For People Who Think

February 23, 2012

People Who Make Your Skin Crawl…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 9:39 pm


One of the key reasons I’m an independent voter, with membership in no party, is that I see so many people representing the major parties on TV who just repel me. I really don’t want to be on the same side as those people.

One of them is the Rev. Al Sharpton. He’s an ardent Democrat with a national TV show on MSNBC. The problem I have is that he’s also a blatant liar, one of the most shameless hustlers of all time. Anybody who paid any attention to the Tawana Brawley case knows that.

I won’t take the time and space here to go into the details of that old case. It’s easy enough to look up. My point is simply that until and unless Sharpton comes clean on the Brawley case and the vicious, lying smear he orchestrated against a good and decent guy, Steve Pagones, I’ll never have any use for the man.

Once, at a political dinner in Albany, I asked Sharpton when he plans to apologize to Pagones for falsely trying to paint the guy as a rapist.

“Never,” Sharpton snarled back.

Later on, one of Sharpton’s deputies, a Brooklyn clergyman named the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, came over and asked me what I have against Sharpton.

I said, “Reverend, I’m just trying to do my Christian duty in giving Rev. Sharpton a chance to get square with God for the lies he told during the Brawley case. I’m only doing what I can to help Rev. Sharpton save his own soul.”

That pretty much put an end to that conversation.

On the other side, I just wince at the pure BS I hear from so many of the Republicans – the birther insanity, the Obama is a socialist nonsense and all the rest of it. But I’m annoyed most by people like Bill Donohue, who ends up on TV every time Fox News goes looking for an angry Catholic spokesman.

Bill Donohue, the $400,000-a-year head of a group called the Catholic Conference, always fits the bill. He’s an insufferably self-righteous professional Catholic, even though he’s divorced, and he seems to spend every moment on TV in a state of foaming, red-faced rage over this or that. Compared to Bill Donohue, Newt Gingrich is Mohandas K. Gandhi.

I was raised Catholic and identify with that religion more than any other. (My precise religious views and practices are none of your business, just as yours are none of mine, but that’s a conversation for another time.) The idea that the perpetually furious, warlike Bill Donohue represents me or most other Catholics is nothing short of hilarious. He represents Catholics the way Tomás de Torquemada represented Catholics.

I don’t want to be on the same side as him, either.

What’s interesting is that people who think as I do are exploding in numbers in the voting population. More than 2.5 million fed-up voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 elections. A USA TODAY analysis of state voter registration statistics shows registered Democrats declined in 25 of the 28 states that register voters by party. Republicans dipped in 21 states, while independents increased in 18 states.

The trend is most conspicuous in states crucial to the 2012 presidential race. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats’ registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans’ by 350,000. Independents have gained 325,000. The strident, offensive voices of the left and right have driven millions of people out of both parties.

Registered Democrats are still bigger than any other group – More than 42 million voters, compared to 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents — but Democrats have lost the most. They’ve lost 1.7 million party members, or 3.9 per cent, from 2008.

Democratic registration has done worse than Republicans in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — the eight swing states with party registration. Republican losses are biggest in Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

By contrast, the number of independents has grown for years and is up more than 400,000 since 2008, or 1.7 per cent. To win re-election, Barack Obama has to capture a majority of independents. He did that in 2008 when 52% of independents voted for him, but independents are a varied lot. They’re not all moderates. Some think the Democratic Party is too conservative to join. Some see the Republicans as too liberal. We know this from the 2008 election exit polls.

Those polls also showed that self-described independents who voted for Obama in 2008 were more worried about the national economy, and correctly so, than independent voters who backed John McCain. Fifty-five per cent of Obama independents were very worried compared with 44% of McCain independents.

Independents who voted for Obama also were more likely to be swing voters than were independents who voted for McCain. About 25 per cent of Obama independents voted for a Republican for the House in the 2010 midterm elections, while only 10% of McCain independents voted for a Democratic House candidate.

What it boils down to, it seems, is that most independents just retch when they flip on the TV and see partisan, religious phonies like Sharpton and blustering, sanctimonious, partisan loudmouths like Donohue. Guys like that represent pure poison to most independent voters like me, and we’re the people who decide elections.

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February 15, 2012

Don’t Believe It…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 5:51 pm

A dozen years ago, during a fit of utter madness, I ran for a seat in the New York Legislature. I was a member of no political party, but the Democrats slated me against a three-term incumbent with a 2-1 enrollment advantage. I came within a few points of beating the guy anyway, but I learned a few things during that campaign.

One thing I learned is that it’s difficult to make reporters part of your marketing operation. And that’s what every political campaign is – a marketing operation. The product is the candidate, and every candidate wants reporters as part of the selling team, only they don’t always cooperate.

Some candidates take that personally. In 2012, one of them is Newt Gingrich. Back in the 1960s, another was Richard Nixon. Nixon hated reporters. Try as he might, he just couldn’t get them to write or air precisely what he wanted them to write or air – which was, essentially, that Nixon was right about everything and that anybody who disagreed with him in any particular was a hopelessly evil person.

That’s why Nixon selected as his vice presidential running mate a conspicuous crook named Spiro Agnew, the governor of Maryland. Agnew’s job as a candidate was to serve as an attack dog. It was his same job after Nixon and Agnew won and took office. Agnew’s job as vice president of the United States was to rail against “the nattering nabobs of negativism” in the news media, and he did that gleefully until he left office after pleading no contest to charges that he’d taken bribes.

Both Nixon and Agnew are long dead, but the evil they did with that nattering nabobs thing lives on. That’s why Gingrich today so loves to attack reporters. He did it to CNN’s John King during a debate in the South Carolina. He tried it unsuccessfully against CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a later debate, only Blitzer was ready for him and refused to back down on national TV, which had the clear effect of unnerving Gingrich.

The first thing you have to understand is that nobody should believe what
any politician says about anything. Politicians are in the selling business. They’ll say anything they think you want to hear. Generally, they themselves believe none of it. With the exception of the occasional True Believer like Ron Paul, these guys harbor no convictions whatever, but they’re perfectly willing to cater to the distorted beliefs of anybody they think they can convince to vote for them.

Gingrich has been around a long time. He knows how things really work. But he also understands that the seeds planted by Nixon and Agnew on media bias have blossomed into a bramble bush over the years. Gingrich is hustling votes from right-wing news media haters. That’s why he says that if he gets the GOP nomination for President he’ll submit to no debate in which reporters get to ask questions. It would be hilarious except for the fact that so many simply-minded people swallow this crap and have for years now.

Look, I’ve spent decades in the news business. It’s divided into two parts – news and opinion, even though too few ordinary people seem able to distinguish between the two. At the moment, I’m in the opinion business. That’s what you’re reading now – opinion.

I’ve also covered political campaigns as a reporter. I’ve been a questioner in a number of televised political debates. And I can tell you that, unlike John King, there’s no way I would have taken that abuse from Newt Gingrich when he threw a televised temper tantrum over a question he didn’t like.

My response would have been, “Are you refusing to answer that question, Mr. Speaker? Are you afraid to respond honestly to that question? And by the way, Mr. Speaker, you’re a candidate sucking up for votes for the most powerful job on the planet, and you owe the voters an answer. Now, live up to the obligation you’re so eagerly taken on and answer the question, Sir.”

This BS has been going on for a while now, but nobody has been as blatant about it as Gingrich. Some reporters find it amusing for its sheer outrageousness. I’m not one of them. I’m also not a fan of either Fox News or MSNBC – news media outlets whose primary purpose is to savage one party or the other in the name of ratings and advertising cash. Those networks exist and prosper as recognition that too many people in this democracy don’t want or understand real news. They don’t want a fair and accurate recitation of what’s going on and the best available version of the truth.

Instead, they want a news operation that’s blatantly biased and that reinforces their particular political sentiments. They adopt the fiction that any news operation that tries to fairly deliver the news is clearly biased against them and their party because it fails to echo their one-sided political viewpoints.

One of the most common responses I receive from readers of these posts boils down to, “You’re biased because what you write doesn’t mirror my opinions.” It’s usually phrased as, “How dare you say something with which I disagree?” My response to that is to trash the comment. Address the issue I’ve written about on its own merits or spend a few decades busting your butt to get your own media voice, as I’ve done.

But, as I’ve said, I write opinion these days, and anybody who expresses opinions publicly has to endure that sort of nuttiness. John King and Wolf Blitzer are not in the opinion business. Regardless of Newt Gingrich’s pandering to the totally blind media haters, King, Blitzer and other straight news reporters are working hard to provide you with the best, impartial version of the available truth, even if that means asking your candidate to answer a question that the candidate finds embarrassing.

At this point, deep into the 21st Century, the hopelessly gullible people who’ve bought this media bias BS, whether they’re on the far right or the far left, can only be described by a single, harsh, pretty uncomplimentary word.

Suckers.

Be sure to visit my Web site at forpeoplewhothink.com.

February 9, 2012

The Language of Politics…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 3:13 pm

Every business has its own language, its own jargon, much of it so arcane and obscure that outsiders have no clue as to what the hell these people are talking about. Football has its “red zone” and TV has its “B-roll” and the military – well, there have to be many military people who have no idea what any of his or her comrades are talking about.

Education language consists of any number of alphabet-soup jargon words and phrases. So does government bureaucracy. Police work has its own language. And computer people? Maybe Martians could understand them, but most Earth people are perpetually mystified.

After watching most of the 427 debates political debates held so far in this Republican presidential primary contest, I’ve come to realize that if you’re going to run for President as a member of the GOP you have to speak the language of Republicanism. By that, I mean that you’re obligated to repeat certain words and phrases over and over again, and you need to repeat them in certain precise ways.

For example:

You must invoke the name of Ronald Reagan repeatedly, preferably in reference to either your close personal relationship with him or your fervent adherence to his political beliefs. You always have to refer to him as “Reagan,” “Ronald Reagan” or “President Reagan.” You must never, however, use the term “President Obama.”

In all references to the current President, you must use “Barack Obama,” “Obama” or “the President we now have.” You also can call him “the guy in the White House now.” The words “beat Obama,” positioned together in that order, are a required usage. The phrase “debate Obama” wins you points. The term “President Obama,” however, is a definite no-no.

The phrase “cut taxes” has to be used repeatedly, along with the seemingly contradictory phrase “balanced budget,” in the same sentence. It also helps if you can include in that sentence the phrases “class warfare,” “spending cuts” and “smaller government.” You can substitute the phrase “limited government” for “smaller government,” but only if you also in that sentence include the word “Constitution.”

You get extra points for working in “framers” or “founding fathers.” You get a gold star if you also can squeeze in the word “liberty.” You lose points if you utter the phrase “general welfare.” (Those are the words that appear in the U. S. Constitution before the word “liberty.”)

In using the word “government,” it’s always wise to include any of the phrases, “get out of the way” or “can’t create jobs” or “created this mess.” Try also to work in the word “regulation” and/or the word “oppressive” in the same sentence. Extra points are awarded by the use of the phrase “let capitalism work” or “free markets.”

You can use the phrase “politics of envy,” but the word “liberal” can never be used in any reference to a politician of either party. In its place, you must use the words “European-style socialist.” (It’s unclear whether the word “Communist” is yet acceptable, but it probably will be in 2016.)

You may, however, employ the use of the word “liberal” in reference to any news outlet except Fox News – as in “liberal media.” You get extra points for squeezing in the word “elite” somewhere near “media.” You get extra points for use of the phrase “out of touch with the American people.”

Other words and phrases deemed mandatory in Republican debates are “conservative principles,” “faith,” “family,” “state level” or “back to the states” and “Obamacare.” “Obamacare,” in fact, must be uttered repeatedly, preferably while the candidate’s face contorts into a sneer or takes on the sort of expression he or she might get just after licking a piece of public plumbing.

You cannot say “black people,” even if everybody knows that’s precisely who you’re talking about. You can say “poor.” You can say “urban.” You can use the word “welfare” and/or throw around the phrase “food stamps.” You can make reference to “the underclass.”

You would be extremely unwise to use “those people” or “them.” You should never say, “And you know who I’m talking about, right?” Well, actually, there are places where you probably can say that, but not with a network TV camera pointed at you – or, these days, in any room where somebody might have a cell phone video camera. Do not use the word “moo-ca-ca” in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

If you employ the phrase “constitutional amendment” it must be used in conjunction with the word “abortion” or the phrase “balanced budget.” If you employ the term “tea party” it must be uttered in a tone of hushed reverence. If you say, “occupy Wall Street,” you must spit immediately afterwards. The word “extremist” has to be used only in conjunction with the phrase “left-wing.” The word “moderate” has to be delivered in a cold tone of contempt.

So, enjoy the debates. They’re not only democracy in action, they’re the best show on TV these days.

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