Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Hawaii!

Happy 50th anniversary to Hawaii, the 50th state--birth place of the 44th president, who was born there just over 48 years ago.

The Real Threat of Domestic Terrorism

Tom Ridge, first Director of the Office of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, has just published a book entitled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege . . . And How We Can Be Safe Again. In it, he charges that the Bush Administration—well aware that the president’s approval ratings rose significantly during times of perceived threats—manipulated the use of terror alerts for political gain.

Of course, it’s Ridge’s book, and he manages to make himself look somewhat innocent—if not faintly heroic—as one who resisted pressure from on high to raise the alert level for no valid reason on the eve of the 2004 elections.

Naturally, other officials of the previous administration deny these allegations by a former Republican Congressman, governor, and cabinet member. Ridge’s story, however, is entirely keeping with what we know about the win-at-any-cost philosophy of the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration.

To manipulate and control people through fear is terrorism. While psychological terror tactics are different in kind and degree from the use of snipers and bombs, I submit that morally, they fall into the same category. This kind of psychological warfare has been a major weapon in the arsenal of the GOP (General Opposition Party) for decades. In recent months, we’ve seen many examples—from Sarah Palin ranting about “socialism” on the campaign trail to Senators alleging that “health reform” would lead to selective murder of the elderly and infirm.

The so-called public servants who use such incendiary language are well aware that a healthy percentage of the American public is gullible and na├»ve enough to believe outrageous lies. There are those who shrug off blatant fear-mongering as “just politics.” In politics as elsewhere, they say, it’s “buyer beware"—“fool me once” and all that.

However, deliberately using lies, no matter how absurd, to stir up public outrage is anything but harmless. Anger is a secondary emotion, following closely on the heels of fear, and those stoking the rage of the ignorant—people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and certain extremists in Congress—endanger us all by doing so.

Igniting political bonfires to create distraction (the idiotic "Birther" movement comes to mind here), halts progress by gumming up the essential work of the government. (Any lack of progress, of course, can be blamed on the Democrats, especially when Democrats are in power.) Beyond that, however, is the actual body count.

Victims of atrocities committed by right-wing extremists—from the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City to murder of a security guard at the Holocaust museum—are just as dead or traumatized as victims of Al Qaeda. For months, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of such things, has been warning about an escalation of activity among right-wing militia groups and potentially violent extremists.

It's past time for every citizen capable of rational thought--regardless of political affiliation--to turn off FOX News and wing-nut radio and quit pretending that ends justify the means. If conservatives can't put forth ideas that stand on their own merit--regarding health care reform or any other topic worth discussing--then they need to shut up.

Someone--and the rest of us are that "someone"--needs to tell them to do that. Rather than meeting one outrageous lie after another with a plain and honest statement of the truth--an Obama strategy that hasn't been working too well lately--we need to work toward ending the kind of political correctness the prevents us from calling a spade a spade.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seattle's Shame

Well, folks, here's the outcome of Tuesday's election--Seattle's answer to the challenge to commit to making a small change in behalf of the environment.

Regardless of our political affiliation, it behooves us all to ask how we can move this country toward a rational approach to problem solving rather than the status quo; namely,masses of non-thinkers motivated by emotional manipulation by special interests.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seattle Bag Fee

Today’s the day when Seattle voters will decide whether to put their money--a little loose change, actually--where their mouth is.

You may have heard about the horrific, Alaska-sized mass of plastics and other human-made debris now circulating in the Pacific Ocean. Deadly to aquatic birds, turtles, marine mammals, and fish, this obscene mess is largely the shameful result of millions of bad decisions on the part of consumers, who use billions of plastic bags each year and can be careless about throwing them away.

Estimates vary regarding the actual number of plastic bags used each year, in the U.S. and elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the number is very, very, very large--large enough to be making bag manufacturers a lot of money, and of course therein lies the problem. When the interests of people making money cross with the interests of dolphins, the dolphins will lose every time.

Some optimistic and environmentally responsible people came up with a modest proposal: charging a 20-cent fee at stores for the privilege of using plastic bags. People who bring back their plastic (or, better, cloth) bags for reuse would of course avoid the modest charge--perhaps $1 for a week’s worth of groceries per person.

Here’s the point: nobody would have to “buy” bags! There would merely be a positive incentive to remember to bring reusable bags along on shopping trips.

To date, according to NPR, about $1.5 million has been spent in an effort to defeat this measure. Even those who don't profit from the consumption of billions of bags every year seem to be iffy about actually making a modest commitment to the health of the planet--a commitment Europeans made almost two decades ago, to their credit.

Seattle is allegedly one of the most environmentally aware communities in the country; if those who care can't turn out in numbers great enough to pass this measure, then there may be little hope for preserving what's left of the natural environment.

A Note to My Readers

Many thanks to those of you who noted my prolonged absence from 46 Degrees North. My beloved laptop computer winked out on me after four years of faithful service. I’m still in the process of reinventing my world in terms of technology. Thanks for your patience!