Monthly Archives: May 2016

Moral Character

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October 2011 – By Gregory Franklyn

The first Presidential Race I can remember was JFK v Richard Nixon. I was no more than knee-high to a grasshopper at the time and my primary motivation for campaigning for JFK was that he was much better looking than Nixon. Looking back, I was absolutely right about my choice albeit for the wrong reasons. I’ve carefully observed every Presidential Election since.

But, this primary season was the thrill ride of a political lifetime. Almost every Tuesday I was glued to the TV, channel flipping between MSNBC and CNN, and my fingernails are shorter than they have EVER been. What is striking to me as I look back at the whole process is how Democrats are, philosophically, more unified than I’ve ever known us to be.

One by one our candidates pushed for their particular flavor of universal health care, an end to the war in Iraq, an economic policy that could rescue American families from slavery 2.0, filing “No Child Left Behind” where it belonged in the first place, addressing Global Warming in a meaningful way and repairing what’s left of the tattered image of the US on the world stage.

You have to admit, being that unified in purpose is pretty rare for the Democratic Party. So my big question as the dust settles on the first phase of this election is, Why are we so divided? I’d like to have a go at that question and my answer is simple. Hillary Clinton.

The choices we had as Democrats this primary season wasn’t about policy at all. Barrack and Hillary are on the same page on almost EVERYTHING! This primary was about personality and character and the differences there are absolutely polar. Our choice was between hope and faith on one hand and pragmatism on the other! The fact that the contest came down to the very last voter is somewhat disturbing to me.

I blame Hillary for division in the party because she is a lightening rod for drawing fire. I don’t see it as having anything to do with her gender either. This woman is smart! Way smarter than me. By comparison, her cocktail napkin is a LITTLE smarter than me, but she’s a “take-no-prisoners” kind of leader.

I believe we don’t have universal health care right now because Hillary is a “Fighter” and fighters either win or lose, that’s what a fight is! But fighting doesn’t solve problems. I would hope that a man or woman as smart as Hillary would be able to see that. Barrack was able to see that a LONG time ago and he has built a movement that recognizes that dismissing opposition out of hand is what brought us here.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has changed America for the better. She’s right about the fact that women have waited too long for a real chance at the White House. So have African Americans! I sincerely hope that this uniquely American experience has settled the question of race and gender in leadership once and for all.

I believe that we made the right choice out of the options we were given because what the US needs most at this point in history is faith in our character as a nation. We need that even more than universal health care, more than education reform, more than,,,go down the list. All of that will naturally follow once we heal our minds, hearts and souls from the sickness of greed that has drawn us off course.

We once had pride in our moral judgment because our judgment was deeply rooted in strong moral values. We have lost that over the last four decades of leadership because our leadership has abandoned the moral compass that brought this unlikely experiment in Democracy from a fledgling handful of disgruntled English countrymen, to the greatest power on the planet in a little over 200 years.

Barrack and Michele Obama have shown us the character needed to lead this nation back to itself. They are leading us to a place where we respect that we are not perfect, we are not always right, and we are a much better people than we appear to ourselves AND the rest of the world. We are risk-taking pioneers who dream of a better world and set out to create it with our courage and our strength. We are a morally strong and resilient people who have, only momentarily, lost our way and this IS our moment in history to break out that map and get back on course. There are those who will say that we have gone to far to turn back now. To them, Barrack, Michele, Hillary and I say “Yes, We Can!”

Much Love,

Gregory

Language Matters

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July 7, 2015 – by Gregory Franklyn

Republican pollster Frank Luntz entertains a largely conservative Mississippi business crowd in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008, with politically incorrect jokes about John McCain's age and speaking style. However, he told the largely McCain-friendly audience that he does not see at this point any way GOP presidential candidate could win, noting McCain has failed to connect with young voters and that, "Stevie Wonder reads a teleprompter better than John McCain." (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Republican pollster Frank Luntz

In 2010 the Republican Party was able to do a pretty convincing sweep of local governments across the country, in addition to taking over the House of Representatives. They were able to do that through a maze of deceptive changes to the language we use in debating issues facing us in our civic lives. A perfect example of what I mean is the new term the Republican Party has been able to interject into our daily language. When you say words like, “Rich People”, “The Elite”, “The 1%” or “The Wealthy” you are using words that accurately describe to whom you are referring. Because our economy is in the midst of a serious problem, accurate words are carrying a negative connotation.

So, if you, like the Republican Party, have an agenda that is unpopular, you have to figure out new words to use to soften or distract attention from that unpopularity. In our national discourse, we’ve taken the bait!

You will never hear a Republican say the words Rich or Wealthy. They will universally use “Job Creators” in its place. Job Creators refers to Rich People! It’s not an accurate descriptor either. Rich People do not create jobs. Consumers do. Rich people only hire people when they absolutely HAVE to, and then, only at the lowest rate possible. Wages and benefits, for most companies big or small, are their biggest expense. The interests of corporations is to do the most possible with the fewest amount of people that have to be paid wages and benefits. Corporations resist hiring more people whenever possible. They, rather, train what employees they already have, to work harder and smarter so that they don’t have to pay additional people. The only time a company or corporation hires new employees is when the demand for their products or services outpaces their ability to provide them. Thus, the only way to create jobs is to create enough demand so as to require companies to hire more people. No consumers = No Jobs!

A weak middle class is an economic downward spiral. If there isn’t enough money flowing through the economy, demand is reduced and companies lay-off employees. Which, in turn reduces even further the amount of money that is flowing through the economy, which leads to further cutbacks and so on. Add to that, the money flowing through Wall Street that doesn’t produce a product or service. Like Derivatives, for example. That money is being horded, so it’s not flowing through the economy. I don’t think that Republicans and Rich People understand how large economies work.

When big corporations pay CEOs and Industry leaders huge fortunes whether they succeed or fail, that money has to come from consumers. The more money spent on CEOs, the less is available to hire workers. The less money workers have, the less they can spend. The less workers can spend, the less demand there is for the products and services provided.

Another thing Republicans do to manipulate your thoughts with language is to distract your attention from the people who are not paying their fair share of taxes (Big Businesses) and focus your attention on the guy who owns the hardware store or bar/restaurant over there on the corner. In my neighborhood, it’s Alice, who owns Bob and Alice’s about a half a block down the street from me. Bob is gone now and Alice, who is the most beautiful little sweetheart of a woman you’d ever want to meet, is selling the bar so she can retire. When it comes to taxes on business, Republicans will ALWAYS, without exception, use language to try and get you to think of your neighborhood’s “Bob and Alice’s” instead of the people you are actually talking about. You will never, ever, hear a Republican talk about business taxes without using the term “Small Business” as if the two words are actually one. Conversley, you will never hear them utter the word combination “Big Business”, which is what they are actually referring to. The idea behind that is to manipulate you into thinking about the Alice and not the Exxon-Mobiles, Bain Capitals, Halibutrons and Koch Industries whenever the subject of “Business” comes up.

The truth is that the small businesses Republicans want you to think about will not be effected by the White House’s Tax plan. The taxes proposed on businesses only refer to the PROFITS the company makes, not it’s gross. Even THEN, we’re only talking about the profits that EXCEED $250,000, not the Gross $250,000. You’d have to be at least a regional franchise or a high ticket retailer to profit enough to be impacted in any way. By an overwhelming margin, businesses that have only 1 location, like the ones Republicans want you to think about, would never be affected. They profit more in the range of $80,000 to $200,000, that would put them below the bar.

Republicans make no secret about advocating for less regulation on businesses. Without proper supervision, businesses tend to pollute the natural environment with toxic waste. It’s a byproduct of doing business for most. Global Warming is one of the results of not enough supervision so it’s an inconvenient truth that gets in the way of business.

Which brings us to another language trick Republicans are using; You will never hear a Republican say the words “Global Warming” because Global Warming accurately describes what is actually taking place. They have changed the term to “Climate Change” based on a belief that it sounds much less like what it actually is. So, they pay some “Experts”, who are available for purchase, to say it’s a hoax, to give it the veneer of even less credibility as a problem we need to address! Yet another language trick used by Republicans is “Job Killing” used as an adjective which is attached to anything they don’t fancy. Like for instance, anything suggested by the President or anything that might involve the Growth of Government.

Conservatives know that voters are generally concerned that so many of us are unemployed so they need some language to attach to anything that might involve you getting a job created by your tax dollars. So, they simply attach the “Job Killing” tag on to any such thing that might rise to the surface.

Republicans have a vested interest in the failure of Government in general. Which would explain their resistance to infrastructure repair. They know we need it. They know it will be more expensive the longer we kick the can down the road. But if they support it, the Government will have to do it. That will certainly stimulate growth in the economy and put more people back to work and that would be disastrous to their core principle that “Big Government is not the solution, It’s the problem.” It will also throw a wrench into the Republican viewpoint that Barack Obama is a failure as a President and that Government can do no good thing.

What puzzles me most about this is that Republicans, in their obsessive compulsion to destroy Barack Obama, tend to forget that the Government of the United States doesn’t have a “Department of Construction”. The money that will be used to repair and update our infrastructure is going to have to be given to private sector businesses that do construction work. Wouldn’t that HELP the very people they represent?

Republicans apply the “Job Killing” adjective to Obama Care too. That gets pretty deep and reaches pretty far into the territory of illusionary language. First of all, the actual name of the bill they are referring to is “The Affordable Care Act”! Republicans have successfully changed the words we use for it to “Obama Care” as a pejorative term; an insult! Even Democrats are using it now. It also serves to distract the attention from what the law actually does. It makes Health Care more affordable. By changing the name to “Obama Care”, not only do they denigrate what it is by using what they intended to be a condescending remark, it also removes the word “Affordable” from the discussion, which is the whole intent of the bill to begin with. This particular trick has been SO effective that most people familiar with term “Obama Care” do not recognize that the term refers to the Affordable Care Act. Which gives the late night comedy/talk show circuit some good material to illustrate how illiterate so many American voters are.

Secondly, the bill doesn’t kill jobs. The Government doesn’t have a “Department of Medical Insurance”! There will be something like 30 Million new customers for private sector insurance companies and HMOs. How are they going to be able to handle such an influx of customers without hiring more workers is beyond my understanding. How are Doctors, Nurses and Health Industry Administrators going to be able to handle all the new people who are now going to have access to preventive care alone. These are all private sector jobs!

Everyone, by now, has noticed that lower voter turnouts tend to favor Republican candidates more than Democratic ones. Republicans tend to vote more consistently even though there are fewer of them. Less than 30% of American Voters consider themselves Republicans. About 60% consider themselves Democratic or Independent and the rest are voters for other 3rd Parties like Pacific Green, Socialist and Constitution.

Newly elected Republican State Governments like Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and so on, have been passing laws since the 2010 Republican Sweep, to protect “The Sanctity of the Vote”! Despite scant little evidence that voter fraud accounts for an entire one, one hundredth of one percent of the votes cast anywhere in the country, they imagine that voter fraud is rampant and that voter fraud changes the outcomes of elections. I fear electronic voting machines a lot more than I fear your grand father rigging the vote. A computer that can’t print out the information you just put into it??? The effect, and intent, of these laws is to reduce the amount of people who vote in elections, which, as I mentioned, tends to favor Republican Candidates.

But these new laws themselves tend to surgically eliminate precise voting demographics, like college students, from being able to vote. By disallowing College Identification that they all have, in favor of types of identification that fewer of them have, they are able to keep them from voting. Like Driver Licenses and ID cards issued by the State where they attend college, for example. Which is not, ordinarily, the State where they live. Those types of ID cost money to students who are notoriously short on cash for a variety of legitimate reasons. It’s an intentional roadblock, a poll tax. College students tend to vote Democratic.

Another demographic category is race. People of a non-white race have less of a tendency to own property, drive a car, or have bills in their own names. Also, for a cornucopia of legitimate reasons. These voters are less likely to have the only types of ID that these new laws require. Thereby limiting their participation in elections based on a desire to protect a The Sanctity of a Vote that is not under attack. But, it does limit the amount of voters who tend to vote for Democrats. While I‘m on the subject, when did “The Democratic Party” become “The Democrat Party”?. (OK, I actually know this one. It was changed by the Republican Party as a dig against Democrats around 2000 when Bush was appointed President.) You will not find any Republican references to the Democratic Party after that election. They universally call us “The Democrat Party” now.

Where did all of these language changes come from? Well, I’m glad you asked because I happen to know this one too. His name is Frank Luntz and he’s a Republican operative and author who specializes in linguistics. His main business is language consulting with political campaigns and the marketing of products and services. To give you an idea of what this guy is thinking, here’s a few quotes:

A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth!” (I’m pretty sure you can tell that one of his clients is FOX Views)

How I say it, has as much of an impact on what people think, as what I say.”

I have seen how effective language, attached to policies that are mainstream and delivered by people who are passionate and effective, can change the course of history.” – Frank Luntz

With the able assistance of one Mr. Frank Luntz, the Republican Party has succeeded in changing the language of the national discourse to favor their own world view and we, you and I, have bought into the premise by using that language as they direct us to. Here’s another example of what I mean. Everybody knows that Republicans are fiscally responsible. We also know that Democrats tax and spend, right? According to quantifiable record, neither of those statements has been true since the Administration of Richard Nixon. But it DOES illustrate the well known communication technique that if you can get enough influential people with a microphone to say it enough times it will take on a truth of its own, completely divorced from reality.

Frank Luntz comes from the industry that brought you the Michelin Tire Commercial with the Baby sitting in the center of a tire with the tag line, “Because so much is riding on your tires” and the people who brought you “Choosy Mothers Choose Jiff”. I find both commercials offensive in that they insinuate that you don’t love your children unless you buy those specific products. Both manipulate what you already feel at a gut level to motivate you to take the specific actions that the advertisers direct you to take. And, now, Frank Luntz is selling you The Republican Party!

The way NOT to buy into the hype, is to practice care in the words you use. If you want what you are referring to to be accurate, use accurate terms regardless of whether others do or not. Push back against the tide of these language changes. Use the words you know to be true regardless of what Frank Luntz or the Republican Party tell you to do. Frank Luntz in not your boss, OR your English teacher!

Much Love,

Gregory

The Radical Activist Supreme Court

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The Radical Activist Supreme Court

July 2, 2012 by Gregory Franklyn

The front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

The front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

There is so much to consider about the Supreme Court of The United States from the last week that my head is still spinning about what it all means. One thing has not changed and I guess that’s a good place to start. The Supreme Court is still a radical Right Wing activist court just like it was last month. Another thing that has not changed is that rulings from this court continue to be suspect due to the political and financial alliances of some of its Conservative Republican Justices.

Justices Thomas and Scalia are both close associates of the Koch Brothers and have been featured guests at invitation only Right Wing political retreats (plural) while at the same time, ruling on the Citizens United case which lifted any restrictions on the amount of money the Koch Brothers Foundations and PACs can contribute to political campaigns. Justice Thomas’ wife, Virginia, founded, fund-raised for, and chaired a Conservative Political Action Committee which advocates repealing the Affordable Care Act while her husband is sitting on the court deciding the constitutionality of key parts of it. He ultimately ruled congruent to his wife’s position.

Justice Scalia, a close personal friend of Vice President Dick Chaney, went hunting with him while ruling on a challenge to the Vice President’s Energy Task Force and ended up ruling in the Vice President’s favor. How these relationships, particularly the timing of these relationships, are not considered conflicts of interest is well beyond most people’s ability to reason. One of two things are true here. Either we, the people, are just too dim witted to understand the legal nuances of Conflict of Interest, or we have a Supreme Court that has them and nothing of any consequence is being done to address it.

Which brings me to my first question about the Supreme Authority on the Constitution of the United States. Isn’t it a conflict of interest that the very people who sit on the court are the same people who decide what constitutes a conflict of interest for a Supreme Court Justice? Wouldn’t they ALL have to recuse themselves as having a conflict of interests? But, even more important to me, is why this is permitted to continue as if nothing were wrong with it? In both cases I mentioned, the offending Justice ruled in favor of their allegiances and both rulings stand as I write this.

Interestingly enough, no corresponding controversies about political relationships are being leveled at liberal justices on the same court. Perhaps they, alone, understand the concept of objectivity in jurisprudence and carefully avoid the appearance of impropriety. That matches up pretty well with what we estimate the foundation of The Supreme Court was intended to produce when it was decided that they would be appointed for life. Justices who are above partisan allegiances and have graduated into an elite college of legal minds that guide the progress of our nation without such petty influences.

This specific court has ruled on strict political lines, with precious few exceptions, in nearly every case since Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito were sworn in. Being a 5 to 4 majority, gives this Court the color of an arm of the Republican Party nearly equal to FOX Views.

Granted, we’re imperfect and incomplete, but surely we can agree that Justices of The Supreme Court should not be representing partisan Political views with such regularity. We had better hope that a challenge to Roe v Wade doesn’t get presented to THIS Court. This Court has already disregarded 100 year old precedents in Citizen’s United and Montana’s challenge to it. And, let’s not forget that the foundation of this Court’s ruling on Citizen’s United hinged on a sentence that was inserted by a clerk after the fact of the ruling on anti-trust law over 100 years ago. It was a well known typo, for crying out loud!

This week, the Supremes rule, on party lines as usual, that Montana’s 100 year old elections law, designed to counteract corporate interests in electoral politics, is unconstitutional on the basis that they had just ruled that Corporations are people for the purposes of free speech and that money is speech! In Montana there were 2 Copper Barons around the turn of the 18th Century that had corrupted the political environment, there, to the point where a Congressman, who had been elected by that corrupt system, was denied a seat in that Congress because the seat had been, effectively, purchased for him by a company. The House of Representatives simply refused to seat him. The people of Montana responded by enacting laws that prevent a company or Corporation from dominating electoral politics in Montana. It worked,,, for 100 years,,, that is until this past week when the Supreme Court told Montana, and 23 other States who have similar restrictions on Corporate contributions to political candidates, that they are required to open up the political process to what effectively amounts to hostile corporate take-overs of local and State elections in the same way Citizen’s United does for National ones. They doubled down on Citizens United!

It’s clear that this Court, along with their Conservative Republican counterparts, wants the United States to be run by big business. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t accompanied by a concomitant wave of Republican Governors and State Legislatures pushing a huge, nationwide effort to suppress voting by enacting regulations that make it harder for a voter to identify him/herself at the poles, and purging voter rolls to fix a problem that doesn’t appear to exist, but does eliminate a lot of minority voters, mostly Black, who also have a tendency to vote Democrat.

Rick Scott in Florida is the most aggressive purge in the nation and he’s currently under pressure from the Department of Justice, to knock it off. Those restrictions unfairly affect students and minorities, both of which tend to vote Democrat. This ruling plays right into the Republican strategy for dominating electoral politics with huge amounts of money, just like Montana 100 years ago, and eliminating voters who might vote for a Democrat. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

Add to that, the spate of newly elected Tea Party Republicans in both Governor’s offices and Legislatures that are enacting laws to eliminate Unions and the power of the people to defend themselves against the worst abuses by big business. Unions are the People’s version of a Corporation. It’s the only vehicle working people have for any hope of matching the money big business can use to dominate electoral politics. Taken together, all of this is a serious blow to the concept of social equality professed by our Constitution. And, this Court seems to be OK with that!

Next, we have the Arizona Bill 1070 Immigration Law which the Court struck down on the basis that Immigration Law Enforcement is not for the States to decide, but is the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. But it did leave the Racial Profiling element of the law alone to be considered later when someone objects to it and brings a case against it. Which seems weird when you consider another ruling that was handed down that same week. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act but not on the basis on which it was argued. The court held that the Mandate to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act was NOT Constitutional on the grounds of the Interstate Commerce Clause, but Chief Justice John Roberts searched the Constitution for another reason to uphold it, unlike in the Arizona 1070 case. Here, Roberts found that the Mandate can be considered a TAX, which the federal Government DOES have the power to enact and enforce. It’s a good ruling, but unlike this Court, and with the exception of the Chief Justice, it was decided on Party lines as usual

I think that Chief Justice Brown was signaling that he recognizes how polarized on party lines his Court really is and recognized how much trouble his Court is in, in the minds of the citizens on the subject of Constitutional objectivity. This Court is the most politically activist court in my lifetime and, possibly, much much longer than that. You can tell because Republicans aren’t complaining much. That speaks louder than words ever could that the Court is acting to their liking.

In stark contrast, Democrats are rightly hurling charges of judicial activism with vigor over such rulings as Citizen’s United and the Montana Elections case. Perhaps chief Justice Roberts wanted to hand one over to the Liberals in an attempt to, at least, put up some window dressing of constitutional objectivity. That remains to be seen, but there is no question that the Supreme Court of the United States is heavily colored by Conservative Republican Political Activism despite the Affordable Care Act ruling. How they rule on voter suppression and Roe v Wade in the cases that are surely headed their way, will tell us everything we need to know about that!

Republicans were so confident that this Court would uphold Republican Policy like they have in so many cases before it. We Liberals were sitting on the edge of our chairs, biting our nails waiting for the ruling to be handed down. We were equally sure this Court would rule like it usually has. I have enjoyed myself watching Republicans across the board lose their frigging minds over this ruling. They were so counting on this being Obama’s Waterloo. This could have been the last nail in the coffin of what the Republican Party has been dedicated to burying since January 20, 2009! I feel vindicated, as I waltz into my July 4th vacation, that the Republican Party knows a little bit more, today, about what it usually feels like to be a Liberal Democrat and I have no shame about enjoying what it usually feels like to be a Republican. Both are kind of nice to experience, actually!

Much Love,

Gregory