Posts Tagged ‘News’

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Hump Day Catch-All: From Congressional Idealists to WikiLeaks Hackers to Westboro Protests

12.09.10

With so many items in the news of blog-worthiness, sometimes it helps to just offer a few tidbits of info for each.  Today is one of those days: I’ll be tackling tax cuts, DADT, Westboro Baptist Church and Elizabeth Edwards, and WikiLeaks.

Tax Cuts and DADT

For all the talk of bipartisanship and compromise, it seems that neither party is quite ready to give in on some topics to which they hold dear.  The Republicans in the Senate have blocked passage of a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” just missing out on the filibuster-proof 60 vote majority by only three yeas.  And across the hall in the other chamber of Congress, the House Democrats rejected the compromise tax plan unless certain changes were made — although, it’s unclear exactly what would have to be amended to get the necessary vote.

Dems: pass the compromise tax cut bill and swallow your pride — be grateful for the extended unemployment benefits and other stimulus that comprises much of the $900 billion in spending and reap the benefits of the expected economic recovery that comes with the tax cuts continuing.

Repubs: just side with equality for once and pass the DADT repeal — it’s going to happen eventually, anyway, and getting the tax cut for the rich should bolster support from your base even if they’re leery about letting gays serve open in the military.

All Things WikiLeaks

Wow. If you haven’t been following this story, it has huge implications and ramifications on privacy, government power, and freedom of the press.

It’s gotten to be like a total movie.  Assange has been arrested without bail and is currently incarcerated in England; meanwhile, hacker supporters of WikiLeaks have literally taken down – at least partially – the websites of Visa and MasterCard and PayPal for their actions — which was caving to government pressure to stop supporting donations to WikiLeaks.  I’m finding this whole thing fascinating and can’t wait to read up more on it.  Conspiracy theorists must be having a field day with this.

Wild to see how this man’s crusade against government secrecy will probably, in the short-term at least, end up causing even less transparency and possibly even more restrictions of freedoms in America.  Will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

Fiscal Austerity

Britain’s moved much more quickly on making the harsh decisions required to balance their budget that America keeps putting off: cutting spending.  People love the idea of cutting spending so long as it’s not the programs that they like or from which they reap benefits.

Students rioted in London today in response to the government’s decision to raise tuition fees threefold. I can’t say that I support their methods whatsoever — violence isn’t the answer — but, as a former student who is still paying off my thousands and thousands in loans, I can understand the frustration and anger.  Especially if I were against the policies that had been part of the reason why my country was in such fiscal disarray, I’d find it downright unacceptable to bear the brunt of the burden of paying it off.

It’s not like not going to college is much of an option these days. Taking a look at the current unemployment rates here in the States, the less-educated are the ones who are mainly out of work, not college graduates.  So by raising tuition, it’s basically saying that it costs that much more to be an active, productive member of society.  They have the right to be angry, even if their tuition rates are still relatively affordable compared to those here in America.  It’s not like the cost of living ever truly goes down.  And it’s not like wages really go up in concert with those costs.  Hence: rioting.

Westboro Baptist Church

The lovely folks down in Florida have decided to protest the late Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral with their traditional fare of “Thank God for Breast Cancer” and “God Hates Fags” posters and chants.  To understand this mentality is to be mentally ill.  There’s truly no other explanation for the kind of misguided hate that these people ooze consistently, aiming their extreme judgment on people in their time of deepest sorrow.  I pity them because they must be some of the most damaged souls out there, battling such horrific demons of their own that they need to project that darkness onto those they’ve never even met in most cases.

The free speech battle will continue, I’m sure.  I’ve said before my thoughts on it.  If we can restrict when and how people can shout the word “FIRE!” then it doesn’t seem to me a stretch to disallow protests at anyone’s funeral.  Although, perhaps I’m being overly protective on this one.  Maybe it’s a necessary evil to protect all of our free speech and right to assembly.

Conclusion

Doing these bite-sized views of multiple stories in one blog is not nearly as time-saving as I imagined it would be.  I just end up riffing too long on each subject that it gets to be rather lengthy accidentally.  For those of you still reading this, thanks for sticking around.

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Politicians Avoiding the Press: If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get out of the Election

10.23.10

Many politicians are shying away from doing interviews with press anymore — sometimes only doing so if they get the questions ahead of time so they can be prepared or only sitting down with people from specific networks that tend to be favorable to candidates of their party.  (I’m looking at you, Sharron Angle.)

There are all kinds of issues with this — especially in Angle’s case of wanting the press to report the news how she wants it reported (the very definition of bias).  But, I’m going to focus on one that just hit me today.

If you can only handle pressure and adversity if its scripted and handed to you before hand so you can be prepared, how in the world are you going to deal with the constantly changing conditions and situations that come with actually winning an office seat?

Life doesn’t come at us in a way that gives us time to always be prepared to face whatever it throws at us.  Especially for politicians, you have to be quick on your feet.  So while I get the dangers associated with avoiding the press — the increasing demonization of the press (it’s true: not all reporters are cynical and biased) and the lack of knowledge about the candidates themselves — it seems like this would be an issue that should worry people on both sides of the political aisle.

Shouldn’t a political candidate be able to handle the heat that gets thrown at them, even if its unsavory and unprofessional, and especially if its critical and policy-related? Even if the press had some sort of ulterior motive by a shadow conspiracy to take down a particular party, wouldn’t it behoove the candidates to take them on and be seen as the sane, rational voice instead of vice versa?

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24 Hour News Cycle to Blame for Fringe Radicals Getting National Spotlight

09.17.10

It’s quite a stunning statement about the state of the American press when the activities and fringe interests of the very few — we’re talking fewer people than you’ll find cars in your average supermarket parking lot — gain such natural interest as to make the military leader of our forces in Afghanistan personally state his disapproval of said activity.

Take a look at this diagram I found courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

MuslimVennDiagram

Image via Mark Shea:

It’s easy as pie to generalize to millions of people the crimes of a few. We Catholics have had it done to us. And we can have it done to us again. So we should be bloody cautious about insane schemes to do it to 18 million fellow citizens.

The grotesque excuse “But the the first amendment is dead, and Islam killed it. There is no ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of religion’ with the threat of Muslim violence hanging over your head” is rubbish. Cancelling the rights of 307 million people because you are, by your own admission, afraid is neither patriotism, nor courage, nor Christian fortitude. It is cowardice. And it is extra-special cowardice when you are ready to cancel your most precious national heritage because you are afraid of a speck.

I couldn’t say this any better myself even if I tried.

Some could argue that it is newsworthy — sure, burning the Quran will get you noticed.  But, this is the kind of thing for Hard Copy (if it were still around) or the local Gainesville six o’clock news.  It went from a blip on the radar – where it should’ve remained – to garnishing worldwide attention because our 24-hour news cycle needs to fill their shows with content, regardless of how newsworthy the item may be.

And if it’s not quite newsworthy enough, well, rest assured that the weeks and weeks of talking heads commenting on the rightness or wrongness of Rev. Terry Jones and his Quran-burning plans will make it so.  (Note that they must include the rightness AND wrongness because they mistake their role of reporting the truth with being balanced on every topic, no matter how lunatic.)

And to what end?

All that’s happened is that these radicals have been legitimized.  Now Rev. Jones is planning to go to New York City to talk to Imam Rauf regarding the “Ground Zero” mosque.  Since when does a Gainesville reverend with a congregation of 50 followers have any authority whatsoever to involve himself in the building plans in a neighborhood 1,000 miles away from where he calls home?

Oh right.  Because he was on the news TV.

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Judd vs. The MSNBC Volcano

01.28.10

Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H) – who was mentioned in last night’s State of the Union by President Barack Obama as a co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action Act of 2009 – got into it with MSNBC hosts Contessa Brewer and Melissa Francis tonight.  You can see the clip below of what set him off:

This is not good reporting. It’s these types of shows that lend evidence to the notion of a liberal-controlled MSM; this show is clearly slanted. Not that it’s some rarity – MSNBC and Fox News each have their own plethora of shows that pander to their respective audiences. Francis’s only reason for throwing out the cutting education bit was to inflame the situation, get some juicy soundbites perhaps (check!), and try to peg the Republicans as being so caught up in their ideology against spending as to not even want to invest in education, which is wrong – not even Republicans are calling for education cuts (except in Michigan, where the situation is so dire that even Democratic Governor Granholm is cutting state funding for schools).

Insinuating that Gregg and the Republicans want to cut education gets us nowhere.  It was a conversation ender.  Gregg goes into how he would cut funding of TARP and the stimulus bill.  Perhaps they could’ve asked him how that would affect the extremely fragile nature of the economy.  Or ask where the Republicans were on fiscal responsibility the past eight years when the GOP’s spending was out of control, leading us to our current massive deficit and subsequent recession.  Plenty of directions to go.  Accusing him of cutting education wasn’t one of them.

(H/T Memeorandum)

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Obama’s “Struggle” More Than Just Semantics

02.01.09

You can say the same thing in dozens of ways.  That’s one of the perks of language.  The English language particularly.  How you say something, though, can drastically change the meaning, even if on the surface, it’s saying the same thing.

However, Obama isn’t just saying the same thing in a different way by dropping the Bushism “War on Terror.”  He’s completely changing the message:

President Barack Obama has talked broadly of the “enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.” Another time it was an “ongoing struggle.”

He has pledged to “go after” extremists and “win this fight.” There even was an oblique reference to a “twilight struggle” as the U.S. relentlessly pursues those who threaten the country.

Does it really make a difference other than just trying to separate and distance himself from his unpopular predecessor?  Absolutely.

Because it shows a change in philosophy, a different approach to the same conflict, one that doesn’t live in ultimatums and absolutes but allows for a spectrum of responses and possibilities.  A struggle doesn’t implicitly pronounce one side to be good and the other evil.  It allows for the option that it’s not nearly as cut and dried as that.  A struggle can be resolved, where as a war can only be won or lost.  It takes the importance off of America’s ego and need to be the victors and instead lets us be the one who helps solve the global plague of terrorism and extremism.

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A Breath of Fresh Air

01.26.09

Talk about a total climate change.

Everyday I read more and more about what President Obama is doing and I’m constantly refreshed by the actions he’s taking and the words he’s saying.  He proves that you can have a respectful air of authority without being a total cowboy.  His is a cerebral confidence and one of intelligence and rationality.  Exactly the kind of traits we need in an American leader.

“I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”

Somehow I think Obama’s approach to the situation trumps Bush’s: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

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Investing in Education, What a Novel Concept

01.26.09

Andrew Leonard at Salon.com offers a compelling argument in favor of Obama’s economic stimulus plan to increase the amount of funds allocated to the Pell Grant – a financial aid program that gives out money for college to families who make under $50,000 a year – that even Republicans should get behind.

“…in contrast to tax cuts, the Pell Grants also serve a long-term interest: Increasing access to education. So in the long run, the country gets a more educated workforce, while in the short run, lower-income families find their own budgetary constraints loosened.”

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Why Proposition 8 Failed

01.26.09

The leaders of the No on Prop 8 movement gathered together at a summit last week to plan for the future and also to look back on the misteps of the previous push toward marriage equality.  The article shows that even amongst those involved in the campaign, there are different ideas on how best to reach the undecided voters.  My favorite part was a quote from unplanned speaker Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

“In 1994, I first began to stand up on the floor of the Legislature and talk about these issues, and talk about that this was the last frontier of the civil rights movement, that this was the only area where people of conscience, people who think they’re not bigoted in any way, feel like they can discriminate … feel like they can say no to you for a job, no for housing … say no to this community and equality of rights when it came to domestic partnerships, and now equality of marriage,” Villaraigosa said.

“We know it’s time to say: ‘Yes. Yes, we can. Yes, we will,'” he said. “I’m going to stand with you every step along the way … not because it’s popular (but) because it’s the right thing for us to do.”

(The italics are mine.)

Villaraigosa really captures the mentality of the Yes on 8 voters that I experienced last fall.  I don’t know how many conversations I had with people who recoiled in horror at the thought that their anti-gay marriage opinions were bigotted in any way, shape, or form.  It felt like if you threw out the “bigot” term at someone, it was worse than whatever the person had said to merit the title.  As if “bigot” is a slur.

You’ve heard the arguments: being gay is an immoral lifestyle choice, gay marriage infringes upon my religious freedom and ruins the sanctity of marriage, I don’t want homosexuality taught to my kids.  But it all comes down to the same distinct desire: to deny rights to another group of Americans based only on their sexual preference. Because their specific, PERSONAL belief set tells them that being gay is a sin.

Perhaps these people are not bigots through and through, but the reasoning behind their stance on Proposition 8 (and, let’s be honest, homosexuals in general) must be defined as bigoted.  It says so in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:

Bigoted

Big”ot*ed, a. Obstinately and blindly attached to some creed, opinion practice, or ritual; unreasonably devoted to a system or party, and illiberal toward the opinions of others

Unreasonable is putting it nicely.  Irrational and unbelievable is more like it.

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New Location, Same Mason Ranting

01.23.09

I’ve been wanting to upgrade from my faux-blog Facebook Notes for quite some time and even went so far as to set myself up over at Blogger to continue the oftentimes controversial discussion, but it just never materialized.  I didn’t feel cozy over there in Bloggerville.  I needed a change of scenery.

So, here I am!  Time to get moving on some real blog-and-comment action in true WordPress style!  Let’s see if the new digs will aid in my still nascent blogging abilities.  Here’s hoping.

For the inaugural post I really wanted to dig into some meaty material and give Number 43 a real tongue lashing that would be a good signal of what to expect from future posts (in case you’re just reading my thoughts for the first time) but I need more time to compile my list of grievances before I can really do that topic justice.  Plus, Lance did such a great job in his Facebook note a week or so ago that I really need to collect my thoughts before I do a half-ass job.

Instead, let’s tackle a nice, shiny news item!

House Republicans have offered up an alternative stimulus plan to President Obama that proposes tax cuts instead of government spending.  According to the Yahoo! News article:

“The alternative includes across-the-board cuts in the two lowest income tax brackets, placing unemployment benefits off-limits to taxation and a new $7,500 break for home buyers who make a minimum down payment of 5 percent.”

Having spent a short time in the third tax bracket, I’m now firmly in the second lowest tier, which means that the proposed tax cut would help me.  It sounds great, sure, but I can’t remember the last time I actually paid income taxes in April of any year, so I don’t know that this will really affect me enough to help stimulate the economy.

Also, I’m not going to be buying a house any time in the foreseeable future: I live in one of the most expensive markets in the country, as indicated above I am in the second lowest tax bracket so you can guess I don’t exactly have much expendable income laying around, and, frankly, the housing market isn’t the solid investment it used to be.

The plan banks on the concept that with more incentives and fewer tax burdens, people will spend more to jump-start the economy.  Problem is, so many people are out of jobs, how does this plan factor in unemployment?  Without a job, buying a home is out of the question.  They address it here:

“Another provision would also cut taxes for small businesses.”

With unemployment rates soaring and a potential disaster looming with the Big Three I just don’t see small business entrepreneurs saving us.  We need something else.

As well as offering $275 billion in tax cuts, Obama and the House Democrats propose spending $550 billion thusly:

“Much of the spending would come in politically popular areas such as health care, food stamps and road construction and would include money designed to blunt the impact of state budget cuts affecting schools.”

We just got out of an administration that claimed conservatism yet practiced uncontrolled fiscal irresponsibility.  If we’re going to be spending hundreds of billions of dollars, I’d MUCH rather see it go to help AMERICANS instead of paying for a war in Iraq.  Investing in health care, social programs, and road construction will create jobs here at home instead of lining the pocketbooks of independent contractors overseas.