The Worship of Sports in America

Simply put, Americans take sports way too seriously.

How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Record High Black Male Unemployment -- The Non-Issue For Campaign 2012

With the Republican contenders for the 2012 party nomination already lining up, one issue in the news which started the usual talk of policy and political rhetoric was—oddly enough—the issue of the high rate of unemployment among African-Americans, particularly among black males. CBS evening news reported last week that unemployment among African-American males was an astounding 17% nationally, a rate not seen since the Great Depression.
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This high number seems almost welcoming when you consider that in some areas, the unemployment rate for black males is actually double this figure. According to the think tank, the Community Service Society, 34% of black men, ages 19 to 24 in New York City are not working. In Milwaukee, the rate is also 34%.

With such a tailor-made campaign season issues served up to them, some GOP candidates took the cue and began bringing attention on the problem. With an African-American Democrat in the White House, it was easy for those seeking to unseat President Obama to make the accusation that his administration’s policies were responsible for “causing” this crisis among this particular demographic, and “reveal” the failures of his policies. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has referred to President Obama as “the most successful food stamp president,” an all-too subtle racial jab as his being both black and [perceptually] “liberal.” Fellow contender Michele Bachmann noted that "This president has failed the Hispanic community. He has failed the African-American community" when it comes to the issue of high unemployment among these traditionally Democratic voting groups.
Ordinarily, this would be a welcome focus. But in an early election season, a time when political opportunism is seized without a second’s hesitation by those jockeying amongst a crowd of contenders for top billing in the polls, the sudden “interest” in the plight of black males is suspect to say the least. Although most Americans know all too-well this phenomenon of election season “awareness” and “concern” of voter issues by Republicans and Democrats, black males have always seemingly been an overlooked demographic, election season or not.
So when Gingrich and Bachmann blame President Obama for his inaction in addressing black (male) unemployment, they fail to mention that same lack concern from their own party in Congress is a contributing factor. Even as they accuse Obama of failing black males, “Republican leadership has not considered or introduced one single jobs bill,” according to Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO). Democrats, whom the majority of African-Americans’ have traditionally given their voting allegiance to since the days of FDR, haven’t been that much more helpful on the issue. The pitiful few Democratic legislators supporting the even fewer number of legislative initiatives introduced in Congress attempting to address this issue reflects the near-apathetic level of concern among even their political party.
Trying to discern which action—or lack thereof—is more shameful, Republicans trying to exploit the long-existing socioeconomic troubles of black males for political gain or relative Democratic inaction with regards to addressing the issue (despite unswerving allegiance by black voters) is almost a lose-lose proposition. But whichever the more dishonorable act, many black males are unable to partake in even the most minimalist aspect of the American Dream…employment.
Why are so many black males unemployed? The answer(s) is/are a convergence of socioeconomic factors meeting on the corners of individual selfishness and market realities boulevards.

Black Males
Among the individually selfish reasons for high unemployment among black males are black males themselves. Many black men are simply not participating in the lives of young black males (who have the highest unemployment rate among the highest unemployed demographic), with whom they could be a key asset in preparing them for a competitive national employment market. Fathers, community leaders, business owners, and other otherwise
socially and economically productive male figures should be among the obvious first-liners in crafting positive images among future black men, while directly or indirectly mentoring them. Roles models for this group are desperately needed, and such civic-mindedness would go a long way towards making a difference in the numbers. Sagging pants, recreational drug use, young fatherhood, inappropriate slang use, and unprofessional behavior with regards to employment needs to be discouraged, while job/employment skills, a sense of responsibility, a professional appearance and demeanor, appreciation and emphasis on education, and training need to be instilled in these potential economic resources (and to put too fine a point on the issue, black women—despite the will, good intentions, and/or attempts by many—simply are not up to the task of helping young black boys become productive and employed adult males). Growing up in the 1970s and even into the early 1980s, it was not uncommon—at least for me—to see older black males showing younger black males how to perform work-related tasks around the house, in the neighborhood, or even taking them to work with them (as many more were more economically stable enough to do so).

Ineffective Practices & Shifting Economic Trends
After ill-preparation from lack of family and community support, perhaps the biggest factor contributing to the high unemployment rate is an outdated public education system model. An over emphasis on designating many young black males as being special needs or placement in special education does not help. Lack of direct parental participation and support (outside of the occasional visit to the principal’s office to address disciplinary problems), lack of an emphasis on discipline, strong curriculums which resist political pressure (and negative parental interference), early intervention for potential issues interfering with education, and laws which allow many young people to drop out of school are all absent in a public education dynamic more conducive to encouraging failure rather than success for many young black males. And with more and more local school districts cutting back on already substantively anemic educational curriculums, difference-makers like vocational programs, high school co-op, career-track curriculum- building and counseling have all but become extinct.
With a lack of appreciation for (or an emphasis on) secondary and higher education, many black males who graduated from public schools tended to head immediately into employment, mostly in vocations which required little in the way of education beyond the basics such as manufacturing, construction and certain segments of the service industry. Many of these jobs have evaporated, especially in the last decade due to shifting market trends. And with the lack of career diversity among many males in general and black males in particular, many simply did not and do not have other career options outside of the most menial, most low-paying offerings…or criminal activity.
On that point, many black males have criminal records, which make them undesirable as potential employees, which segues into another reason for so many black unemployed males, discrimination.
Dr. Rodney Green, chairman of the economics department at Howard University and the executive director of the university’s Center for Urban Progress sums up the situation best:

There has been a consistent pattern of black male unemployment rates that are twice the unemployment of white, even in good or bad times,” Green said. He said this is due to continuing discrimination against black males in the labor market and also a split in the labor market where job loss is greatest in industries that employ large numbers of African-Americans such as construction, service and retail.

In the final analysis, even in the best economic times, when black males manage to overcome socioeconomic disadvantages, possess education backgrounds comparable to other successful males from other ethnic groups, and lack criminal records, employers will invariably still manage to overlook these individuals based on some minor prejudice or preference—conscious or not (a reality which I can personally attest to).
In an effort to address this issue—and to prove that not all public servants are oblivious to this issue—a few in Washington have opted to tackle the issue. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have taken up the cause, drafting and introducing some 40 bills in Congress in an effort to marshal the power of government to do what the private sector is clearly not up to task to do insofar as the high rate of unemployment among African-American males. Members of the CBC like Cleaver have introduced legislative initiatives such as his-14 House Democrat-sponsored Urban Jobs Act, mean to provide training and other related services to at-risk youth preparing to enter the work force through the allocation of federal grant money to already established programs (http://politic365.com/2011/05/18/urban-jobs-act-seeks-to-address-youth-unemployment-crisis/). But in the defense of the lack of Republican support on the issue, the support of only 14 Democrats is hardly something which Democrats can tout as “concern.” It says that there is the lack of concern is being exhibited by both parties, and that maybe there is something to the Republican accusation that Democrats take the African-American vote for granted.
The lack of legislative success has spurred the CBC to take drastic action in the form of its For the People Jobs Initiative, a cross-country roving job fair of sorts, scheduled to visit many of the most hard-hit urban areas where black unemployment is at it highest beginning this summer. With a schedule start in Chicago, the initiative will be comprised of more than just a roving job fair. Each two-day stop will also incorporate a town hall meeting in which job seekers can offer feedback and describe their employment challenges in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Los Angeles. And despite the lack of broad initial Democratic and Republican support, the CBC plans to continue introducing legislation based community response and feedback gathered at from its cross-country tour, and culminating in the commission of a jobs advisory council of top black economic and business experts. It is hoped that the end result will a report proposing a long-term solution for job creation and economic growth.
So while certain politicians—including members of Congress—seemed more concerned with holding town hall meetings regarding “attacks on our Constitutional rights” from health care reform, they neglected addressing an issue that had already been problematic in the black and urban communities. If conservatives want to reach out to black voters, blaming a president they voted for overwhelmingly for his lack of directly addressing such a crucial issue, all the while engaging in the same lack of concern is not the way to do so. And if liberals (actual and self-professed) want to give only half-hearted support to concerns which affect those who blindly support their political representatives, then perhaps it would be best for African-Americans to adopt a swing-block voting attitude.
Even more so, it would be sensible for African-Americans males to take to the streets and rally in much the same way they did during the Million Man March of the mid-1990s and politicize an issue of such vital importance to their economic livelihoods. At any rate, its time to make the high rate of unemployment among black males an issue for the next campaign season.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Campaign 2012 -- Let The Games Begin, Conclusion

As I tuned in to last week’s first GOP debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, I couldn’t help but engage myself in deep cynical thinking about how much the political process in America is illusion designed to misdirect the casual observer. After all, as the old adage goes, nothing that happens in politics is by accident. As I watched, I observed how much of this chase for the White House (and Congress) is just theater intended to ensure the self-interests of the political class, and to manipulate both our thinking and our perceptions as voting Americans for the sake of the monied and connected few. With regards to this reality, I am often left wondering if any Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier, or wannabe political aspirant actually believes what comes out of their mouths at any given moment as they seek public office.
As an illustration, in a Washington Post article dated June 19th, reporters Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam reveal a tactic used by those seeking high-profile political office known as the “money blurt.” The tactic works like this:

An up-and-coming [or established] politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation. And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations (see: "Michele Bachmann, others raise millions for political campaigns with ‘money blurts’")

In some ways, this practice illustrates how those seeking public office often give the poor dumb voter the impression that he has his/her best political interests at heart, while jockeying for position in a field of candidates usually engaged in chasing the same objectives.
Even worse are politicians so wedded to a particular ideology (such as Christianity, conservatism, or even liberalism) that they become inflexible in both thinking and beliefs, deluding themselves into thinking that this intransigence represents "convictions" shared by those who's perceptions they color with their words as they seek a public office as our representatives.
The next GOP candidate seeking the Republican nomination for president exemplifies this dynamic in spades.

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann, The first woman to represent the state of Minnesota in Congress, is another Tea Party favorite as well as an arch-conservative many times the magnitude of most of the men seeking the Republican nomination. For example on the issue of abortion, the staunchly anti-abortion (as well as staunchly Christian) candidate called on fellow candidate Mitt Romney to sign a “Pro-Life Pledge “and vow to protect life from conception to natural death.” Up till now, the GOP’s frontrunner has refused, preferring to focus on the economy as his platform issue. Her campaign’s response that “any Presidential candidate seeking our party's nomination should sign the SBA Pledge and vow to protect life from conception to natural death” reveals her ideological “convictions” as well as her political shrewdness. Granted her stance on abortion is no doubt genuine, her attempt to paint another party candidate into a corner on the issue is a transparent attempt not to create a unified ideological front on the issue, but to take a bit out of Romney’s front runner status. To this, I am reminded of Plato’s assertion that anyone who wants to be in charge shouldn’t be.
Bachmann also believes that the theory of “intelligent design” should be taught in public school science classes, supporting her stance that that evolution is a theory that has never been proven, one way or the other (forgetting that, of course, intelligent design can easily be labeled packaged pretty much the same way). Not only does such a stance laugh in the face of the doctrine of [the] Separation of Church and State, but as a lawyer, her stance puts her in a position of promoting her religious beliefs over a clear legal obligation to uphold a Constitutional principle…the same Constitution she professes to defend.

On the economy, Bachmann’s hard right-wing views find her criticizing even her own fellow Republican Party members—far beyond what one could consider campaign politics. In 2003 as a state senator, she disparaged an economic initiative of fellow Republican 2012 presidential candidate and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, comparing his administration’s “tax Free Zones” meant to spur economic growth to Marxist principles.
In her public appearances, she portrays herself as being rabidly against tax increases of any kind (although in 2005, she opposed Minnesota Governor Pawlenty’s proposal for a state surcharge of 75 cents per pack on the wholesale cost of cigarettes, calling it a “tax increase.” She later reversed her position and voted in favor of the cigarette surcharge). She is against minimum wage increases, and in favor of increases in exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas domestically. She is also in favor of pursing alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar (although it is unknown if she would support government economic subsidies for the latter…my guess is no).
She has called for phasing out both Social Security and Medicare, expressing that “we have to do is wean everybody else off” (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/bachmann-wean-everybody-off-social-security-and-medicare.php).
On social issues, Bachmann is consistent in her hard right-wing. Bachmann supports both a federal and state Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage (admittedly, marriage should be recognized as a union only between a woman and a man, but based on reasons of common sense stated in part 2 of this posting and not via legal codification).
She is against abortion, except in the cases of rape or incest.
She has vehemently attacked the Obama Administration-sponsored Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act/health care reform bill, calling it “unconstitutional” (although it’s a certainty that most people who go without or cannot afford health care coverage would not agree that their Constitutional “rights” are of more paramount importance than their ability to receive health care). She has outlined her own ideas for changing the health care system, including: enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines; increasing the use of health savings accounts; and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums; and tort reform.
On climate control, Bachmann has called global warming, a "hoax," saying that carbon dioxide is "not harmful" because it is a naturally occurring by-product of the life-cycle on earth. Personally, I have always wanted to know how those doubting the empirical evidence of global warming and climate change can reconcile their belief in an all-powerful invisible God whom they can't perceive by way of the senses, but deny what's going on right in front of their eyes (Read/Listen here for example).
On allowing would-be insurance buyers to purchase across state lines, one has to wonder how this would truly far this would to lower costs for the consumer. Increasing savings accounts sounds like a good idea on the surface, but is really a non-factor considering most service-sector jobs barely pay enough for a subsistence living, yet alone allowing for affording a luxury like health insurance; many consumers still struggle to afford even the deductibles and with more. And with more state governments demanding that their public employees contribute more to their benefits package, savings accounts just aren’t a practical solution for many. However, tort reform and deductibility of medical expense/premiums are viable solutions. Obviously, she is of the mindset that market-based solutions for socioeconomic problems are the only solutions (or the only ones which should be offered in a market-based economy), which is surprising for someone with her education background (she possess a Masters in Laws). But outside of these traditionally conservative options—by addressing costs rather than universal access—with regards to health care, she has not offered anything novel (or even substantive) in the way of a substitute beyond the rhetoric the current option’s unconstitutionality, and its effect of being a “job killer.”
Bachmann has also called for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, created under the late Republican President Richard Nixon, also calling it a “job killer” (apparently, labeling policies which don’t agree with her excessively conservative views “job killers” is enough to sway segments of the voting electorate who are susceptible to such manipulations of ideology).
Adolph Hitler once said that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will eventually become the truth, and that in the end, truth will not matter. The practice is all the more effective if you are able to find supporters from the gate. This is what I am reminded of in Michele Bachmann’s candidacy. She is quite vocal in her assertions that anyone [else] who doesn’t view social and political policies from her own perspective as being “out-of-touch with mainstream” views, but these loud protestations only mask the fact that her own views fit that particular bill more than others.
Adolph Hitler once said that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will eventually become the truth, and that in the end, truth will not matter. The practice is all the more effective if you are able to find supporters from the gate. This is what I am reminded of in Michele Bachmann’s candidacy. She is quite vocal in her assertions that anyone [else] who doesn’t view social and political policies from her own perspective as being “out-of-touch with mainstream” views, but these loud protestations only mask the fact that her own views fit that particular bill more than others.
A lawyer by profession, Bachmann is quite an elegant and polished speaker. She knows how best to persuade a group of people trying decide for themselves what is right. But most of America’s voting electorate lack the time (or patience) to look into the substance of issues for themselves, and shrewd politicians know this. They are able to take advantage of our propensity to listen to what others have to say on a particular issue, rather than self-research. And if the message is elegant and persuasive enough—fact checking and intentional distortions notwithstanding—expect even the most marginal candidate for office to have a level of legitimacy.
Although clearly competent, her views on how best to govern the country simply do not have the best interests of all Americans at heart. In fact, her view of America seems to reflect the views of a select few whose social, economic, and ideological interests would benefit. And although this is not the case with Obama’s Administration, it appears that at least his attempts to craft policies which the majority can benefit from are more in line with the country’s promise.

Note: Beyond The Political Spectrum will continue throughout the 2012 presidential campaign to look at other contenders for both the Democratic and Republican nominations

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Campaign 2012 -- Let The Games Begin! Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of this particular posting, last week’s Republican debate signaled that our country is about to enter another long presidential campaign season (or is that seasons?). And as a dyed-in-the-wool cynic when it comes to political observation, it would be nice to see a change of pace from the usual big money influence, series of spoken half-truths, lies, political pandering, sanctimony, and the implication that my ideology is better than yours when it comes to running the country. As I’ve always said, America should be governed based on the principles of need, not by ideology. To that effect, government has the potential as well as the resources to help in some quarters, but can be a hindrance in others. Despite this reality, the politicians we elect either adopt or reject this reality—extremely in some cases—due to their inability to think beyond the narrow ideological interpretations they hold, self-interests, the interests of whatever socioeconomic, political, or organization they belong to, and/or a combination of these reasons. Additionally, with most elected officials at the federal level seemingly betrothed to Special Interests and the dollars they flood into the coffers of these politicians, we Americans are left with the non-choice of candidates that know will inevitably work against the collective interests. So all we can do is watch debates like the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire last week and make a best guess which candidate will make a half-way decent president based on their performance and the stances they take on various issues.

Ron Paul
Polling at only 7% likely Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal Pool, week of 06/11/11), Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian-tinged message has some support among elements of conservative voters as well as some independents tired of [the] more traditional choices when it comes to presidential contenders. Perhaps his overall message is best summed up as libertarian with hints of pragmatic conservatism; the “legalization of freedom.” His low polling among conservatives overall, but popularity among segments (exemplified by his win of the straw poll of likely Republican candidates at last week’s Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans) gives him a half-hearted appeal among likely voters. Admittedly, much of his message makes a great deal of sense, so its understood why of the individuals his message resonates with adopt a “I-like-this-about-him-but-not-that” attitude.

For example, on the subject of marriage—both gay and straight—he refuses to support legislation which bans or legalizes gay marriage because he believes that marriage should be sanctioned through a church. In fact, he believes that anything having to do with relationships should definitely not be dealt with on the federal level, and that states should decide what they want. Ultimately, he is of the opinion that a license for any marriage through government should not be necessary because marriage is a religious matter. However, not only does this position put him at odds with Christian Conservatives, a main constituent base for Republicans, but is not practical (at least for heterosexual couples) given that government recognizes the partnership of marriage for legalities involving consideration of financial benefits, inheritance, asset division/recognition, etc. As I stated in part 1, common sense dictates that the Founding Fathers could not have remotely considered that two adults of the same sex would want to marry one another, so in that respect, Paul is correct. There should not be any federal legislation in regards to the recognition that a marriage is between a man and a woman…it just goes without saying. He believes that government has no business in economic or social relationships.
While on the subject of homosexuality, Paul is on record as being against laws at the federal level restricting rights to individuals thus he voted to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in the military (he believes that homosexuals shouldn't be discharged if they are not causing a disruption. His “legalization of freedom” approach towards homosexuality carries over to other libertarian beliefs he holds, and he has called for the legalization of drugs and prostitution.

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On abortion, he believes that aborting a child is an act of violence and should not be funded on a federal level. But unlike most political conservatives, he believes that states should decide whether or not abortion should be legal. I become nervous whenever a politician passes the buck to states to determine laws which have such far reaching social impact as abortion; handing states a disproportionate amount of power to make such laws is why the Articles of Confederation didn’t work, as such an extreme practice of federalism renders the central government impotent. This would have to be the inevitable result of Paul’s view of America, as he proposes to eliminate many federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Energy, and Homeland Security. States, many of them already financially strapped, cannot handle so much implied delegation of traditionally federal responsibilities.
On the economy, Paul said that he would cut military spending and foreign involvement in order to trim the deficit. In addition, he believes that we could eliminate the income tax (I’m loving this) if we drastically cut spending, which would cut the influence of special interests in government.
On health care, he has stated that he would repeal the new health care law signed under President Obama, as he thinks it represents more unnecessary “big government.”
Paul, for all the sense he makes on some of the issues, would probably best be served if he were running on a third party. It would detract from his legitimacy as a serious candidate for the presidency, but it would also add to elements of his appeal, such as the perception that he is not the typical Washington insider.


Herman Cain
For all intents and purposes, Herman Cain is what I consider to be the “Anti-Obama.” He’s African-American. But he’s not as politically astute, polished, nor does he project a noticeable amount of the President’s Charisma. He’s pretty much self-made, having worked in business most of his post-Navy life (compared to Obama, who cut his chops working as an activist among Chicago’s politically disenfranchised before being elected to the U.S Senate). He also, like Palin, is adored by many within the Tea party movement as well as many within the Republican Party as a whole. To be totally honest, its hard to consider him a serious contender without the name recognition of other Republican challengers, or having held any political office (his most notable forays into organized politics was his failed 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate seat representing Georgia, and as an advisor on the 1996 presidential campaign of former Senator Bob Dole during his failed run). On some issues, he is quite the conservative, but seems to take a moderate cautious tone on others, especially on foreign affairs.

On abortion, he is steadfastly against the practice, even in cases or rape or incest (although I feel its not my place in such a situation to tell a woman what to do, abortions due to rape and/or incest account for only 1% of the total number of abortions in a given year, so using such a justification to defend the other 99% of women who undergo abortions as a form of retroactive birth control doesn’t seem to hold water. In this respect, Herman’s view may be valid). Furthermore, he believes that Planned Parenthood should not be funded, and has called it a “racist” organization since “75% of their organizations are located in black communities.”
On same-sex marriage, Cain opposes legal recognition of same-sex unions (he believes that marriage is a union between a man and woman only), and believes that homosexuality is a “sin,” as well as a choice. He is on record as opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
On the economy, he embraces the long-held and long-ago debunked myth of trickle down economics; cutting taxes for all businesses will stimulate growth and create jobs. He also thinks that economy stimulus involves eliminating entire programs rather than just trimming budgets.
On health care, he has been opposed to any form of “nationalized” health care since then president Bill Clinton proposed it back in the early 1990s. Like most, he holds the private market sacrosanct when it comes to resolving the dilemma of the millions of uninsured Americans who simply cannot afford protection against the prohibitively expensive health costs.
On foreign policy, Cain has been supportive the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, while opposing withdrawal timetables.
He favors a “diplomatic approach” toward Iran with regards to nuclear disarmament. But he opposes any negotiation with North Korea and opposed the New START treaty with Russia, stating that the US reserves the right to maintain freedom to develop nuclear weapons while maintaining peace through a show of strength.
Finally on energy, Cain favors offshore drilling, while allowing the consumer to choose alternative forms of energy through the private market. This is not an easy position to support, as continual drilling maintains a stagnant technological status quo where America would still be dependent on “black gold” as a primary energy source, and in which we would have to inevitably continue to have to rely on politically unstable regimes in equally unstable regions to supply us.
Cain seems to be an individualistic thinker, but seems to be too driven by his religious convictions (he is an active minister and active member of the National Baptist Convention). Caution should be had here. The last time religious fervor impacted secular government policy, we got Prohibition…and we see how well that worked…
Cain seems to need more experience in affairs of the state before he can be considered a competent contender as a representative of the people. And for goodness sake, leave the religious out of affairs of the state!

To Be Concluded...



Saturday, June 18, 2011

Campaign 2012 -- Let The Games Begin! Part 1

I make the following declaration knowing full well that some of you are simply not going to agree with me; I like President Obama. What's not to like? He's polished, eloquent, intelligent, accomplished, comes from a tradition of activism among the poor and disenfranchised, and his life's journey makes a great narrative for those seeking to strive in an America of promise. And no, I don’t agree with every policy of his administration (his opposition to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques to elicit useful information from detained terror suspects comes immediately to mind). But despite the ridiculous accusations from [individuals who delude themselves into thinking they represent] mainstream and fringe-minded individuals who accuse Obama of being all but a spearhead for a Socialist fifth-column within the American government, some of us realize that he comes from an activist-tradition, and is trying his best to undo—within four years yet—circumstances which took more time than that to create. Quite simply, these economic woes were in place before his being voted into office by the American people, and despite the intellectual handicaps of many Americans who apparently suffer from short-term or selective memory issues, he cannot cross his arms and blink away these economic issues as fast as a genie obeying the will of her master; it took time to create this economic beast and it will take time to undo it.
That’s bit of open-minded reality I kept in mind as I watched the first GOP political debate of the 2010 presidential elections campaign, hosted by CNN. As I watched and listened to the various stances the candidates took on the various issues, most of the debate was more Obama-bashing than substantive counter-ideas for how to fix the ailing economy. As I listened, I also kept in mind that many of the anti-Obama policies that the candidates railed against tend to magically become adopted by Republicans whenever a Republican-controlled administration takes the White House, such as the decision to take military action against Libya, as its own military engages in a brutal offensive against rebel insurgents seeking to topple the regime of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi (granted, I agree that this action should not have been taken considering there are other instances of equally brutal government suppressions of dissent/popular uprising ongoing elsewhere in the Arab World). So ignoring how (for example) “interventionist” policies suddenly morph into “American interests” whenever there is a change in party control, I continued to watch the debates.
As I continued to listen, I was waiting to hear something fresh from conservatives [who at least gave lip service to the notion of] wanting to take America in a “new” direction. I heard Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann’s assertion that the government spends too much (now tell me something I don’t know), as well as her pledge to repeal the Obama-sponsored health care bill should she become president.
I also heard the always insightful Ron Paul’s revelation that the U.S. hasn’t developed any new jobs in the last decade to keep up with population growth.
There was Republican front-runner and former Massachusetts Mitt Romney touting his contributions to the example of the economic Shangi-La that is his home state.
And then there were more of the usual political truth-stretching, reality distortions, and outright lies you would find with most Republican (or Democratic) candidate debates (see analysis of debate points from Monday night's debate at factcheck.org. http://www.factcheck.org/2011/06/gop-new-hampshire-debate/).
And as I continued to watch, I found myself imagining that these Republican [and the inevitable Democratic] candidates running for the White House would actually be idea candidates who the American people would actually look forward to voting for simply because they are serving the people. I imagined them actually not flip-flopping on issues come election time, serving the people and not special interests, and actually being influenced by the will of the people, and not Big Money. I fantasized about how narrow-minded social-political ideologies would not be the basis for how they would govern, but rather focus on what people needed. I actually thought about how I would love for politicians to embrace and talk about ideas and policies based on truth, not beliefs. And I considered how much they could accomplish if they focused less on political posturing for the benefit of political advantage, or their libidos for the sake of their egos.
So in lieu of embracing a fantasy dream about how politics and candidates should behave, I took the time to look into where the various (and presumed) candidates stand on various issues of importance, and put them into the perspective of who’s actually presidential material.

Mitt Romney
Probably the most presidential material among the 7 from Monday night’s debate. He’s polished, experienced, but vulnerable on his propensity to change his stance on various issues. For example, in 2002 on the issue of abortion he endorsed the use of RU-486, the so-called “morning after” abortion pill. Furthermore, as governor of Massachusetts, he was vocal in his position on preserving a woman’s right to abort. Currently, he’s taken the traditional conservative stance against a woman’s right to abort her child (as well as it—and the death penalty—should be illegal if one is to promote himself as being “pro-life”).
Romney has also been on record as having been more liberal on the issue of gay rights back in the mid 1990s (he favored gays serving openly in the military and being able to work with the Boy Scouts of America). So despite his political likeability, he can be seen as a typical politician who changes position with the wind (but in his defense, you show me a politician who doesn’t change his/her stance on issues, I will show you an alien, a unicorn, and a ghost).
Current Republican frontrunner and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
Romney is a staunch supporter near-unrestricted gun ownership for qualified Americans (he does support rigorous background checks and automatic weapons ban when it comes to ownership. Personally, I wouldn’t feel safe in a house without a gun).
On foreign policy, Romney asserts that Americans should stand up to Muslim extremism and terrorism abroad. He believes that we can best protect America by first using economic sanctions on terrorist states first, but would not be averse to using military options if all else fails in protecting American interests.
On the economy, he supports the Bush era tax cuts and would make them permanent if he were president, but believes the flat tax (which many conservatives favor) is unfair and that the Fair-Tax would encourage illegal trading of goods. In addition, Romney believes that government waste is the biggest problem facing the economy in 2012 and that we should make drastic cuts for special programs and ultimately fixing the deficit. Sensible advice, which makes far more sense than promoting the fantasy of tax cuts as being a panacea for what ails American economically.
On health care, Romney believes that states should decide about health care and that the Obama health care plan is illegal and unconstitutionally illegal and is bad for the American people. I take serious personal fault with this stance, especially after having gone years without affordable health care. So apparently, my “constitutional rights” are more important than the ability to maintain my good health? I beg to differ, and I’ll wager that many others Americans in similar situations would agree. But he has faced a much criticism for endorsing a similar government run health care bill on the state level while he was governor, which he continues to. He has a solid record of being a business man as well as having executive level public office experience. Overall, the most moderate and likable candidate on the GOP’s rooster of candidates who could probably pull off a modicum of favorable policies under optimal political conditions.

Sarah Palin
The darling of the Tea Party, the ubiquitous Mrs. Palin seems for the moment, to be more content with promoting the Tea Party’s interpretation of what constitutes positive “change” by gallivanting all over the country and robbing headlines through speeches and personal appearances. And given her much documented gaffes verbal missteps—and there have been many—she could hardly be considered a conservative ideologue. Dan Quayle in a skirt comes to mind. For those reasons alone, I’m hardly at a loss for words in trying to understand Sarah Palin’s appeal among some of the American electorate.
Former Alaska Governor Sara Palin. Leadership material?
On gay marriage, Palin supported Alaska being among the first state to in the country (ok, among the fringes—pun intended—of the country) to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage. In fact, her first veto as governor of Alaska blocked a bill which would have barred granting state benefits to partners within same-sex partnerships. But more recently, she stated that she would support a ballot measure overturning the standing state Supreme Court decision that mandates benefits for domestic partners of state employees.
However, Palin is on record as being in favor of as supporting federal legislation banning gay marriage. It’s funny how Palin and the Tea Party asserts that there is too much government…up until its an issue that they support. While protecting the traditional American family is a laudable goal, does it really require legislation when so many social factors as well as individual choices are causing its implosion anyway (and yes, I do believe that the Founding Father could not have even imagined that marriage between two people of the same sex would or could have been an eventual issue when they were crafting the Constitution, and should not be a legal issue…at least it was conceived that blacks could have been considered citizens).
On abortion, she adopts the typical conservative paradox of being against abortion, but being pro death penalty. She believes that abortion rights should be left up to the individual states.
Being a hunter, she does support gun ownerships rights.
On foreign policy, her lack of experience holds her legitimacy to the level of opinion on certain issues, such as her assertion that
dictators who hate America…hate what we stand for, with our freedoms, our democracy, our tolerance, our respect for women’s rights. Ah Mrs. Palin, if it were only that simple an explanation.
On the economy, she has displayed a crippling lack of substance and/or depth. Its hard, outside of Tea Party-favored rhetoric to pinpoint what or how she would improve the economy.
On her experience, the fact that she resigned from her position of governor of the state of Alaska speaks volumes. The presidency is a different level of pressure, and if the executiveship of the least populated state proves overwhelming…
Does America really need someone in the White House who believes in the legitimacy of medical care death panels? Who’s to say that she wouldn’t believe that the Cold War with Russia were not still ongoing? After all, she can see it from her front door.


To Be Continued...
http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/2011/06/campaign-2012-lets-games-begin-part-2.html

Monday, June 13, 2011

Power Perverts (...and Absolute Power Perverts Absolutely!)

Last week when I was originally going to write on the subject of sexual promiscuity among politicians, elements of the scandal involving Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner and an adult movie actress ware still coming to light (now there are allegations that Weiner has been trading sexually explicit cell phone texts and pictures with a 17 year-old female teen). The direction I would have chosen for the post would have been one of condemnation of Weiner’s actions, along with other politicians within both the Democratic and Republican parties who were literally caught with their pants down.


Democratic New York State Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner in one of the cellphone photographs in question (courtesy of TMZ online).

Anthony Weiner. John Edwards. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Clinton. Newt Gingrich. Kwame Kilpatrick. I could use up the bandwidth of this blog with a complete list politicians have been embroiled in sex scandals, particularly those of the extramarital persuasion. What I wanted to do was put this list of cheating politicians in the perspective of questionable decision-making; Weiner has been around the proverbial political block long enough to have witnessed first-hand that such behavior among high profile politicians rarely goes unnoticed…or unrevealed. This is behavior that I can’t understand, even as a member of the male species.
And of course, we all know what happens after such personal indiscretions come to light. We can expect Weiner (or whichever future politician who will find himself in the same predicament) to check into some type of rehab clinic for whatever “help” he feels that he will need. We can expect a public apology in front of a room full of cameras, maybe with a should-be embarrassed wife standing (defiantly?) at his side. And maybe some high-profile counseling by an equally high-profile spiritual advisor.


New York State Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner, in a more official photograph.

But then, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a piece on its daily All Things Considered segment last Friday which forced me to reconsider how harsh my judgments would be. The piece, “Power May Increase Promiscuity” was an eye-opening examination of research delving into the link between sexual promiscuity and powerful people, and by extension politicians. The psychological research examined in the piece revealed that the sometimes unbelievable brazenness of politicians engaged in sexual peccadilloes is not as hard to understand as it would appear.
It seems that there is a lot of truth to the adage that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, for both men and women. The research concludes that
…the more men and women had power, the more they likely that they were to engage in an adulterous relationship. In fact, they were found that the most powerful people to be 30% more likely—both men and women—to have affairs than the least powerful people. The most powerful people were having many more affairs (http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.htmlaction=1&t=1&islist=false&id=137112887&m=137112867) To hear the piece in its entirety, click on the link and listen.

As I listened to [the] summaries of the experiments and research behind the findings, I gained a greater level of understanding into human nature. But I didn’t gain any sympathy; I wont yield in my judgments. The research link between power and promiscuity notwithstanding, Weiner should put his ego and selfishness aside and stop resisting the calls to step down.
Whenever public figures—especially politicians—such as Weiner engage in lewd sexual behavior and/or extramarital affairs, the fact that they are so willing to casually throw away the trust of their wives, families, and constituents, as well as make such reckless decisions fully aware of the personal costs indicates that they lack the character to represent We The People. Anyone in Weiner’s position should be big enough, responsible enough to both themselves and those whose trust he/she violates to step down and avoid further embarrassment to themselves, their families, and to the principles office they swore to uphold.