POLL: What’s The Biggest Problem With Polls?

A. Only a few are accurate
B. They may be easily manipulated in the way the questions are asked
C. The results may be used by politicians to support or “confirm” specious arguments
D. Their main purpose is to fill 24/7 news cycles
E. All of the above

If you watch Fox News Channel and CNN or visit on-line “news” websites, you are bombarded with polls. “Is the Obama administration doing enough to manage the BP gusher?” “Has the administration done enough to reign in government spending?” “Has the administration ignored job creation?” “Did Democrats go too far in passing health care reform?” “Has the Obama administration ignored illegal immigration?”

All of these questions may seem innocuous enough, but the very fact that the media is asking them, and the way they’re being asked, has a direct influence on public opinion. The questions, themselves, imply the desired answer. And the media know it. If they were really interested in public opinion most of those questions would be asked in a more objective way, and many of them would never be asked at all.

The inescapable conclusion is that the media, most especially Fox “News” Channel, are using polls in order to create controversy, fill airtime and shape public opinion. Moreover, politicians and their allies spout the results to reinforce their points of view regardless of the manner in which the polls are conducted. Objectivity, fairness and logic be damned.

Who’s Next?

For some time, the Grand Old Party of Liars has resorted to a strategy of obscuring its record on the real issues by focusing hate on minority groups. In just this election cycle alone, Republican candidates have targeted Muslims, Mexican immigrants and gays.

In the past, they have targeted members of other minorities including African-Americans, abortion providers, union members, school teachers and community organizers. And that’s in addition to the scapegoating of the so-called “activist” judges and those against the Iraqi war to name but a few.

Who do you suppose they’ll set their sights on next? Could it be you?

The Border Fence.

Throughout his primary campaign, U.S. Senator and teabagger wannabe, John McCain, has repeatedly called on President Obama to “finish the dang fence.” Of course, he’s referring to the fence being built along the border between Arizona and Mexico that has already cost billions of dollars.

McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer would have you believe that illegal immigration is the source of all our problems – crime, unemployment, the drain on social services, and the deficit. They would also have you believe that the fence, along with stationing thousands of National Guard troops in the desert will solve all of our problems. After all, who could get through a fence?

Well, for starters, how about the three escaped murderers who recently left an Arizona medium security prison by cutting a hole in a fence? Or how about the Mexican drug cartels that have breached the border fence by cutting holes in it and building ramps to drive over it? Or how about the human smugglers who have tunneled under it? How come McCain and Brewer never talk about that? And when they talk about adding National Guard troops at the border, why don’t they ever mention the nearly 10 border security guards per mile already stationed there?

Throughout history, there are plenty of examples of fences and walls that failed their purpose. The Great Wall, the Roman wall across England, the Berlin Wall…there are many more. What makes McCain and Brewer think this border fence will be any different? The point is that, if people are desperate enough, they are not going to let a fence stand in their way.

The immigration issue is extremely complex, driven by poverty on one side of the border and by the greed and need of employers on the other. In Arizona, as well as in other states, many of our homes have been built with the help of cheap labor provided by illegal immigrants. Much of our food is harvested, prepared and served to us by illegal immigrants. Many of our hotel rooms are cleaned by illegals. The list of products and services provided, wholly or in part, by undocumented workers is quite lengthy.

Who’s at fault? The workers? The employers? The Mexican government? The succession of administrations and Congresses that have failed to deal with the issue? The U.S. and Mexican economies? The Central and South American economies? Or those of us who knowingly purchase goods and services provided by undocumented workers? There is plenty of blame to go around.

Ramping up racist hatred through jingoistic campaign commercials does not help.

The Perpetual War Machine.

As President Eisenhower was leaving office, he warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist … Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Consider the warning unheeded.

For 2010, the U.S. defense budget is $692,000,000,000 – more than the total of all 194 other nation’s combined. And that doesn’t even include the money being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan! By comparison, in 2009, the 2nd largest defense budget belonged to China at $98,800,000. And the defense budget for Russian Federation stood at a paltry $61,000,000.

Yet, as our nation struggles with high unemployment and decaying infrastructure, Republicans continue to push for more military spending along with the use of more military contractors such as Halliburton, KBR and XE (aka Blackwater). All the while, they rail against the growing deficit.

What about that makes any friggin’ sense?

Well, apparently it makes sense to former President George W. Bush. According to former Argentine Prime Minister Nestor Kirchner, Bush told him that “all the economic growth that the U.S. had had, had been based on the different wars it had waged.”  Wow!

So, according to Bush, our chief economic stimulus is war?! No wonder he ignored the warnings of 9/11. No wonder he invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. It was part of his plan for economic growth!

If our economy is based on war, then why, during the two longest wars in U.S. history, aren’t we thriving? Why are so many Americans unemployed? It would appear that Bush’s war theory makes as much sense as Reagan’s trickle down theory.

I have a better suggestion for improving our economy. Let’s cut our $692 billion defense budget in half. We’ll still have a budget more than three times the size of any other nation – enough to ensure our place as the biggest, baddest bully on the planet. And we’ll have money to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and invest in new industries that create jobs for people without killing others.

The Growing Underclass In America.

There are currently 14.6 million Americans who are out of work, and that number likely doesn’t include millions more, such as the self-employed, who have seen their businesses diminish to virtually nothing. But before you blame the current Administration, take a look at the monthly unemployment claims beginning in January 2008. By the time President Obama was inaugurated, the new claims had grown to more than 750,000/month. Yet despite having to fight Republicans every step of the way, President Obama and Congress began to turn things around. In fact, in May of this year, we added 433,000 jobs.

The real question is, without enormous structural changes to our nation, what kind of jobs will be available?

Even before the Great Recession, most of our jobs were in the so-called service sector. And most of these jobs pay less than $25,000/year. The list includes fast food workers, restaurant workers, hosts and hostesses, dishwashers, cashiers, amusement park attendants, movie theater ushers and ticket-takers, farm workers, gaming dealers, bartenders, personal and home care aides, parking lot attendants, lifeguards, ski patrol, garment pressers, laundry & dry-cleaning workers, child care workers, maids, and elderly caregivers, receptionists, secretaries and maintenance “engineers”.

The result is that approximately 35 percent of the U.S. workers make $25,000/year or less! (The national poverty level is $21,756 for a family of four.) And many careers that were once considered good jobs, such as construction, don’t pay much better. Construction workers make only $11/hour to $15/hour.

Our nation has been bleeding relatively high-paying manufacturing jobs since the 1980s (7.7 million between 1986 and 2001). However, under the Obama Administration, the U.S. economy has actually begun to reverse that trend. New data shows that we have added more than 180,000 manufacturing jobs in 2010. Still, the majority of good jobs are in medicine, law and government. Indeed, of the top 15 highest paying jobs in America, 14 are in medicine.

Lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy as Republicans demand won’t help create new higher-paying jobs. That will only ensure that the wealthy will make even more money and pay fewer taxes. It will also relegate even more of our citizens to the growing underclass.

A better option is to follow the path of FDR, Truman and Eisenhower – raise taxes on the wealthy and the “too big to fail” by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire then use the additional revenue to rebuild our infrastructure and to create energy alternatives to foreign oil. That would create opportunities for construction companies, manufacturers and suppliers of materials. It would also incentify our corporations to invest their hoards of cash, and it would encourage our banks to open their vaults and make loans to small businesses. More important, it would put people back to work.

A Look Back At The Shirley Sherrod Story.

After the fraud committed by a right wing blogger and his co-conspirators at Fox Noise Channel, there are lingering questions we should be asking each other.

Would the same thing have happened if it was a white woman accused of racism? Would the white woman have been fired? If she had been, would the Administration have been pressured to hire her back? Would any of the media cared?

My point is that discrimination against black, brown and yellow people takes place all of the time. They face discrimination with regard to the money allocated for education. They face discrimination with regard to property taxes (it has been proven that those in the inner cities pay a disproportionate amount compared to those in the exurbs). They have long been discriminated against by the police. They are discriminated against by the court system. (If you doubt this, look at the difference in sentencing for those using crack cocaine and those using powder.) And politicians have blamed them for nearly every problem our nation faces.

Yet you seldom see reports of their abuse. And you almost never see the kind of furor generated by Fox. Why? To some degree, it can be explained by the theory that “dog bites man” is not news while “man bites dog” is. But a more troubling explanation is that those on the right, who generated the story of Shirley Sherrod, don’t care about discrimination of others. They’re merely ideologically opposed to our mixed race President and they’re pulling out every stop in repeated attempts to discredit him. In other words, they’ve pulled out the playbook used against President Clinton (with the accusations of “Travel-gate”, Whitewater, “Trooper-gate”, etc.).

Shirley Sherrod was simply a convenient pawn in their evil game.

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