Oct 30, 2010

Vote for Sanity on November 2, 2010

Politics is often the outcome of the possible under the circumstances and the people involved. The outcome can be a compromise that isn't appealing. We progressives have lots to complain about, but, again, what is the alternative? I don't want to say we have to accept what comes our way, but this is a critical election. It won't be the end of the world, obviously, though if the Republicans improve their standing, we'll see more gridlock.

If the GOP wins the House, expect investigations on whether Obama is a ..Muslim non-citizen. Expect more of the same bad ideas and policies that got us into the Great Recession under president Bush. Expect an Extreme Makeover! This article by Think Progress is an eye-opener.

  • A Judiciary chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who has hinted at impeaching President Obama.
  • Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who opposes the existence of the global warming committee he would chair!
  • The subcommittee that controls monetary policy would be headed by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who has called paper money "nothing short of counterfeiting"
  • Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who apologized to BP during the oil spill for a $20 billion "shakedown," would control national energy policy.
  • And, several others, like the tea partisans who are running for the House and the Senate; they will obstruct and destroy. The only goal publicly stated will be to make Obama one-term president. "There will be no compromise," is their mantra.
Vote for sanity, because we can't go back to failed policies and have this very conservative and backward-looking Republican party have power. I know, most people are concerned not with happened but with what's ahead and who's going to lead the country into a better place. But, the past tells you where you're coming from, and if it's the ..Dark Ages, you wouldn't want to go back.

I was going to write summary of a very nice article in Rolling Stone magazine titled, The Case for Obama, but you can read it on your own. I recommend it.

This election will be decided on turnout. Only a minority turns out to vote in midterm election, and the more energized side usually wins. The election of 2010 may be decided on local issues and personalities, but it will have huge national political implications. Even though campaigns aren't necessarily about reasonable arguments and intellectual discussions, what we're having today in this polarized country is a choice between insanity and mediocrity, between the nuts and the mainstream, between 19th century ideologues and 21st century pragmatists. Between darkness and 1 photovoltaic watt.  The latter choices aren't the ideal, but I'll take them given the options available to us.

I'm voting for sanity.

Oct 17, 2010

Polls Are a Snapshot of the Moment, and Right Now the GOP is Winning the House

An outside observer may wonder how the Democrats, having won overwhelmingly in the last election, can be blamed for a bad economy and government inefficiency. The stimulus money failed to convince Americans that this expensive action was worth it. It's hard to easily demonstrate that things would be worse hadn't been if these monies hadn't been spent. As for the gridlock, well, you know which is the "party of NO."

However, in reality American politics are unique in many ways. One is, that under our system of checks & balances, the lack of (appropriate) accountability. The executive is separate from the legislative branch, hence the President does not control the actions of Congress. Throw into the mix a quirky tradition of the Senate--the filibuster--and you can have a small minority obstructing at will and with impunity. 

Of course, the Republicans were never going to accept president Obama's legitimacy. It's no accident that there are so many "birthers" in the GOP Congressional delegation.  Apparently they're poised to capitalize on the effects of a bad economy--one they helped to create--and weak presidential leadership.

Midterm elections traditionally are bad for the party in the White House. All else being equal, there are a couple factors. One, that the opposition is more energized while the core supporters stay home. Two, the 10-15% of floating non-ideologues and low information voters, who have left Obama's 2008 winning coalition and are generally frustrated with gridlock and lack of clear policy from the administration.

There's a consensus today, as a snapshot of the electoral mood that the Republicans (and their tea party allies) will win enough seats [218 need for majority] in the House to control it. That's unfortunate, but the White House and the Dems hopefully will get the correct message from this: Do not try to win the minds and hearts of those who didn't vote for you in 2008. These voters will never come over. Be true to what Obama-the-candidate ran on, as most of the country still supports that agenda. Show clear objectives and demonstrate strong leadership.

This GOP has no future, unless the Dems keep shooting themselves in the foot. The Republicans will soon find out that the tea parties are their greatest enemy, because not only prevents them from winning the Senate this year but also pulling the party further to the right--where most of the country isn't! More on this later..

Oct 8, 2010

Jackson Katz: Men, Masculinities, and Media. It's Time We Pay Attention to What Its Being Said

In comparative politics an important variable and a good indicator is the status of women. If you don't know anything about a country, ask the question, what is the status of women in that society? The answer will give you a very good idea of how advanced this country is.

While the US is an advanced liberal democracy, we still have serious problems, like violence against women--a problem that often is wrongly labeled as "women's issue." It's an issue that should concern all of us, as it is all of us who have to work to solve this problem. 

We are all here because of mothers, and despite having women in close proximity in our lives, treating them with respect and as equals leaves much to be desired. Honoring Mothers By Improving the Lives of Women, as I wrote back on Mother's Day, is the only enlightened course of action.

Yesterday, I attended a very interesting & informative speech by Jackson Katz [click on the link for useful resources] of MVP Strategies, an organization that provides gender violence prevention training. Most men instinctively would say that they're not abusers so they don't really need to know how not to abuse. Well, it's true, most men are decent human beings, but the question Mr. Katz raised was, if we are against abuse then why most men remain silent when they witness abuse or hear abusive language? 

It has taken many, many years to make some common practices uncool because most people wouldn't tolerate them. We have to change our ways and elements of our collective culture when it comes to gender violence and verbal abuse. Many laws can say one thing but if society doesn't change, there's a crisis. Same with the civil rights movement, whereas the laws were on the books but states (and the majority of their citizens) refused to accept the good principles in the Bill of Rights, and adopt common decency towards every human being.
Being politicos as we are, and given this being a pivotal election season, we should closely examine the messages and statements of those who want to be elected to Congress. We have to ask the conservative religious candidates what do they mean by "a woman must submit to her husband"? What do they mean by "traditional ways"?

Also, what kind of culture and message does Linda McMahon bring to our discourse? Why haven't we seen her being challenged about the kind of message she was putting out while being the president of wrestling entertainment?  Jackson Katz, I've heard, will remedy this soon. [check the Huffington Post this weekend]  I've seen a preview of what WWE has been doing with women on its shows and it's ugly.

Stay tuned, and be alert!

Oct 1, 2010

Simple Truths & Clear Messages. The Tax Cuts: Who Gets them and Who Pays for them.

Simplicity is not always possible when it comes to complicated issues, but without people being informed their impressions about reality affect their behavior, including how the vote--if they do--which is a problem for the Democrats this election.

Our president has the intellectual ability to grasp complicated issues but he needs to improve his message, because he doesn't speak to a captive audience in an academic auditorium. The noise by Fox, the Tea parties and the GOP paint Obama and the Congressional Dems as ineffective leaders. It's incredible, isn't it, that Superman hasn't fixed yet all the problems Republicans have helped to create over a decade, so, therefore, the GOP is asking to be put back in (more) control of the legislative agenda!

The video above is a clear, concise illustration of the issue of tax cuts and their effect on our budget. Such messages have to increase in frequency until the election, November 2nd.  Of course, many races will be decided on local issues and personalities, but their effect will be felt nationally for many years to come.

As soon as we see good signs that the White House is coming out actively campaigning and refining a good message, we had both the prez and his veep chastising the Democratic base as whiners and too demanding. What the hell? The White House, instead, should take a good look at its failure to push through many elements of the progressive agenda candidate Obama promised and asked the country to support. He has disappointed much of his most active members--usually the ones who volunteer and come out to vote in midterm elections!  

Obama should be saying that he'll try harder to lead the country in a more progressive direction. This was the message he ran on and the country responded enthusiastically.  It was not just about voting down the incompetent, corrupt, and disastrous Republican rein, but it was about universal health care, end the wars, energy independence, immigration reform, controlling the excesses of Wall Street, etc. All these issues still have the majority support of the country. Maybe with the imminent departure of key high-level White House staff, the president will re-evaluate his strategy and message.

There are 4-5 weeks left during which things can change. The country still doesn't trust the Republicans and don't like their new (old) policy proposals. But, uncertainty about the future and present economic stagnation make voters uneasy. Some reminders and comparisons are necessary to be made soon. In politics one should always ask, what's the alternative?