Sponsers of Revolution

For my History of Literacy class, I had to read an article by Deborah Brandt about sponsors of literacy. Brandt’s ideas reminded me of a writing by Carl Kaestle and his explanation of social consequences of literacy. I was thinking about the scale of religion’s sponsorship of literacy, which has been tremendous throughout modern history. Of particular interest to me is the period of revolutionary thought in America in the late 1700′s. It was the rise of those new ideology’s and their communication through the colonies that allowed ordinary colonists to shrug of the weight of tyranny from the Crown. Most historians will agree it was the establishment of roads and a fledgling mail service that opened to floodgates for the spread of revolutionary thought via letter, newspaper, broadside, and pamphlet through the colonies. An impressive measure of literacy was already in place in America. In fact the colonies had a literacy rate of just around 70 percent, which was better than that of England at the time. By 1776, America also had 7 colleges, from which a few of the founding fathers were graduates.

This relative excellency in literacy can be traced back just over a century to the Puritans in Massachusetts. Led by John Winthrop and his quest to create the City on a Hill, literacy was a cornerstone of Puritan life. It was essential for community leaders who tended to be extremely well educated in a variety of disciplines. All Puritan ministers were university trained, and it was for that purpose that Harvard was founded. All this combined to make Massachusetts the most literate place in the world by 1660. When coupled with the Quakers, Calvinists, and other European religions, it becomes clear just how greatly religious beliefs sponsored early colonial literacy.

The next century would be a critically important one for American development. 4 wars would be fought on the North American continent, and their would be hundreds of conflicts with Native Americans. Spain, France, and England would all fight for control of America while the colonists absorbed the effects. By the time the French and Indian War ended and England turned its attention back to the colonies, they were no longer just that. A new American identity had formed and the literacy the majority of  its citizens possessed only served to disseminate the ideas further into the populace. The incendiary worlds of Particle Henry, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin could be read throughout all 13 colonies as could the tyrannical acts of King George and his Parliament. In the summer of 1776 John Hancock put quill to paper to become the first signer of the Deceleration of Independence. Freedom was taken with the rifle and musket, but Independence was realized by the acts of writing and reading.

By Evan Lonergan


Sequester and Stagnation

A month has gone by, and we now find ourselves in February of the new year. I would like to purpose a resolution, let’s get our politics moving. With the deadline for a budget agreement postponed to March, congress is finding itself once again in partisan deadlock. It seems obvious by now, that austerity measures alone are not a feasible way of creating a healthy economy. We can’t cut our way to prosperity. The fact that House Republicans are clinging to spending cuts as a solution to fiscal 2013 is outrageous. A responsible budget agreement is going to have to be balanced. I’m talking loopholes, revenue, austerity measures, and infrastructure spending. The economy will benefit from the stability of passing a budget agreement alone. Clinging to this ideology of no taxes under any circumstances is reprehensible. It is a ideological sinking ship. Whether the sequester takes effect by the deadline or not, current House leadership will be to blame for  the stagnation. I would rather a deal be reached, so Americans don’t have go down with the ship.
These days it seems like a constant echo, but it needs to be repeated; We need better leadership and more action in congress. There are going to be some key legislations coming down the pipe in the next few months concerning immigration and gun control. The American people need the stability of a new fiscal budget, we can’t progress with the threat of recession looming. Congress cant afford to be hung up negotiating a budget deal. We do not have the time to spend playing games of opposition. If our representatives don’t act, then maybe we the people need to act. There needs to be a degree of change on Capital Hill, and it needed to happen yesterday.

By Evan Lonergan

Obama’s Wish List

The state of the union is progressive. In is speech Tuesday night, President Obama swung left to start off his second term. In his address he offered a progressive wish list for the next four years. He proposed raising the minimum wage, spending on infrastructure and education, equal pay for women, renewed commitment to climate change, and he promised to continue to push for immigration reform and gun control. The President sated his belief that the public backed his policy visions, and called on congress to act. “Newtown deserves a vote.” A different Obama took the stage Tuesday night, the Obama not afraid of conflict, and who plans to use his bully pulpit power to shape public opinion. How much of the wish list will come to fruition is the question everyone is asking. Boehner has already denied increasing the minimum wage. In a congress still staunchly divided it will be difficult for progressive legislation to pass.

By Evan Lonergan

Victory Runs Deeper Than the President

Victory Runs Deeper Than the President

President Obama won re-election last night, but the Democratic Victory was deeper than the presidential race alone. Here is a run down of important wins.

The President

Obama wins the popular vote, and the electoral collage for a second term. Ohio put him over 270 for the win.

The Senate

Democrats maintained control of the Senate after last nights elections. Key Victories and upsets across the country leaves the democrats with 53 seats. The GOP came away with 45, and independents with 2.

Key wins
Florida: (D)Bill Nelson wins

Virginia: (D)Tim Kaine wins a vey close race at the last minute

Ohio: (D)Sherrod Brown wins

Massachusetts: (D)Elizabeth Warren wins Ted Kennedy’s old seat held by (R)Scott Brown

Montana: (D)John Tester wins in one of the closest and most heated races

Connecticut: (D) Chris Murphy wins

Missouri: (D)Claire McCaskill wins out over (R)Todd Akin

Pennsylvania: (D)Bob Casey wins

Indiana: (D)Joe Donnelly wins a last minute upset of (R)Richard Mourdock

Wisconsin: (D)Tammy Baldwin wins as the first openly gay senator

North Dakota: (D)Heidi Heitkamp wins a very close race

Maine: (I)Angus King wins and will caucus with the Democrats

The House

Democrats were not able to regain the house, but held decent ground. As of now they have 196 seats to a Republican 223. Dems are projected to hit 199 when its all over.

Key wins
Florida district 18: (D)Patrick Murphy wins out over Tea Party freshman (R)Allen West

Utah district 4: (D)Jim Matheson wins narrowly beating star (R)Mia Love

Illinois district 8: (D)Tammy Duckworth wins as a handicapped veteran.

Tuesday night handed out some big losses outside of the races, including the now disgraced Donald Trump, the always silly Sarah Palin, and the unfortunate Karl Rove and his miserable band of billionaires.


Compiled by Evan Lonergan

An Election Story

The forest was abundant with activity as it usually is around these times, it is after all election season. Everywhere gossip could be heard about the goings on, and this was especially for the birds. The winged creatures always talked loud and talked often, although due in part to their frivolity the credibility of the talk was at the least questionable. After all, one of their own was up for re-election. The Bald Eagle, a cold and distant, but commanding creature, desired another term as ruler of the forest. Difficult times had come to the forest, but the Bald Eagle was determined to lift resident creatures of all kinds out of these hard times and bring prosperity and equality back to the wood. The Bald Eagle believed very much in democracy and the creatures, a belief that could become his bane. The creatures of the forest faced more devision than ever before. Ideologies about the nature of forest control were deeply split and fiercely polarizing.
Never before had the virtues that made the woods such a fantastic place to live seemed so in jeopardy. The democracy that the Bald Eagle so desperately believed in was allowing itself to fall to the influence of pernicious prevarications, egregious misinformation by the many voices in the wood, and the influence of wildflower pedals. This was the first election to allow unlimited spending of pedals, the currency of choice in the forest, by non political creatures. The fate of the woods held in the balance, and the Weasel and his running mate, the Snake, were perilously close to winning the election. Despite a campaign of devoid of real information on proposed forest policies, and numerous role reversals on those policies, the election was in a dead heat. All the while times had grown no easier for the average creature. The squirrels and the rabbits fared worse and the elk and the bears became more well off. The forest itself was in danger of survival unless the inhabitants could learn to live side by side and return to commonwealth values that the forest first begun with.
The Bald Eagle was thundering through the woods on his way to the great tree when he noticed the Weasel and the Snake out of the corner of his eye. He swooped down and landed silently on a branch just above their heads. They were conversing with a few elderly squirrels about acorncare policy. The Snake was telling the squirrels how thee acorns provided for them in his plan would be provided though a voucher system. A squirrel questioned whether that would leave him out of acorns when the policy came into effect. The Snake responded with an explanation of how the system of vouchers would allow squirrels to a better quality of acorncare due to competition between gatherers. The weasel was quick to add that a free acorn market was the best.
From up on his branch the Bald Eagle was disheartened, this was a recurring theme in the race. Creatures of the forest just did not have the knowledge to discern what was truly good for them. He felt that feeling of exasperation he could never show publicly. Did the squirrels not see that the Snakes plan allowed gathers the freedom to pick and choose who gets acorncare at will. The Bald Eagle was not anti gathering, stalking, or scavenging, he just knew that without regulation the focus of those things falls not on what is best on the Forrest, but on what what is most profitable for the individual. The average animal just lacked the intelligence, and access to correct information on forest policies to make informed decisions. This was why the Bald Eagle placed emphasis on education and the ability of all animals to gain knowledge. Democracy is a vicious circle, particularly in the forest. With the election on the way, it can only be hoped for that the Bald Eagles faith in democracy was not misplaced. A new day will dawn in the forest very soon, the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

By Evan Lonergan

The Latest and Greatest Aberrations to Democracy

Dinesh D’Souza, if there is anybody who can tear our country apart from the inside, it is that man. The garbage D’Souza spews in writing, film, and word, is media malpractice at its very finest. I can only assume people gobble it up for the same reason a car accident is inherently fascinating, there is something horrifyingly fascinating about destruction. That, I would say, is why D’Souza’s poorly written lies, talking points, and made up facts that effectively destroy democracy end up on best seller lists. Despite being continuously knocked back by actual facts, D’Souza continually comes back for more. 2 weeks ago he accused President Obama of attacking traditional christian values. Very ironic considering this damaging news came out the week later. D’Souza was caught having an affair with a married woman, traditional christian values indeed. It would appear that he finally brought upon himself some of what he deserves. How this man ever slept at night is beyond me. At least now he has lost his seven figure salary he was receiving from King’s College, a christian college where he was president.

This brings me to another wonderful pundit we all know and love. Ann Coulter is disgusting and vile. I have heard her opinions on talk shows before, but after scrolling through her twitter feed I have learned it is far worse than I thought. For a white, privileged, healthy, (and regrettably) influential woman to degrade the handicapped, spew racism and ignorance, and insult those with differing opinions in a public forum exemplifies the worst of this country. It is pathetic behavior of the worst kind, and the fact that it is in part embraced and accepted is deeply saddening. The sheer lack of respect for the President, and her fellow Americans is atrocious. Mr. Stephens commands my respect for handing the situation with more grace than I ever could. What a beautiful response in the face of complete disrespect and disregard. Dinesh D’Souza had to face his karma last week. Ann Coulter will get hers. I hope one day have the chance to meet Miss Coulter, so she can hear this from me personally.

As if it was hard enough to participate in democracy while being egregiously misinformed by the people who get payed to lie, there is a trend now of extremely wealthy business owners threatening their own employes if they vote “wrong”.  David Siegal, a Florida timeshare mogul has threatened to fire his employes if President Obama is re-elected. His threats were thinly veiled in this letter.

Subject: Message from David Siegel
Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: [David Siegel]
To: [All employees]
To All My Valued Employees,
As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.
However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.
So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.
So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.
Yes, that is really the email sent to his employes. It should be mentioned that the company has had its most profitable four years ever under president Obama, with record profits. Also worthy of noting, Siegel is a billionaire who not long ago was on the quest to build the worlds largest house. There is a entire documentary about the perverse and obscene project. David Siegal needs a tax, should be a joke. Unfortunately this man is very serious, and that makes it not funny at all. Whats even worse is Mitt Romney will give him that break no questions asked. This type of thing should be illegal.

I know I am late on the draw here, but the way things are going I felt I couldn’t leave this one out. The new employment numbers came out a few weeks ago, they were down to 7.8, good news for the Dems. Jack Welch, ex CEO of GE immediately took to twitter with a response alleging the job numbers had been fudged. He said “these Chicago guys will do anything”. His conspiracy theories placed him in a bit of hot water, and he received substantial and deserved backlash. Before having the chance to be fired, he quit his position as columnist for Fortune and Reuters, which delights me since I no longer feel obligated to read it(It was never very good). My father taught me never to quit, it is not a display of good character. “Win with character, loose with grace”. Why he decided to criticize the President on the jobs number I will never know. How did that work out for you Jack?

I am not even going to get into this… or this. All I have to say is, really?

Democracy is a fantastic privilege, lest we forget.

I will leave you with some humor from last week.

By Evan Lonergan

The Finale, Romney and President Obama Meet For the Final Debate

A debate on foreign policy aimed at the average voter is a shallow concept. Presidential debates are already political theater, and they have been for some time. Foreign policy is a very complicated and sensitive subject, handled by experts who have worked in the field their entire lives. Regardless of how much time is spent studying and learning foreign policy, it is still difficult to get right. Outside factors are in play, there is a human element, actions that can not be predicted. Any candidate that makes promises in foreign policy is foolish. As a people, we understand very little of our foreign policy. The sensitivity of the subject prevents the majority of details to stay shrouded in secrecy. Only the Commander-in-Chief, and a select few in his cabinet have the whole picture. We the people cant understand foreign policy because we are given only fragments of the information. A debate on the subject is pure malarkey, as Joe Biden would say. There are no specifics, very little examples of policy, and almost no clarity of responsibility. The foreign policy debate is a last chance for the candidates to demonstrate characteristics that might sway the voters, and that’s why we have it.
With that said, there was a foreign policy debate on Monday evening. I’m not going to analyze what the candidates said, because due to the nature of the subject, they didn’t say much. Mitt Romney had an interesting night. Never have I been more frightened at the lack of qualifying attributes in a presidential candidate. Mitt Romney leaves a lot to be desired, but in no subject it that more clear than foreign policy. Now I’m aware that he doesn’t have to present facts to his potential voters, that much has been clear. He should present some sense that he is fit to be Commander-in-Chief however, or a least a shred of qualification for the position. Mitt Romney was a Governor for one term, the rest, as we have heard over and over, has been spent in the private sector. He has never served in Military, nor have any of the Romney boys. After receiving his party’s nomination for president, he failed to mention Afghanistan or veterans. I don’t expect Mitt Romney to be well versed in foreign policy, but I do expect him to make it seem like he is. He couldn’t do that, and that is a glaring hole in his candidacy.
Mitt Romney has gone rouge late in his campaign for better or for worse. A few weeks back there was a small mutiny by Ann and the rest of the Romney clan to gain more control of the campaign. It worked, and moderate Mitt was born. If it wasn’t for the undying and unfounded hate for president Obama, the far right would have been offended by Mitt’s betrayal. Foreign policy was the last area where Romney remained loyal to views he has expressed everyday for the past 18 months. Just two weeks before Monday nights debate Romney gave a now conservative foreign policy speech advocating the war in Afghanistan, massive increases in defense spending, and condemning the way the Iraq war was ended. Did his advisers really not expect him to flip positions when he had to face the nation? That is what this man does, he stands for nothing other than self advancement. Half of the nation has embraced him on that view. He can lie through his teeth, and it doesn’t make a difference. We have come to the point where lies are true if we choose to believe them. Mitt Romney has extreme views on foreign policy, and he has been expressing them for over a year. On debate night though, he comes on stage and agrees with almost everything Obama says with the slightest of alterations. Obama imposes sanctions on Iran. Romney agrees completely, adding only that they should have come sooner and been harsher. That was the debate, and a massive percentage of Americans ate it right up. For one evening moderate Mitt makes an appearance and is accepted by millions. This is our democracy, this is what we have created.
I fully acknowledge that Obama’s presidency has been deeply flawed. Despite that, when it comes to foreign policy the Obama administration can cite promises kept. Other than the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the Obama track record is a good one. Osama Bin Laden is dead, we are no longer fighting a war in Iraq, and there is a timeline for a withdraw from Afghanistan. When it comes to who I trust more to lead the country in terms of foreign policy, it is no contest Obama. The argument can be made that Obama has been too lethal with his powers, and that he has greater powers to wage war than any other president before him. With those powers he has killed an American citizen without trial, Anwar al-Awlaki. It make no difference, Romney has no criticism on those actions because he genuinely agrees with the targeted killing program.
This election will be close, and that is the worst and most dangerous part about it. Neither man is a perfect candidate, but one is a far far better choice for the well being of the nation. The President has served for years as Commander-in-Chief, he has experience. He has the qualifications to lead a nation. Unfortunately, this nation is ideologically paralyzed. Blame it on Dinesh D’Souza, blame it on Chris Mathews, blame it on media malpractice, personal ignorance, the echo chamber effect, or whatever you choose, but that is the current state. I am not a cynic or a pessimist, I believe we will move past this. Right now the state of democracy is in a dangerous place. There is an election on November 6. I have have educated myself and I will be voting. Active participation in the system is what drives my hope. Did I mention there was a debate on Monday night?

By Evan Lonergan

The Second of the Presidential Debates

Last night, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama met once again on the national stage. This time at Hoffstra University in New York. Obama won decisively, of that much I’m sure. When the punditry over at Fox News declares a draw, its clear the GOP did not have a good night. Of course all the debate was in reality, was more political theater with a new narrative. In the first debate, Romney dominated. In last nights debate, Obama was on top. A positive night for my fellow democrats, which I’m sure will help subdue the panic after Obama’s last performance. The momentum Romney gained from his first performance will be blunted after Ryan last week, and this last night.
Twitter was ablaze all evening with live satire, fact checking, and blogging. Prior to end of the debate, the binders full of women comment had its own tumblr account. Both candidates provided plenty of memorable lines. For its entertainment value, the debate exceeded my expectations. The back and forth between the two was captivating. There was palpable tension in the room. Candy Crowley was made to work moderating the dialogue last night.
The key moment of last night came during the Benghazi exchange. Romney attacked the President for his actions after the attack on the US embassy in Syria, accusing him of denying the attack was an act of terror. Obama did in fact refer to it as an “act of terror”, and Candy Crowley fact checked him on the spot. Even more impressive was the Presidents response to the accusation. Here it is…

“The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with their families. And the suggestion that anyone on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.”

Obama was angry, and he was showing it. This is what so many Democrats have been waiting for this election cycle. Obama is fully capable of filling out the role as commander and chief, and last night he did just that. The victims of the Benghazi attacks were his people, his responsibility. They were American citizens, our people. For Mitt Romney to continue to try to trip up the President on the Benghazi attacks is despicable and inappropriate. It does a fantastic job of showing us the real Mitt. The Romney that sees himself as deserving of everything he wants in life, and the rest of us as objects to be manipulated along the way. Mitt Romney has no shame. He has willingly taken an attack on the nation that resulted in the death of our citizens, and it using it as a talking point. The real finisher here is that Romney does not have a shred of correct information. He was fact checked by the moderator mid statement. He was a governor and a self proclaimed inhabitant of the private sector, I fail to see any foreign policy qualification there.
There were other shining moments of the night, the binders full of women comment will be receiving abundant attention. If the reactions of women around me are any sign, I am expecting the gender to gap to reopen. Details continued to evade Romney on his mysterious tax plan, a sketchy deal indeed. Then there was the subject of gun control. Romney, who signed an assault weapons ban during his time as governor was frantically reversing. The NRA is a solid GOP supporter after all. The question about George W. Bush opened a convenient window for Obama who said “You governor, are no George W. Bush”. An insult if their ever was one, the president had “zinger” of his own.
Obama controlled the second debate from start to finish. He was sharp, aggressive, and engaged through the 90 minutes. The President did exactly what he had to do. He was serious, respectful, amiable, and aggressive. He did not let the lies slide as easily as they had in the last debate. Romney was also very aggressive, although sometimes in lieu of any real substance. He constantly complained about the rules throughout the debate, whining about time. There were moments when he came off as condescending, furthering his detachment from the middle class. In the second debate we got another look at the character of Mitt Romney, and another reason to wonder why this election is as close as it is. Don’t tell me what you can do Mitt, show me what you can do.

By Evan Lonergan

Why Big Bird Really Matters

Big Bird out of a job.

The back and forth fallout from the debate has been flying hot and fast since last Thursday morning. One thing has been talked about more than the others, and will haunt the Romney campaign into November. The endangerment of Big Bird is the kind of rhetorical slip up than can change results. Mitt Romney had an excellent presence on stage last week, but his performance is falling apart under the crushing weight of the lies on taxes and medicare. More importantly, are the details Romney did give on Wednesday night. When asked how he will reduce the deficit Romney proposed cuts of services including PBS and Amtrak. He claimed to like Big Bird but promised to eliminate the government subsidy to PBS.

This is where Mitt Romney goes wrong, the man has a fundamental misunderstanding of the American people and our national government. PBS in an institution of modern American society. It provides educational programming for millions of children across the country. PBS reaches around of 81 percent of children between ages 2 and 8. For those children with parents who cannot afford educational day care or early learning services, PBS can be a wonderful opportunity to provide free education. Mitt Romney does not understand that because he has always been insulated by wealth. Big Bird and friends teach everything from simple math and the alphabet to positive character examples. As a child I watched some Sesame Street, and other PBS programming. I will always have memories of learning colors, and participating in call and response activities on the shows. I am not alone in these memories. When you attack Big Bird, you attack a character that is looked upon fondly by millions of Americans.

PBS struck back directly at Mitt Romney saying he does not understand the value of public broadcasting to the American people.  Public broadcasting provides an incredibly beneficial return on investment. PBS’s subsidy is 0.012 percent of the budget. The subsidy is insignificant to the reduction of the federal budget. This is Mitt Romney, this is the man who wants to lead the nation. The only details he can produce to reduce the deficit are the cuts of public programs and the repeal of Obamacare.

My grandfather was employed by Amtrak. I still have his helmet with the logo emblazoned across the front, and Dick Frain printed underneath. It was a good job,  a job that allowed him to bring home food for his family. He was a member of the middle class, but thanks to Amtrak he supported a family of 7. He could be proud of his job and the life it allowed him. I will think of my grandfather when I ride the Amtrak later this week. Mitt Romney does not understand what its like to work a job like that. Romney only understands how to kill those jobs. He will cut the programs that take the smallest amount of the budget, but provide the greatest return to the American people. At the same time we can expect increases in defense spending that will more than offset the money saved in proposed cuts.

Big Bird will haunt Romney for the rest of the campaign, but the issue is bigger than big bird alone. This country needs to experience a recovery. If Romney can only propose cuts to beneficial public programs, then he is not fit to lead. We the people should not have to sacrifice the programs that make a difference in our daily lives to experience that recovery.

By Evan Lonergan