Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Anti-Conservative Behavior

Like Shimp (in the previous posting), I am troubled by the message of the media mouthpieces of modern conservatism. They have lost their way.

I thought conservatives (and, by direct connection, the Republican Party) were supposed to represent individual (private) rights and public financial restraint; however, if you look at the words of the dominant "conservative" pundits, you don't see these values. For example, Fox News has abandoned any critique of the current administration and instead has become tabloid, prying into the sad life of Brittany Spears and harshly judging Amy Winehouse because she struggles with addiction.

These pundits do not represent conservatism; they are simply media whores, cashing in by judging other people. Old school conservatives would call this "sinful behavior."

As for the time-honored "conservative" tenet of financial restraint, when you look at the behavior of the current administration, you'll see a president that has spent more dollars than any other president in American history....while lowering taxes at the same time. Conservatives should find this irresponsible, shouldn't they? So, why is Bill O'Reilly focused on Amy Winehouse? Because she's an easy target.

Here's the latest fiscal policy from the White House: Instead of creating a jobs infrastructure program that would put people to work and update the country's infrastructure (bridges and highways), President Bush chooses a simple cash giveaway stimulus package. Huh? I thought this was the party that wanted to eliminate welfare and other "government giveaways." I'm not following the logic here. Where are the conservative critics? Silent on this topic. In his latest article in the NY Times, Bill Kristol takes Barack Obama to task for not wearing an American flag lapel pin.

Now, I realize that creating a government-run jobs package is a liberal idea, so you can trash that idea if you want (in true Conservative style) but isn't the idea of just giving people money even more offensive to conservatives? I want to hear from Republicans on this one. Are there any true conservatives left out there?

The other anti-conservative development that makes no sense to me relates to the messages fashioned by the current crop of Republican "pundits": Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, William Kristol, Ann Coulter, among others.

These "conservative" pundits sound increasingly like fascists.

I understand.....most of their rhetoric is contrived to sell books and/or generate advertising revenue, so that's the ugly joke, but the final outcome is more serious and involves the establishment of a certain, rigid code of behavior that, by implication, must be followed by everyone at all times.

Barack Obama must wear a flag lapel pin. Amy Winehouse must be drug-free before she can be eligible for a Grammy (and Rush Limbaugh must be drug-free before he can win an award for radio?). It goes on and on. Just watch Fox News on any evening and you'll see the smear campaign at work: "We don't like you, so we will public ally smear you." It's like they politically lynch someone every evening. It's frightening.

Is this what Conservatism and the Republican Party have devolved into? Big cash giveaways from the government, micromanaging the behavior of individual people, drug-related litmus tests for musicians, and public/political lynchings? Geez. I thought the Republicans were focused on being productive, not delving into such foolishness as attacking Hillary Clinton's choice of hat (I'm not making this up). And do we really want drug-free musicians?

Isn't this the party of Rush Limbaugh? Hasn't Rush railed for years against "feminazis" and "political correctness"---those forces that would tell us what to believe and how to behave? It seems, today, that his party is the new enforcer of PC. "Wear that flag lapel pin, goddam it, or we'll castrate you politically...we'll even attack your wife."

All this seems dishonorable to me, as a conservative person.

The irony is that "PC" is all we hear today from the Republican pundits: "You either behave as we tell you to behave or we're going to smear you in every way we can."

What the hell has happened? I guess it's a combination of things. First, it is an appeal to the lowest common denominator in society: Rather than addressing important problems, it's a lot easier to smear anybody we don't like.

Second, as mentioned, it generates ratings. Preaching to the choir goes back thousands of years, so Hannity, O'Reilly, and Coulter continue to provide orgasm after ideological orgasm to their readers/viewers.

Third, as much as I hate to say this, public lynchings have attracted crowds as long as lynchings have been held in public. The style of Fox News "journalism" is not an effort to provide the viewer with both sides of a reasonably objective argument; not at all. Instead, it involves smearing people with contrivances and hyped-up rhetoric. It is a nightly, public lynching of some one's reputation and personality (and they're not above personal attacks, as well, involving some one's stature, choice of clothing, accent).

But, I guess if you don't like Hillary Clinton, you love seeing her smeared every night on Fox News. So, the show must go on.

As entertaining as all of this is, I believe it does not bode well for the Republican party. True conservatism in the US is dead; just ask George Will. It has been subsumed by political and market forces that have agendas other than the authentic support of Conservative policies. Fox News---owned by an Aussie---has clearly reshaped and degraded the political landscape.

William F. Buckley is one of only a few true Conservatives alive these days.

As for me, I am a conservative Democrat. There are times I would like to see the Republican Party really, really, really become conservative. I keep waiting. But while they give lip service to fiscal restraint and personal responsibility, the party pundits write about lapel pins (or the lack thereof) and micromanaging the behavior of private citizens while they smear anybody who does not behave in a certain, prescribed manner.

They have become the enforcers of political correctness.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

O'Reilly's "Liberal" Rantings

This was originally posted as a comment by "Shimp" under my "Super Tuesday" post, but of course, is way overqualified to be left as that....

I did something tonight that I'm ashamed of.And although I'd rather just forget about it, I think in the spirit of AA I should come clean and own up to what I am: someone who still cannot resist the occasional temptation of peeking in on those crazy conservatives.

Okay, so what I'm specifically admitting to, of course (and you know that you're sometimes guilty too), is having actually sat through an episode of The O'Reilly Factor. And I'm glad I did it, because it reminded me just how played out and predictable his whole shtick is.

It was like tuning in to a soap opera you haven't seen in maybe two years. You realize that certain small things have changed -- maybe something with the set seems different, or some major character now has cancer (they never die... unless the actors REALLY die) -- but for the most part you can still follow it. It's like you never went away...

And I truly did tune in just out of curiosity -- just to see what the hell the guy's talking about these days. On my cable, O'Reilly (which is to say FOX) is way down in this dead zone of the dial, sandwiched between crap like Lifetime Movie Network and that ridiculous bald headed guy who's always screaming about stocks, or whatever it is that's got him so worked up.

So I was literally out of my depths. Next thing I know, I'm tuning in.

And since I'd decided to just go with it, I thought I might as well try to predict Bill's major topics for the night. I tried to think of what's going on right now that could possibly be stoking his anger. I guessed maybe something about the Presidential Primaries. And although that did get about five minutes of coverage during the "roundup," or whatever it's called, actual politics had to take a back seat to the creative dredging up of outrage over the sort of stuff that gets headlines only on blatant gossip shows like Access Hollywood.

So, despite the ample availability of high-quality political fodder from the current Presidential campaign, Bill elects to focus his ire on basically three "big" stories:
1) Jane Fonda apparently uttering the C Word on the Today show this morning
2) Amy Winehouse winning multiple Grammy awards earlier this week
3) Some I-can't-imagine-there-being-a-more-marginal "news event" taking place in Massachusetts in which (and I do not exaggerate) what looked like about five inmates (including one known and registered sex offender) from a local mental hospital being permitted to take a supervised visit to the circus.

I'll summarize Bill's rants on each of these issues in a moment. But what I want to bring out now is the unmistakable overarching theme which carried through each of O'Reilly's expositions. Although he devotes more time each episode to attempting to highlight what he sees as the fundamental differences between conservative and liberal orthodoxy than anything else, if you look closely you'll actually see that O'Reilly himself is quite liberal, or at least not so much conservative.Let me just say now that I bristle at the mere suggestion that O'Reilly and his ilk represent anything having to do with what I see as traditional conservative ideology. These people are, as I see them, far more protectionist and pro-govt involvement in every aspect of our lives than anyone I know on the left.

Okay, so let's look at O'Reilly's Big Three issues for Feb. 4th, 2008.
Issue 1
The problem: Jane Fonda used the C Word on the live, not taped, Today show this morning.
O'Reilly's solution: The FCC should have its enforcement authority increased so that it may prevent incidents like this (by the way, this was LIVE TV, which means that it couldn't have been thwarted in any case) from happening again.
Issue 2
The problem: Amy Winehouse won multiple Grammys.Further to the problem: She, being a known drug abuser (possibly even an addict), should, from O'Reilly's perspective, not qualify to receive a Grammy. Instead, because of her notorious addiction problem, should be punished as not meeting the minimum standard for a Grammy recipient. O'Reilly clearly believes that there should be a behavioral component to the voting for Artist of the Year. I say that has NOTHING to do with the award. It's not about who sets the best example of how to live one's life. It's about the music. Period.O'Reilly's solution: Ban her from receiving any award/recognition because of her dispicable behavior.
Issue 3
The problem and O'Reilly's solution: (It's tempting to just ignore this one, but... ) The actual problem this situation presented was, according to O'Reilly, that these people (especially the known sex offender) should, assuming they were found guilty in a court of law, NEVER be left to roam outside the building they are incarcerated in for the rest of their lives. Being found guilty means that they willingly forfeit all rights available to the unincarcerated (e.g., you and I). Even permitting these people out for two hours of heavily supervised "fun" (if the circus can be described that way) is more than they deserve, and is in fact a danger to our children.

All of the above contribute to my impression that what has come to be known as the current conservative orthodoxy actually has a fairly liberal view of how societal problems should be handled, which is to say through increased govt interference in people's daily lives. I would expect them to be more promoting of personal responsibility and suffering the folly of one's own freely made choices in life, but no...

Instead their prescription is to expand government's reach into our personal lives, to make government more responsible for protecting us from bad decisions we might make along the way.

So, this is what the O'Reilly Factor has become... An organ for the disenfranchised and those who don't want to take responsibility for their own decisions in life.


Friday, February 08, 2008

College Scholoarship Hoax

This is one of my favorite sports stories of the year. It's about this kid in some small town in Nevada who somehow fools everyone into believing he has a Div-I college football scholarship and even acts out a dramatic choice between the two finalists in front of a school assembly. Complete madness! Shortly after he announces his choice, it comes out nobody even considered the kid Div-I material.

Why do I find this story so intriguing? I'm not sure. I kind of feel bad for the kid, who just seems a bit immature, made up a couple lies, and then didn't have the courage to admit that he was lying. So, he played his bluff all the way through, no doubt (at least somewhere in the back of his mind) knowing that this had to end badly, but perhaps, hoping against all hope, that something would happen to change his fate. Of course, it didn't, and reality has come crashing down around him.

He's clearly in a tough spot.

And, what will be the long-range ramifications of this? Perhaps it will make some people take a second look at the ramifications of this recruting hype machine that is seemingly increasing its velocity every year. This kid clearly got up in the excitment and hype surrounding the recruiting process and bad things happened/are happening to him because of it. If college recruiting is truly about giving kids an opportunity, as it should be, and not about exploiting kids for our own ends, as it often turns out to be, then perhaps we need to update the rules and regulations governing recruiting to be more reflective of the hyper-media world in which we live.



Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday

Hilliary's strong Super Tuesday showing means she's not as dead-and-buried as I projected earlier. She did get creamed in the African American vote, apparently, but word is that she carries the Hispanic vote. Either way, with McCain now leading the Republican race, I think we're going to get a decent president out of the whole process. Hiliary was more impressive, more under control and calm, in a speech I saw her give to her supporters last night. That's a good sign. She didn't look like she was panicking.

In the meantime, there's quite a bit of panicking I think to be done around here, especially with this gambling/airport runway money. We can only hope that Judge Dunlavey sees things the County's way in his upcoming ruling on how this gambling revenue can be spent. From what I've read, despite the fact that their dealings stink of underhanded collusion, the Summit boys have themselves a pretty good case. It all depends on how Judge Mike interprets the law.

One thing working in the County's favor may be that having been a former interregator at Gitmo, Dunleavy is obviously not afraid to interpret the law the right way.



Tuesday, February 05, 2008

HD-DVD vs. Blu Ray

Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on this?



Monday, February 04, 2008

HDTV-Breaking Free From the Man

After about a week of research and a day of struggles, I think I've finally found a good HDTV solution. The whole thing started when I decided I wanted to get an HDTV in time for the Super Bowl. The local Fox affiliate was even accomodating me by launching a digital signal last weekend. Well, I got delayed and ended up first looking at TVs about an hour before gametime.

I tried to do some research prior to my purchase, but it was mostly fruitless. HDTV can be very confusing. First off, analog pictures look like shit on an digital TVs, at least the one I bought. Second, I had a couple people tell me that they were able to pick up HDTV signals through their normal cable service; this was not the case for me. Of course, all I have is Lifeline Basic, which is like 12 channels or something. I called Time Warner this morning about it, and they told me it would cost an extra $33 per month to add a tier that would enable me to get the local HDTV feeds. They also told me I'd get an extra 200 channel...not something I was very intersted in.

So, I went out and bought an antenna from Radio Shack. I plugged it in, scanned for channels, and 24.1, 54.1, and 66.1, all the local digital over-the-airwaves digital signals, registered. I tuned them in, and they come in great-crystal clear. (I may have actually found an advantage to living in the city-close proximity to HDTV signals!) The non-digital local guys, 12 and 35, are a little fuzzy, but I was getting a fuzzy 12 through Time Warner anyhow, plus, I'm assuming their digital signals will be as clear as their rivals as soon as they get them up, which by law has to happen in the next 12 months.

This all enables me to say, "sayonara Time Warner." I've got my HDTV, and I'm not paying you a cent. In fact, I don't even have to pay the $15 per month, I've been paying to get clear local channel reception. It seems that HDTV is giving me the opportunity to cut the cord. If this is what the government (the FCC, I assume) had in mind when it pushed the law through mandating HDTV broadcasing, God bless them. The next natural step seems to be be hooking up a PC to my digital TV, which will enable me to download or stream all non-network programming I want, on-demand.

I can see the future, and it doesn't look bright for Big Cable, at least in my house.



Friday, February 01, 2008

Rush is right

Well, we knew that, not always from a knowledge standpoint of course, but in his political views at least. However, as much as we lefties like to dismiss Rush as a cheerleader, he does bring some intelligent insights to the table every now and then. Actually, based on my latest experience, it's probably even more than now and then (deference to righties here), as I have only heard him talk for about 10 minutes in the past couple years, but the comment he made in those 10 minutes has proven to be spot on.

To clarify what I'm talking about, it's probably helpful to refer to Friday's editorial page in the Erie Times-News. There are two articles on it that slam the Clintons pretty god. One (which I can't seem to find online) pretty much says the sleezeball factor is finally catching up with the Clintons. One thing I've found interesting is how once Hillary started struggling, Bill's precense strated amping up. In my opinion, this is bad news. I don't think anybody wants eight more years of Bill.

The second article, by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, hits more directly on the Limbaugh comments I heard last week. I was driving around looking for something stimulating on the airwaves, and Rush happened to be the best I could fine. He started going on about how Hillary was tanking South Carolina so the Clintons could play the race card on Obama. Rush said something like this, "Now, the Clintons won't come out and say it themselves, but somebody in the Democratic party will. You'll hear the whispers. They'll go something like, 'He won because of the black vote.' In fact, they want Obama to win South Carolina, just so they can scare voters."

His point is that the Clintons want white voters to be scared of Obama as someone who is going to lead some sort of black uprising. This seemed a preposterous to me when Rush said it, but Limbaugh delivers his message with such casual authority, he makes you think...

Then, low and behold, less than a week later, according to Robinson's column, you get Bill Clinton himself making this comment in the wake of Obama's win in South Carolina: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

So, here's good ole' boy Bill trying to dismiss Obama as another "Jesse Jackson." Robinson, who is black, rightfully went nuts over this.

I think this proves, as the first article I mentioned, the Clintons are played out. Whatever energy and new-style politics Bill brought to the table in '92 has clearly disappated now, and they are falling back on tried-and-true good 'ole boy Southern-fried politrix. And because Hillary isn't a boy, she's relying on Bill to prop her up. It's really ugly.

Long live Obama!.