Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

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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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How to Start Blogging: Read Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish

10.12.10

Andrew Sullivan’s political commentary blog, The Daily Dish, has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary of existence.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, for me, my own year-plus of blogging here on Agree to Disagree started in large part because of Sullivan’s writing.  His and John August’s eponymous blog are the two blogs that I’ve read since I knew what a blog was (honestly: I can’t remember the first time that I started reading either, it’s been so long) that I never fail to read on a consistent basis — it used to be daily, but now it’s more like every two or three days when I get the chance to catch up on everything, which takes a while since Sullivan is nothing if not prolific.  (Seriously, this guy blogs a TON.)

Why do I read Sullivan (almost) daily?

He’s a phenomenal writer and he has integrity.  He’s one of the few out there in the political realm who is willing to admit he’s wrong and change his mind on something if the facts present a different view than he originally saw. Sure, it helps that I see eye-to-eye with him on many levels — gay rights, Sarah Palin being insane, the intellectual dishonesty of the GOP, the appalling stances on the legality of torture, the legalization of marijuana — just to name a few.

On the other hand, he is a classic conservative while I consider myself a liberal; whatever that means.  If it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years of reading Sullivan, it’s that those labels mean much less than the actual stances one takes on specific subjects and policies.

I’ve always had trouble with people generalizing and being overzealous about casting aside an entire group of people — whether based on religion, race, sexual or political orientation, etc. —  and Sullivan helped me realize that neither “conservative” nor “liberal” nor “moderate” can truly describe the thoughts and feelings of a person — many in the conservative community don’t even consider Sullivan one of their own.

I don’t mean to give him such high praise as if he’s perfect and unerring.  Far from it, just like the rest of us.  But, the candid quality of his writing is immediately relatable and inspiring — even when I disagree with him — because I know it’s coming from an honest place.  He doesn’t take a stance just for the sake of being sensational.

It’s because it’s how he feels.  It’s because it’s what he thinks.

What does this mean for you?

Probably nothing.

Other than that you read me (thank you!) and probably have seen me quoting Sullivan frequently or giving him hat tips for providing source material for my own blogs.  He’s been a huge inspiration to me and it’s blatantly evident in how I write in these posts. I have no shame.  Might as well learn (read: imitate) from the best.

Here’s to you, Andrew and the team at The Dish: many thanks for your continued excellence in adding quality content to the blogosphere.  I hope to one day hold a candle to what you’re able to do.

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Obama’s ‘State Secrets’ a Bigger Threat to Our Free Society than Health Care Ever Will

09.26.10

Those in the Tea Parties like to rally against government getting too big and usually cite the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, and the health care reform as tell-tale signs that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into socialism.

It seems that the size of government, regardless of what those programs intend to do or why they were enacted in the first place, trumps the content of the policy.  It’s a simple numbers game for them.  In their mind, the government has peaked that curve that tips us from capitalism into socialism in their own view of the world and that’s that.

But what about the real issue of government getting too big: the deprivation of American civil liberties. And it’s already been happening.  First under Bush with the warrantless wiretapping and torture of terror suspects and now with Obama’s declared execution of an American citizen without any formal charges or due process:

Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.

What’s a more egregious act of a too-powerful government: making everyone have health insurance or the ability for the president to kill Americans with total impunity?  Why aren’t more people on all sides of the political divide beyond outraged at this?!

Is it because Anwar Awlaki – an American citizen – is an alleged (not even accused, because there haven’t been formal charges even) terrorist and traitor?  Unfortunately it seems that a large swath of Americans – including most, if not all, of the GOP – feel that once someone is deemed a terror suspect, they lose all human rights — as evidenced by the support of torture, rendition, and imprisonment for indefinite amounts of time without trial, even for American citizens.

How anyone could be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government yet support any of these powers that the President has given to the executive branch lacks any and all intellectual honesty.  It’s downright baffling and oxymoronic.

It must be problematic for those on the right because their fostered hatred for all things Islam has them believing that all Muslims are “the other,” they’re not truly American – even if they are U.S. citizens – which lets them be okay with this because, after all, it’s not like Obama is attempting to assassinate Bubba Joe Thompson from South Carolina or something.  It’s Anwar Awlaki from New Mexico.  With a name like that and the government saying that he’s a terrorist, well, that’s all the evidence I need!

Sigh.

It’s all good when the President is using those extra-constitutional powers to get the bad guys when the bad guys aren’t you.  But what happens when some radical in your social, ethnic, or religious group ends up doing something awful and all of a sudden you’re lumped in with them and targeted by the government?  What then?  By then it’ll be too far gone to stop.

This is why it’s so dangerous to conflate Islamic, murderous radicals with all Muslims, of which they constitute a tiny minority.  We get these knee-jerk reactions that toss away our civil liberties that we fought so hard to gain centuries ago, all under the guise of security and safety and protecting the American way of life.

Unfortunately, it seems that by having Obama – who was elected to clean up government and end these atrocious violations of the Constitution – continue and expand them, it may be too late to change already.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele.

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If California GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman Needs a Bully to Quiet the Dissent, How Does She Expect to Govern the State?

09.25.10

Now, I know, I know. I shouldn’t generalize. But, isn’t it funny that Gov. Chris Christie, the big guy who stepped in to confront a heckler during a GOP gubernatorial event for California candidate Meg Whitman, happens to be from New Jersey?

But aside from that: is this truly the way that Meg Whitman intends to run our state of California? With some personal bodyguard from Jersey stepping in — to not even argue for her, but — to just hush the opposition through schoolyard bully tactics? I wonder if that’s her plan when she disagrees with the California Legislature on policies — just call up Gov. Christie, have him come down there to the State Senate and say, “Yell at me, but don’t give her a hard time.”

Don’t give her a hard time!? She’s running for governor in a state that can’t even produce a budget three months after its constitutionally mandated deadline! If she wanted a cakewalk, she definitely chose the wrong profession.

So, basically, we have one governor using his size and soapbox (why exactly was he there to begin with anyway?) to intimidate (I guess yelling divides the country but finger-pointing unites us?) someone exercising his civil right to question a potential state leader, and another wannabe-governor completely unable to deal with one dissenter in a sea of supporters.

These are the types of people that voters think can lead our country better? Unbelievable.

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Why the GOP is Scared of their Tea Party Frankenstein

09.17.10

I’ve been saying all along that this wave of anti-establishment sentiment made no sense.

It’s something inherently ridiculous — elect me to go to Washington because I’m not from Washington so I’ll be different.  As if simply being new means that you’re better.  Or that just because you’re “part of the establishment” that your ideas, your plans, your policies are wrong.  There’s also the fact that the minute you get elected, you then are part of the establishment, the very group of people you were saying weren’t as good as you simply because they were in that group that you’re now a part of.  It makes no sense writing this and it makes no sense doing it.

It seems to be working, though, for Tea Party candidates much to the chagrin of the GOP elites, like Karl Rove himself:

“But we also can’t make progress if we have candidates who got serious character problems … [O’Donnell] attacked [Castle] by saying he had a homosexual relationship with a young aide with not a bit of evidence to prove it.”

Christine O’Donnell won the Republican primary for Senate in Delaware, beating out GOP incumbent Mike Castle.  And if you don’t know much about O’Donnell, well, she’s quite the character.  She’s what we call an ultra-conservative, which is saying something considering how far to the political right the current conservative movement has become. (I mean if you’re too conservative for Karl Rove, holy shit.)

Just take a look at the things O’Donnell stands for:

  • Opposes legal abortion, even in cases of rape and incest
  • Against women in the military
  • Believes gays can be “cured”

And here’s the best: Opposes masturbation, also believing it’s a form of adultery.

While her win was a huge upset, it’s important to note two things:

  1. She only won by a margin of 58,000 Republican votes
  2. She’s overwhelmingly favored to lose to Democratic candidate, Chris Coons

The main players within the GOP know that she’s far too radical to win the general election in a predominantly liberal state, which is why they rushed to support Castle, who has represented Delaware in the Senate since 1993.  It seems that the unilateral anti-incumbent mentality has backfired against the Republicans after all, which doesn’t shock me in the least. Because it’s not like Democrats are the only ones who have held office for a long time in the big boy’s club of D.C.  But the anti-establishment mentality is blind to party lines, apparently.

Most observers agree that O’Donnell has no chance of beating Democratic nominee Chris Coons in November, so for Republicans, an O’Donnell win means failing to gain a Senate seat, and thus likely losing any chance of taking control of the upper house.

The GOP has supported the Tea Party because it appealed to their base — angry, older, white, Christian voters.  But now that their own Frankenstein monster has turned against them, it seems that the political right has a bit of a civil war on their hands.  While the GOP has enjoyed the turning of the tide in their favor when it comes to polls, they’re showing that they’re worried that the exclusionary rhetoric of the Tea Party won’t win major elections — why else would they go to such lengths to bash O’Donnell despite having the backing of the political right god, Rush Limbaugh?

Perhaps the reality that having no real plans for healing the country has finally taken hold.  After all, you can only run campaigns on pointing fingers for so long before those fingers come pointing back at you.

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Our Current American Political Climate: Why is Government a Four-Letter Word?

09.14.10

Why do people imagine government workers are lazy, overpaid, and unproductive drains on society?  And what positions are people imagining to personify all government workers?

Based on my own notions, I figure most people are thinking about one of two people: postal service employees, and overstaffed, nondescript office personnel in DC.

But, how many Americans employed by the government fit into these roles?

Let’s crunch some numbers:

Number of postal workers587,768 (2009)

Number of federal financial administration* employees: 107,221 (2009)

Number of full-time federal employees: 2,518,101 (2009)

(I picked “financial administration” because that seemed generic enough for the sake of this humble blog, which doesn’t claim to be an expert on these matters, simply a rough estimate for the sake of argument.)

Whipping out my abacus, it looks like those who represent the average “government worker” in the mind’s eye of many Americans account for less than 28 percent of those employed by the government.

Not remotely close to being the majority, it’s hard to argue that these people should be the face of the amorphous being that is the government worker, an arguably pointless term anyway.  If you work for a private company, are you a private worker?  Are you a free market employee?  Does that even come remotely close to defining your job, your title, your business?  Of course not.  So, why should we lump all government workers under the gigantic umbrella that is called “government.”

The truth is that government workers are health care professionals, road workers, police officers, park rangers, librarians, lawyers, judges, correctional facility officers, FBI agents, scientists, teachers, and soldiers. Just to name a few.

Are teachers overpaid?  Are our troops?  Are our doctors lazy and unproductive?  How about our lawyers or librarians?

Absolutely there are individuals who are lazy, unproductive, and overpaid, just as there are in any industry, in any office, in any company.  But, to generalize all of the vastly different positions that fall within the realm of the government as such is simply unfocused anger and resentment without any depth of thought given to the argument.

And why so much animosity toward people who work for the government?  Especially during these times of economic woe, if the government is hiring and it means that people will be working rather than collecting unemployment during the recession, how is that bad?  And before you get all Ayn Rand on me, I get that it’s better for a free market to have more able bodies employed by the private sector, but it’s not as if simply working for the government means that you’re part of the government anymore than an average Wal-Mart employee should be blamed for the inequalities and questionable practices by Sam Walton’s progeny or the workers at Barnes and Noble should catch hell for the company not adjusting their business model to succeed in the 21st century.

When government has become a four-letter word in our current political times, it’s important to stop a minute and really think about what government means and how complex of an institution it is before making snap judgments about the people who call the state their boss.  It is valuable to be critical of governmental spending, but better to do so on a case-by-case basis rather than these broad generalizations that miss the reality of the situation.

America was founded on limited government, not no government at all.  And those who work for the state are Americans, too, trying to make ends meet, and possibly even performing tasks and duties that help you and our country as a whole.

Photo courtesy of ekonon’s Flickr Photostream.

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Why We Shouldn’t Stop Rev. Jones’ Quran Burning Party

09.08.10

Rising from the still-smoldering debate over the legitimacy of the Park51 community center is the Rev. Terry Jones’ proposed “Burn A Quran Day,” scheduled for this Saturday, September 11th.  Just like the name implies, from six to nine in the evening, people will gather to set copies of the Islamic holy text ablaze to show their opposition to the faith held by the radicals who attacked New York City nine years ago.

Jones’ plans have been met with considerable opposition of their own by just about everyone in the State Department and even from the military — General Petraeus warned that this very act could harm our efforts to control Afghanistan, even endangering our troops.

This hasn’t deterred Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center church.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church declaring “Islam is of the Devil.” But his Quran-burning scheme attracted wider attention… The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Religious freedom sure is an odd thing, isn’t it?  People want it when it suits them, but want ways around it when it doesn’t.  It’s part of the freedom’s brilliance and why it’s so vital to our Constitution.  Just like the Muslims have the right to build their mosque near Ground Zero, Jones and his own crew radicals have the right to burn some books.  Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion, however you want to slice it: they have the right to do this.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it an effective, worthwhile use of time.  Combating extremism with more extremism isn’t going to work.  Not to get all squishy, but you can’t beat hate with more hate.  You can’t beat ignorance with more ignorance.  You beat brutality with civility.  You overcome oppression with freedom.  You trump prejudice with acceptance.

What people don’t want to realize is that conflating all Muslims into radical terrorists is the same fallacy as Muslims condemning all Americans as infidels.  So, by blaming the entire religion of Islam for the terror attacks, Rev. Jones and his followers are responding to the mentality with which they disagree by adopting that exact mentality themselves. There’s very little in the way of logic going on here — it’s simply an “I’m right, they’re wrong” line of thinking.  No rationality required.

Another paradox is that these 50-odd people and their inflammatory plans for Saturday really could’ve just come and gone without much notice from anyone, except the media exploded this thing to the point where all levels of government voiced their opinions, it’s all over the news, all over the blogosphere.  It’s everywhere.  We could’ve all ignored Jones and his followers’ sad, unfortunate response to tragedy and they would’ve faded away without much of a whimper — no television stories for people abroad to see and misinterpret.

Although, that’s never going to happen — nor should it necessarily.  It is a news story, after all.  But does it require the amount of national exposure that it’s receiving?

People wonder why others hate Americans and then when snippets of news of Americans burning Qurans flood the airwaves, it’s not hard to see why they might be too fond of us.  Because just like how we only catch glimpses and read certain stories about what kind of people they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Palestine, you have to figure that people in those countries only catch glimpses and read certain stories about us, too.  And who knows what is being passed off to them as representative of Americans as a whole. Odds are that if there’s video footage of a bunch of Floridians burning Qurans gleefully, claiming that the entire faith is of the devil (remind you much of Ahmadinejad calling America the “Great Satan” at all?), that will make it over to those Islamic nations with which we’re firmly entrenched overseas.

While we can’t stop the Dove World Outreach Center from their Quran-burning plans, we can do our part to embrace our diversity and focus on remaining rational in the face of these highly emotional times.  Let them burn their books.  Because when has that ever changed people’s minds?  The beliefs aren’t in the books; they’re in people’s minds and hearts. They won’t accomplish anything good with their pointless, crude event, so why give them a soapbox any bigger than they already have?  Our efforts are best served doing something else, something productive, something positive.

If we continue to do more and more things that promote tolerance, acceptance, rationality, and – ultimately – positivity, we can outshine any blaze by the loud, radical outliers.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele — All Rights Reserved.  And no, it has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.  And we need more of that in the world, right now especially.