Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 19, 2008

Come on people; join in, let’s all sing along. “It’s beginning to look a lot like the Winter solstice…” Hmm…it just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

As we trudge through the stores and malls during another Christmas season, we can be sure that we will hear all those old familiar tunes and a few new ones as once again memories of Christmases past mix with the images of Christmas present. We can also be certain that we will hear or read another news story about some controversial act by a school, store or municipality that has decided to alter the nomenclature of this holiday to represent a more politically correct (PC) stance. The tendency to refer to this season as The Holiday Season and to re-name Christmas Trees and Christmas pageants as either Holiday Trees and Winter Pageants reflects the attempt to not offend those in our society who do not believe in God and/or the birth, death and resurrection of His Son.

This act inevitably will result in a splurge of newspaper ink, TV time, and/or some Internet traffic as representatives from both sides of the issue voice their opinions and outrage. Some have gone as far as to describe this controversy in militaristic terms, claiming that there is an all-out war on Christmas and they call upon their disciples to mount campaigns against stores or businesses that wish people Happy Holidays instead of wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I am sorry, but I have never felt the gain or loss of my personal happiness or merriment depended upon a half-hearted salutation from a harried cashier nor have I ever decided to have a particular emotion because I spotted a window banner commanding that I have a Merry something or a Happy something. In other words, I am not about to boycott a business or mount a letter-writing effort. I feel that my energy is better spent upon other more worthwhile activities.

Now, to those who fear the above-mentioned PC attempts to soften the message of Christmas will soon lead to the demise and eventual evaporation of Christmas altogether, let me paraphrase that ancient reply from the editor who calmed the fears of a pre-adolescent girl who had doubts about the existence of Santa Claus: “Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas.” And, to those of you who are on the side of the secularists who have had just about enough of all this emphasis on the birth of Jesus Christ and somehow feel threatened by the reminder that God exists, let me assure you that I am not proposing a theocratic society.

I’ll explain. There has always been a concerted effort to extinguish the Christmas message, and there has never been a moment of “those good old days” when everyone shared a common belief about the birth of Jesus Christ. There will never be a golden moment in the future when we all agree about the person or deity of Christ. The reality is that we live in a secular – meaning a non-religious – society and despite my own personal faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, and my belief in His Divine nature and my assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven, I do not want or need my faith, beliefs and assurances imposed upon others involuntarily. The whole beauty and efficacy of faith in Jesus is based upon the fact that it should be a personal choice of the heart, not a reaction to social pressure.

The facts of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection have been documented and verified by both biblical and extra-biblical sources. Even if we do not know the exact dates of those events, we cannot dispute that He exists and that His life changed our planet forever. To assume that a person, a business or a whole society can somehow threaten the memory or celebration of Jesus Christ would be to admit that He is somehow less than what we, as Christians, claim He is. Likewise, to assume that by removing the mention of His name from the classrooms of our schools and the window displays of our businesses we will somehow shield some innocent, vulnerable child from some terribly offensive concept that might scar her/his tender psyche forever is also laughable.
In conclusion, I would wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, but I think you can decide for yourselves how merry and happy you want to be. So I will instead leave you with a simple message. I am happy that I live here in this nation. I am glad that we are still free to recognize Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice or any other holiday that makes us feel like smiling and extending kindness toward others.

Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas!

The Spirit of Christmas

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 19, 2008

Every year around this time a spark is struck in a talk radio studio or on some set at Fox News or in someone’s e-mail inbox. It grows into a fire of outrage about how Christmas and all of Christianity is under attack by secularists, atheists and liberals. Every year this outrage is used as a springboard to unify a certain base of conservatism and propagate a fear among this base that there is always a concerted effort to extinguish the Christian message.

The fact that there is no organized front taking up this agenda matters little. This backlash of fury is by definition a political movement and not a religious one. Its purpose is to maintain a stark divide in social politics and sustain an environment that will continue to support partisan us-vs.-them warfare.

This same tactic is used to polarize the populace over other social issues. One of the most striking similarities between the Save Christmas campaign and other issues like marriage and patriotism is a blurred perception that accepts a false reality.

In order to mask the fact that opposition to same-sex marriage comes from a dark core of prejudice and hate, opponents tout the sacred and traditional definition of marriage (most often grounded in biblical precedence). The fact that there is no such commandment in the Bible defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman is immaterial. Hard core believers will point to the relationship between Adam and Eve and a few words spoken by Jesus about relationships as a definition of marriage. But “nontraditional” forms of marriage and marital relations abound in the Bible, ranging from polygamy to incest. And a religious tradition so fond of commandments that it committed to law such matters as dietary restrictions and parental obedience seems to have omitted marriage from its official rulebooks. It appears that society’s current emphasis on marriage’s holy nature is a recent phenomenon, and more about political expedience than traditional homage. Still the premise of marriages sanctity is accepted as indisputable fact by the majority, and remains the basis for a movement that seeks to limit the rights of a growing sector of Americans.

This blurring of reality and perception is often applied to efforts to assign patriotic prominence to one group while defining another as innately unpatriotic. Inevitably a vocal outcry will soon reemerge over the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Listening to the debate, one would assume that Thomas Jefferson or another storied forefather of our great nation had a hand in penning this oath. Most forget that it wasn’t even written until the late 19th century or that the words “under God” didn’t appear in it until the second half of the 20th century. Still the Pledge is held by some in higher regard than the Constitution that is the basis for our laws.

Likewise, the fevered response over the perceived threat to Christmas is a symptom of a blurred sense of reality. Christmas, as it is celebrated today is not exactly a Christian holy day. Atheists and agnostics alike refer to the holiday as Christmas and celebrate it with as much vigor as do devout Christians. In fact, the timing of the Christmas season has more to do with the celebration of Winter Solstice than with any religious event (check Wikipedia,, or other such informational sources). While some speculate about the actual date, it is accepted fact that December 25 was not Jesus’ birthday. And few can deny that in our current commercialist climate, the focus is more intently on the Wii under the tree than the story of the Christ child.

That said, I must strongly assert that Christmas is not among my favorite holidays. Christmas IS my FAVORITE holiday. My brother’s argument that there will always be Christmas is valid because it is a special and powerful season. Despite the consumer frenzy that led to the recent trampling death of a Walmart worker even in the bleakest retail cycle in recent years; despite long lists to Santa for fickle fantasies that will be discarded within a week of Christmas morn; despite the season’s impending transformation into a Hallmark holiday like St. Valentine’s Day, there remains at the heart of Christmas a spirit of good will.

The spirit of Christmas compels us to drop a dollar in a bell ringer’s kettle. The spirit of Christmas helps to fund and supply food pantries throughout our community. The spirit of Christmas inspires our involvement in causes that transcend our usual narrow focus. This spirit of Christmas brings the smile to our faces and the “Merry Christmas” to our lips as we greet total strangers. In fact, the spirit of Christmas is part of what makes “Save Christmas” campaigns work.

The spirit of Christmas ensures that there will always be Christmas.

The Obama Cabinet and Transition

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 5, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama has wasted little time in getting the transition rolling as he prepares to succeed George W. Bush in the Oval Office. The current lame duck president is already shrinking into the background as Obama’s plans, strategies and proposed solutions are highlighted in the media as though he were already occupying the White House. Bush seems all too happy to assume the fading identity amid the struggling economy and the strife of foreign affairs. Wearied and concerned, the American public is poised and focused on the early moves in Obama’s game of chess, hoping the news will be good.

Not all the attention being paid is anticipation. Critics abound. Those on the progressive side scrutinize each pick looking for traces of the Bush administration’s policies. Those on the right overanalyze decisions looking for any nugget that might prove the hype surrounding Obama’s election campaign was undeserved.

The cabinet choice that has received the most attention at the start is probably Obama’s tapping of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. Many have questioned whether two warring camps in such a hotly contested primary race could reconcile to produce a working relationship. Some have pointed to differences in stances on the war in Iraq as obstacles to relations between the White House and the State Department. A few have spotlighted an election season faux pas, in which Clinton misrepresented a Bosnia excursion as proof that Clinton is ill-suited for the post. Still others claim that Bill Clinton has conflicts of interest or business partnerships that pose roadblocks to his wife’s confirmation. I am confident, however, that Hillary will survive the vetting process and will be an asset to Obama’s foreign policy team. In fact, a Secretary that does not share the president’s brain (similar to Colin Powell’s moderate resistance to Bush’s hawkish enthusiasm) will be a welcome contrast to the “yes man” role of Condoleezza Rice.

Also generating some concern among liberals was Obama’s decision to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates on board in the new administration. A Bush pick, Gates sparks some fear of a continuation of failed policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and heightens fears among some that an Iran invasion may be on the horizon. It also represents a contradiction to some that Obama preached change throughout his campaign and is now populating his cabinet with individuals who represent the old guard. But Gates’ selection represents an open-minded approach that is in keeping with his promise of Change. It stands in contrast to George W. Bush’s scorched earth transition, which sought to expunge any evidence of his predecessor’s regime. Gates also provides some stability NS continuity as adjustments are made to troop levels and missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don’t agree with every pick I’ve seen so far. Janet Napolitano is a little hawkish for my taste as head of the Homeland Security Department. Support from Republicans like Senator John McCain and Senator Jon Kyl give me some pause. But her role as governor of a border state does give her a unique perspective on potential external threats. Unfortunately that role also gives her a hard-line approach to immigration that concerns me.

The most attention should be paid to Obama’s picks for positions that have a bearing on the economic crisis currently afflicting the U.S. Again, there have been criticisms from both sides on Obama’s choice of Timothy Geithner to succeed Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary. I am unqualified to endorse or attack Geithner or his qualifications, but I will compliment the speed with which Obama has begun to stitch together his economic team. It is undeniable that the situation is dire and that due urgency is needed to build a task force that can begin to address the crisis on the new administration’s first day of service. While Obama has and will be criticized for dipping into Clinton’s toolbox, or trading change for old-school Washington politics as usual, the hope is that these tools are sharp and represent the intellectual horsepower needed to pull the country out of its current mess.

It should also be noted that Obama has mentioned Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, which examines the way that Lincoln filled some of his cabinet positions with his staunchest opponents. While the current announcements don’t present a mixed bag of candidates, the retention of Gates as Defense Secretary and transition team head John Podesta’s promise of “multiple Republicans” does give us hope that Obama will surround himself with dissenting voices as well as loyal advisors

Reality Television Meets Reality

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 5, 2008

The best example of an oxymoron is the genre of entertainment referred to as “Reality Television”. It seems, however, that many loyal viewers really buy into the idea that the cameras and the producers and the grip people running around do not alter reality. Perhaps they also believe that the reactions and emotions depicted on that tiny silver screen would be the same if the people involved were not being observed by the masses. I’m sorry to disappoint any of you who fall into the above category, but the truth is that most of what you view as “Reality” on TV is not reality. Sorry.

While I am in the mode of bursting bubbles, let me also inform you that much of what you heard during the 18 months of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was not reality either. This is becoming more evident each day as the man who stands behind the bogus, concocted seal of “The Office of the President-Elect” disappoints his loyal supporters with his cabinet choices and broken promises. Just as the viewers of Big Brother, Survivor, Greatest Race and similar shows must sooner or later acknowledge that amateur actors are still actors after all, followers of Mr. Obama will soon realize that politicians are still politicians after all.

The recent appointments to Obama’s cabinet show little change – or at least very little change. What it does show is the harsh realities of leadership as opposed to the fantasies of campaigning. Promises to end the war in the first sixteen months of his administration have now been put on the shelf. As Obama met with President Bush, (who, by the way, stands behind the official Seal of the President for at least the next several weeks) I believe he was introduced to the very real need to finish the liberation of Iraq and to do it with the least amount of disruption as possible.

After shouting about the “failed policies” of Bush during the campaign, Obama now is quietly affirming the fact that perhaps the policy was not so flawed after all. The gains made by Bush and the coalition of like-minded nations by taking the fight against terrorism to those who sanctioned and supported terror was not a failure. It is to Obama’s credit that he has recognized the need to stay the course for now.

Obama’s former disciples from the extreme left have now become his harshest critics. The strident anti-war crowd may be feeling betrayed and dismayed by the appointment of Robert Gates to head the Defense Department and they may even be confused by Obama inviting former rival, Hilary Clinton to lead the State Department. However, they must, sooner or later, realize that harsh pragmatism must take precedence over hasty promises.

One of the most memorable commercials during the heated primary election was the one that pointed out Obama’s inexperience in foreign affairs. The suggestion that some future day, in the wee hours of the morning, the red phone will ring in the White House signaling some dire event on the world stage. It was suggested that a steady hand and an experienced mind must be able to take that call and make the hard decisions for the safety of the little girls and boys sleeping soundly in their beds. Obama will now have the option of having those calls forwarded directly to Hilary’s number.

As we look forward to the administration of the least experienced man to have ever been elected President of the United States, it is at least somewhat comforting to me that he has chosen men and women from former administrations to advise him.

I am encouraged that Obama has already reneged on some of his unrealistic campaign promises. However, I fear that he may soon feel compelled to throw some red meat to those growling critics on the left in the form of a renewed effort to enact the Freedom of Choice bill, which would establish abortion as the law of the land. He could also try to placate the labor unions that campaigned tirelessly for his election by initiating regulations and tax policies that would ultimately force more corporations to relocate overseas.

For now, I am willing to wait and see how Obama reacts to the many crises he will face when the podium he stands behind bears the true seal of the President of the United States of America. The recent attacks in Mumbai, India, and the renewed militaristic stature of Russia prove once again that the Real World is no place for amateurs. It is not enough just to act presidential. After his hand is raised and he takes that famous oath, he must be prepared to lead. And if Obama can’t make those hard decisions himself, he must listen to those who can. That is reality.

The Revival of Fairness Doctrine Could be the Snake that Bites Us All

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 21, 2008

There is an old Al Wilson song from the early seventies that was a favorite of mine. It tells the story of a “tender woman” that found “a poor half frozen snake”. She takes pity on the animal and the song tells of how she took him into her home, laid him by the fire and gave him honey and milk. After work she comes home to find him fully revived and healthy. As she snuggles him to her chest, he delivers not a word of thanks, but instead inflicts her with a fatal bite. As she lay dying, she asks him why he bit her and in his reply she realized her mistake. “Shut up, silly woman, you knew darn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Among the whispers coming from Washington these days is the hint that there are many Democrats who think there is another “poor half frozen snake” that needs revival. This snake is the Fairness Doctrine that lived and slithered its way around every radio broadcast and media outlet from 1949 when it was instituted to “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints”. As with many legislative regulations, its original intent may have been grand and glorious, but as it matured it became an ever-present poisonous reptile, threatening the free expression of viewpoints.

The doctrine was initiated by the FCC based upon the idea that the airwaves were the property of all Americans and should not therefore be subject to the threat of a monopolistic commercial enterprise. Its intent was to ensure a fairness by mandating that if one viewpoint was expressed, effort should be made to allow the expression of a contrasting one. The result was not quite the one intended. Instead of going to the trouble of seeking out representatives from every available point of view, broadcasters chose to go the way of many municipalities that chose to close the public swimming pools and playgrounds rather than go to the expense of meeting every regulation demanded by legislators.

Broadcasters found it easier to shy away from all controversial issues and, in effect, squelched the voices of any who would address a subject deemed worthy of a fair response from a conflicting viewpoint.

Faced with the realization that talk radio has become the safe harbor for many on the right to speak, and for their listeners to get unfiltered and unfettered information, Nancy Pelosi and others on the left are looking back at that old snake with increased interest. Asked directly by an interviewer in June 2008 if she would personally support revival of the Fairness Doctrine, Speaker Pelosi responded: “Yes, without hesitation.” Chuck Schumer has also mentioned the need for its revival, even going as far as suggesting that talk radio is not much different from pornography.

So, why should we be concerned if the government steps into the broadcast booths of our radio stations and begins to monitor the content of talk radio? Wouldn’t it be a much better world if an agency such as the FCC could filter and regulate what is said on the air? After all, so much of the talk radio medium is currently dominated by conservative voices and if the government doesn’t step in, the liberal/progressive voices will be forced to the cable news networks and the pages of the struggling New York Times and LA Times.

Today we have more than the three major TV networks as our source of information. There is no fear of monopolization any longer. We have over 2000 AM radio stations broadcasting various talk shows, we have countless web blogs in operation and more being added by the second. Information has never been easier to access.

Like the lyrics of the song remind us, snakes are not easily tamed. If we allow the Democrats to revive this snake, its bite may soon reach to other mediums as well. In fact, a recent article on dated August 13, 2008 mentioned that the newly proposed Fairness Doctrine (although it will most likely be called by a different name) will also extend its fangs into the Internet. By claiming that they are trying to achieve fairness and “net neutrality” they will soon wrap their scaly body around every form of speech.

Our forefathers were prescient in their determination that the protection of free speech is essential for the preservation of all the other freedoms. We cannot tell the person standing on the street corner that he cannot voice an opinion without finding a person with a contrasting opinion to stand next to him and voice the opposite view and we should not place that burden on radio programmers or Internet bloggers.

Let freedom rin

Much Ado About Nothing

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 21, 2008

As my brother’s column illustrates, there has been buzz gathering over a potential revival of the long-dead FCC Fairness Doctrine. The concern is that media voices from one side of the political spectrum would need to have a balanced reflection from the opposing side.

Now that the Democrats are securing even more power in the House and Senate, and now that we are on the threshold of a Democratic presidential administration, talk of bringing back the FCC rule is growing louder.

The interesting fact is that almost all of the talk is coming from right-wing bloggers, pundits and talk radio personalities. Few on the left have done more than briefly give the Fairness Doctrine lip service, and to my knowledge, no one has seriously mentioned instituting a like policy when the FCC dynamic changes under President-Elect Obama. In fact, the June 2008 report Gordon mentioned in his column was the result of carefully worded questioning by conservative blogger John Gizzi to illicit a specific response from Speaker Pelosi.

So, from where does the idea that the Fairness Doctrine is a top liberal priority come? To answer that question, it helps to examine the voices shouting the loudest about its threats to free speech. Newt Gingrich, who is skilled at focusing the political narrative to favor the conservative agenda, has spoken recently of the doctrine and a potential “attack” against media personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. With Rush driving the story, word spread like wildfire through talk radio and in sites on the right side of the blogosphere. A conspiracy is born.

Why would the right want to generate fervor about the Fairness Doctrine? Well, as Rush did in 1993 when rumors were circulating about a revival, the right seeks to use this “threat” to mobilize the base and maintain ideological divides.

The fact is that talk radio finds itself in territory that it hasn’t visited for eight years. It represents the voice of opposition. After preaching during the Bush administration that the test of patriotism is the defense and support of the sitting president and his policies, it must now attack the principles and values of the sitting president and do it without sounding like it is guilty of “blaming America first.” Inspiring fear among loyal listeners that government intervention threatens their favorite icons lays the groundwork for opposition against the Democrats in power. This animosity is key to future advancement of conservative agendas and any shift in power two or four years down the road.

While there has been some talk of conciliatory transitions, the Republicans and the right seem to have little interest in bridging any political gaps. One need only look at the names rising to the top as Republican Party leaders met recently to lick the wounds and regroup. Among the hopefuls for Republican nomination in 2012 are superstar Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich himself. If George W. Bush is seen as a great divider, he is small potatoes compared to these two professional partisans.

Also, there is little political will to reign in the media. Even those who would support some government intervention don’t believe in its viability. Most legislators who would endorse a new Fairness Doctrine admit there are many far more pressing matters and higher priorities to be addressed. Taking up this banner – even with control over the presidency and both houses of Congress – would be political suicide. There are just two many dire challenges to address.

I certainly oppose censorship and don’t believe that the state has any business making broad strokes toward controlling information. That said, I do think that the media has an obligation to inform. I think they also must take care not to blur the lines of objectivity. When listeners tune to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly they usually expect a conservative viewpoint, just as those who tune to Rachel Maddow or Amy Goodman expect a liberal view. However, it is not always easy to discern news from editorial, and some outlets choose to make the difference harder to distinguish. When I watch Fox News, I expect the right’s talking points to be the thrust of the coverage. I wonder, though, if there are viewers who take its tagline of “Fair and Balanced” as a pledge. I understand that it is a case of “buyer beware” but we do have rules that require truth in advertising. Is truth in information any less vital to our citizenry?

In any case, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the United States have little to fear from the FCC during Obama’s watch. Censorship is not at hand. Free speech will remain free.

Challenges facing the next President

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 7, 2008

Many of our readers may not be aware that time constraints and the rigors of newspaper production demand that most articles and columns be submitted to the Broader View Weekly well before each issue finds its way to the newsstand. That and the fact that our effective “press time” is several hours before anyone confidently called the results of this past Tuesday’s election leaves BVW staff and writers in an unfortunate position. We can choose to ignore the elephant in the room (the topic on the lips of most our readers even days after the victory celebrations and concession speeches); we could make predictions (a dangerous proposition regardless of how conclusive any spread in early opinion polls might appear); or we can accept our lot and offer commentary on the challenges our new president will inherit in January 2009.

One thing that is certain even before November 4, is that the president elect will inherit great challenges in both domestic and foreign policy arenas. Economic declines indicate that by almost any standard, the U.S. is in the midst of a recession. The ranks of poverty are growing as the ranks of the middle class are shrinking. Unemployment is on the rise, as are the costs of healthcare and higher education. Abroad, policies of preemptive aggression and unethical interrogation techniques have endangered our reputation and moral standing in the world. The war in Iraq continues to claim American lives. The Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan. North Korea and Iran are flirting with nuclear arms.

Change has become a buzzword during the past election season but a change in direction is needed.

The next president needs to look at the troubled economy through the clear lens of future idealism, not through the clouds of past ideology. The saying may go “capital is king” but in our current economic culture capitalism is king. We are so indoctrinated into equating capitalism with democracy that we have clung to a self-destructive mechanism that is collapsing upon itself. We are clinging to a philosophy based on terminology that no longer has meaning but which has dramatic sociological impact. It is preventing us from fixing a broken economic system.

We need to reevaluate our economic model. If we are to apply principles of personal responsibility we must hold those at the top of Corporate America as accountable as we hold those at the bottom rung on the economic ladder. We have to stop catering to those who have much, while treating those who have little as parasites – especially when many below the poverty line are working hard to build a better life and fulfill the promise of the American dream.

We need to be candid about that dream. Instead, most often, we sell big lies to those who can least afford to believe them. The big one is the Horatio Alger lie that hard work will bring prosperity. Unless we can come through with the rewards for hard work – the preservation of healthcare benefits, reliable jobs and the promise of retirement income – an economy built on the backs of hard workers will crumble.

Another lie is that of “trickle down” economics. One need only look at the way the dollars poured into the financial market (through the Bush administration’s bailout package) are being spent. We already see banks using that money to buy up other banks and pay executive bonuses, while credit remains frozen. Prosperity at the top does not improve the economic situation for those at the bottom, no matter how actively politicians proclaim it so.

Change is needed in foreign policy as well. We have lost the moral authority we once claimed. The U.S. cannot condemn Russia for its aggression on Georgia, while our doctrine and policy is to strike sovereign nations before they become a threat.

Nationalism has become a stumbling block in U.S. foreign policy. It has allowed us to perpetrate acts of violence that betray our proclaimed principles. And we as American citizens have accepted the ideology that security is only a matter of military might. Again, terminology has bound us as we equate diplomacy with weakness and discard it in favor of military action. We should exchange nationalism for patriotism and let our love of country drive us to do great things, instead of commit atrocities.

There is hope that we can once again earn the respect deserving a superpower. But it will require a change of direction. Challenges lie ahead, but whomever is at the helm must steer us away from the perilous course of the past 8 years.

Challenges facing the next President

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 7, 2008

While I do not know whose name will be called on Inauguration Day 2009, or whose hand will be raised to make that solemn oath, I do know some of the heavy challenges that await him behind the doors of the Oval Office. Based upon the knowledge of the latter, I hereby offer my suggestions to the next President of these United States.

Each leap year brings an extra day in the month of February and another hotly contested and divisive presidential election, therefore, the final days of each election cycle also bring to the victor the first heavy challenge of re-uniting our nation. One of the great virtues of our American society is its ability to flex. As certain alloys allow steel to be strengthened by adding a measured amount of resiliency, so too does our diverse mixture of cultures and values add strength and tenacity to our republic.

The next president must appeal to the unifying issues. There has always been, and always will be, many things that separate us into various camps and associations. The current campaigns have illustrated quite vividly that differences exist. Different views about the role of government in our daily lives, different views about the role of the United States in foreign nations, different views about the future sources of energy; have all been shouted from podiums, pasted on bumpers, whispered from websites and argued in debates. Now is the time to initiate the proper process for resolving these many issues through the legislative channels prescribed by our founders. The next president must possess the maturity and wisdom to reach across the aisle and include the voices of his most vocal opponents in the decision-making process. He must also directly address and condemn those who misuse the freedom of speech to spread falsehoods.

Another major challenge facing the next president is the preparation for and the prevention of future terrorist attacks. We have been blessed with the leadership of President George Bush during these past seven years, since that fateful day in September when our sense of safety was forever changed. We need our next president to carry on with the same vigorous defense of our nation. He must continue to use whatever means are at his disposal to intercept the plans of the terrorists and to continue the hard work of diplomacy that has brought us within sight of an independent democratic state in Iraq. He must continue to fund and support the efforts of our military and Intelligence Agencies as they work to weaken Al Qaeda and their cohorts.

The next president must also surround himself with courageous advisors who will be willing and able to give him sound advice rather than just nodding in agreement or – even worse – advising according to the wishes of the highest bidding lobbyist. There is truth in the Biblical adage: “… in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14 KJV) Many mistakes have been made in the past when advice and sound counsel has been ignored, however, the next Commander-in-Chief DOES have to eventually command and he will be sitting behind that grand desk when the buck finally stops, so he needs a double dose of discretion and judgment.

The current economic troubles will undoubtedly be just as current in January 2009, therefore our next leader must spend the few weeks in the interim determining the necessary from the unnecessary in his spending proposals. In other words, he should be able to “man up” and tell his loyal supporters that perhaps he was too free with his promises and that reality sometimes bites – and bites hard. Neither of these candidates can deliver on the grandiose plans they have proclaimed in this campaign, and they know it. I, for one, would appreciate honesty and straightforwardness above the “tickling of my ears” with sweet promises that aren’t attainable in this present economy.

A hard look at the budget as a real, solid object rather than a fluid, amorphous gel that can be stretched and twisted to accommodate every crisis is very necessary for our next leader. Numbers that end in “illion” are still real numbers and they represent real dollars. That is real TAX dollars that come from real Americans working real jobs with real families and real bills that really have to be paid. The government should be as accountable to its creditors (us – and well, I guess, the Chinese and us) as American families are to theirs.

In conclusion, I may or may not have my choice in the White House in January 2009. I may not agree with the new leaders or their decisions in the coming years. However, I still believe that this nation will survive the next four years as it has for the past 232 years – with differences and conflicts hidden beneath the uniting colors of our red, white and blue banner. Long may she wave!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why I am supporting John McCain for President

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 24, 2008

Well folks, we are almost there. After a long, long, long campaign, the final few days are upon the horizon. We are about to step into another page on our calendars and no matter which candidate wins, we will also be stepping into a new era of American history. We will either have our first African-American president or our first female vice-president.

At this stage of the process, it is hard for me to believe that there are those who still consider themselves “undecided” about our candidates, yet, according to the many published polls, that is the case. So, just in case there are any BVW readers out there who are looking for a reason to vote FOR someone rather than just voting AGAINST the other one, let me give you a couple reasons why I believe John McCain should get your vote.

First of all, I believe that the current climate of global terrorism, the resurgence of Russian Imperialism and the increasing nuclear noise from the rogue nations of North Korea and Iran require a strong military mind and a proven record of international expertise. Mr. McCain brings such a mind and such expertise. He was one of the leaders in the development of the 9/11 Commission and his voice of reason eventually led to the troop surge in Iraq that has finally brought success and victory into view.

I will concede that the current economical crisis may push national security to the back of the bus during this election. Because our wallets and savings accounts are close-up and tangible, we tend to give them more attention. However, it would be foolish to neglect the hurricane on the horizon while we try to fix the leaky faucets in the kitchen sink. Our economy will recover. The fundamentals of our economy are indeed strong. The latest numbers of inflation are near zero. The jobless numbers – even during this downturn - reflect an unemployment rate that is well below those of other developed countries. Instead of comparing this crisis to the Great Depression, we should go back to 1980 and compare it to the economical malaise brought to us by the policies of Jimmy Carter, when we had interest rates and inflation rates both in double digits. We recovered from that crisis with sound policies of giving money back to the people and reducing the top rate of taxation. Those same policies will work again.

John McCain represents a mature and rational approach to foreign policy. He understands that it would be irrational and naïve to believe we could negotiate with irrational leaders without first seeing some signs of rational behavior and compliance on their side. As we look across the waters in any direction, we see dangers lurking. To the south we have Venezuela, to the east – Iran, to our west we have China, Russia, and North Korea. Within each of these nations we have leaders that will test our resolve and/or seek to remove us from the role of sole superpower. If we fail to take these threats seriously the consequences will be much worse than a loss of our savings account.

Another reason why I will be voting for John McCain is because I believe he has the correct stance on the role of the judicial branch of our government. McCain believes that the judicial branch should restrict its powers to those clearly described in our Constitution. The next president will likely be faced with the task of appointing at least one or possibly even two new Supreme Court Justices. Many of the decisions handed down from the bench in the past have usurped the legislative powers of our representatives, thereby side-stepping the role of the people in determining legislation.

Why I Endorse Barack Obama

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 24, 2008

As the election season winds to a close, it’s apparent that chances are that Senator Barack Obama will win the presidency on November 4. Polls are showing that some Republican strongholds are in play for the first time in years, and that support for the Democratic nominee is gaining momentum. Further proof of the senator’s popularity is the growth in voter registration for this year’s election as well as the number of eligible voters choosing to vote for the very first time.

While it is difficult to accurately determine the cause of the overwhelming support of Obama, theories abound. Perhaps it is that voters finally have the audacity to hope for a brighter tomorrow despite the bleak outlook of today. Perhaps the impetus is a hunger for the kind of historical change that a president of color would offer.

I like to think that American citizens are fed up with being intimidated by a message of fear, and prefer instead to be inspired by the promise of a better future. Even McCain supporters have to admit that Obama’s speeches and rallies have transfixed audiences and ignited the Democratic base. In fact, many independent and Republican voters have been swayed by the power of his oration.

The prospect of a presidential candidate whose command of the English language is “presidential” is refreshing. But it’s not just Obama’s eloquence that has such power. The senator’s message is one of change and one of hope, and it rings truer than an empty label or a hollow slogan. There is optimism that an Obama presidency will transform the political landscape in at least some small way. And there is a growing desire to see that change made real.

In Obama’s platform there are things that make me feel optimistic about the future. I believe that a president of his character will act responsibly, especially in matters of foreign policy. There is something to be said of the strength of one’s resolve, but that strength must be backed up with the reason and intellect to ensure that our actions are legitimate and appropriate.

Obama’s assertions that denounce the go-it-alone foreign policy of the past, in favor of diplomacy, give me confidence that he will not go it alone as a leader and will enlist the open discussion and guidance of his advisors. I think this approach to governing is preferable to focusing on narrow agendas and surrounding oneself with “yes” men who echo one’s own ideals.

I would hope that fear mongering would be non-existent in an Obama presidency. Fear has too long been a marketing tool and a manipulation to drive support for bad policy. Reason is the guide of any effective leader. I believe that reason is evident in the coolness of Barack Obama’s demeanor. Although he has been criticized as being too cold, I feel it is a testament to his mettle that he has avoided displays of emotional desperation or rage despite the rigors of the campaign trail and the brutal attacks of political battle.

Obviously, Obama is human and as such has his flaws. I certainly have been discouraged by some of the positions he has taken as political pressure has mounted. However, I feel Barack Obama is more likely to act in my best interest and in the best interest of those who share my economic and social concerns. He isn’t closely connected to the oil industry, corporate giants, or military contractors. In fact, his campaign promises cater more to the common man than the corporate elite.

In addition to Obama’s foreign policy of tempering strength with reason and diplomacy, I applaud several of his other policies. I like his healthcare plan, which seeks to benefit the uninsured or underinsured as much as it does the healthcare industry. I like his commitment to improving public schools as opposed to weakening them with an added burden of unfunded mandates or bankrupting them with vouchers. I like the components of his economic plan that benefit the average citizen by improving working conditions, raising the minimum wage and bringing jobs back to the U.S. I could list more, but a focus on campaign promises might lead to disappointment as situations change and politics gets in the way of progress.

Again, I find myself turning to a memorable quote by the fictional President Andrew Shepherd in The American President. After stating that his challenger had suggested that being president was to a certain extent about character, Shepherd says, “… I can tell you without hesitation: Being president of this country is entirely about character.” The executive branch and the president do have considerable power in our government, but their powers are not absolute and there are few campaign promises that materialize as policy. Therefore, character is of the utmost importance. I would argue that it is not his race that distinguishes Barack Obama, but his character. That is why he has my vote.

Economic Crisis and the Wall Street Bailout

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 10, 2008

I consider myself a patriot. I cherish the ideals upon which I believe our nation was founded. However, the recent handling of the economic crisis facing the country has greatly shaken my faith in the integrity of our democratic republic.

Few, at any level of government, have not sought to politicize or manipulate the situation for their own gain. And it hasn’t just been Congress or the Bush Administration who have played politics with this dire circumstance. The media has been complicit in hiding the truth and using fear tactics to sway public opinion.

I may not know as much about markets and how the financial sector operates as someone who has a large investment portfolio might, but I do know that there has been much speculation over the past few years about the downturn that was expected once the recent housing bubble deflated. So it seems unlikely that so many administration officials and financial experts were surprised by this collapse in the market. Yet it was presented to the American people and to Congress as an emergency that needed urgent attention to stabilize the economy.

It may seem absurd to claim that a crisis that threatened our entire economy was allowed to take form when action could have been taken to lessen the impact. However, it is conceivable that crises are allowed to develop within this administration when one views the situation in the context its history. Crisis has been a useful impetus that has driven policy throughout the past seven years. The attacks of September 11, 2001 have been used as the motivation and driving force to hammer through sweeping and unprecedented policy changes. Those attacks were the springboard into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As situations worsened in those wars, crisis was used as a justification for allowing torture and interrogation practices that we would have denounced in the past. On the economic front, as oil and gasoline prices began to rise above the tolerance of public opinion, the crisis was used to pressure congress to allow domestic drilling and oil exploration against the will of many.

Now, the “surprise” catastrophe in the financial sector has been used to push through a $700 billion package that will bail out Wall Street firms that have been allowed through reckless deregulation to gamble unethically with their investments and give the Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson considerable power over distributing taxpayer dollars. This is a remarkably socialist move for a Republican administration that tries to appear fiscally conservative despite its spending practices. Of course, its easier to justify spending billions of taxpayer dollars on the wealthy than it is to justify spending on healthcare for the uninsured or bringing relief to disaster victims like folks displaced by hurricane Katrina.

Congress was a spectacle of political spin throughout the process leading up to the bill’s passing. Senators and Representatives were swallowing bitter pills and supporting legislation that was growing more and more unpopular. American citizens began to express their distaste for rewarding unethical banking and lending practices. Democrats were trapped between the “do nothing” label the media has hung on them and their constituents who might threaten their seats. Division within the ranks was encouraging as Republicans sided against the Bush Administration and both Democrats and Republicans bucked their own parties. Things came to a head on Monday, September 29, when the House of Representatives had the will to reject the bill despite warnings by the White House and punishment by the markets.

The Senate resurrected the bill on Wednesday by passing it and forcing the House to vote on it again. Supporters in Congress and the President beat the streets to drum up the votes needed to ram it down the throats of the American people. My hope is that the “yea” voters will be greeted with a backlash when they return to their constituencies.

The storm of protest from the public has waned a bit in the last week with the market’s plunging, and fears of credit and savings issues affecting Main Street. The media’s coverage is largely responsible for any softening of outrage in public opinion. The mainstream outlets largely ignored any disapproval until voices of dissent grew to a level that couldn’t be discounted. Even then, the fact that groups were gathering to protest or that phones in congressional offices were ringing with constituents pressuring their representatives to reject the bill was marginalized. Local newspapers in our region hardly mentioned dissent. A reactive strategy to fend off disapproval was crafted and media outlets stopped calling it a bailout and started using the term “rescue.” The result was a portrayal of a do-nothing Congress that refused to act in a time of crisis and a deal that was painted as the only alternative to economic disaster.

The White House, Congress and the media did the nation a disservice by spinning the crisis and the details of the bill into a political soup that was confusing to the average citizen and then spoon feeding the public only the information that played into a narrow agenda.

Now that the deal has been struck, we have little say over how our tax dollars are being spent. Congress has a limited oversight over how and to whom Secretary Paulson doles out his government handouts. We can hope that as the process goes forward Congress will be vigilant in their constitutional responsibility to look out for our interests. We can pester the offices of our Congressmen and Senators expressing our discontent. We can send a message to those who supported the bailout and are up for reelection by voting “nay” for them. Whatever we do, we must become a better-informed public and not rely upon limited sources to keep us abreast of issues of importance.

Economic Crisis and the Wall Street Bailout

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 10, 2008

Words do have meaning. The current use – and overuse – of the word “bailout” to describe what we the taxpayers have just done for the failed financial giants of Wall Street is significant. Let us imagine a metaphorical analogy in which that same word is used.

Say, for example, there is a loving, faithful wife who has entrusted her security and financial support in a man who has, time and again, betrayed that trust. She calmly acquiesces to his demands and tacitly accepts his garnished truth when he comes home late, broke and drunk. Then comes the dreaded night when she is called at 3am and she hears a slurred, intoxicated voice tell her that there is a terrible crisis. He has been arrested for drunken driving and he needs her to come down to the jail and bail him out. The bail amount will most certainly take every penny of their savings account and put them deep into debt for years to come. She has two choices, neither of which are very attractive. To leave him there would certainly cause him to lose his job, thereby disabling him from ever paying their bills, causing her further and deeper loss. To bail him out would only open the door for further abuse of her mercy in the future; in fact, it could be seen as enabling him to avoid the very consequence he needs to teach him an extremely valuable lesson.

Well, friends and neighbors, if we were that loving, faithful wife who has been used and abused by the most abusive and thoughtless of spouses, we each could have pondered those choices and made decisions based upon our own preferences and convictions. But sadly, we aren’t. In fact, we are, more accurately, in this case, the powerless children who scream and cry silently in our bedrooms as the adults play fast and loose with our futures, caring little about what it costs us.

Last week’s BVW carried an excellent article by Martha Goodsell in her The Hubbard Town Patriot column. She laid out the case for keeping the government out of the market and letting the drunken hubby sit it out in a stinky jail cell. I agree with Ms. Goodsell. The application of good, old fashioned “tough love” tends to discourage a repeat of bad behavior.

The strange feeling of déjà vu some of you may be experiencing when you hear the news reports and dire forecasts of all those so-called experts is not surprising. I feel it too. I remember hearing these experts telling us that the Savings and Loan bailout was a necessary move and I also recall the experts claiming that the government (read U.S. taxpayers) should step in and assist Chrysler Corporation when poor decisions and foreign competition threatened that company’s survival. The same forecasts of lost jobs and long-range effects upon the economy spurred the response then, as it does now.

While I could follow the money trail backward and tell you my theory of how we arrived at this point, I am afraid that would not be fruitful. I could also give you some possible alternatives to this policy of enabling the drunken addicts, but I am sad to say the ink is dried on the legislation and any alternative choice would fall on deaf ears. The jail doors are opened and the drunk has the car keys once again with no consequence for his actions.

Instead, I think it is good to take a little time and remind us all of how BIG this bill really is. For example, if you were to spend one dollar a second, every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, every day of every year, it would take you 31 years and 6 months to spend the FIRST billion of this bill. Now you need to repeat that for the next 22,190 years to spend the other $699,000,000,000.00! Friends, this is no small bailout!

Count this column as one time when I agree with my brother (except for a few mistakes in his analysis) in that we need to step out of the bedroom and scream at the adults. We cannot just allow them to come back home to us with empty promises about how they are working for us.

The Senate version of this bill does more than just bail out the drunk, it also contributes to the drinking habits of other drunks. Here are some of the pork barrel spending (classified as emergency tax breaks) attached to this bill to entice legislators to sign on:

1. Wooden arrows designed for use by children – put in by Oregon Senators, Smith and Weyden for an arrow manufacturer ($200,000)
2. Motorsports racing track facilities (i.e. NASCAR)
3. Rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
4. Book donations to public schools

Again, I am limited by space and time here to go into greater detail about all the wasteful spending that was attached in the interim between the failed House version of less than 100 pages and the Senate version of over 450 pages.

In summation, let me say that we are still the people and we do have the privilege of voting in this nation. Please, please exercise your right and let your representative know that they are OUR REPRESENTATIVES only as long as they REPRESENT OUR views. Speak out loudly.

The Mainstream Media - The Current State of The Fourth Estate

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 26, 2008

In 1828, Thomas Babington Macaulay penned an essay in which he claimed that the gallery containing the press corps “has become the fourth estate of the realm”. He was inferring that the power wielded by those who held the pen was equal to the other three estates of the French power hierarchy – the lords spiritual (the clergy), the lords temporal (civic leaders) and the commons (populace). This name has stuck with the tenacity of a ripened burdock blossom to the collective derrieres of the press corps ever since.

While many journalists carry their press badges with the honor and sense of responsibility they deserve, many others seem to view themselves less as members of a fourth estate and more as the fourth branch of government. In other words, it seems to me that many in today’s media have gone from being reporters of the news to being refiners of the news.

Just as the sugar refiners take raw materials and boil away the dross to produce a sweet product that is palatable to the consumer, the current stable of media elite boil away what they see as waste products and spoon feed us what they think we want to read and hear.

It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that while many consumers may become fat and happy listening to their favorite news source, many others view the current state of this fourth estate with great distrust and maybe even disdain.

In an eye-opening article published on the website of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE),, the authors pointed out some serious differences between the public’s perception of the news media and the journalists’ own perception of themselves. Entitled “Perspectives of public and the press: Examining our Credibility” this article exposed how sadly mistaken most journalists are about the public they serve.

For the sake of time and space I will not repeat here all the findings they discovered, but suffice it to say that the news media rests not far below the public’s approval rating of the current congress (which is in single digits at last report).

Questions of credibility and objectivity surround almost every news source and outlet. A perception that most journalists do not share the political views of the general public and that those views determine which stories stay in the shade and which share in the spotlight seems to be more valid each day.

One quote from the aforementioned article stated that the consumers of news recognize the existence of bias and even the journalists themselves concur to a certain extent that they “are not a representative sample of the public.” A survey of the political affiliations, campaign contributions and voting records of journalists consistently shows a liberal/progressive stance. I am not contending that there exists a “vast, left-wing conspiracy” with nefarious back-room deals by cigar-chomping oligarchs. However, I am saying that the news media is made up of humans and humans tend to have opinions and opinions tend to come out in the words we speak, and the news we cover – and the news we cover up.

I could fill every page of this paper with examples of what could easily be classified as bias in the stories that have filled the air waves and covered the news pages in this election cycle, but that is not my purpose here. Those examples are available within a few mouse clicks on a Google search. I could also quote polling data and reference many other surveys which tell and re-tell what most of us already know, which is that expecting accuracy, objectivity and credibility from our news media is like expecting safe toys and pure pet food from China. In other words, ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware.

In the few short weeks (thank Heaven for the speedy passing of time!) that remain of this current election campaign, let us all be wary consumers. When we see over five stories about Sarah Palin’s daughter in the same old New York Times newspaper that failed to find anything newsworthy (all the news fit to print?) about John Edward’s trysts, buyer beware. When we hear questions put to one candidate that are never asked of another candidate, buyer beware. When the leading news story is telling you the results of a poll of 1,000 respondents, buyer beware.

The “alternative” news media that is currently available to consumers can be either a blessing or a curse in this effort toward wariness. We have several 24/7 news channels available, where the last generation of consumers was subject to only three networks. We have access to electronic information that was unavailable a few short years ago. We have fact checkers and fact checkers of the fact checkers. Therefore we have no excuse for being misinformed and/or misled. It is up to us to be careful listeners, to be skeptical viewers and to be cynical readers.

Perhaps it is time to empower that Third Estate – the commoners – with the responsibility of disseminating information. Welcome, Broader View Weekly!

Media Bias -- Fact or Fiction

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 26, 2008

In the late 1990s, Newt Gingrich and other powerful neo-conservatives set out to create a suspicion of the media and a supposed liberal bias. This push played well for conservatives, allowing them to control the narrative and to be critical of anything that presented their agenda in a negative light. It also planted a seed of doubt in the minds of the public that the media could be trusted to report the news accurately. Within this paradigm, facts that were inconvenient to the agenda could be discounted as examples of media’s vast left-wing conspiracy. This criticism has persisted for decades with varying amounts of success.

Today, the myth of liberal bias is experiencing a resurgence. And again, Gingrich is at the forefront bashing news personalities and painting the press with the same brush that has become the right’s favorite label for progressives and Democrats: elitist. The fact that few Americans could define elitism with any consistency, doesn’t dull the effect of the word and the way it inspires disdain of liberals. The fact that Republicans and conservatives tend to cater to the wealthy while alienating the average Joe is largely lost on the target audience. Most ignored Senator John McCain’s wealth and his wife’s extravagance while shaking their heads over Senator Barack Obama’s recent celebrity fundraisers.

Gingrich deftly wielded the elitism sword as he defended the Republican Party’s fair damsel, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in recent media clashes. When answering allegations about Palin’s lack of experience, Gingrich attempted to discredit Obama’s résumé. Then he went further, calling the media “elitists” and citing an anti-religion bias. In the 2008 presidential election, the press promises to be under as much scrutiny as the candidates themselves.

Admittedly, the media isn’t blameless in their reporting of the news. Stories and emphasis in the mainstream, largely corporately operated media machine, are influenced by economic viability, perceived popular opinion, and ratings over accuracy and importance. While complicity is difficult to assert in the selection and presentation of the news, it is plain that the collective corporate media holds extreme power over the narrative. One can predict the flow of the news cycle and its focus on any given day by the story with the most commercial value. Unfortunately, as newsroom staffs shrink, that focus becomes narrower and narrower, and news of importance is marginalized or ignored entirely.

There are instances where collusion seems evident. During the march to war in late 2002 and early 2003 the media’s presentation of the facts seemed play into the Bush administration’s strategy by emphasizing WMD suspicions while giving short shrift to contradictory evidence. In fact, a news source often labeled a liberal rag, the New York Times, played an integral part in making the case for war with Iraq. Judith Miller’s reporting in the lead-up is often credited with building the administration’s case. Officials would leak stories to Miller and others, then appear on talk shows and in press conferences pointing to those same stories as evidentiary support for their cyclical argument.

As the invasion began, we embedded reporters who became the cheerleaders for the U.S. shock and awe campaign. Now, in an election year media organizations are again embedding reporters… on the candidates’ campaign circuit. These campaign groupies are shifting their role from providing information to marketing. The same connection with soldiers and officers that colored the stories coming from the battlefield is forming between reporters and campaign offices in the trenches of political warfare. While reporters traveling with Obama’s road show were responsible in part for his celebrity, those embedded in the McCain camp are presenting his platform with obligatory favoritism.

Some of the media’s administration affiliation that existed in the short term after 9/11 is dissolving as some news reporters and organizations are returning to the role of educating the public instead of facilitating political policy. Still, it is true that bias does exist in the media. Several news organizations do present the news with a sympathetic angle to progressive and liberal causes. On the other hand, there is no shortage of voices on the right, with talk radio spitting out conservative talking points in the guise of news and “news” networks like Fox touting the Republican line in every story and calling itself fair and balanced.

The only way to navigate the stormy seas of information and remain afloat despite the swirl and spin of bias is to seek alternative sources. Catch an episode of Real Time With Bill Mahr every once in a while to offset your steady diet of Bill O’Reilly. Tune in to the Family Life Radio’s noon hour news show a few times instead of Democracy Now. If you’re a critic of the administration watch the press briefings and listen to the way it presents its own case. If you’re a McCain supporter watch some of Obama’s speeches in their entirety. Endure the other side’s argument and bite your tongue. You’ll be better informed and become a better citizen of democracy.

Don’t expect the mainstream media to present the news in a balanced way. But don’t despair. The news isn’t all bad – pardon the pun. The media doesn’t always shirk their responsibilities. In fact, the example my fellow columnist presented of the Times’ apparent bias is inaccurate. A cursory search of the Times website reveals several stories highlighting John Edwards extramarital affair. But even if the Times had completely ignored the story, there are differences between Edwards’ infidelity and Palin’s daughter’s unfortunate pregnancy. The affair was exposed months after Edwards had dropped out of the presidential race and the Democratic Party was already throwing him under the bus as it raced toward its convention. Also, Bristol Palin’s teen pregnancy was a relevant issue in view of Palin’s stand against sex education and for abstinence-only birth control. I applaud any news organization that didn’t bow to the outrageous claims that a candidate’s family members are off-limits despite their relevance to the debate.

Michael Douglas’ character Andrew Shepherd in The American President said, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship.” Part of the hard work of American citizenship is education oneself. It isn’t always easy, but there are reliable sources out there. I’m proud to say the Broader View Weekly is one.

The Conventions Are Over. Let the Madness Begin

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 12, 2008

The past few weeks have been fraught with political rhetoric as both Democratic and Republican parties held their national conventions and introduced their picks for vice-president. Once Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain selected their running mates, the celebratory cheerleading began.

I understand that a political party’s national convention is not designed as a podium to showcase a candidate’s platform or address issues of national interest. However, watching the events through the filter of the media, it is difficult for most viewers to sort through the commentary and sound bites to glean any grain of important information on where these politicians stand.

I have seen too many of these conventions to expect more than rousing cheers from the faithful gathering of followers and preaching to the choir from the podium. But I couldn’t bring myself to watch the seemingly endless hours of pundit analysis and interviews of delegates of celebrity. Instead I focused on the speeches by each candidate, their vice presidential pick and a few other party VIPs asked to endorse the nominees. I know these addresses are far from the pressure-cooker oration of a State of the Union or national speech, and that the audience is sure to cheer and boo in all the right places, but until the debates begin in earnest, we have little else on which to base our support than the words of the hopefuls themselves.

While there were few differences in the fanfare and hype of the two conventions, I noticed a distinct difference in tone. The conventions are the first real opportunity to pull off the gloves and step into the political ring with the opponent. Both sides did their share of throwing powerful jabs at the other party’s nominees, but the tone in which those attacks and counter attacks were served differed between Democrats and Republicans.

Conservatives are quick to claim that the Republican Party is the party of optimism, but it was hard to find that optimistic voice among the jeers and sarcasm of most of the speeches. Along with the requisite bashing of the opponent’s voting record, lack of vision or experience, the Republicans offered something else: a spirit of condescension. Lacking a clear plan to solve big problems, Republicans resorted to the same tired rhetoric that always works to rally the base and polarize the nation. The message was clear. “Those silly Democrats, they want to raise your taxes and take money out of your pocket, and make the government bigger and more bureaucratic. They want to weaken our defenses and talk to the terrorists.” It’s the same fear tactic that has always worked but delivered with the glibness of McCain’s “celebrity” ads and former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudolf Guliani’s snide commentary. With the visual effects, pyrotechnics and production value of both conventions being pretty much equal, vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s jibe about what will happen after Obama’s Styrofoam columns are put away rings empty if you haven’t drunk the Republicans’ Kool-Aid.

Palin herself is an interesting pick as McCain’s running mate. In contrast, Obama’s pick of Senator and former presidential candidate Joe Biden makes a lot of sense. He brings to the ticket an outspoken fighter who has long been critical of the Bush administration from which the Obama camp seeks to distinguish itself, and to which it seeks to align McCain. He also brings a wealth of foreign policy experience to Obama’s cause and would be valuable as a sitting vice president.

McCain’s choice of Palin is political maneuvering at best. In an attempt to solidify the support of the conservative base and rally evangelicals, McCain has picked a pro-life, pro-family conservative evangelical Christian. Unfortunately, Palin is a relatively unknown former small town mayor, who is currently serving in only her second year as governor of Alaska.

Some have criticized her lack of national prowess or qualifications to serve in the second-highest office of our government, but the most interesting criticisms I have heard have not come from the Democratic base. A split is forming among evangelicals, and fundamentalist extremists are damning the choice on moral grounds.

The obvious complication that has arisen in her personal life is the recent revelation that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Supporters of McCain are quick to the defense of her daughter, calling family members off limits. But it hasn’t set well with evangelicals concerned with premarital sex. And it creates problems for Palin among others as well. When a candidate has billed herself as a proponent of abstinence-only birth control and an opponent of sex education, the pregnancy of a teenage daughter is relevant to the discussion.

Most interesting is increasingly vocal criticism from a sect of the evangelical base that doesn’t validate her running for any office let alone the office of Vice President of the United States. When Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson took his place behind the McCain/Palin ticket he drew the ire of this extreme right wing. This small but vocal group sees a woman in political office as an affront to the biblical order of the sexes. This splintering of the evangelical base could backfire on McCain instead of drawing conservative voters. I also believe displaced Hillary Clinton supporters will find it hard to flock to his camp with Palin’s potential threat to Roe v. Wade, regardless of her self-proclamation as a feminist.

In any case, the choice of a running mate should bear in mind the consequences of the position of Vice President, not the consequences of the political campaign. McCain’s short-sighted choice looks forward through November but not beyond.

With the conventions behind us and debates to kick off in a couple of weeks there will be no shortage of political rhetoric flying about. We need to try to dig down beneath the heaps of hype and harvest the nuggets of truth if we are to make informed decisions on Election Day. We cannot rely on the media, with its focus on controversy, celebrity and competition, to cover real issues. We cannot be passive consumers of information. It is our duty as citizens of this republic to educate ourselves.

The Conventions Are Over. Let the Madness Begin

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 12, 2008

To butcher an oft-quoted Dickensian phrase, these past two weeks illustrated “the best of politics and the worst of politics” in these United States of America. Yes, my friends, these two conventions prove why many nations revile and hate us and why many nations respect and honor us. We can see so much that is wrong with our system and we can also see so much that is right.

The pomp and ceremony that we witness now was, once upon a time, a necessary step in the election process. More than a few have wondered why we continue to put the host cities and the public airwaves through such brutal abuse now. It seems as though little is accomplished in these conventions and even less is remembered once the campaign proper has begun. But still we watch and still the pundits perform their punditry and still the beat goes on.

First of all, let me say that the best of our system is illustrated to the world when they look at our candidates and see a combination that would exist in most nations. We have come so far so quickly in our social acceptance of those who only a few generations ago were disenfranchised. Now we can safely say that 2008 will go down in history as the year that changed politics forever. Regardless of which ticket makes it to the most electoral votes, it will be a premier event.

That being said, it was also a disturbing testament of our differences and an even more distressing illustration of the degradation of modern journalism. We saw the same old tactics of spin and obfuscation of facts from both sides and we witnessed the failure of solid investigative reporting. The utter lack of substance and the dumbing down of the speeches usually left me hungry.

In spite of this, however, we did learn a few things. For example, we have heard from both sides that “change is coming”. Apparently, both camps sense a mood of discontent with the status quo. This is not a bad thing in itself. We should never be content with things as they are. It is the American way to always look for the next frontier, to stretch the horizon and to be the riders on the next big wave.

Another lesson learned from this round of conventions is that sometimes the better person for the job is on the second line of the button. I think that both leading candidates suffer from bitterness within their own parties. Obama has not exactly endeared himself to the Hillary faithful and McCain’s policies and sponsored legislation have angered some of his base. While I disagree with Biden on most issues, I agree with his assessment that the presidency of these United States does not lend itself well to those with no executive experience. The oval office is not the place for rookies.

That is why it was humorous to me to see the reaction of the Obama camp to McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. The mantra was repeated by the sycophant news anchors as Obama spokesmen said she represented a risky choice because she was, after all, a heartbeat away from the presidency. Risky choice, huh?

I recently heard a very eloquent speaker say these words:

“The greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics from the same old players and expect a different result. Change doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – they insist on new ideas and new leadership.”

Obviously, the above speaker would welcome the introduction of a new leader who has shown the ability to change a small city and then to move up the ladder and change a state. I’m sure this speaker would not disparage someone who did not carry years of Washington service on her/his resume.

Here is another quote from this same speaker:

“I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington” - as if the distance from Washington was an actual asset rather than a liability. The above speaker should readily and happily applaud the selection of Sarah Palin. But that is not the case. The above speaker is Barack Obama and the occasion of the quotes was his acceptance speech.

My, how things change!

The news media has spent the past few days in a fevered frenzy attacking Palin for everything from her hair to her daughter’s poor choices. They have attacked her for her choice to run for office while also being a mother – as if one would preclude the other. The hue and cry from Obama and his lap dog media elite has all but drowned out another quote from his famous speech:

“If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”

Yes, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times.

Understanding the Russia–Georgia Conflict

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 29, 2008

In a scene reminiscent of the old Charlie Daniels fiddling song, “The Devil went down to Georgia”, the army of Russia marched across the international border of neighboring Georgia. As the opening line of the song describes the mission of the antagonist, so to could we describe the mission of Putin and company.

“The devil went down to Georgia,
He was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind, ‘cuz he was way behind
And he was willing to make a deal…”

The soul that was stolen by the current “devil” was the warm, beating heart of the post-Cold War relations between the west and the former Soviet bloc nation. The deal that Putin was willing to make is still in the process of being worked out, and unlike the song’s boy fiddler, Johnny, the current U.S. stance may not be “the best that’s ever been”.

First of all, we need to look back into the history of this conflict to try to understand why Russia decided to open up the door to that cold, dark walk-in freezer that stifled trade, hindered progress, and wasted millions of dollars on military spending. Depending upon which website or news source you read, the main cause of the new conflict was either too much U.S. involvement or not enough U.S. involvement in the young democratization of Georgia under current President Mikhail Saakashvilli.

The undisputed facts are that two breakaway provinces currently held within the larger domain of Georgia, namely, Ossetia and Abkhazia have been harboring ethnic groups that were given autonomy after the annexation of Georgia into the old Soviet Union. These groups resisted the idea of joining the sovereign nation of Georgia during the breakup of the U.S.S.R. during the 1990’s; instead they chose to cast their allegiance toward Moscow.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and the rise of Saakashvilli’s administration. Saakashvilli has not only been leaning toward joining the consolidation of NATO countries, but has also gone so far as inviting U.S. military advisors to train his troops, and even sent over 2,000 of his soldiers to aid the coalition forces in Iraq.

The rising oil prices have given a boost to the economy of Russia, and an accompanying boost in the ego of Putin. Again, depending on whom you read or listen to, the coziness of the U.S./NATO – Georgia relationship and the recent talk of President Bush with Poland about installing missile bases there, has either bred fear or resentment of the west’s intention. As we have seen so many times before, the combination of ego and fear or resentment is a volatile mixture.

The explosion came while the rest of the world was watching the display of international peace and harmony in Beijing. The Russian-sponsored rebels in Ossetia and Abkhazia have been pestering Georgian troops with sniper fire and the reports of ethnic cleansing; raping and torturing of native Georgians by the Abkhaz separatists had pushed the Georgians to the point of exhaustion, and they responded finally with military maneuvers. The Russian army was waiting for just such a response and in the course of only 24-hours, they had moved deep into Georgian territory.

The heavy use of air strikes, tanks and missile fire dealt a heavy blow to Georgian forces and civilians. As casualties mounted and refugees fled, Russia pointed the finger at the west and dared us to respond.

So, then, what should be our response?

The first response came in the form of some weak words and an even weaker agreement on a cease-fire. Through the efforts of the EU and the G-7 nations, some pressure was placed upon Russia, but the promised withdrawal has been slow and halting at best and deliberately misleading at worst. The devil is still in Georgia and he is not about to lay any golden fiddle at our feet any time soon. He is trying our resolve. He is waiting to see if we are indeed, “the best that’s ever been”. How can we prove to the new bully on campus that his days of forcing his way into the lands and property of others is wrong and that he will not be allowed to play in our playground if he persists?

The proper response should be continued humanitarian aid to Georgia and heavy economic sanctions against Russia. While many may say that military action should never be threatened unless there is will and means to carry it out, we must also let the bullies of this world know that there is greater force to deal with. We have learned from history more than a few times that acquiescence and passivity lead to further and more defiant provocations.

As we look forward to our November tradition of electing a new leader, we must keep in mind that our choice matters not only to the fiddling boys in our state of Georgia, but also to those who hope to fiddle in the nation of Georgia

Understanding the Russia–Georgia Conflict

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 29, 2008

As tensions rise between Russia and the western world, many are waiting anxiously to see how global relations will change and how widespread the effects will be. Although the recent aggression by Russia against Georgia is the most tangible sign, a decay of rapport between Moscow and the west has been progressing over the past few years. One need look no further than the tough talk coming from the White House and the State Department and the stern warnings to Prime Minister Putin and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, to see evidence that whatever post-cold war goodwill existed is running out.

As a major superpower there is a global responsibility to become involved in conflicts that have global implications. Therefore, a passive response to the situation by the United States is improbable and nearly impossible. Left alone, Russia will probably become more aggressive in the region and will become a threat not only to the sovereign nation of Georgia but other countries as well. In fact, as animosity grows between Russia and the west, Russian aggression will threaten much of the world. So, the way in which the U.S. will react is important and will have a lasting impact on the world.

The current lame-duck administration and the incoming president will have tough decisions to make and much to consider. The risks are global and the way we approach it must have a multilateral, international involvement. It is true that the “stick” of military might may need to be shown because there are few “carrots” of incentive to offer. Certainly, diplomatic sophistication will be needed to navigate the treacherous waters of this growing instability.

Unfortunately, the U.S. position is precarious.

With much of our armed forces committed to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little military muscle to flex to keep aggressors in check. Our military is spread thin and the compromise of focus that Iraq presented is showing in the renewed strength of the Taliban and increasing violence in Afghanistan. Violence is not contained, but less of a visible threat in Iraq. However, our invasion has created a situation that requires a finesse we don’t currently possess to withdraw troops and redeploy quickly to a new mission.

Also, there is a lack of will to commit men and women to another war. While public attention to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has waned, there is little desire to see the U.S. send its sons and daughters to fight and die for a cause that cannot be communicated as an immediate threat. Much of the rage and fear that was used to compel support for our war of choice in Iraq has lessened as 9/11 has faded into history. As the case is being made for action against Iran, public support has been hard to come by (although some leaders in Congress have been strong advocates of military response). I think an engagement of Russia militarily would be a hard sell.

Probably more crucial is the influence of recent U.S. foreign policy decisions. Gone are the days when the United States was seen as a noble defender of freedom and democracy. During the first and second World Wars, the United States had an untarnished reputation for maintaining order, seeking peace and fighting against injustice. Today, the perception of the U.S., for many in the world, is of protecting and furthering its economic interests at any expense. It is, for many, an image of empire, and counterproductive to the image of a benevolent watchdog for the world.

We have surrendered our moral ground in exchange for preemptive aggression. We manipulated our own citizens and other nations with fear. We have shelved international oversight and domestic law in the cause of a vaguely defined “war on terror.” We have approved practices like torture and spying that we condemn other nations for.

This hypocrisy is not lost on the world. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warns Russia against invading other nations without proper justification it rings empty. The U.S. led a coalition of countries into a preemptive invasion of Iraq based on shoddy evidence and trumped up charges of weapons of mass destruction. How can we claim enough moral high ground to build international indignation against Russian when our foreign policy is to justify any action we may take.

I agree that ego, fear, and resentment are a dangerous mixture. I would argue that those ingredients combined to produce foreign policy failures during the current administration. We will have to address and remedy the injuries to credibility and reputation that have resulted before we can contribute effectively to the problems of the Russia–Georgia dilemma.

Bush – Cheney and the Energy Crisis

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 15, 2008

The theme of the Bush administration often seems to be “The Perfect Storm.” Many of the nation’s most pivotal situations have aligned in ways that have facilitated administration agenda items.

Neo-conservative members of the political group “Project for the New American Century” (created in 1997), such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, were committed to increase military spending and justify the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

A perfect storm materialized in September of 2001, when terrorists launched attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon complex. The resulting frenzy, rage and fear helped to springboard the policy strategy the group outlined in its Rebuilding America’s Defenses manifesto (copyright September 2000).

Bush and Cheney had an eye for the invasion of Iraq, which was on the agenda from day one of the administration’s first term. The 9/11-inspired fear and rage created the perfect storm climate that allowed Congress to be easily swayed by shaky evidence, to support a “weapons of mass destruction” case designed to unseat Saddam Hussein. U.S. citizens, manipulated by fear-mongering of the administration, were easily led to offer public support for the military action.

Bush and Cheney, with connections to – and beholden to – oil industry giants, needed a way to address the relatively low oil prices the world saw in 2001. Iraq itself provided a perfect storm that allowed increased administration control over oil supplies, and thereby the price of oil. The supply of oil beneath Iraq’s sands, if tapped, would flood the world market and drop per-barrel prices, while providing support for the reconstruction of the war-torn nation. However, the oil production promised in the lead-up to the invasion, failed to come about.

Big Oil executives seek greater access to, and leases of domestic resources to increase their control over oil supplies. Current high gasoline prices are providing the perfect storm to facilitate their wishes. Recent polls show that prices consumers are paying at the pump have generated overwhelming majority support for expanded domestic drilling for oil.

It is easy to see a pattern emerging in these “perfect storm” situations of the Bush Administration. Manipulation of public and congressional support is common to the examples given. These agenda items were made possible when the administration was able to spin the narrative to support for its policy.

One key to understanding the current economic and energy crises we face today is the administration’s energy policy crafted in the early months of its first term. At that time, an energy task force composed mainly of CEOs from energy industry corporations, met with Vice President Dick Cheney. We know that the current energy policy was the result of those meetings. Unfortunately, we know little else about those meetings. The vice president refused to make public the details of those discussions. In fact, it took years of coercion and legal pressure to produce even a list of those who were involved in the series of meetings that took place in early 2001.

We also know that Big Oil has benefited greatly from the policies of this administration. The record profits oil companies are raking in are exponentially higher than those they saw in 2000. It is plain to see that the industry is not interested in limiting those profits in the interest of bringing down fuel costs for consumers. While the key players in the industry are seeking greater access to domestic lands for drilling, they are unwilling to drill in the lands they already own leases on.

The expense of oil exploration and drilling is only part of the reason the industry is slow to tap their existing resources. Their control over the supply of domestic fuel is crucial to controlling the price the market will bear. It is against their economic interest to expand production and increase world oil supplies.

It is disingenuous for those in the administration, and for Republicans in Congress, to claim that lifting bans on offshore drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will provide much needed relief to Americans squeezed by high fuel prices. Not only will this exploration yield no impact on prices for decades, even then the impact will be insignificant. This rhetoric only succeeds in confusing frustrated consumers into supporting the oil companies’ agendas.

We need to send a message to the president and Republican leaders that we aren’t buying the rhetoric any more. We need to tell them we want real solutions, not political posturing or pandering to Big Oil. We need to demand investigation of Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force and the influence energy industry executives are having on the current energy crisis.

Some critics on the left will claim that missteps by this administration have led to the economic and energy crises we are experiencing. However, it could be that factors have created their perfect storm and things are running as planned. Only revelation, candor and disclosure will allow us to sort it out.

Bush – Cheney and the Energy Crisis

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 15, 2008

My fellow columnist and others have made it clear that they believe the current gas prices are due entirely to the malevolent manipulations of a very few powerful people. Conspiracy theorists and purveyors of paranoia will often use vague generalizations and twisted facts to generate fervor among those of us who are too lazy to seek out the truth.

A recent press release from the office of Congressman Maurice Hinchey echoes the claims made by Senator Harry Reid and others that see bogeymen hiding behind every gas pump. The oft repeated yet never substantiated mantra from Hinchey, Reid, et al, is that oil companies have made trillion dollar profits and they are still receiving subsidies from the government. They also claim that removing the congressional ban on drilling the Outer Continental Crust (OCS) or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will not result in lower prices – and then only insignificantly - until 2030. They assert that the energy policy of President Bush and VP Dick Cheney have caused these high gas prices.

I believe that it is important to do a little exploration before I accept the word of any politician or fear-monger, so I let my mouse loose and clicked my way to a few fact-checking websites. It was a very interesting and enlightening exercise. If you will allow me to take a little bit more of your time, I will tell you what I learned.

“The oil companies already own drilling rights to 68 million acres of federal lands, onshore and offshore, that they haven’t touched. 68 million acres that have the potential to double America’s total oil production.” Said Barack Obama. Hinchey has repeated this mantra in his recent press release and others in the Democrat party echo the claim. But is it factual?

According to, the lands are more accurately described as undeveloped rather than untouched. The facts are that 25.7 million acres of federal land are producing oil and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lists regulatory hurdles and environmental concerns as obstacles that have to be met before drilling can begin. There is also much activity going on in those acres that would not qualify as production, yet is crucial to the five-step life cycle of a well. For 2006, BLM reports that there were 6,738 applications in process for drilling with 4,708 holes begun and 3,693 holes where drilling had ended. So, a total of more than 15,000 holes that were being proposed, started or finished, yet they are classified as non-producing. As you can see, Mr. Hinchey and Senator Obama have not told you all the facts about those 68 million acres.

Now let us examine the issue of subsidies and tax breaks the oil companies receive, shall we? The claim by Senator Obama, which has been repeated in various forms by many, refers to H.R. 6, the 2005 energy bill passed by both houses in which $14.3 billion in subsidies was given to “energy” companies. The facts are, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, that the majority of those funds went to nuclear power, energy-efficient cars and buildings, and renewable fuels. Only 2.8 billion of those dollars went to oil companies. But… here is the untold fact… the same bill levied new tax increases totaling 2.9 billion for a net tax increase of $300 million over 11 years.

The next assertion in Mr. Hinchey’s press release concerns the drilling in ANWR and the OCS. According to Hinchey and Obama and others, there is no need to drill now because the oil would not reach the market for several more years, hence the effect on prices now would be negligible. Let’s examine that for factual accuracy shall we?

If, say, you are an oil sheik in Saudi Arabia, and you are sitting on a stretch of sand with oil worth $120/barrel today, but you hear that an increase in supply will be diminishing the price of that oil in, say ten years or so, wouldn’t you be wise to open up the valves and get your high dollar price now? However, if you know that the supply from another source, such as the good old U.S.A., was never going to increase, it would be more profitable for you to keep sitting on that oil and watch the price rocket higher and higher.

If investors and speculators see no increase in supply on the horizon, they will drive up the prices, but if they see the possibility of 18 billion barrels from the OCS and another 10 billion barrels from ANWR (both conservative estimates) coming down the pipeline, prices would fall.

I could go on with more facts, but space is limited here, so I will leave you with just one note of caution. Beware the rhetoric during an election year. Check the facts before you grab your pitchfork and attack the bogeyman behind the gas pump.