don't cause cancer. That is the way Rush Limbaugh wants it to be, but not the way it is.