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No Pain, No Shame

Posted by Brandon McKoy on March 30, 2010

I agree, No Pubic Option!

When it comes to health care reform more than enough has been said about the legislation and it’s effect on the country. There are those who welcome many of the changes with open arms. I for one will directly benefit from the new law preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. I am certainly not alone in this considering that insurance companies seemed intent on eventually listing “mammal” as a pre-existing condition. Since this is just one of many benefits that are soon to take effect, you’d think there would be a whole lot of happy people out there.

Considering just how many people will gain from these benefits, the size and degree of right-wing backlash is not surprising, but peculiar nonetheless. They too will benefit from health care reform, it’s not as if President Obama signed the bill and proclaimed it to be effective only for liberals and progressives. I would like to say that it is mostly the extreme portion of the right-wing that is so upset about this, but that simply isn’t the case. The GOP and the Tea Party Patriots are lockstep in their disapproval over health care legislation. Many Tea Partiers have, in expression of their growing anger, become quite violent in their rhetoric and actions. Individuals have vandalized the offices of Democratic representatives, posted the address of a representative (which in actuality was the rep’s brother….someone cut his gas line), wished cancer upon Bart Stupak, and threatened to assassinate the children of those who voted for reform. While all of this was happening, Republican representatives both downplayed and stoked the fiery anger of their constituents. On the day the health bill passed the Senate for the first time Republican representatives stepped out onto a balcony to show their support for the crowd of protesters. The previous day several of these same protesters participated in behavior that has not been seen since days that this country would like to forget. “Nigger” was yelled at Civil Rights icon John Lewis. “Faggot” was yelled at Barney Frank. Emanuel Cleaver was spit on (a claim which was initially questioned by many on the right). Stay classy Tea Partiers.

Enough people have already pointed out the obvious; such behavior is despicable and immature, the silence on behalf of GOP Representatives is deafening, and the last time such hatred and anger occurred Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City FBI building, killing 168 people. It is clear that we are now in dangerous territory. Like I said though, I can’t square just why there is so much anger. Certainly a portion of it comes from the fact that President Obama is a black man (to deny this is simply disingenuous and intellectually dishonest), but it doesn’t explain the majority of it. People who oppose this bill do so because they feel it is unconstitutional and encroaches on their personal liberties. The idea of the government forcing them to purchase insurance is infuriating.

I don’t mean to be prejudiced, but hearing conservative whites (I can count the number of conservative minorities I’ve seen protesting on one finger, so yes, whites) express anger over having to purchase health insurance is mind boggling to me. All my life, from casual conversations to college courses, I’ve heard conservatives complain about the poor and minorities leaching on the system. They strongly disapprove of the government giving the less fortunate “handouts,” believing it only makes people more complacent when it comes to “getting a real job,” “growing up,” etc. Well, what do these protesters think will happen when they get sick and don’t have insurance? For those who have insurance and are angry because they believe they will be forced to change their coverage, there’s nothing I can say to that; such thinking lies purely in a deep-seeded distrust of anything the government says or does. For those who do not have insurance and are angry about being forced to purchase it, there is a really serious case of cognitive dissonance at work.

Everyone gets sick. It’s a fact. If you happen to make it throughout life without contracting any serious illness, becoming involved in an unfortunate accident, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can consider yourself a member of an extremely exclusive club. Congratulations, wear that members only jacket with pride. However, if you’re a member of the much, much, much larger club of people who will get sick at some point in their lifetime, what do you expect will happen when the time comes for you to receive medical care? Are you just going to show up to the hospital without insurance and expect to be treated? If so, you will either become a financial burden on the state or get hammered by an avalanche of costs. In the latter scenario your life is thrown into chaos and all but ruined. You could lose your home, be forced to work multiple jobs, and lose the right to pursue the happiness that the Declaration of Independence proclaims you to have. In the former scenario, you become a leach, the very thing that you have hated all these years. So why are people protesting against something that will help them and their country?

When Frank Rich writes that much of this right-wing rage is not about health care, he’s 100% correct. There are those who have legitimate issues with this President and his administration. The health reform bill certainly has its flaws and is no where near a perfect bill. However, health care legislation is not the beginning of Orwellian rule. It simply isn’t. To say so and believe such is ignorant. Even more disturbing is when members of the right have become increasingly violent and their leaders do not feel it necessary to take control and tamp down out of control emotions. Leaders want to be taken seriously and legitimately, to not be associated with the extreme wing of their party, and simultaneously urge the extremists to continue what they’re doing. They get mad when liberals accuse them of guilt by association – an idea they should be completely familiar with considering that right wingers believed Barack Obama was “paling around with terrorists” simply because he had met Bill Ayers.

I am disappointed and disturbed by the dissonant anger, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Not when John McCain makes a concession speech pledging to work with this President on the tough issues of the day, then sixteen months later states that there will be no more cooperation for the rest of the year (when there was no cooperation to begin with). Not when 24% of Republicans believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ and the anti-Christ is supposed to be the last person one suspects (in this case, Sarah Palin, anyone?). I especially can’t be surprised by this dissonance when there are Tea Partiers who are unemployed and have no problem receiving unemployment benefits from the government as they protest taxes. Facts mean nothing, opinion means everything.

I mentioned these issues with a conservative friend of mine the other day and he simply told me I was wrong. He didn’t have a reason why, he cited no statistics or reasons, he simply said I was wrong. There used to be a time when facts meant something, now people dismiss anything they don’t agree with. I don’t know which is more of a threat, this country’s financial crisis or it’s ignoramus outbreak, but both need to be fixed. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late former Senator from New York, once said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” I fear that time has passed, for reality is no longer influenced by perception, it is fully displaced by it.
Listening to: Santana – Evil Ways
via FoxyTunes


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Pepsi Presents: New Zanzibar…courtesy of the Supreme Court

Posted by Brandon McKoy on January 22, 2010

The number of people who have any idea what the title of this article refers to is undoubtedly less than the total membership of Team Leno (I’m with COCO). It is a quote from an episode of The Simpsons where the family travels to Africa. While arriving on the plane, the flight attendant announces to the passengers:

“Please prepare for our landing in Tanzania.”

(someone hands her a note)

“Excuse me. It is now called New Zanzibar.”

(someone hands her another note)

”I’m sorry. It is now called Pepsi Presents New Zanzibar.”

It is a light jab at the general acknowledgment that corporations are taking over anything they can get their hands on, and would even conspicuously rule an entire country if they could. Back when the episode aired on April 1st, 2001, the gag didn’t click (with me at least) as any kind of foreshadowing moment. Unfortunately, on January 21st, 2010, the once fictional situation became a very real possibility.

In 1907 Congress passed the Tillman Act, prohibiting corporations from contributing money directly to political campaigns. In the 1990 case Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting “corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates in elections did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” They based their decision on the notion that “corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections.” In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act in honor of it’s sponsors.

The act addressed two key issues:

  • The increased role of soft money in campaign financing, by prohibiting national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to federal limits, even for state and local races or issue discussion

  • The proliferation of issue advocacy ads, by defining as “electioneering communications” broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election, and prohibiting any such ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations such as Right to Life or the Environmental Defense Fund) or paid for by an unincorporated entity using any corporate or union funds.

In 2003 the Court upheld the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold in the case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.

In 2010, in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to remove all limits on corporate and union campaign financing, citing that it was unconstitutional and in direct violation of free speech (you can read the entire decision here). This decision overturned years upon years of legislation and Court precedence. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity…No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.” With this ruling, corporations and unions are free to inject unlimited money into the political system. As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his descent, “The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation…[it’s] a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding…While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”

In the minority’s 90-page descent, Justice Stevens acknowledges that with the Court’s ruling, corporations are now free to support any candidate they choose using as much force and power through financial capital as they please. In other words, if this ruling goes unchanged and avoids any restrictions, corporations will literally have the ability to directly determine who wins elections. This means that if Exxon wanted to defeat a candidate who was anti-oil drilling and pro-green energy, they could literally spend billions of dollars in negative advertising against that candidate. If Aetna wanted to make sure that Joe Lieberman stayed in office forever and ever, reliably throwing a wrench in any health reform legislation to hit the floor, they could use the depth of their finances to support him and his campaign in any way possible. Even though Justice Kennedy seems to not think these scenarios are a negative addition to the political process, I’d have to say that it’s a sufficient governmental interest to prevent such things from occurring.

So where do we go from here? Some say that the worry over corporations having unlimited influence in American politics is overblown and that the ruling isn’t as effective as some think. Even though I disagree with this, I certainly hope those who believe it are right and that I am wrong on every level. I wrote this because even though many people are aware of the ruling, many more are not. Even some who are aware of the ruling don’t fully understand the possibilities of resulting repercussions. Any political science-fiction nightmare you can think of now has a real possibility of occurring. Despite the fact that it sounds incredibly dumb, I don’t particularly mind attending a stadium named Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. However, I don’t think I’ll feel all that well if, upon my descent into Puerto Rico, the flight attendant says, “Welcome to Puerto Rico, brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” You know what though…that will probably be the least of my worries if there ever comes a day when that is the case.

Hopefully Congress is able to put some restrictions on this ruling, for if they are not, I fear an unruly future full of George Orwell’s greatest imaginations. Upon hearing the ruling I immediately thought of a telling quote by Abraham Lincoln:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the Country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”

Lincoln (supposedly) said this in 1864. Now, 146 years later, his monument sits only a mile away from the source of his
anxiety. Will this decision send the country on a path of corporate rule and eventual revolution? You can be certain that if corporations and unions take full control of our politics, people will not sit idly by. This is an issue on which both Liberals and Conservatives, Progressives and Tea Party Patriots, can agree. There is no room for corporate influence in our politics. They already have a ridiculous amount of power in our everyday lives. From supposed brand loyalty to product monopolies, corporations know everything about us. They know what we like and how to make us like something else (which is usually more expensive and of cheaper quality). What do you and I do before their ability to control what makes us tick lulls us into an apathetic acceptance of Democracy as a simple choice between a small or large Sprite? I’ve never had such a pit in my stomach upon hearing political news as I have upon hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling, and I hope that I am not the only one who still feels that pit eating away at me. Right now I don’t know what to do except sit back and see how this all develops, to see how people react to what I consider to be a radically influential decision. Until then, I think I might take a trip to Tanzania. I’d like to see how it is now, before there’s a Pepsi Challenge on every corner.

Now playing: Rage Against the Machine – Take the Power Back
via FoxyTunes

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They Don’t Want Music

Posted by Brandon McKoy on October 21, 2009

Recently a friend sent me a link to Party & Bullshit in the USA, the Miley Cyrus / Notorious B.I.G mash-up song, proclaiming that it was “incredible.” I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not the song deserves to be held in such high regard; personally I think Biggie is rolling around in his grave waiting for someone to say his name three times so that he can temporarily come back to life and put a cap in the ass of whoever created it.

After listening and letting my buddy know how much I really hated the song, and by extension all things Miley Cyrus, we got into a pretty deep conversation about music tastes, appreciation, and the role of radio. When I mentioned how much I liked the new Raekwon album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. II (one which many hip-hop heads think is better than Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3) my buddy said, “not everyone can be into super underground shit.” …at this point my head almost “asploded” as some would say. Raekwon isn’t even close to underground rap, anyone who has any decent grasp of the genre knows his name and his reputation. On the website Metacritic.com (which compiles reviews and ratings from all over the place and combines them into an average score, with 100 being the highest), Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. II is listed with a score of 89. Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 has a score of 65. Underground music barely has any potential to get recognized, let alone outscore an album by arguably the best rapper of all-time. But I digress…let me get to the real reason why I started writing this.

There is a Huh-UUUGGEEEE difference between the music tastes of people who simply listen to/enjoy music, and those who play/have played an instrument (this includes singing, not trying to segregate or discriminate here).

That’s not a particularly surprising or sensational statement, and I think a lot of people agree with it, but the reason for this is really troubling to me. Sure, people who play instruments are going to naturally have a deeper appreciation for music since they have at least some base understanding of how it works and is constructed. I can play drums, bass, and piano, but enjoy drums the most. When I listen to songs my ear immediately tunes itself to the drum track before anything else, it’s an automated behavior. That’s probably not going to happen for anyone who hasn’t played an instrument, so right off the bat it’s easy to see why people who have played instruments have a deeper appreciation for the music they listen to.

The level of appreciation someone has is going to affect the diversity and variety of music they listen to. Remember the kid that almost made my head “asplode?” Well during the course of our conversation I discovered that he had “1,000 to 1,500 songs” on his computer. That many songs comes down to about 60 albums worth of music (using 15 songs per album as the average)…that’s barely anything at all! According to my Last.fm page I’ve listened to 1,389 artists…let alone songs. I said to my friend that the difference between he and I was the whole playing a musical instrument thing, and that kids who did play instruments had a greater diversity in taste. His retort was that “if you know what you like, what is the problem?” That’s just it though, how do you know what you like if you don’t make the effort to listen to different things. When I was a wee-child (not as long ago as it seems) I absolutely hated watching my mother eat her favorite food, lobster. It was disgustingly abhorrent to me that someone would crack open a poor lifeless animal and gouge out its insides, simply for selfish personal satisfaction. Then one day, my mother made me try a piece of her lobster tail…and my favorite food for the past five years has been lobster. One can’t really know what they like if they keep experiencing the same thing over and over. My buddy said that 1,500 songs is plenty and you don’t end up listening to the same thing over and over….I just yelled at him.

At this point my snide remarks and berating got to my friend and he called me a music snob. I get it, I definitely do feel that I have a really great perspective on music. I don’t discriminate, I listen to anything and everything I can get my hands onto, even death metal thanks to my college roommate Steve. But who’s the real music snob here? Someone who’s open to anything and everything with open arms, or someone who thinks they already know what they like and isn’t really willing to go out and listen to different things?

I previously mentioned Last.fm, which I consider to be a Godsend of a website that tracks all of the music you listen to on iTunes, Winamp, your iPod/iPhone, the Last.fm website itself, and 78 other gadgets/mediums. You then have your own profile where you can view all of the songs and artists you have listened to in a pretty sweet layout. You also get your own personal library radio stream which is based on the statistics of your listening habits. You can sort these stats for the last 7 days, 3 months, 6 months, year, and all-time. There are even apps out there that will create little artistic pictures for you of your musical tastes, such as a collage of your most listened to artists that you can use as a desktop wallpaper. You can add your friends and look at what they’re listening to, join groups, and track the tour dates of your favorite artists. It also suggests artists you might like based on your listening habits. Simply put, I think Last.fm is awesome-o.

A lot of the people I know who play/played instruments use Last.fm. A lot of the people I know who listen to music for pleasure/enjoyment use Pandora. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain Pandora considering it’s popularity, but just in case: Pandora is a music streaming platform that creates playlists and stations based on the artists you enter. Kind of like the personal library stream that Last.fm has, except it relies on a self-report of your tastes instead of statistical tracking. It’s pretty good, but it’s no Last.fm.

All in all, I have to say that I’m pretty happy that people are at least listening to music on platforms that encourage them to discover something else they may like. These services along with mp3 players have made the radio a non-entity for a lot of people. I can’t remember the last time that I listened to the radio and enjoyed it. Has anyone ever heard a song last longer than 3 minutes and 30 seconds on top 100 radio? Sure, you have your classic rock stations or your old school R&B; stations which play lengthy songs in their en
tirety, but I’m talking about current radio. Everything is tailored to an ADD, 10-second attention span, twitter & facebook updates every half an hour, kind of generation that writes something off as crap if they don’t like it in the first few moments. What happened to listening to something all the way through before you formed an opinion on it?

Some of the good bands that I’ve been listening to lately (and Last.fm will confirm this, so very convenient) are Passion Pit, Raekwon, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I have never heard any of them on the radio (maybe Gold Lion by YYY’s once…ONCE). Why? Because their songs take more than a couple of minutes to play out and be fully appreciated. Who do I hear all the time on Z100 though: Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, etc., etc. I get it Z100, D.O.A. is a pretty good song, but when you played it almost every half hour for 3 weeks straight and one of the lyrics is, “this ain’t for Z100, ye told me to kill y’all to keep it 100,” you look stupid.

Popular radio doesn’t care about providing the public with good tunes that’ll do more than just make your head bop. They don’t wanna expand your horizons. They just want the dollar bills. No, I’m not naïve, I know it’s a business, but I do have a problem with people who base their music tastes on what the radio plays. In a previous post I commented on the mainstream news media, saying, “all it’s doing is reinforcing your current opinion, not challenging it.” Well that’s what “popular” music radio is. It plays something that you won’t necessarily hate, and doesn’t play it long enough for you to form a proper opinion of it. They just keep force-feeding people whatever financially benefits them and the industry the most. Music is more than a techno beat with uninspired lyrics thrown on top of it. Music has the power to do so many things; it can challenge, sadden, and inspire you. It can pick you up from the bottom of the pit and give you the confidence to take on any obstruction you may face. It can humble you and make you appreciate the many little things that you take for granted every single day. The radio doesn’t care about that, and listeners don’t seem to mind ’cause they just want to bop their heads. They don’t want music.

Listening to: The Black Eyed Peas – They Don’t Want Music (feat. James Brown)
via FoxyTunes

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“You better hope Blue Cross doesn’t consider ugly a pre-existing condition!”

Posted by Brandon McKoy on September 6, 2009

We are about to enter a very important week in the health care debate. On Wednesday President Barack Obama will deliver a health care speech to a joint session of Congress in an attempt to change the tone of the discussion. So far things haven’t been going so well for the Democratic party. Not only is there no single bill that they can present to the public, but they aren’t even able to agree on the type of bill they wanted. Should there be a public option, a co-op, or what? Some people think meaningful reform can’t be achieved without a public option, while others think a public option would mean the end of private insurance companies (even though private companies compete with the government in many, many other markets and still do just fine).

Let’s put aside the talking points of both sides for a moment. There’s one fact that I think most of us can agree is quite discerning: The United States of America is the only western democracy without universal health care. Whether or not you think universal health care is a good idea, there is something unsettling about the fact that all other democracies have it; as a country that claims to lead the fight for freedom and equality this just doesn’t sit well. We have tried to attain universal health care before and it’s no surprise that we are engaged in this battle again. Health care in this country is run by drug companies, health insurance companies and wall street. I don’t have to tell you this, but that makes absolutely no sense. Imagine if we allowed the food industry to run the FDA, would you trust any of the food you ate to be clean, healthy or relatively nutritious? Companies that are in business to make money cannot be trusted to regulate their industry, that requires a separate, objective entity. The primary interest of drug and health care companies is to make money by increasing the value of their company share; this is certainly a good business model, but it is not the way to decide who lives and who dies. When we value profit over the health of our citizens we expose ourselves to be greedy and ignorant. It’s amazing to me how people can say that America is the best country in the world and at the same time defend a profit-driven health care industry in order to fulfill some kind of blind allegiance to capitalism. Capitalism is all well and good, but not everything in this country needs to be for profit. If we don’t reform the health care system, our country will quickly go bankrupt:

Here’s a few important stats (courtesy of the previous link, National Coalition on Health Care) –

  • Without health care reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in health care costs for their workers
  • 178,000 small business jobs will be lost by 2018 as a result of health care costs
  • $834 billion in small business wages will be lost due to high health care costs over the next ten years
  • Small businesses will lose $52.1 billion in profits to high health care costs
  • 1.6 million small business workers will suffer “job lock“— roughly one in 16 people currently insured by their employers.

Health reform is no longer an option, it’s a necessity if this country wishes to remain financially viable and competitive. Besides, health should not have a price tag, it should have a value, and when you get right down to it this country does not hold the health of all its citizens in high regard.

In order for Obama to achieve any kind of reform whatsoever, he needs to do what JFK did with civil rights and present universal health care as a moral issue. To do this Obama first needs to regain the communication skills that helped him win the presidency. During the campaign, the Obama team got a lot of credit for their ability to use technology and the Internet to get their message out. From Facebook and Twitter to their very own iPhone application the Obama team had multiple avenues at its disposal to communicate with it’s supporters. Since the campaign, Republicans have seen the importance of the Internet and the need to effectively use it as a battleground of ideas, even if those ideas are blatantly false. It’s great that the Internet can be used to spread ideas and information, but when that information is false and misleading it has a negative effect on important conversations being held. The GOP is going right to the playbook here, they are playing on the base emotions of the public and spreading falsehoods to take control of the health care debate. How is it that the party that nearly destroyed the economy over the past eight years is now preaching fiscal responsibility as a reason to not take on health care reform? Even so, I can understand why the Republicans don’t want health care reform (no matter how much they say they do). If Obama were to achieve any kind of reform whatsoever it would be a huge blow to the GOP’s chances in the 2012 elections. Right now, they’re just trying to delay any serious reform before the 2010 elections so that they can regain some seats in the House and the Senate. Sure, this sort of behavior is putting politics over the needs of the country, but do you really expect anything else?

Wednesday night we will see just how influential Obama’s speech is for his political colleagues. He can take all the hard-line stances he wants, but if the people in that congressional chamber don’t believe him, they will not pass the legislation that he wants. As Bill Moyers recently said in an interview, great presidents “have the power to move people with words, and then by making the choices that back up those words.” The speech on Wednesday is a nice starting point, but Obama needs to back up whatever he says with strong decisions. In regards to the use of political capital, Obama needs to treat health care like Bush did Iraq; not lie about it, but essentially push it through with force. He needs to dig in his heels and pound his fist on the table, to say that we need health care reform because it is the right thing to do. The war in Iraq was a war of choice, health care reform is a necessity. Yesterday it was reported that the White House will draft it’s own health care bill if necessary, which is great news. This way, everyone
can point to a single bill that they know has the President’s approval, and debate what is in the bill rather than rumors and fiction.

Even though I remain optimistic, I have my doubts about just how much reform can be achieved. As I said before, health care is run by the drug industry, health insurance industry, and wall street. These three sectors are also the same groups that will determine just how successful Obama’s re-election bid in 2012 will be. During the campaign in 2008, Obama received a lot of funding from these groups, and no matter how much public support he has going into 2012 he will still need the big money interest groups to fund his campaign. So, how can there really be significant change in health care when this administration (and the vast majority of politicians) has strong ties to corporate interests? Money rules Washington, even more so now than it used to. Fortunately, the old saying that money is everything isn’t quite true, there’s one thing that’s more important: votes.

Yes, it’s cliché and people sound like a broken record when saying it, but it remains true that when people join and rise together for a cause there is nothing they can’t achieve. One of my favorite quotes from the ever-insightful Margaret Mead reads, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world…indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” There needs to be a movement of liberals and progressives in this country, one which hasn’t happened since the 60’s, where people demand their representatives to do what they voted them to do. Barack Obama was voted to end the war in Iraq, fix the economy, and really reform health care; essentially he was voted to put this American house back in order. Now that he’s been elected President, people seem to have said to themselves “okay, my job is done, let’s see what you’ve got.” That’s the wrong approach to take. No matter how well-intentioned Obama is he can only do but so much. He’s going to need the undying backing and support of Democrats to push through any sort of meaningful, effective health care legislation. I’m not saying to devote yourself to Obama and stop asking questions, no-siree-bob; but Democrats need to support Obama with as much fervor as Republicans supported Bush if they want anything to get done. It’s time to take all of the hard work that was put in to get Obama elected and now double that effort for health care. Electing a president that represents one’s ideas isn’t enough. The people need to move together and demand the change they so desperately seek. Blaming the media won’t do anything, what else do you expect them to cover? Television is all about ratings which are driven by sensational stories. That’s the way it is going to be for the rest of time. But if there is a serious movement of progressives who are all focused on achieving health care reform, it will be sensational enough to make the airwaves.

Democrats need to remember, Obama was voted into office less because of his ideas, and more because Bush messed up so badly (yes, Palin helped too). This is the way it’s been for the last three Democratic presidents (Obama, Clinton, and Carter). The Republican who was in charge before messed up, so the country chose the other party. It’s time for Democrats to fortify as one, to remember how to use the spine that they’ve got, and do what’s necessary to bring this country back from the brink. It’s time to stop sitting on the sidelines, we need to get in the game and make it loud and clear what we want and why we want it. Be educated in your opinion and support it with charisma. Don’t demonize the other side, name calling and childish behavior won’t help the cause. Refute their ideas with facts and stay on topic, don’t get drawn into ignorant conversations about death panels and birth certificates. Obama is going to need all of the help he can get from his supporters, and we need not waste any energy bickering amongst ourselves when we all have the same goal in mind. Time to get involved before this crippled giant falls. Well, actually…that depends on a completely different yet equally important issue: Afghanistan… but that’s a story for another time; stay tuned.

Listening to: Wyclef Jean – If I Was President
via FoxyTunes

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Old Man vs. O’bomb’a

Posted by Brandon McKoy on October 9, 2008

The past few days of the 2008 Election have seen a lot of talk about associations, grandiose assumptions, and terrorists. The McCain/Palin campaign have kept to their word and launched a continuous barrage of character attacks at Barack Obama, particularly over his light relationship with William Ayers. While throwing this red meat at their rallies, the two Republican candidates have incited some supporters to scream violent threats directed at Senator Obama; including “Terrorist” and “Kill Him”. (Question here: Has there been any previous United States Presidential Campaign in which one ticket accused the head of the other ticket of hanging out with terrorists? I’m serious, cause I’ve been looking but I can’t find a concrete answer…I do however have my assumptions of what it is.)

Some question whether or not the Republicans are purposefully inciting these feelings in their base. I’d have to say that considering the campaign stated it would be “taking the gloves off,” they know exactly what they are doing (Introducers say Barack Hussein Obama but not John Sidney McCain). If they didn’t want this kind of reaction, they would stifle it immediately instead of simply releasing a statement condoning it. Coming from a man like John McCain who insists on action instead of talking, you would think he’d know that. But, this is politics; are any of us really surprised that its gotten to this point?

There is however something which disturbs me about how Republican pundits and supporters defend this action. Many (after being asked about the ethics of portraying Senator Obama as a terrorist associate) retort that the Obama campaign has been equally harsh and unfair in portraying Senator McCain as an angry, erratic old man. Let’s weigh the two:

  • On one hand we have the Democratic campaign asserting that Senator McCain is an old angry man who is anything but “steady at the tiller.” This also highlights his health concerns, causing people to wonder whether or not the Republican candidate could serve out his entire term. The inherent characteristics of a stereotypical old man are inconsistency, crankiness, anger, and senility. These descriptors hardly invoke much emotion if at all; maybe sadness.
  • On the other hand we have the Republican campaign accusing the Democratic Senator of associating with terrorists, and have even caused some supporters to believe that he is one himself. Terrorism inherently induces thoughts of conflict, evil, violence, death, and most importantly the events and players (Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, etc.) of September 11th. The root word of terrorism is terror, a term which invokes fear of “the other”, mystery, and anger.

The harshest thing that has happened to John McCain because of “old man characteristics” is David Letterman embarrassing him live on national television. No one has threatened violence against him simply because he’s 72, they’ve just hurled innocent jokes his way.

There are several violent, despicable acts directed at Barack Obama simply because of his “otherness,” let alone terrorist assumptions. He’s the first serious Black Presidential candidate in the history of this country and, as Dubois put it, “otherness” is impossible to avoid. From death threats to Republican supporters becoming violent with minority members of the media, there is nothing funny or innocent about trying to paint the Illinois Senator as a terrorist associate. All it will do is increase the amount of illegitimate anger; illegitimate because these are attacks based on untrue character associations, not policy positions.

So please, don’t try to say that John McCain being portrayed as an old man is just as unfair as Obama being assumed a terrorist associate. One is clearly dangerous while the other is not, and for a man who is already facing anger and hate because of his skin color, “terrorist” is just another term to make Senator Obama seem dangerous and untrustworthy. The fact that these charges are based on such a flimsy argument (guilt by association) makes them all the more disappointing and sad. All of this has nothing to do with the issues nor the most dangerous economic crisis facing our country (and our world in this global economy) since the Great Depression.

However, just to make a point, when there’s nothing else to go on I like to go straight to the video tape. There’s just one thing: There is no video (nor any) evidence of Barack Obama supporting or engaging in terrorist activities. There’s plenty of video evidence of John McCain being an angry, erratic, and even senile (note the space astronaut comment near the end) old man:


I should’ve just posted this, makes my point better than anything I could’ve said:

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Why Obama Has Already Won the Election…I Hope

Posted by Brandon McKoy on October 6, 2008

Today is Monday, October 6th and we are 29 days away from Election Day. After watching a concoction of news shows and looking at as many internet articles as I could, I’ve come to one conclusion about this political race: the only consistency has been the numbers. After all the rhetoric, spin, prodding, pulling, fudging, and bold faced lying, at the end of the day the numbers have remained reliable. Now that we’re only a month out, let’s take a look back to where we were a month ago.

A CNN research opinion poll conducted September 5 – 7 reported that the race was in a deadlock at 48% each. This is only 4 days after Sarah Palin’s RNC speech which resulted in a huge bump for the McCain campaign. More importantly, this is 21 days before the Dow Jones tumbled 7% (777.68 points) in one session. It’s also long before an $840 billion “bailout” which will be funded by taxpayers. The economy has been in the toilet for quite a while now and McCain has been lagging in the polls because of it.

In just a month, we’ve gone from a neck-and-neck race to something completely different. The economy has taken center stage, one presidential debate and the only vice presidential debate have come and gone, there are only a few game changing events left, and we find Obama holding a commanding 8-point lead nationally. In addition to this, voter registration is through the roof and seems to have a Democratic tinge to it (especially in Florida). All of this overwhelming evidence points to a strong advantage for Senator Obama with very little time left in the race. Any betting man would put it all on the line for the Democrats right now and the Republicans know it. That’s why it’s been reported today that the McCain campaign will step up the amount of character attacks on Senator Obama, trying to steer the conversation away from the economy (on a day that the Dow Jones dropped 800 points before rallying to finish down 369 and below 10,000 points for the first time in 5 years). If John McCain holds true to his word in the second presidential debate tomorrow evening, Obama will respond in kind without hesitation, having learned the lessons of Al Gore and John Kerry. The flood gates will have opened, and the culture war will be in full gear.

Unfortunately this presents a very important test for the country, one which it has passed many times, but failed many more. Will we give in to the demons which work tirelessly to alienate us from one another resulting in personal contempt for “the other”, a stagnation of advancement, and a lack of dexterity? Or will we reject moral corruption and rise as one in the face of perilous conditions to become what we know ourselves to be; a righteous and fair country which aspires to the success of all its citizens? I’m not a religious guy by any stretch, but God knows that in this current age of uncertainty (with WMD’s, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the current activity of Iran and North Korea, the rising aggression of Russia, and a deepening recession if not depression) we as a people cannot afford to base our vote on anything other than characteristics of governance.

If people base their vote on false qualifiers like race, sex, and age, we will all lose. If people base their vote on smears, lies, and disingenuous attacks, we will all lose. But if people base their vote on their lack of quality of life, their inability to put food on the table, to pay bills, to find a job, to go to school, to live a decently cordial existence; if people base their vote on the hope of an America better than the faux visage that is currently being portrayed, we will all win. In just under a month we will know if our country has passed that test. After looking at the numbers, evaluating the current situation we’re in, and feeling the omnipresent yearning for something more, I thoroughly believe Barack Obama will be our next president. I just hope that the country doesn’t get in its own way.

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