Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Destruction of America: It's What They Want


"Government can't solve the problem. Government is the problem."
-Ronald Reagan

No, the title is not referring to the terrorists. At least, not the ones in other countries, who commit conventional terrorism with bombs and airplanes and vans. These terrorists are a small group of elitists who wish to bring America to its knees unconventionally; through the Democratic process, of all things. Not because they necessarily hate their country, but because they love their money, their power, and their campaign contributors more than their country. And if making the country weaker makes them more powerful, you'd better believe they'll do it.

So who are "they?"

The Reagan Revolution

"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
-Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform

America's resounding wish 30 years ago materialized through the "Reagan Revolution." One of unfettered, deregulated, unrestrained capitalism, compounded with "starving the beast." The "beast," of course, being government. Even if that beast was educating our children and caring for our poor and our sick, the American people wanted that beast out of their lives. And they elected Ronald Reagan the the presidency by overwhelming margins in both 1980 and 1984, and they even liked him so much that they elected one of his deputies, George H. Bush, after Reagan's two terms were up.

And the two Democratic presidents who have followed both tread carefully when stumping for social welfare programs, because the "GOVERNMENT BAD, CORPORATIONS GOOD" mantra had been stuck in the heads of constituents for a generation and was there to stay.

President Clinton deregulated banks by repealing the Glass-Stegall Act of 1936 in his second term as per the advice of Rubin and Summers, a decision he now openly regrets. And President Obama doesn't dare raise top income tax rates to what they were under other Republican administrations (50% under Reagan, 70% under Nixon, 91% under Eisenhower) for fear of a corporate lynch mob. Barack Obama is already being called every demeaning term under the sun for letting the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011 (39.6 top tax rate after Bush tax cuts for the wealthy sunset), so it isn't likely he'll impose higher taxes on the richest, at least in his first term.

So the people have spoken, right? Taxes are bad? Government is bad? Corporations, deregulation and obscene profits are all good? If you have absurd amounts of wealth, then you obviously worked for every penny and any taxation on those profits is socialism/communism/fascism/nazism/terrorism? The only reason poor people are poor is because they don't know how to work hard?

Well kids, the Reagan Revolution has come true in every way. We are reaping the fruits of our labor, of the seeds we have sewn three decades ago. I invite all of you to read on, and see just exactly where the Reagan Revolution and 30 years of fiscal conservatism and libertarian unfettered free-market philosophies has led our country.

The Dawn of the Re-Gilded Age

"The only social responsibility of corporations is to make a profit."
-Milton Friedman, economic adviser to President Reagan

Take a look at any economic chart graphing just about anything in this country after 1981, and you'll notice a pattern. That pattern is usually a line that takes a sudden drop, or a sudden rise.

For example, after 1981, when Reagan was sworn in, we steadily went form the world's largest creditor, to the world's largest debtor.

Working people's share of the profits from increased productivity also took a sharp turn for the worst.

This led to increased concentration of wealth at the top.

Because of this, working folks had to deplete their savings just to get basic needs.

Without a reserve of savings, this soon led to increased working-class debt, which has only worsened since the Reagan Revolution.

Obviously, none of this helped economic growth, because the majority of working Americans were cutting back their spending, which hurts local economies and jobs.

Do you see the pattern yet? The source of our economic woes should be painfully obvious right now, but the vested powers that be like it that way, and have plenty of money to lobby Congress so they can make sure the cards remain in their favor. Even if that means the rest of us get the short end of the stick.

So why complain? According to today's conservatives, this sort of economic inequality is not only sustainable, but it is just. And they're going to fight as hard as they can to make sure the status quo stays. But what is that status quo today, after three decades of Reaganomics from both parties?

The Status Quo

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

"They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936

The status quo today is one that is slowly destroying the American middle class, to where nearly one in five of us are unemployed, underemployed, or have just stopped looking for work.

The gap between the richest and everyone else is slowly turning into a chasm, thanks to fiscal policy that fills the pockets of the rich while the working class toil longer hours for lower wages. The debt mentioned in the previous section has grown to such an alarming rate that one in 9 working families can't even make the minimum payment on their credit card debt. The housing situation hasn't improved much since the subprime bubble burst in late 2008; now, one in eight mortgages is either in foreclosure or default, and homes are still emptying all over America today, and it's estimated we'll have ten million more foreclosures before 2012.

While Wall Street bankers used our bailout money to give themselves obscene bonuses, Americans who suffered from their greed had $5 TRILLION of their pension and savings wiped out.

Sure, the 1960's saw a boom where median income rose for working families by 33%, but the economic surge that was celebrated by the end of the Clinton presidency was only a 1.5% jump for folks like us. However, the real gains were made on Wall Street- champagne corks were popping through the latter half of the 20th century as productivity has steadily been on the rise while middle-class wages have been relatively flat since the 1970s.

The top 10% of the country has seen great gains in their wealth since 1980, thanks to Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policies. However, prices have continued to rise while wages have stagnated for the other 90%. Now, the hunger rate in this country, arguably the most wealthy on the planet, has increased by 37 million in just the past year. And here in the South, it's estimated that nearly half of the children in 15 states are undernourished. And according to the article above, a third of Americans- 100 million people- are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level of $21,834 in annual income for a family of four. And as the author said, that figure really should be adjusted, because that amount of money isn't capable of supporting a family of four today. And as if that wasn't enough, 50% percent of kids growing up today will require food stamps/EBT just to eat three meals a day.

So despite the astonishing levels of disparity and income inequality in America, the likes of which we haven't seen since pre-1929, the Republicans in power and the Libertarians making up the majority of the Tea Party would have you believe that such a lack of income and crippling poverty is your own fault. Their meme is that if you live on food stamps/EBT cards, then you're a lazy, good-for-nothing government mooch. Their reasoning for earning insufficient wages is that you just don't work hard enough.

If that seems like an over-generalization, read on and see just how the Republicans in power feel about the poor and unemployed who survive only on a government-provided safety net. Since the onset of the Reagan Revolution, they have sought to not only abolish all regulatory agencies, but to eliminate all social welfare programs.

They are succeeding.

The Right-Wing War on the Poor

"Tough shit."
-Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) after being asked to drop objections to 30-day unemployment extension

In February, Jim Bunning drew the scorn of Democrats across the country for his callousness toward the plight of America's jobless. Republican senators Jon Kyl and Bob Corker had lukewarm support for his viewpoints, but the rest of the Republican caucus turned their heads in shame, refusing to join their colleague in blocking emergency aid to the poor.

Fast-forward to Thursday, June 24th, when an up-or-down vote on an emergency spending bill to extend unemployment insurance through December 30th was blocked- not just by Sen. Bunning, but by the entire Republican caucus. Conservative Democrat Ben Nelson (D-NE) joined the Republicans, and "moderate" Republicans like Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) voted in lockstep with their party.

Along with keeping the safety net for millions of jobless Americans intact, the bill also included $16 billion in state government aid, aimed at preserving public sector jobs that would otherwise be lost. Governors of 47 states, including top GOP strategist Haley Barbour (R-MS) all signed a letter begging Congress to extend them the $16 billion to save their state employees. Already, 231,000 state government employees across the nation have lost their jobs since the beginning of the recession because of severe budget cuts.

As if this wasn't enough, in their never-ending, fruitless effort to reach across the aisle, Senate Democrats even compromised the bill down from $190 B to $30 B. However, Senate Republicans vowed to filibuster regardless of the amount in the bill. The only alternative offered by the Republicans would be to severely cut the budget to where the federal government would effectively shut down for almost 80 days. For the GOP, a compromise means that the Democrats do what the Republicans want.

The GOP casts themselves as martyrs, saying that blocking UI is necessary to save the federal deficit from exploding. However, worrying about the deficit while people are starving and losing their homes is a lot like worrying about the furniture on the Titanic if it gets wet. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joked about the emergency spending bill, calling it the "Deficit Extenders Act."

Mind you, Mitch McConnell is the same deficit hawk who gleefully voted with the rest of his caucus to spend $4 TRILLION that we didn't have on tax cuts for the rich 1%, two wars on countries that didn't attack us, and a Medicare package that put money into the pockets of Big Pharma at the expense of America's senior citizens while George W. Bush was president. He is the same senator who voted to give himself a "cost of living" pay raise while America was reeling from the deficits created by irresponsible spending from those in his party.

Mitch and his Republicans in the US Senate won't cut anything from the $1 trillion spent on wars overseas since 2001, but he draws the line when it comes to keeping a safety net intact for 15 million Americans suffering from an economic crisis created by his party's failed fiscal policies.

It isn't just Bunning being a mean old curmudgeon now- every Republican is now Jim Bunning.

The Destruction of America: It's What They Want

"I want Obama to fail."
-Rush Limbaugh

Eliminating the only source of income left for 15 million Americans will only lead to even more widespread poverty; the lack of money coming into local businesses will have a ripple effect in every state. No longer will the jobless have money coming in so they can buy shoes for their kids, put food on the table, make copays to see the doctor, or change the oil, or even put gas in their cars. The Republicans would like us to believe that this will somehow further enable the jobless to find work, despite the fact that corporate profits are up while hiring is down. The jobs just aren't out there.

When families are pushed out onto the streets because they no longer have UI checks coming in to pay rent, when they lose the money they were getting to gas up their car so they can drive around town and drop off resumes and fill out job applications, when local mom-and-pop grocery stores, hardware stores, shoe stores and service stations go belly-up because there's no money being spent, the economy will likely crash again, just in time for the 2010 midterm congressional elections in November.

The average American doesn't have the time to follow political news- they don't see Republicans crassly voting against emergency aid for millions of families and households. They don't see a vow by the Republicans to filibuster any and all legislation that helps spur job growth. The average American will only see "Congress" sitting on their thumbs, accomplishing nothing while people starve. And come November, the average American will be in an angry, throw-the-bums-out, anti-incumbent fervor. And since the Democrats have the majority, they will be saddled with the blame, despite the Republicans purposefully failing to govern in the people's interest.

This is not about fiscal policy. This is simply the Republicans playing politics with people's livelihoods.


The Republicans seek not to create jobs, or help the economy recover, at least not while the Democrats are in charge of the White House and the Capitol. They want this president and this congress to fail, so they can win more seats in the next election. Their political strategy is to break the economy, increase poverty, widen the gap between rich and poor, and then point the finger at the Democrats and say,

"See? We told you they couldn't get anything done!"

If voters refuse to stay informed on legislative affairs, if voters become apathetic with the political process and decide to stay home on election day, then the Republicans will get what they want. And they will continue to fight against the interests of the working poor as long as Barack Obama is in the White House. They will continue to side with their corporate contributors and Wall Street in their class war against the dwindling middle class and impoverished.

But don't take my word for it- let them say it for you. They are not on your side.

It's a risky political strategy, but they will succeed unless the Democrats come out with guns blazing. The extreme right has taken over the Republican party, and they are waging war with anyone not in line with their philosophy of "screw you, I got mine." The Democrats ignore this partisan warfare at their own peril.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Final Plea For Your Help


"Die with your boots on. Gonna try? Well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands."
-Iron Maiden

I just need to convey a point here. And I try not to be known for vulnerability, but I am openly scared for the future. Not just of this country, or our generation, or our society, but for our posterity and our planet and for all living things. I am frightened, and I'm asking for your help. Why?

Because all logic points to the conclusion that we are accelerating quickly down a path that is becoming rockier and steepier and narrower. Unless we find a way to stop and find a better, safer way to travel, I fear the human species will tumble right off the side. This fall will be gradual at first, but it will nonetheless become cataclysmic, and will remain irreversible for generations. And we will doom this planet's life along with us. This could all happen within a 5 to 10 year window at our current pace.

I'm just going to list some recent happenings in the news, then a few facts afterward. There are many more than what has been listed here, but these are just the few that come off the top of my head from paying attention to the news for the past few weeks or so. Then I will lead you to the extremely logical and simple conclusion I've come to, and hopefully you'll have come to the same conclusion by the time you've finished reading this.

Major Environmental Disasters in America Since 4/20/2010

Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both
Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Throw them in the fire
Throw them in the fire
Throw them in the

We're not scare mongering
This is really happening
We're not scare mongering
This is really happening
Mobiles quirking
Mobiles chirping
Take the money and run
Take the money and run
Take the money

-Radiohead, Idioteque

Mind you, this is simply MAJOR disasters. Since April 20th. In America. I define "major" as one where human beings are killed or injured or otherwise directly affected. I will not be including things like the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska just two decades ago. Or the massive oil spill in the Persian Gulf during the Iraqi/Saudi conflicts back in Saddam Hussein's heyday. Nor will I discuss the Venezuelan oil rig that sank in the Caribbean this past May. Or any of the ten world's worst oil spills, none of which have happened in the USA. Just major happenings, here in the states, in the past 60 or so days.

April 20, 2010
BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded deep in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people. Estimates by the oil company started at 5,000 barrels a day (around 200,000 gallons of oil per day) and then independent and government scientists analyzed the drilling depth, the amount of oil in the well, and the consequences of a major blowout, and placed that figure around 10,000 to 20,000 barrels a day. Now that figure is between 70,000 and 80,000 barrels a day. It could be higher. But it's already gushed more than four Exxon Valdez-sized spills into the Gulf of Mexico. And that's a very, very conservative estimate.

This will effect undersea plant, fish, bird, turtle and whale species, local economies, tourism, and the country's domestic seafood supply very likely for the rest of our lives. And if, God forbid, a major hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico, which scientists say is very likely this year, then imagine miles and miles of concrete ribbons of expressway closed down indefinitely because they're covered in oil. Lost homes. Lost cultures. Lost ways of life. For at least a generation. Maybe more.

June 6 2010
A natural gas well leaked toxic gases into water supplies for 16 hours in Pennsylvania, due to a failure in the well's blowout preventer. A plume of polluted water and gas shot 75 feet into the air at the time of the incident, and crews were evacuated until the next day.

June 7, 2010
A natural gas line in Cleburn, Texas ruptured, ending one worker's life and sending seven to the hspital. Nobody could walk through the area for several hours, and the worker's charred remains were found later in the day, a good distance from the site.

Also on this day, in Moundsville, West Virginia, a natural gas line drilling project ran into a pocket of methane, injuring 7 people. A 70-foot pillar of flame shot from the gas line, and the flames were still 40 feet high several hours later.

June 8, 2010
Two men digging clay out of a pit in the Texas panhandle were killed when a natural gas line suddenly exploded. Three other workers bulldozing near the blast were hospitalized.

June 13, 2010
Creeks and nearby water supplies were polluted after a Chevron oil well dumped 33,000 gallons of crude oil near Salt Lake City, Utah. Chevron takes responsibility for this one, and reports are surfacing of oil-soaked wildlife emerging from surrounding waterways.

June 15, 2010
A natural gas pipeline exploded in the Dallas area, taking a man's life and injuring 8 others. Authorities are still trying to figure out what caused the fatal blast.

Rapid Climate Change

"Can you read signs? Can you read stars?
Can you make peace? Can you fight war?
Can you milk cows, even though you drive cars?
Can you survive, against all odds?"

-Damien Marley, "Patience"

At the Bonnaroo music festival this year, in a treeless field an hour South of Nashville, Tennessee, one attendee actually died from the heat. I remember heat indices reaching past 100 on Friday, and climbing steadily on Saturday and Sunday. The brief rain we got Saturday just compounded Sunday's wet, sticky humidity, not to mention exacerbating the prevalent stink of 80,000 unwashed bodies of myself and other hormone-ridden hipsters, rastas, peaceniks and other such scalawags in Manchester.

But that's something we're just going to have to get used to, just like these environmental disasters that keep sticking their ugly heads up in the news each day. Because this year is on track to be the hottest year on record. The facts are bearing out all over the place.

-Did you know that global surface temperature records have been shattered every week since the second week this past January, when compared to the year before?

-Did you know that ocean temperatures are currently at their second-hottest of all-time, other than 1998? And that record temperature anomalies are now being reported on all of the world's majorly-populated continents?

-Did you know that arctic sea ice volume has drastically declined over the last two months, far beyond what would be considered normal in the planet's climate cycles? That temperatures in the arctic are ten degrees fahrenheit warmer today than the norm? And that this past brutal winter and what is predicted to be an historically destructive hurricane season are being directly linked to this arctic meltdown?

-Most importantly, did you know that scientists are estimating that half of the WORLD will suddenly find themselves in a severe water shortage 20 years from now?

This cycle compounds and becomes worse, exacerbated by an overabundance of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere, which lingers above, absorbing sunlight and focusing it on the arctic areas. Before the industrial revolution's onset, the Earth naturally equalized atmospheric CO2. Now, the Earth has far more CO2 than it knows what to deal with. When arctic ice melts, seas grow warmer and ice becomes more isolated. Warmer, saltier water then flows into the arctic from the North Atlantic, which causes more ice to melt. Lather, rinse, repeat.

These greenhouse gases, largely put in the air by humanity's industrialization, consist of carbon dioxide and methane. Both of which humans excrete just by sitting still, which the Earth can normally equalize if kept at manageable levels. But with so much rapid melting of sea ice, methane pockets in the Siberian shelf are starting to seep into the atmosphere. Methane stays in the air for much longer and channels much more heat than regular CO2, and climate scientists warn that this is steadily increasing global temperatures incrementally over the years, to where we are literally starting to see catastrophic effects of climate change take place worldwide before our own eyes.

-Like the Aral Sea drying up to a fraction of what it was just twenty years ago.

-Like glaciers collapsing in Argentina, killing three tourists and their guide.

-Like water supplies in one of the world's most populous countries suddenly drying up because of rapid glacial melt.

-Like how we're already seeing conflicts in the hottest parts of the world not over religious, ethnic of political differences, but because there's not enough food and water to go around.

Like the recent environmental disasters, the effects of climate change are numerous in the media, and I could devote pages to just sharing links and figures and data. But that isn't what I came here to do tonight. I came to ask for your help.

My Final Plea For Your Help

"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land.
And don't criticize what you can't understand.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one,
If you can't lend your hand,
For the times, they are a-changin'."

-Bob Dylan, "The Times, They Are A-Changin'"

This is usually the part where I ask you to call your congressmen and senators and urge them to push for strong climate legislation for the sake of our planet. But I'm going to just start small here, and hope you, the readers, will take it upon yourselves to make a collective call to action in government and society. My plea?

Climate change is NOT to be up for debate any longer.

Evolution used to be an issue up for debate. As did the Earth being the center of the universe. Or the Earth's shape. Or the origin of the universe. But eventually, a scientific consensus concluded that the facts were overwhelmingly on their side, and they moved on.

This is the part where the deniers come out of the woodwork and link me to studies put out by the Heritage Insitute, or the Heartland Institute, or some other think tank funded with oil company money scoffing at proven climate science. Or to a petition from the religious right-wing's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, where 30,000 scientists who DON'T study the climate deny that climate change is man-made, or that it's even happening.

Or maybe the deniers reading this are fuming under their breath, preparing a lengthy response chastising me about ignoring the economic implications of a strong climate bill. Please don't waste your time. Any economic implications of a carbon tax or ban on oil drilling are outweighed by far by the economic implications of 3 billion starving people in Africa and Central/Eastern Asia. Or by every major coastal American city underwater by the midpoint of the 21st century.

It could be that the climate change deniers are about to post links to the "climategate scandal" at the University of East Anglia, where tens of thousands of private emails between climate scientists were illegally hacked and taken out of context by those working in the interests of Big Oil. Where, in reality, the actual conclusions about drastic climate change came to by a consensus of climatologists were never thrown into question, despite so much manufactured outrage and nonsense.

Or maybe it's just the sad cry of the FOX news watchers and Glenn Beck-ites and Rush Limbaugh dittoheads of "B-b-but...AAAAALLLLL GOOOOOOORRRRREEEE!"

I've wasted far too much time repeatedly debunking those petitions, those studies, those faux scandals and those organizations and I'm tired of debate, for once. I'm thirsty not for debate, but for action, and our planet needs us. And I'm moving on. We all must move on.

We must plead for our media to stop pitting scientists vs. non-scientists against one another and framing it as a legitimate debate. The debate is over. Like evolution, climate change is no longer up for debate. It is happening. It is real. Our actions are directly influencing the climate's rapid change. And incidents like the ones above are all indicative that we are very quickly hurtling down an unsustainable path, and that the only thing that can come of it will be a very swift, sharp, painful end for all of us.


"What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"
-Henry David Thoreau

Our generation will either be remembered as the ones who finally swallowed our pride, wised up and organized a collective effort to reverse our planet's inevitable decay before it was too late, or the ones who got lazy, who consumed with reckless abandon, who spat in the faces of the more knowledgeable among us. And if a fraction of humanity does survive the pending crises that will already await us in the not-too-distant future, they will look back on us with scorn, and tell their progeny of how our laziness and apathy caused species to die off en masse, for soil to only become fertile again once our decomposed corpses were taken back into the Earth.

I'm asking for your help. What will you do for the planet? For yourselves? For your grandchildren?

How will you be remembered?

New Age Charlatans and the Overton Window

(Disclaimer: There are far too many sources to individually link to, and I frankly don't have the time for the tedious task of hyperlinking every claim made in this note. However, should anything I say here make you scoff, feel free to point me to where you'd like to see sources backing me up, and Id be more than happy to provide you with links.)

The Power of the Media

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
-Malcolm X

Here's how defines the word "charlatan."

a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

Pretty harmless, right? That word can describe thousands of people. I imagine some of my more critical readers would probably love to associate that word with me. But I'd like to use this space to focus that word on the cable news demagogues that plague our public discourse with blatant and outright lies and misinformation, and a general poisoning of the public discourse.

Sure, there are the minor-league pundits like Keith Olbermann, Joe Scarborough, Lou Dobbs in his heyday, and the like. But they don't even hold a candle to the voices on right-wing morning talk radio like Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and of course our friends on FOX news like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The FOXers don't even make an effort to hide their bias. Right-wingers could argue that MSNBC is the liberal equivalent of FOX, but as John Stewart put it in a baseball analogy, MSNBC is like the Toledo Mud Hens to FOX news' New York Yankees. There really is no equivalence between the two.

Maybe a lot of you are sighing or slapping your foreheads, and wondering why I'm dedicating a piece to blasting cable news demagogues instead of researching and tackling more presing issues. But this IS a pressing issue, because our political discourse, since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, has become posionous to a most extreme level. I fully place blame on Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity/Rush Limabugh's hate speech and misinformation campaigns, and how they've skillfully shifted the Overton Window to the far right.

I've always said that the media is the fifth branch of American government (the Federal Reserve has earned the title of the fourth branch after the bailouts, their autonomy and lack of transparency and accountability) and in many ways, has more influence over the public than the other four. We in the media decide what the public talks about. We are in charge of creating the public discourse. What you discuss at parties, in coffee shops with the cute girl sitting at the table next to you, with your parents over the phone, with your friends at the bar after work, all comes largely from what the media puts on the airwaves and in print. We are a force to be reckoned with, although many of us are unaware, as we all complain of being overworked and underpaid. And of course, media folks are in one of the most hated professions in America; we're right there at the bottom with congressmen, seedy car mechanics and lawyers. But our power is prevalent and far-reaching.

Which brings me to this point- when you are a pundit with your own cable TV show watched by millions, and you knowingly mislead the public and propagate extremism, you create an environment where millions suddenly find such hate speech and posionous dialogue as acceptable discourse. Particularly when these pundits parade themselves as legitimate journalists who are "just asking the hard questions."

Look at Glenn Beck, for instance. Here is a man with a primetime cable show on the most-watched cable news network, who-

-has attacked the president's deceased mother and grandmother, calling them "Marxists,"
-has openly endorsed an anti-semitic author,
-has once used his radio talk show to harass a woman who had a miscarriage,
-has called a caller on his show (along with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton) a "bitch,"
-has called Katrina victims "scumbags,"
-has said he openly hates 9/11 victims' families,
-has asserted that the United States is not a Democracy, but that progressives are trying to make it one, and that that's a bad thing. (Which leads to the assertion that we're a Republic, not a Democracy, leading to the unspoken assertion that Republicans are the only true Americans, and that Democrats are un-American and un-patriotic, among other such nonsense)
-has called for his audience to leave their churches if they advocate social justice or economic justice,
-has called the president a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for White people" and the "White culture,"

He does this through contrived tears, choking up out of a fear that our country's very principles are under attack by an evil, oppressive, liberal agenda by those who want to take your guns, jobs, bibles, and babies. While chastising liberals for poking fun at Bristol Palin's pregnancy despite her mother being an advocate for abstinence-only sex education, he has used airtime on his program to blast Melea and Sasha Obama, the president's two teenage daughters. In spite of so much hatred and hypocrisy, his TV show and radio program garner millions of listeners and viewers every day.

Anyone with an ounce of sanity knows Glenn Beck is a clown. Many of you have scoffed at my calling Beck's hate speech a threat to Democracy, because clearly, there can't be that many people who take him seriously. But the thing is, there are. And they are being woefully lied to and misled every day, being fed a steady diet of hatred and fear and ignorance. It is poisoning our dialogue, and it is shifting the Overton Window to the extreme right. Beck, in and of himself, is harmless. But he is succeeding in a larger goal of manipulating the shift of the Overton Window, which is indeed a very dangerous thing.

The Overton Window

"The most effective propaganda is simple- stick to a few certain points, and repeat them over and over again until they are accepted as fact.
-Joseph Goebbels

So what is the Overton Window? Political gurus describe it as the realm of acceptable public discourse in society. The more extremism, hate speech, and outlandish claims get broadcast to millions upon millions of listeners across the country each day, the less extreme those claims sound. thus, the Overton Window moves steadily to the right. We've heard these guys call liberals, the president, his administration, and his policies Nazi/Communist/Fascist/Anti-American for so long that they don't sound extreme anymore.

Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh have been at the forefront of extreme discourse since the Democrats took control of Congress and the White House. Since the onset of the Obama presidency, we've seen the onset of the corporate-supported Astroturf (fake grassroots) effort, the Tea Party. the Tea Party has managed to get the majority of poor, uneducated, underserved white Americans to vehmently rail against their own self-interests, citing Democratic social welfare policies like Health Care Reform, Wall Street Reform, Immigration Reform and Campaign Finance Reform as "socialism," "communism," "nazism," and the like. The Tea Party, despite being exposed a front group established by the mainstream GOP, despite being funded by Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Insurance, has managed to get away with touting a populist label, and has had its principles extolled 24/7 as virtuous by the FOX news pundit regime.

Now, approximately just 17 months into Obama's presidency, where he has historically accomplished far more than any other president has at that point in their tenure, where he has made good on nearly all of his campaign promises to this point, where taxes are at their lowest since the Truman administration, a paranoid, knee-jerk, reactionary 24-hour news cycle on FOX has managed to convince their viewing public of the exact opposite. Their pundits have insinuated that the president is a secret Muslim who wants to place the United States under Sharia law, that taxes on the poor and middle class are rising far higher and quicker than at any other point and time in history, that he has accomplished nothing since holding office, and that his agenda is succeeding in converting us from a Republic to a Socialist haven.

Such extreme dialogue, when forced down the throats of millions every day, is now not so extreme. The Overton Window has shifted. And the far right has succeeded in their dominance of this country's political discourse once again.

Consequences of a Rightward Overton Window Shift

"Those who control the access to the minds of children will set the agenda for the future of the nation and the future of the western world."
-Rev. James Dobson

We've seen bricks thrown through congressmen and congresswomen's campaign office windows, gas lines cut at the home of a Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) brother, tea partiers collectively mocking and throwing money at a man with Parkinson's who advocated for universal health care, cheering when being referred to as "Tim McVeigh wannabes," a plane flown into an IRS building in Texas, and a gathering in Washington, DC of tea partiers, all heavily armed, threatening to stage a violent revolt if their right-wing agenda was not adhered to in Washington.

Simultaneously, Democratic successes in passing Health Care Reform and moving on other items in their legislative agenda has invited an onslaught of racial slurs, death threats, threats of armed insurrection, sedition, secession, and other hateful acts by the Tea Party activists. These acts have been encouraged and spurred on by right-wing talk radio and FOX news pundits. For example, Ann Coulter said the man who crashed his plane into the IRS building should have flown it into the New York Times building instead. This is the same woman who has openly called for liberals to be shot in the streets. A former pastor and armed serviceman has talked about grabbing his guns and "doing what has to be done" if Washington continues to move forward with a progressive agenda.

With a right-wing media and blogosphere cheering on such extremism, and with a mainstream Republican establishment in Congress and the Senate who has refused to denounce hateful extremist acts, America has fostered a climate where violent extremism is encouraged. And until something is done to regulate such hate speech, it will only get worse from here.

What Can Be Done to Fight Extremism

"For the first time ever, everything is in place for the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ."
-Ronald Reagan

Currently, it is not against the law to lie to the public in the news media. This was the ruling of the Florida appellate court, when two investigative reporters sued their former employer, a FOX affiliate, for manipulating a scathing report they had done about BGH in milk products to make it more corporate-friendly. Journalists have a responsibility to uphold the truth, and to tell the story as accurately as possible. However, so many are parading as journalists while simultaneously lying to and deceiving millions of Americans on a daily basis. They use their influence on the networks to spread misinformation and obstruct necessary progress and reforms in Washington. They are waging a war on both the truth and on our Democracy, but nothing is currently stopping them from from spreading lies, fear and hate and masking it as journalism.

Our president and speaker of the house are too timid to support a reinstatement of the "Fairness Doctrine," which would require broadcasting outlets to equally air differing points of view on their stations. Thanks to the right-wing talk radio monopoly, millions of people are privy to hate radio for several hours each morning, with nothing on the other side to balance it out. As controversial as it is for me to say, I believe the Fariness Doctrine is a necessary first step to combat the charlatans' manipulation of the Overton Window and extreme right-wing dominance of our political discourse. And of course, nobody will pay attention to it unless you, the reader, take the time right now to take two minutes and call the Washington switchboard (202-224-3121), ask for your congressmen and senators, and urge them to sign on their support of the Fairness Doctrine. It's a long shot, but a crucial first step in restoring our political discourse back to an acceptable level.

What about you? Do you care enough about American discourse to help save it from the far right?