November 18, 2005

A Right-Wing Perspective - Part II

Several weeks ago I wrote an article about a real piece of work on conservative talk radio by the name of Spencer Hughes. He does a show on Sunday afternoons, and since I work a second job on Sunday mornings, I’m coincidentally in my car listening to the radio at around 12:30 – 1:30 each Sunday on my way home. I’m usually listening to the ‘Best of Air America’ (this is the only time I get to catch Al Franken), but surf over to this other talk station during commercials to hear what Conservatives are saying.

I wasn’t planning on writing another article on this right-wingnut, but I had the opportunity to listen to a few more minutes of Mr. Hughes’ show this past Sunday, as well as the Sunday before. After 5 minutes or so of his filth, I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to Air America, even though they were still on commercials. I certainly don’t want to give this blowhard any more publicity for his show, but I can’t help but comment on the trash that I heard coming out of his mouth. The focus of his shows these past two weeks (for as much as I could stomach listening) was the unrest and violence going on in France.

Pointing the Finger

To blame for the unrest in France, he isolated the “… Islamic Fascist Scum…” as the “… terrorists…” behind the violence. Sometimes he used the full-version “… scum-of-the-earth…” assumingly to make the distinction on which planet these people are the scum of. But according to Hughes, all of the violence in France is perpetrated by Muslims.

His Answer

Two weeks ago Mr. Hughes gave his simple answer on how to handle this problem, and this week he criticized the ‘Liberal’ French government for not heeding his advice. His answer to handling the unrest & violence in France is to arm the police with machine guns and spray them all with bullets. That’s right – kill all the Muslims. You heard me; his recommendation to fix the problem in France is (basically) genocide. Yes Mr. Hughes, a gory blood bath will simply make this problem go away (heavy sarcasm).

The Root of the Problem

Mr. Hughes, the root of this problem is actually YOU. YOU and people like yourself, on both sides of the conflict, who perpetuate hate. YOU are what is wrong with this world. Instead of digging deeper in the socio-economic, historic, racist, & religious roots of why these people do what they do, you just dismiss them as evil, call them “the enemy”, and preach that the answer is to kill them all. That culture of hate spreads like an infestation until all those ignorant sheeple, who also don’t bother to educate themselves, think just like you. And as simple as that, we’re stuck with a never-ending cycle of hatred & violence.

I seem to recall a certain dictator, a couple of generations ago, tried to do that same thing. He killed 6 million Jews in a genocidal effort to rid the world of this ‘evil’. How did that work out for him, Mr. Hughes? Did he ‘fix’ the problem? Or, perhaps you’re one of the ones who claim the Holocaust was grossly overstated? No, wait a minute… it didn’t happen at all. It was all a Liberal lie, wasn’t it?

The Real Answer

Stop teaching & preaching hate! Recognize and accept the inevitable fact that diversity is a part of our world. Diversity is a good thing in my book. It creates a balance. Looking at our differences helps us to understand things beyond our realm. Experiencing different cultures & customs helps us to appreciate art and beauty. Sharing diverse ideas helps us to approach technological, industrial & biological challenges.

But when we direct our energies to fearing and hating those who are different then us, we perpetuate that cycle of violence, and we have only ourselves to blame. Better yet – we have people like YOU to blame!

November 11, 2005

The West Wing Debate

I wasn’t planning on writing another column on “The West Wing” television show, but last Sunday’s live debate between Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits as the Democratic candidate) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda as the Republican candidate) was absolutely amazing. Here there were two fictional TV characters, but their rhetoric and the issues were all right on the money. An interesting note, Alan Alda is a known progressive, so for him to play the Republican is quite an acting job.

Right off the bat, Senator Vinick proposed forgoing the rules and having an honest live debate that wasn’t constrained by timed answers. That served as the catalyst for true combative argumentation. Here are my thoughts on the debate and the issues.

Illegal Immigration

This became a wedge issue in the election because Santos is a Latino. In an earlier episode Vinick’s people decided to attack Santos on illegal immigration to expose and exploit that fact. While Vinick’s plan to handle illegal immigration was to double the border patrols, Santos keenly approached the issue from another angle. First he stated that we’ve already tripled the border patrols over the last 10 years, and it hasn’t solved the problem. What needs to be done is to stimulate the economy of Mexico and create jobs so that the Mexicans don’t need to sneak into the United States to have a better lifestyle… “If Mexico’s economy was as strong as Canada’s, you wouldn’t have people sneaking over the border.”

Tax Cuts & Spending Cuts

Let’s face it - tax cuts have been the Republican mantra all along. Vinick accused Santos of planning to raise taxes, but then we found out it was only for the super rich. Forrest Sawyer, the moderator, tried to pin Vinick down on what spending cuts he would make, but Vinick wouldn’t get caught in that trap.

A true Republican, Vinick’s answer for just about any problem in the world was “Tax cuts”. Even for the economies in other countries, that’s his answer. The truth is that Republicans have fought to cut taxes at every juncture, but have failed at curtailing spending, thus ballooning the deficit, and hence the national debt.


Here’s another clear distinction between the Democratic and Republican perspectives on education. While the Republicans would gladly gut public education, and voucher students into private schools, Democrats see the necessity of strengthening the public school system. Vinick accused Santos of simply throwing money at the problem, but Santos argued back that he would advocate for creative programs for bringing out the best in the public education system.

Health Care

Santos advocated for universal health care. He said that optimally, he would rather just delete the words “… over 65...” from the medicare statute and open it up for everyone. Ladies & gentlemen, this is an idea that is looooong overdue. Health care is deserving of its own article, but suffice to say that universal health care is needed in this country. The United States is the only industrialized country withOUT universal health care, and statistic after statistic has proven that the cost is much higher. Santos argued that the administrative costs of running Medicare are just 2%, compared to 23% in private HMO’s. I’m not sure if that statistic is accurate**, but if it is, that’s another huge argument for Universal Health Care. This is not one of those industries that bodes well for free enterprise and open markets. It’s out of control, the costs are too high, and 45 million people are without health insurance, and hence adequate medical care. It should just be another tax we pay in our payroll deductions and provided to all.

At this point the ‘righties’ are saying “That’s socialized medicine!”. Yeah. So. Get over it! It’s the right thing to do. Not for the profits of big HMO’s, but for the people of this country.

Prescription drugs are another sore spot on the Health insurance topic. Of course we all know that we could get prescription drugs from Canada at a much lower cost, but our government won’t allow it. They claim that they can’t control the quality and reliability. Senator Vinick claimed that our drugs cost more because our drug companies put so much into research to cure diseases. So, why do we sell them to Canada to cheaply in the first place?


Santos has a plan that would create 1 million new jobs in the first year of office. The Vinick plan? No new jobs. He would cut jobs by decreasing the size of government. In my opinion, that’s no strategy for growing the economy – decreasing jobs. That’s a recipe for recession.

Campaign Finance

Santos made an issue out of the fact that a large portion of Vinick’s financial backing came from large oil companies, and therefore his allegiance is toward that industry. Sounds familiar, huh? On the other side, a large portion of Santos’ financial backing came from labor unions; so much of his focus is on worker’s rights.

This is not only a clear & real distinction between Democratic & Republican perspectives, but also a central problem with the Bush Administration being made up of present & former oil executives. Clearly all of their strategy, focus, and efforts are directed to the benefit of big business - particularly the energy industry. Surely you must have wondered why Mr. Cheney formulated his “Energy Policy” under a cloud of secrecy? To this day he has refused to divulge whom he consulted with and how he developed that policy, although we know that specific oil industry executives were provided access to the Vice President. And speaking of Energy Policy…

Energy Policy: Nuclear, Exploration in ANWR, War for Oil

Santos stated emphatically that he would not go to war for oil, and asked Vinick to make the same pledge. Vinick refused to make that pledge because it would demean the value of the president’s oath. Clearly this was a jab at the Bush presidency, and not even a subtle one.

On the subject of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, of course Santos was against it while Vinick was for it. A typical Republican, Vinick did not see the ecological values and would rather put all of the oil wells up in ANWR where people don’t have to look at them. Santos other the other hand, understands the complexity of our dependence on foreign oil, and sees other creative ways of addressing that. However, he did not advocate building more nuclear power plants, since we really haven’t solved the issue of disposal of nuclear waste.

Vinick’s answer to the energy problem is to let the market solve it.

As a side note, I read a fascinating article from the Boston Globe on Monday morning (Nov 7) by James Carroll (here’s a link to a version of it on The Smirking Chimp in case the Globe article fades from currentness). This article, entitled “Deconstructing Cheney”, is a very short read, but gives an excellent background on our Vice President and his connections to the oil industry as he’s made a tremendous impact on our warring tendencies. This article is a must read.


In the end, this debate got at the core of the differences between Democratic and Republican values. Where Republicans believe in the free market and tax cuts, the Democrats understand the need to regulate industries that would otherwise get out of control.

Santos made a wonderful speech embracing the label of ‘Liberal’ after Vinick tried to demonize liberal ideology. I’ve heard much of this context before as liberals have been credited with the abolition of slavery, voting rights for women & African Americans, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water act, Social Security (which lifted millions of elderly out of poverty), and Affirmative Action. Conservatives opposed every one of the initiatives.

Republicans advocate for smaller government, but they don’t follow through with that promise. Every Republican president in my lifetime has ballooned the size of government. The Clinton administration on the other hand actually did decrease the size of government while operating the government on a surplus.

I have no argument with the notion that bureaucratic, governmental red tape hinders business. Perhaps some of that bureaucracy should be curtailed. But at what expense? Where do we draw the line between big business’ grab for profit, and protections for the citizens?

(editors note: 2% admin expense for medicare IS accurate. see here. I haven't been able to confirm the 23% but I've seen a high of 32.7% and low of 11.8, so 23 sounds right in the middle)

November 04, 2005

A Right-Wing Perspective

As I was driving in my car last Sunday afternoon I was listening to talk radio as I usually do. I always listen to Air America, which I find refreshing and down to earth. On AA I can always count on hearing the truth, whether it’s from the boys on Morning Sedition (Mark Riley & Marc Maron), Jerry Springer, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, Ed Schultz, Tom Hartman, or anyone else they put in front of a microphone. However, when AA goes on commercial break, I tend to surf around to other stations. After all, when you’re riding in the car, and the tuner is within an arm’s length, how can you sit there listening to commercials? There’s a sports station I like to keep up with, and there’s another talk station that I monitor occasionally. This other talk station calls themselves “THE Talk Station”. It’s a conservative format. I find it amusing to hear the conservative perspective every once and a while.

On this day the radio host was spewing a particularly vile brand of stomach-wrenching scum as he was mapping out his talking points for the rest of his show. The show’s host name was Spencer Hughes. Quite frankly, I had never heard of him, and I couldn’t listen to more than two minutes of his angry, scathing cynicism. However, I thought it would be interesting to share some of his filth. And caution – this is only for those with strong stomachs.

It starts with name-calling

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve occasionally referred to these people as “right wingnuts” (amongst other things)… and I’ve been known to refer to George W. Bush as an asshole, a jackass, and a dipshit (amongst other things). You know what Mr. Hughes calls us Liberals? He calls us “Bush-bashing bedwetters”. And, it just gets better from there….

The CIA Leak

Since the Scooter Libby indictments were freshly handed down, this was his first focus. The right-wing strategy is to downplay the whole scandal. “It’s a non-story” Hughes said, adding that “Everyone knew who Valerie Plame was”. Then he capped it off with misinformation about her role… “She was only a clerk… this is a non-story”.

Anyone who had the opportunity to watch “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening learned that Valerie Plame was not a clerk. She was 18 years invested in the CIA and an expert in weapons of mass destruction. They learned that Valerie Plame was a NOC, which stands for “Non-official Cover”. Did you see the first ‘Mission Impossible’ movie with Tom Cruise & Jon Voight? The whole premise of that movie was around the leak of NOC agents’ identities. A NOC agent is under cover, and unprotected. They learned that NO ONE outside of her husband, parents, and brother knew of her role in the CIA.

Furthermore, they learned that the outing of this CIA agent was only the tip of the iceberg. Robert Novak also outted Valerie Plame’s employment front, Brewster-Jennings & Assoc. Both of these treasonous infractions have compromised the missions of a countless number of people, the impact of which is only beginning to be analyzed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Anyone who was EVER associated with either Valerie Plame or Brewster-Jennings, Assoc is at risk. All of their missions are at risk. And since it was published that Valerie Plame was the wife of an ambassador, all ambassador’s spouses are now at risk.

As Mr. Hughes continued to belittle this infraction as a “non-story”, he compared it to President Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger who “… carried out of the National Archives the files of 500 people in his underwear…”.

The new death plateau

Mr. Hughes then went on to belittle the new plateau of 2000 US deaths in the Iraq conflict. “The Bush-bashing bedwetters are just salivating over the 2000 mark..” he continued. “But they have no historical perspective. More than twice that many were killed in one day - ‘D-Day’ - in Normandy.” Then he compared the causes of Freedom & Democracy in WWII to today’s war in Iraq “… fighting Islamic extremism…”.

Well Mr. Hughes, you got me there. After 2 ½ years of this conflict in Iraq, we’ve only lost just over 2000 people. I suppose in one sense we should be thankful that the casualty count isn’t higher. Or should we?

It sounds to me like Mr. Hughes has been drinking a little too much of the RNC Kool-Aid. My recollection of the reason we went to war with Iraq was because they possessed weapons of mass destruction, they were an imminent threat to security of the United States, and they were part & parcel to the attack on 9/11. In fact, this threat was sooooo critical, that we pulled resources out of Afghanistan (who were hunting down Osama bin Laden) to wage this war in Iraq. Since when did we declare war on Iraq in order to “… fight Islamic Extremism…”? Iraq wasn’t even an Islamic country before we attacked it!

As far as I’m concerned Mr. Hughes, 2000 casualties in Iraq is 2000 too many! I bet you wouldn’t be belittling the quantity if one of your children were one of the casualties.

Canceling Holidays

Mr. Hughes rounded out his show’s summary by commenting on a town in the Boston area, which had decided to change its Halloween celebration festivities. Blaming ‘political correctness’, which is of course purported by the ‘Bush-bashing bedwetters’, Mr. Hughes took offense to liberals ruining holidays. “They took away Easter, they took away Christmas, and now they’re taking away Halloween.”

Once again Mr. Hughes has it all wrong. It was a series of parental complaints that caused the Superintendent of Schools in Newton Massachusetts to alter their Halloween rituals. Instead, a similar event was held with children dressing up as their favorite literary characters. Personally, I think Halloween should be celebrated as it always has, because I don’t view Halloween as a religious holiday, nor do I think any of the children consider Halloween a religious holiday. It’s an occasion for something really, really important – eating candy! (Did you watch ‘Boston Legal’ this week?)

On the other hand, Christmas & Easter are definitely religious holidays. I wouldn’t advocate that they’re eradicated from public schools altogether, however sensitivity should be exercised that not all people celebrate these holidays. I understand that there are arguments all around the country (in my home town in fact) about the display of nativity scenes and menorahs in public places such as town halls and fire stations. These are religious symbols. And besides, if they displayed symbols from one religion, they’d have to display symbols from all religions if requested. I have no problem with that. It’s all or none, as long as it’s fair. But, if they decide to restrict the displaying of religious symbols to private property (in front of churches & synagogues, etc.), that’s okay too. It’s not a matter of bowing to the liberal ‘Political Correctness’. It’s a matter of sensitivity and consideration for diversity. This is a concept that Mr. Hughes certainly does not comprehend.