Thursday, March 31, 2011

Intentional Ignorance, Political Fuel

Remember how, years and years ago after a shooting in Arizona, everybody in the media was talking about toning down the rhetoric? What, was that really just last January? My mistake.

Here's an example of how media, both liberal (as in this example) and conservative (watch any broadcast of the Daily Show Starring Jon Stewart for an example from the Fox News Follies) use language to ramp up the tone of rhetoric, even when they know, intellectually, that what they're saying isn't true:

In the March 30-April 5 issue of the San Antonio Current, one of those weekly throwaway "alternative" newspapers, is a report about divisions in the local Democratic Party organization, caused by bigoted comments by its local chairman, who managed to alienate with a sentence or two just about anyone who isn't a heterosexual Hispanic. A group called Stonewall Democrats (after the 1969 riots in Greenwich Village that followed one too many police raids on a gay bar, and gave birth to the Gay Pride movement) endorsed several candidates for local office. One of the candidates who met with the group, the Current reports, "said that if she were endorsed by Stonewall she would not carry that endorsement on her website or campaign literature. 'Many in our area would look at that as something that would be divisive,' Ivy Taylor told the group."

Then the Current sinks into intentional ignorance. "Interesting to note," it continues, "that 'divisive' was the same word she later used to describe [the party chairman]'s comparisons of Stonewall to the Nazi Party, in effect placing Stonewall's potential endorsement on parity with Nazi comparisons."

The writer of "The QueQue," the column where this appears, is not an ignoramus. He or she (there's no byline) regularly delivers intelligent insight into matters of local political interest. But even this intelligent, capable writer is willing to stoop to this kind of disingenuousness in order to score a petty point. 

Ms Taylor is right both times: an endorsement by Stonewall would be divisive in her conservative district. And Lord knows that the party chairman's comments were divisive, in spades. But the fact that both are true, and  the fact that she accurately used the same word to describe both, doesn't mean she's "in effect placing Stonewall's potential endorsement on parity with Nazi comparisons." 

The Current ought to be ashamed, but I bet it's not.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sauce for the Gander

The real problem with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's approach to dealing with labour unions is that it doesn't go far enough.

Walker is trying to strip the state's employees of their right to bargain collectively with their employer, on the theory that the labour unions have been too successful in their work, and have gotten the state to make promises it won't be able to keep. Although this problem really should be laid at the feet of the state's less competent representatives in bargaining -- i.e., politicians and their appointees, and those who, at Walker's urging, recently voted to bankrupt the state through corporate welfare bonuses -- it is a potentially powerful way to turn the clock back to the era of the robber barons, when it was viewed as the right of each labourer to make his or her own individual employment contract.

John D. Rockefeller;
one reason we need
labour unions
But if Walker is successful, we will be beset with the same problems that gave rise to labour unions in the first place: the widespread abuse of the labouring class by the capital class.

What then is to be done?

Well, for starters, let's take Walker's idea a step further, and say that, just as labourers cannot come together to select representatives to bargain on their behalf, neither can capitalists. No more corporations or partnerships, no more joint ventures or trusts. Everyone with a dollar to invest in the capital system must make his or her own individual investment contracts. No more of this system of shareholders choosing knowledgeable people to sit on a board and choose other knowledgeable people to operate a business. Everyone has to do it on their own.

Each state agency will have to negotiate its pen and paper purchases independently with individual producers of supplies. Each state executive will have to hire and fire his or her own secretary, each crew chief will have to staff his or her own crew ... and will, of course, have to devote some time to learning personnel laws, and defending the lawsuits that result.