Where Are The Real Conservatives?

I recently took part in an interesting exchange on a bulletin board in cyberspace. The board was a blue-collar type board for people in the heating/AC industry and it had a section where talking about religion and politics was allowed. At first, it appeared as if there was some intelligent discussion going on: What are Neo-Cons really? Where is the Democratic leadership headed with Dean as the DNC Chair? So I responded, eager to take part in this discussion.

A few posts later though, and the attacks began. I received private e-mails of support from two other members, but most of these people must’ve known better than to get in the ring with the people whom I found myself standing up against. I made one slip up and said that Max Cleland jumped on a grenade that he at first thought might have been thrown at his troop, but then he realized it might have fallen off his own belt and that’s how he was injured in Vietnam. The right-wingers on the site quickly looked up Cleland’s own words on his website where he mentions that he just grabbed his own grenade which he realized had fallen off his belt. No jumping, but I was nailed as a liar. My own fault, and I should’ve known better. What proceeded after that was a slide into a pit of hatred and attacks. It was interesting to say the least. One member prompted another to “go after him — I got yer six.” This is the type of people we on the left are dealing with day after day. There is no room for conversation, it’s just attack attack attack. There must be a way to talk with more reasonable conservatives without the distraction of these extremists who have nothing better to do than shoot at people who are stupid enough to put their heads up in a forum? One of these guys has posted over SIXTEEN THOUSAND posts in the forum. That tells you what these folks’ motivation is… The question is, where are the real conservatives? How do we find them to get back to some common ground? You can’t have a conversation when half the people are yelling.

Change Of View

I recently watched “The Power Of Nightmares,” a BBC documentary that chronicled the rise of Muslim extremism and the Neo-Conservative movement. For the last few years I had asked everyone I knew on the Republican side of the aisle just what it was that attracted them to Bush and his administration. No one was able to give me a logical answer, and most eventually attributed their backing of Bush to emotional safety in the era of the “War On Terrorism.”

I never knew exactly what the Neo-Conservative movement was all about, and learning about it and the rise of extremists like Osama Bin Laden (who was less a terrorist than a man with the money to make terrorism happen) has helped me understand how each of these philosophies sprouted from basically the same point — how the masses were out of control and society was virtually crumbling because people were out for their own self-interests. By creating a common enemy — real or imagined — the masses could be kept under control.

That’s stating it very simply, and the documentary took three hours to explain it all with research and interviews with the key players in the NeoCon and Militant Islamist movements. It has caused me to re-think this whole approach of just documenting the hypocrisy of the modern right-wing, as I’m starting to realize that the religious right has been used by the Republican Party and that it’s not the religious right or the people who vote Republican that I’m upset with or have a lack of understanding about. It’s the Neo-Cons themselves. Merely stacking up evidence of wrongdoing and flip-flopping on the part of the Neo-Cons is an exercise performed very well by other websites. And while I believe this recordkeeping is totally necessary, less of my time should be spent merely relaying this information and more should be spent actually thinking about the situation — where we are today and how we can change things to benefit the little guy and the planet instead of just the rich and the mighty.

I’m not trying to suggest I’m any kind of philosopher, nor am I an expert on the culture wars and history. I do think though, that it’s high time I stop acting like a parrot who just repeats things in unison with the crowd and who starts to further his own personal journey in an attempt to actually do something about where we are rather than just point it out. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s why I’m turning the two Blue State Journal sites into one. If you need proof that the media is run by conservatives, Media Matters handles that better than anyone out there. If you prefer a few conspiracy theories mixed in with your proof of right-wing dominance of the media, check out LegitGov.org. I will, of course, continue to talk about current events in this blog, but I think it’s time that I start viewing citizens of the United States more as people than as members of one club or the other. We are all manipulated by our leaders, some people are manipulated more than others. Some people respond to reason, some do not. Some people are led emotionally, some are not. Some people view issues based upon the impact to the family, some do not have families. Either way though, there are common issues that bind us all together. Will we have clean air tomorrow? Will we be taken care of in our old age? Will we be able to leave a healthy planet to our children? These general issues can be approached a million different ways, but one thing is for sure — the people in charge right now do not have the interests of the planet at heart. They do not have the interests of veterans at heart (witness even more budget cuts and the new “stop loss” letter that recently went out that re-enlisted people until 2031 — that’s not a mistake… TWENTY THIRTY-ONE). They do not care that so many children do not have health care. They do not care that people who desire to work cannot find work that will support their families. They blame the victim. This is morally wrong, and when people see it, I think they know enough to understand it. The debate comes in how to solve these problems. The first step is waking people up from the brainwashing that the administration has performed on them. I think this is already happening with the religious right. The Bush administration, through two election cycles, made promises to the religious right — those people that came out in droves this election to tip the vote just enough to put him in office — that have been (and probably will continue to be) nothing more than lip service. The right is getting angry and they’re starting to feel they’ve been used.

On the other side, I think the election of Howard Dean as DNC Chair will mean that more attention is paid to local Democrats all over America. This is where the real action needs to be taken. The DNC has taken its strategy from Washington for too long, thinking that the same centrist rhetoric that worked for Bill Clinton would work for other candidates. It didn’t, and it won’t. Dean is sure to do everything he can to re-frame the debate at the local level and make sure that people know that issues like affordable health care, affordable housing, and social security are MORAL issues that can be better addressed by Democrats. That’s the first step. When more people at the local level start connecting the drastic cuts in education and social services in their communities directly with the policies of this Neo-Conservative administration, hopefully their eyes will begin to open.

There also has to be a way for people to break out of the fear of terrorism that has been spread by this administration. Each time they want to raid some fund, or raise more money for their corporate buddies, they pull the terrorism card. Terrorism has always been with us, and it will always be with us. What we need to do though is stop seeing our neighbors as potential terrorists and stop being so paranoid that the cells are everywhere. They aren’t. But the thought that they ARE everywhere plays so well in the White House echo chamber called the mainstream media, doesn’t it?

I’m slowly waking up. Someone finally helped me understand what it’s all about. If you can find a way to see it, PLEASE see The Power Of Nightmares. It makes regular appearances on USENET in alt.binaries.documentaries. It was also posted in alt.binaries.hipclone a few days ago.

RIAA and iTunes

When it comes to my music, I really try to do the right thing by the ones who create a product that gives me great joy. I always try to support artists I love, especially indie artists like Juliana Hatfield and Shannon Wright, who had the bravery to decide that music was what they were going to do with their lives, and damn everything else. Whenever possible, I try to buy the music directly from the artist. Ms. Hatfield has even started making unreleased tracks available on her website with a voluntary link to PayPal so you can pay if you like.

This is all leading somewhere, I promise.

I used to be a music purist, who would only listen to vinyl and/or reel-to-reel tape. Analog was where it was at. Eventually, CDs started replacing my vinyl, mostly for convenience and party because they would pretty much never degrade in sound quality over the years. I remember when CDs first arrived at a $18-20 price point, and all the major labels were promising that once manufacturing capability caught up, CDs would be down to the $7.99 to $9.99 that vinyl LPs were. We’ve all heard the story or have personally lived through it. Once the record companies found out that people were still buying music at $17-20 a disc, they had no incentive to drop the price by $7-10 per disc. At the same time they started gouging their consumers for music, they started stepping in the way at every turn of people copying music for themselves or their friends. Some of you may remember the furor of the “digital cassette” that tried to gain traction in the consumer marketplace. The RIAA didn’t like that at all. In fact, if the RIAA had its way (along with a method of tracking), there would be a tax on every mix tape anyone ever created for a friend.

When I was a kid, I got into music because my uncle would give me his old vinyl LPs when he got the same music replaced on 8-track tapes. That’s how I initially got into the Beatles, Yes, Jimi Hendrix, etc. And over the years I bought more music from them because I liked what I heard.

Fast forward to the weekend. I was looking for some tracks by this awesome band named Myracle Brah. The website had a few downloadable MP3’s, so I downloaded, listened, and wanted more. I was listening to them using Windows Media Player and was brought to a link where I could buy one of the albums online. I figured that if I could buy some of their stuff through Windows Media player that I could probably also try this “99 cent per song” thing through iTunes that I had heard about. So I downloaded iTunes and bought a couple albums from the band, since I didn’t want to wait for their CDs to arrive. I figured the money would go to them anyway when I paid for their album on iTunes, so it was pretty much the same as getting a CD, and I’d have the music immediately.

So I’m listening to the songs on my computer and decide to transfer them to my laptop so I can listen to them while I’m at work. My laptop is a Debian Linux box, but I figured there would be some application to listen to “m4p” files that I had received from iTunes. After all, Beep Media Player has plugins for just about any audio format.

Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, I need a computer “authorized” to play iTunes format, and that capability is not available through Linux. You can use VideoLAN to decode the files, but you first have to get a key from the computer that was authorized to play these files, then copy the key along with the files. Needless to say, I’m more than a little bit steamed about all this. I guess I shouldn’t be so amazed that I can’t play the files I paid for on any of my computers that I wish, let alone let any of my relatives have a listen on their own computers. I have several computers at home, including an Xbox configured with Xbox Media Center, from where I can play my MP3 collection. Basically, I can’t “host” the music files on one of my computers and use a shared folder to listen to them on any other computer in my own damn house.

It certainly looks to me like the argument the file-swappers make is accurate: Digital Management Rights only inconvenience those who legally buy the music. All I really have to do to get around this is make an analog copy of the file (play/record — hell, I can even make a very clean digital copy) and put it on a file sharing network and the deed is done. Why can’t we just pay for our music and then use it anywhere? I know I’m not the only one asking this, but it just seems ridiculous, if not unsurprising given how totally out of control the RIAA is getting. Witness this story where members of the RIAA dressed up in paramilitary garb to take down a guy in a parking lot, or this one where they’re suing a dead person for sharing music.

I’m not big on the MPAA either, but at the very least they usually offer HOURS of content and lots of interesting extras on DVDs that sell sometimes for less than a 30 minute CD. It really sucks when you try to do the right thing and you end up getting bitten in the ass for it. Hopefully more and more artists will start offering MP3’s on their own websites for purchase. I’ll pay. I don’t mind. I just want the ability to easily play that purchased music anywhere I want to listen to it. I guess that’s too much to ask from iTunes and the RIAA though.