Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Being raped is good for you!

Public relations has become the art of convincing people to do things that they may not want to do…even things that are not in their own best interests. Public relations firms are hired by retailers to convince the public to buy their product, individuals to hone their public image or politically interested entities to shape public opinion and action.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis left a legacy of eight rhetorical tricks that propandists used as ploys to influence people’s thinking. It is remarkably similar to those used by political PR firms today to control how people vote:

1.      Fear. Organizations with the most to lose are most likely to resort to fear mongering; loss of jobs, threat to public health, or a general decline in social values, standard of living, or individual rights. It may also vilify a specific cause or even a specified person in order to create the desired point of view.
Obama’s health care includes death panels.
2.      Glittering generalities. This approach arouses strong, positive emotions by using words and phrases like, “democracy,” patriotism,” and “American way of life.” Virtually all types of organizations use the tactic to create support for themselves, but when combined with negative messaging, the implications can be insidious.
The John Birch Society tie pins and the constant inference that liberals or progressives are less patriotic than Conservatives.
3.      Testimonials. Celebrities are employed to provide testimonials in support of a candidate.
4.      Name calling. Blatant insults can be a very effective public relations tool; associating the target with a negative or unpopular cause or person.
Pictures depicting Obama as a Nazi or Muslim.
5.      Plain folks. Posing with rank-and-file employees or people gives the appearance that a person or candidate is “of the people.” Candidates, even though they may have been office for years claim to be Washington outsiders.
6.      Euphemisms. PR practitioners often select words that obscure the real meaning of actions or concepts. The tactic is sometimes called “doublespeak.” For instance, an employee may be “transitioned” rather than “fired,” and a “lie” may be called a “strategic misinterpretation.”
7.      Bandwagon.  The overriding message is that everyone else is supporting this and you should be too. Opinion polls can create the impression that a large percentage of people are on the bandwagon, but poll results may reflect only a designated sliver of the population, and they can be shaped in advance by structuring question to trigger an expected response.
8.      Transfer.  Similar to testimonials, the transfer approach involves the approval of a respected individual or organization. The IPA described the transfer as a “device b  which the propandist caries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and rever to something he would have us accept.”[1]
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to relate these tactics to the campaign of misinformation used by the spin masters, hired behind the screen enabled by the Citizens United decision, to convince voters, particularly low information voters, to vote for candidates and causes that are counter to their own best interests in the 2010 midterm elections.

[1] Toxic sludge is good  for you, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Common Courage Press. 1995. 17

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frustration of a bleeding heart liberal Mormon

I am frustrated at my fellow Mormons apparent disconnect between the teachings of the scriptures and the predominant political conservatism. While I am extremely grateful for the official position of political neutrality by the Church, as a liberal Mormon activist, I have felt uncomfortable at ward socials and even in Church meetings. A Gospel Doctrine teacher referred to Bill Clinton as a modern day example of the Gadianton Robbers, I heard a comment that the Church should stop proselyting Democrats. At a Empty Nest meeting during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, I heard our Ward Missionary comment to an investigator that we should “nuke them before they nuke us.” We have, in effect, cut our proselyting base in the USA roughly in half.
I oppose gay marriage but I am pro-choice precisely as the Church condones abortion and see it as an issue of agency not government control. I find it strange that someone who claims to eschew large government would want them telling a woman that they had to bear a child that was conceived through rape or incest. Or under any circumstances. It should be a matter between the mother, father and God. It should be a sin, not a crime.
I submit that the common LDS aversion to government supported welfare programs and to “wealth redistribution” are driven more by personal resentment to taxation than to scriptures. The common LDS mantra “welfare should be individual and voluntary” is scriptural sophistry. Clearly, we are commanded, both in the Bible and Book of Mormon, to share with the poor. Failure to do so carries the heaviest penalty that can be imposed, rejection from God’s Kingdom, and the only vehicle by which we can do this is government. Private charity just hasn’t got the job done and has been used more to make a profit than for helping the needy.
The 12th Article of Faith tells us we believe in being subject to government and that means we believe in being taxed. Section 134 of the D&C verse 1 reads:
WE believe that agovernments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
The Preamble to the US Constitution, which we believe was inspired by God, tells us that it is the responsibility of government, among other things to provide for the “common welfare.” That means government should prevent people from starving and dying for lack of health care.
I wonder how Jesus would be received today if he appeared on national television and suggested that anyone should share their wealth with the poor as he did in Mark 10: 21 and in Luke 18: 22 or if he advocated holding all things in common and eliminating poverty as he did in Acts 4 31-37.
I have no problem supporting my political and social beliefs with the Scriptures and I respect the rights of conservatives to believe as they do…but they should keep them out of our Church meetins, including socials as I do mine

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Modern History 1A

America is in the thralls of imposed amnesia!  In 2008 under George Bush, we were immersed in a pointless, illegal, unnecessary war, our banking system had collapsed, we were losing 800,000 jobs per day, Bush had turned a surplus into a $400 Billion deficit, and health insurance companies were exploiting their customers. Additionally more than 46 million Americans were not covered and the numbers were growing. Behind the scenes, The Citizens United Decision deemed corporations to be citizens as defined in the Constitution and opened the USA to the highest bidder. 

These and other problems  led to a dramatic Democratic take over of the White House and both houses. We expected this to lead to major changes and a rebirth of the middle class. But a funny thing happened on the way to the future. The GOP became the Group Of Phonies or the Party of no. The GOP of the Eisenhower era, the party that loved America and, rightly or wrongly, sincerely believed that the best course for America was smaller government and fiscal conservatism, has been transformed into a disarrayed mob of power hungry hate mongers who placed politics above the welfare of Americans.

The Teaparty has become the epitome of the Neo Republicans and may have taken  control. This cabal, organized and financed by international corporations, has a myriad of government protestations, sometimes exact opposites, which is impossible to categorize. The one thing they have in common is racism and disgust over an African-American being President of the United States. Latent for so many years because their attitudes were no longer fashionable, the election of Obama erased the thin veneer of decency. Jim Crow with just a semblance of subtlety has been reborn.

In spite of the sweeping election win in 2008, problems loomed ahead in the Senate where a filibuster could stop legislation in it's tracks. Democrats were one vote short of a filibuster proof (60 votes) majority. As reported above the Republicans program had America in trouble. They sat out to prove their mantra "that government doesn't work" by making it unworkable.

Obama outlined an ambitious agenda of health care reform, banking reform coupled with theTrouble Assets Relief Program (TARP),  and a program to stop job loss and stimulate the economy. Of course there was much more lower profile legislation. Were President Obama went wrong was his compulsive desire for bi-particism. The GOP led by Boehner and McConnel shamelessly put politics ahead of country and vowed to stop all legislation. They proudly became the Party of No. John Boehner's battle cry became HELL NO YOU CAN'T.  Senator Jim Demint fell in line with his announced intention of making health care reform Obama's Waterloo. Unfortunately for America, the GOP has no interest in solving America's problems; persistent unemployment, job losses overseas, importation of cheap labor, protecting us from nuclear weapons getting in the hands of rogue nations or terrorists. Their sole agenda is to stop the democrats from getting anything done.

They weren't completely successful but they were successful n cutting stimulus spending enough to slow recovery and create an unhappy constituency for the recent election. Enabled by the Citizens United ruling, large corporations, through the US Chamber of Commerce have provided a bottomless well of advertising money for anti-Democratic propaganda and Republican campaigns. This fusillade of media ads was successful in blocking the memory of voters, particularly low information voters who are vulnerable to the 30 second TV sound bites, of conditions in November of 2008. All they see is the unemployment situation and thanks to lack of incentive to study reality, i.e., the republican intransigence and political maneuvering to prevent a Democrat solution, they fall victim to lies, sophistry, platitudes, ad hominems and personal attacks on Obama and leading Democrats, promulgated by the best PR experts in  the world and mouthed through people like Glenn Beck, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Rush Limbaugh and the Republican propaganda machine, Fox News.

In summary, big corporations with their Supreme Court, approved status as real people, and with the help of imposed amnesia of Americans, propelled grass roots organizations and their candidates, to a blood letting in the 2009 mid term elections and may have destroyed any chance to alter the seemingly inexorable road to control of the US government by international corporations. This is spite of the most successful two years of legislative achievement, since the New Deal; this in the face of the most orchestrated obstructive opposition in congressional history.

When Americans wake up, which they eventually will, and see what they have wrought, it may well be too late.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a matter of time before a man without food will get a gun!

Thom's blog
If you're hungry, are you free?
If you're hungry, are you free? According to Republicans, over 17 million more Americans are free because of 30 years of Reaganomics. You need to know this: The US Department of Agriculture is reporting that 17.4 million households in the country had trouble finding enough food to eat last year. In fact - in one out of every eight homes - someone went hungry at some point throughout the year. Children in single parent households were most affected by a food shortage - along with African Americans and Hispanics. All in all - 14% of the households in our country - the richest nation in the world - suffered from what economists call food insecurity and the rest of us call hunger. And these numbers could have been much higher. The Department of Agriculture reports that though the number of hungry families spiked much higher in 2007 when the recession began - it has held steady since - thanks in large part to federal assistance like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and free and reduced school lunches. On top of that - economists have proven that federal food assistance programs actually have a stimulative effect on the economy - with every dollar given out in food stamps producing $1.73 in economic activity as it circulates from the hungry person to the retail store to the wholesaler to the farmer. Unfortunately Republicans - didn't get that memo. They still insist a 3% tax cut for millionaires and billionaires so they can put more money in Swiss banks is a better stimulus for America, and they're willing to cut federal food assistance programs to pay for it. There you have it - the Republican Party is literally taking food off the table of hungry Americans - so fat cat banksters can get a million dollar tax-giveaway bonus, borrowed from China and handed to billionaires courtesy of Uncle Sam.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Bush Tax cuts did nothing for the economy in the past and won't in the future

GOPhonies, AKA Teaparty, has had two rallying cries: Balance the budget and make the budget busting Bush tax cuts permanent.  These two objectives are mutually exclusive. The treasury estimates the costs of making the tax cuts permanent for everyone is $3.7 trillion over 10 years.

Currently, debt is 9.9% of GDP, If the tax cuts are extended, it would lead to a national debt in the range of 90 percent of GDP by 2020 unless it was paid for by a reduction in spending. This is like saying a family, in order to buy a new car with payments of $2000 a month would have to reduce their spending on other things by $2000. Difficult to do if their entire income is being spent on food and housing. The Teaparty blithely proclaims they can pay for it by a reduction in entitlements.  The problem is that there isn't enough money there. It would have to come out of the defense budget. 

It is true that conventional wisdom and Keynesian Economics  tell us that cutting taxes is good in a recession.  However, this depends on whose taxes are cut.  Cutting taxes of those who will not spend it does little, if any,  good. On the other hand, cutting the taxes of those who will spend it inserts money immediately into the demand for goods and services. This is tendency is called the Marginal Propensity to Consume or how much of incremental income will be spent.  It's a matter of common sense that those with lower incomes have a higher Marginal Propensity to Consume that those with higher incomes. Supply side economists claim that cutting the taxes of the rich will lead to more investment and hence more economic activity. Supply side economics has been demonstrated to be a failure. The deficit continued to deepen and the current recession occurred while these budget busting tax cuts were in place. 

This is why it is a good idea, economically, to extend the tax cuts to those with lower incomes and not to those with higher incomes. This has nothing to do with income redistribution; if the pie expands, everyone has a bigger slice; if it contracts, everyone's slice is smaller. 

Our government must resist the demand of the higher income groups to have a larger slice of a contracting pie.