Middle Class Struggle

Monday, June 26, 2006

A recent post at LLPN, one of my favortie blogs, dealt initially with drooping real estate among formerly "Middle Class" areas. However, in the comment section, an astute blogger brought to light the concept of single-issue voting:

Paradoxically, the majority of these ignorant voters and givers of political donations were and are from the middle class, willing repeatedly to vote against their own best interest in return for bans on things like gay marriage and flag burning, smacking down affirmative action and promoting religion in the public square, etc.

The genius of the Republican Party on the National scale is that it has found the right way to boil complex issues of national security and economics down to basic concepts and hot-button phrases. Unfortunately, I believe this is also its greatest foible. National Security, economics, safety; all of those issues should not be reduced to such simple sound bites, because they aren't. But by sequestering these massive ideas into individual slices, the Republicans have been able to find a different voter for each small slice of much larger issues. It is really an incredible strategy.

I think single-issue voting does one of two things: It either throws a smokescreen in front of much larger issues or it steers debate away from a more "global*" concept and context and instead towards a more visceral "right or wrong" discussion.

Smokescreen issues are the "moral dilemma" issues that can be tossed up to move voters away from thoughtful discussion and into the one type of discussion that all of your "how to get by in business" self-help books tell you not to engage in: religion. Failing economy? Gays shouldn't marry! Are your opponents making ground on why your tax cuts only benefit the rich? Prayer in schools! These are issues that are really really small potatoes in the grand scheme of public policy debate, but they make so much ground because of the moral implications. And televangelists.

In terms of breaking larger issues into smaller parts, it doesn't serve to have a real discussion about the ramifications of an oil-based economy and the necessity of putting American military bases in the unfriendly part of the world that holds the most massive and nearly untapped oil resources (Iraq). It is a massively effective counter-technique to put the arguments into smaller "blocks" to garner the voters you're after: terrorism, protection, supporting troops, our "way of life," etc.

What burns me is that the "freedom" and "way of life" discussed is not at all about the freedom to watch whatever movie I want, eat whatever I want, say whatever I want. It is in all honesty about what car I drive and how often I drive it. That way of life. The SUV, the long road trip. Terrorism doesn't threaten it. But anti-American governments who sit on that resource and control it to a degree certainly do.

What burns me more is that when a voter picks the one issue that matters most in the face of other, bigger issues. Certainly abortion comes to mind, which in and of itself is a powerful moral argument with massive implications. But it is folly to allow that single issue to trump all others, even on the scale of "morality and immorality." But economic violence and the immorality of giving rich people more money absolutely pales in comparison to the media mileage and screaming protests you get over the abortion issue alone.

This brings me back to the original post I reference above from LLPN, about real estate. There is hope of a resurgence of sanity and responsible policy, but it will unfortunately be at the price of the middle class. Only when the middle class, as an aggregate, can no longer sell their houses, earn a decent wage, or afford college without a home equity loan (if they even live in a house, versus an apartment) will there be an awakening.

I really think the battle ground is in the Middle Class. I see, for lack of a better phrase, a real class struggle. The middle class will fight back against the necessity of living in debt to buy groceries and live within a certain lifestyle advertised so seductively on t.v. But the messages have to reach the middle class that all of the current misery is interconnected with policy beyond flag burning and 10 commandments in front of court houses: that their $20 tax cut gives them nothing compared to the $20,000 or more that upper class earners get.

I see a huge grassroots movement potential under the "angrification" of the middle class to redirect attention towards what matters: the largest voting block's best interest, which is strangely not the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school.

So this is just the beginning of my train of though here as I continue to read and be pissed of by American Theocracy. But I really see here what that book's author might have seen in terms of grassroots movements in the 70's.


*the definition of "global" that Kerry actually meant, not the one Bush said he did (See? See? He's talking all about taking everyone else's opinions instead of our own again...)


A Lie Told Often Enough Becomes the Truth

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What better way to begin this discussion than with a quote from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

I have recently started reading American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, a former Nixon strategist and author/brainchild of "The Emerging Republican Majority," written in 1969, in which among many other things he urged the Republicans to begin a Southern strategy to essentially take the sun belt from the Democrats while rejecting the established liberal thought of the Northeast. American Theocracy is his latest work, and is a critique in part of what he hath wrought: the danger of oil dependency, radical American religion and our culture of debt.

This is not a book to start your morning with.

I'm not going to do a book review here. Buy it and read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. But there are several things that are becoming a little more clear for me as I read this book. To begin:

Ultimately, especially in the "oil" and "religion" sections of the book, there is much emphasis on the state of affairs in Iraq, as well as a critique of the auspices under which we went to Iraq and the real underlying reasons; the truth of it all. I think the author's point here is much deeper than "we did a bad thing" or even "we could have avoided a bad thing had we read our history books." Those are mantras that are quite simply used-up and unconstructive. They get us nowhere other than towards winning some sort of "told-you-so" match which is awesome for fifth-graders but not quite so cool for global policy debate.

I think the real point is that the truth is told. The truth becomes important now in our current affairs in the Middle East because it makes us more adamant to question our own Government's motives for future moves. The more the general public understands real motivations behind global policy decisions, the more the "silent majority" becomes vocal. It's really about government transparency.

Here's where this gets more sad for me: our fearless media. Our administrations can be so transparent as to be crystal but if nobody picks up on the facts, we are doomed to trusting our politicians, which has worked really well for us. Again, though, this is not a lament for what could have been avoided. This is a plea for future vigilance.

I know it's tough for a historically-based reason why our third trip to Iraq in a century is absolutely in support of an oil hegemon to compete with the dramatic excitement of the upcoming NASCAR race or the Masters tournament. But our obsession with being entertained rather than informed reaches a ridiculous point when our own allies' media is quick to call their own administrations to the mat for the same things we're doing. How come the Brits will listen to their media, who actually reports this stuff, and all we get is silence? A recent poll in Britain, released Monday, shows that 71% of Labour Party members want Blair to leave office by September of '07. Bush? He's up 'cause we done killt one uh them tersts.

In the end, this is about lies compounded by hiding the truth, and the only real traction we get is from Kevin Phillips and two comedians on a network that airs Mad TV marathons every Saturday. We established that Bush isn't trustworthy (though he's up, his poll numbers are still the lowest ever). We need to continue to establish that there is a deeper agenda to decisions made in his administration.

It is equally important to note that the Demmycrats are in no way absolved from their equally nefarious connections to big oil and reliance on debt.

More thoughts on this later as I read the book and sort things out in my head. This is just a start. The endgame is campaign reform, FOIA reform, sweeping prohibitions on how many media outlets can be owned by the same corporation and heavier funding of public television and radio.

Update: Case in Point. This is what I mean about media accountability. The headline on Fox News: Hundreds [emphasis added] of WMDs Found in Iraq. The real story, buried deeper within, after most mouth-breathers gave up reading sinec there were no pictures: that a spokesman for the DoD said

"This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

I need a beer.


It's Like a Different World Over There...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Christian Democrats?

A "right wing" party that wants to allow for extended hours for beer sales?

What the heck is going on over there?

And then there's this article about having regrets over drunken sex!


We Made It Our First Year!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My wonderful little boy turns 1!!

This picture says it all: the perfect, unconditional joy of being 1.

This is by far the fastest year in our entire lives. In a flash, what was a tiny little 7 pound baby has ballooned into a wildly fun and interactive little lunatic. My wife and I love him dearly.

Today, we threw his First Birthday Party. It's funny, in that he has no idea that a house full of people were there for him today. So his day went pretty normal for him: wake up, complain about getting dressed, play, eat, play some more, complain about being forced to do something he doesn't want to (like sit, or not crawl around), etc. But the rest of us had a riot.

I find these next 2 pictures absolutely priceless. Our son got a Radio Flyer wagon from Nanna and Grandpa (my mom and dad), and two of the other kids there took as much joy in oushing him across our deck repeatedly as he did riding in the wagon, crashing into the table at full speed repeatedly. Again, these two pictures, to me, express so much of the joy and serenity of not having to care about what the adults have to care about. I look at these pictures and I laugh for the joy of it and cry a little at how beautiful of a scene this is.


The Downfall of Higher Education

Friday, June 09, 2006

This report from a study attached below saddens me more than you can imagine. Our Institutions of Higher Learning are truly collapsing. Gone are the days of superb social education moving hand-in-hand with "book" education. Gone are the days of Beer-Pong and Keg Stands. Even one of American's finest Institutions, Yale, known for the creation of one of the finest drinking compeitions of all time - Boat Races - is now threatened by this change in what is considered "in."

Check this out:

Apple iPods more popular than beer
A survey among US college students has found that Apple's iconic iPod music player is more popular than beer.

The news was delivered in the most recent study by Student Monitor, a US organisation which reports on a number of student-based surveys and studies carried out at US universities.

Student Monitor asked participants to rate various items as 'in'. The list covered items as diverse as text messaging, downloading music and bar hopping.

The iPod topped the list with a 73 per cent approval rating from the 1,200 students questioned. Apple's player won the affections of only 59 per cent last year.

But this year, 'drinking beer' also had digital competition from social networking site Facebook, which held joint second place as most popular activity with 71 per cent of the vote.

Drinking beer has only been knocked from the top spot once in the 18 years the survey has been conducted, Eric Weil, a managing partner at Student Monitor, told Associated Press.

In 1997 the internet proved to be most popular item with the student population.

I, for one, shudder at all of the time that will be wasted on college campuses downloading subversive music and ignoring each other with little white headphones on.



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