Ideology Meets Reality

Earlier this week the New York Times had a story about implementation of Bush's big-deal Education Act. After all the talk about "failing schools" and freeing children from the grip of the socialist school systems, and national priorities, here's what happened "In Baltimore, of 30,000 children eligible to transfer to better schools, 347 have applied to fill 194 slots, school officials said."

In my opinion the "education crisis" is a good example of a phony issue, whipped up to support ideological objectives, and driven to the top of the national agenda by use of large amounts of money and the Republican marketing machine. The Republicans poured so many millions and millions of dollars into getting their message out that public schools are bad, pounded the public with message after message that "the public schools are failing." It's a relentless drumbeat, and this week's smear story about the NEA "blaming America" is part of their strategy.

You've probably seen the polls that show that most people think the education system is failing, but at the same time most people think THEIR local schools are just fine. It's those OTHER schools. EVERYONE knows that the schools are failing, but no one sees that in their OWN school districts. There MUST BE a problem, everyone says so, except not in the schools WE see, so it must be a problem in those OTHER schools. (It's like the Social Security system. EVERYONE knows it won't be there for them, even though the figures show that it's solid. Or like how before the 1984 election the got everyone believing that Congress is bad, but not THEIR member of Congress.)

So Bush campaigned for President, playing on the belief the Republicans have created in the public mind about the terrible schools and how bad they are for the children and how so many parents are trying to escape, etc. It became the highest concern among those polled (except THEIR schools). He got his big-deal Education Act passed. Now they're implementing it and what are they finding?
"In Baltimore, of 30,000 children eligible to transfer to better schools, 347 have applied to fill 194 slots, school officials said."
Maybe the ideology got a little bit ahead of the reality?


Reforming Labor Law, and a Great Blog

Thanks to Joe Kenehan Center for pointing out this Boston Globe Op-Ed piece about reforming labor law.
"The view that the corporation exists only to enrich its stockholders has been accepted for too long. Corporate failure to similarly value other objectives - including the well-being of employees and their community - has helped produce today's scandals. Any reform package that fails to give employees the power to monitor executive behavior and protect their human capital investments fails to complete the job."

War or Recession

And on another point, I noticed that in the August 25, 2001 story referenced below Bush says that he would dip into the Social Security in the event of war or recession. He first said that five days before, on August 20. Unfortunate timing to start talking about the U.S. getting into a war.

"Incredibly Positive News''

President Bush has been trying to deflect blame for the deficits. He tells his "trifecta" joke (lie, actually), and says Democrat spending is the cause. Here are some examples:

CBS News, Jan. 23, 2002, "Republicans have blamed the worsening budget picture on the recession and the campaign against terrorism. They say annual surpluses will return shortly if the economy rebounds and if Democratic efforts to boost spending are rebuffed."

NY Times, Aug. 28, 2002, "But White House officials and Congressional Republicans argued that the new deficits merely reflected the recent economic slowdown, the price of the war in Afghanistan and the costs of beefing up domestic security against terrorism. Dan L. Crippen, the director of the budget office, said the recession and the plunging stock markets appeared to have played a bigger role than the tax cuts in reducing tax revenues."

Wash. Post, Aug. 27, 2002, "The president believes the lesson from today's CBO numbers is that Congress needs to hold the line on spending," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said from the president's ranch in Crawford, Tex. "And if Congress won't do it, the president will do it for Congress."

And in another article, same paper, same day, "The real danger to the budget comes from pork-barrel spending by the Congress," declared White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "We should control what we can," said Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, "which is spending."

MaxSpeak today gets into this with a very good piece suggesting that Republicans want deficits on purpose as a way to limit the size of government.

Let me help sort this out, and note the date as he tries to blame 9/11. New York Times, August 25, 2001
President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government's fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He said that was "incredibly positive news" because it would halt the growth of the federal government.

Light Blogging

I know I haven't been putting much up here since the Sopranos 3rd season came out Tuesday on DVD. I have to return them by next Tuesday.


Today's Google Experiment - Watch a Smear Spread

The Daily Howler has been exploring an ongoing smear against the NEA, claiming that the teacher's union is asking teachers to "blame America first" for the 9/11 terrorism.

The initial smear appeared in the Washington Times, the newspaper published by the Moonies. The original article referenced a paper by Brian Lippincott, saying that we should be careful not to blame all Muslims for 9/11. The smear twists this into a claim that the NEA says to teach children that we shouldn't blame the terrorists but should instead "blame America." So let's search on the words "Brian Lippincott NEA" and see what we find.

Guess what? It's the usual web of Scaiff-funded right-wing organizations leading the list - Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Townhall (Heritage Foundation).

Now let's try searching on "NEA Blame America First". Look at this gem from Ollie North! "The NEA -- and other 9-11 Deniers -- cannot be trusted to "Remember Sept. 11," when they refuse to forthrightly acknowledge what really happened on that terrible Tuesday morning. Wouldn't it be nice to have a teacher's union that didn't want to blame America first?"

Keep in mind that this is just a bald-faced LIE, and click beyond the first page of Google results, at all the organizations and "columnists" repeating this lie! Look at this one, "NEA exploits 9/11 as propaganda tool"

This is how it's done, folks. The Republicans have a huge machine out there and we know that about half the public believes this stuff!

Question 1 - How many "reputable" journalists do you see standing up to this, and denouncing the lies?

Question 2 - Isn't it time to restore the "Fairness Doctrine" so we can get more than the Republican side of issues discussed on the radio and TV networks that WE license to operate and serve THE PUBLIC INTEREST?

Do You Know Where YOUR 401K Is?

Arianna Huffington in today's LA Times talks about a big mutual fund conflict of interest. They get fees for managing 401K accounts of large companies. If they vote against management of these corporations, or dump their stocks from their mutual funds, the owners of the shares of the fund (you) might do better, but the fund's management (them) rick having the companies dump them from managing the company's 401K plan, and the resulting revenues of the are in peril. THEIR money comes from management fees, NOT from how well their funds perform.
"For instance, the nation's largest mutual fund, Fidelity, which owns 5.3% of Tyco's stock, also earned $2 million in 1999 for its part in running Tyco's 401(k) plans. Last year, more than 50% of Fidelity's $9.8 billion in revenue was generated by administering 401(k) plans and other employee benefit services for about 11,000 companies, including Philip Morris, Shell, IBM, Monsanto and Ford."

Those running the mutual funds know that if they rock the boat they jeopardize their chances of getting the contracts for these services. So, with ownership essentially AWOL, irresponsible corporate execs have been allowed to run wild. Not surprisingly, mutual funds have consistently refused to disclose how they vote. As California Treasurer Phil Angelides told me, "That silence speaks volumes."
Whose interests do you think they are going to choose? Yours or their own?


Ongoing Questions - Keeping Them In Your Face

Why won't Bush release those SEC files that he says clear up all the questions about his Harken transactions? And what about the minutes of the Harken Board meetings, so we can find out if Bush approved of the Aloha Petroleum scam?

Did Bush pay taxes on that Harken loan money?

Did Bush pay taxes when he sold the Texas Rangers?

Why isn't there an INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION of Harken and Haliburton?

Why isn't there an INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION of what we knew, and where we failed, regarding 9/11? (See Bartcop today, "Partners in Crime")

Why aren't there any jobs programs for people whose unemployment benefits are running out?

Who is our economy for?

What Bush Says Now - What Bush Did Then. (I know, it's not a question, but it does start with the word "what.")

From a Reader

I received a message from a reader (THANKS!) in response to what I wrote about corporate ownership of news sources.
From the September Harper's Index;

Number of appearances made by corporate representatives on US network nightly newscasts last year: 955

Number of appearances made by labor representatives: 31
And I suspect that the bulk of those 31 representatives of labor were on PBS, which is funded but not owned outright by corporations.


I just discovered Flashpoints. I'm not sure if white on orange is good for you, though.
There's an interesting stock market poll on Newstrolls.

They're Not Listening

Today's Washington Post talks about the politics of the deficit. Voters trust Bush and the Republicans on the economy more than the Democrats, even after it is explained that the deficit has soared, unemployment is up, the economy has collapsed, etc.
A poll for the Democratic Leadership Council this spring by Mark Penn dramatically illustrates Dowd's point. Voters trusted Bush over congressional Democrats, 47 to 40 percent, to handle the economy. Penn then went for the jugular: "Before President Bush took office, the country was experiencing the fastest economic growth, the first budget surplus in a generation and the lowest unemployment in history. Since President Bush took office, the economy has entered a recession, the trillion-dollar surplus is now a serious deficit and 1.4 million people have lost their jobs," his poll states, before again asking who voters trust.

And again, Bush came out on top, 46 to 44 percent.

Said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg: "People are confused by what the deficit is, what the debt is. The numbers are of such magnitude that they're hard to comprehend. As an issue, it's incredibly complicated."
I think they're not listening. I think "we" - moderates and progressives - underestimate just how many people are listening to Rush Limbaugh. It doesn't matter what the facts are. If Rush says it's Clinton's fault, about half the people in this country are going to repeat that.

Illustrating my point is a line in today's New York Times article, The Selling of America, Bush Style.
The idea that advertising could "sway the ideas of whole populations, change their habits of life, create belief, practically universal in any policy or idea" ...
Democrats aren't going to get their message across until they are ready to start doing what it takes to counter the right-wing message machine. Yesterday I wrote about Democrats needing to push to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. AM radio has become a 24/7 advertisement for the Republican Party. Equally important, moderate and progressive foundations must start funding organizations that counter the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute and other parts of the right-wing web.