Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A response to Nicholas Kristof's NYT column of june 30th

Mr. Kristof:

Normally, I find your columns perceptive and edifying. But I think you have gone a bit off course on your column of June 30th.

First, I think you underestimate the anger that has been brewing over the treatment of President Clinton. I had no particular brief for the man but the right wing ferocity and mendacity forced me firmly in his camp. I, and many like me, have not forgotten that he was impeached over chasing Ms. Lewinsky around the Oval Office and lying about it. The use of impeachment for this trivial offense showed us that the right has declared war on the left in this country... there is no longer any gray area ..and let's not forget that the 2000 election is viewed by many as a coup d'etat by the right with the collusion of the Supreme Court. I don't think I will ever forget the news shots of right wing thugs breaking into the voting offices to stop the recount, they might as well have been wearing brown shirts.

Second, you are correct in stating that there is a consensus on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest. This dishonest attitude permeates his administration in every way. From out and out lies (yellowcake from Niger) to the 'public relations' bills with no funding such as "No Child Left Behind' (and I'm particularly irked by the slimy sanctimonious names these bills have) to the not so subtle drumbeat attacks on individual freedom: Patriot Act, Patriot Act II, CAPS, CAPS II, Mr. Ashcroft's 'request' for all records of women who have had abortions... this list goes on and on. This is, without doubt, the most corrupt administration we have ever had in control of all three branches of government... and I haven't even begun to mention the appalling crossover corruption of megabusiness and the superrich in regards to this administration.

Third, and most disturbing, these people really are zealots. They have a plan which they have articulated and stuck to for 30 years, they intend to take over this country and turn it into a one party state... for ever. This is the statement that usually gets the laughs and snickers of 'another vast right wing conspiracy, eh?' I've always found it interesting that, as the clear statements and the resultant evidence gets more an more obvious, the reaction seems to be 'if I don't admit it's there, then it doesn't exist'

Way back in the 1980's the Republican party and the Christian Coalition made statements as to how they intended to proceed. They would get their members on school boards, into city councils and in state legislatures by whatever means necessary including hiding their affiliation with right wing and religious groups. At that point, they thought it would be possible to take over state governments and begin their attempt to consolidate control over the country entirely.

So far this plan has worked brilliantly.

Another point to remember is that the right wing regards this process as their entitlement, for example they resent the fact that Bill Clinton was elected at all, the thinking being that, if not for Ross Perot, there would be an unbroken line of Republicans in the White House as far as the eye can see.

Tom Delay, that astoundingly corrupt man, has made no secret of his intent to create a permanent Republican majority in both houses of congress. His tactics in Texas resulted in the gain of seven congressional seats for the Republicans at the trivial cost of overturning Texas law on redistricting.

There has been an unbroken stream of political manipulation of the federal judiciary in an attempt (again very successful) to pack the federal bench, at all levels, with right wing ideologues, not just conservative thinkers: Pickering is only one egregious example.

There are also the behind-the-scenes operations: eminence grise Grover Norquist
continues to formulate and fund policies intended to 'starve the beast'. This phrase, as I'm sure you know, means to eliminate the capacity of the federal government to function by means of drastically reducing and/or eliminating taxes. The plan here is to force the federal government to eliminate social programs (medicare, medicaid and social security) entirely for lack of funding, eliminate business and income taxes (for the rich) and eliminate any government oversight of business. Mr. Norquist believes that a true laisse faire economy will result in a cornucopia of benefits for all.
Richard Mellon Scaife, the man who funded the endless Clinton investigations (until congress colluded with them and put Mr. Starr on the case). Is another furtive character who prefers to stay in the background whilst supporting such noble ventures as The American Spectator.

In addition, there is the religious right wing element apparent as far back as the Reagan era with the Moral Majority. Remember Jerry Falwell? He's still around and still working for his vision of a Christian America, where, to paraphrase from his graduation speech at Liberty College, he “Looks forward to the day when the public school system in this country is shut down and replaced by Christian schools”. Let's also not forget about Ralph Reed, formerly head of the Christian Coalition, now head of the Georgia Republican Party and de facto head of the Republican southern regional political operation. These guys have not gone away, they are here and they are zealots and they are effective.

Now I'd like to talk about the saturation of the media, your bailiwick: so far as i can see, the right have, essentially, taken over the mass media. Still voicing shrill cries of 'liberal bias' they now own radio, have the pretty much co-opted television and have managed to relegate most major newspapers to 'so what' status.

Allow me to explain. As to radio, I think no one will argue that this is a right wing wasteland, with the minor exception of Air America, the entire country is blanketed by a never-ending stream of right wing propaganda. Jim Hightower couldn't get himself arrested, even Howard Stern found the going getting tougher as soon as he turned on Bush. So forget radio.

Television, now that's interesting, Fox, of course, is a creature of Rupert Murdoch, yet another of the right wing zealots doing their best for the cause. Fox is almost comic opera, one would think that no one took it seriously yet polls consistently show that Fox is way over the top in size of audience and influence. This has had the inevitable effect of skewing television news media en masse. In their fever to compete with Fox, CNN, MSNBC (parse that acronym) CNBC, ABC, CBS, et al have charged bravely to the right. As a result, spectacularly good reporters like Christianne Ammanpour cannot get airtime. We do not get 'discouraging words', we are fed the pablum you see everywhere. This is why Michael Moore seems so outrageous.
Recently, Tucker Carlson managed to parlay his snide participation on Crossfire into a slot on PBS, riding the horse of 'liberal bias'. His first show featured an hour long guest appearance by... wait for it... Ken Starr. The beat goes on...

On to the print media, the 'gray lady' notwithstanding, I can name fewer than a dozen newspapers in this country that have room for a 'liberal' point of view, not to mention a 'liberal' bias. Can you name more? And it doesn't help that the NYT has shot itself in the foot repeatedly over the past couple of years. Shoddy reporting, nonexistent supervision... what the hell is going on there?

Nevermind, what's happened is that the entire debate has been shifted by the efforts of the right wing. We no longer talk about liberal/progressive issues: extended social benefits, universal health care, living wages. We talk/speak/think only about right wing issues now. We have shifted to center right versus far right.

I could go on and on and on... if you're still reading even now. The real point is that we cannot continue to fool ourselves about the right wing's intentions anymore. To do so would be folly of the worst sort, we must recognize that these people are quite serious, they mean to fundamentally change our form of government in very much the same way as the loathsome theocratic despotisms we see in the middle east. The only difference is that here it will be under a christian rubric.

You have a voice, an important voice even. Please do not underestimate the commitment of the right wing in this country, nor mistake their ultimate intent. They are not friends of freedom and they must be resisted.

Thanks for your time,
Craig Della Penna

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