Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fighting for what you believe in

At a recent rally for KY candidate Rand Paul, a woman from RepubliCorp was dropped to the ground and kicked by a Paul supporter. This isn't a common occurrence by any means, but it raises some interesting questions. While I was reading the comments to the article on CNN, I noticed a lot of people sticking up for this kind of behavior (keep in mind, this "behavior" is the physical assault of a woman that was caught on tape). The few people pointing out that this behavior was wrong, and against the law, were verbally attacked by other people who continued with the whole "play with fire, get burned" philosophy.

At what point did physical assault of another human being become okay? And, to go in a slightly different direction, would this have received the same response had it happened at a Dems rally? Probably not.

For one thing, it would likely be getting a little more media attention, whether that's good or bad I don't know. Also, a lot of conservative talking heads like Limbaugh would likely be touting it as an example of the oppressive regime that the Left is trying to employ in this country. Instead, most Cons are mute on this, except to say that the woman got what she deserved. In fact, Limbaugh tried to portray the woman as being a potential security threat, and that the people who assaulted her were heroes. His example was, if a person tried to come up to the President and give them a suspicious package, the Secret Service would do the same thing.

There are a few things wrong with this. First, the "package" was not mysterious, it was a piece of paper calling Rand Paul the RepubliCorp Employee of the Month. The paper is clearly visible in the videos. Second, Rand Paul is not the President, and the people that assaulted this women were not Secret Service agents, but regular people at the rally. Finally, even if the woman were a security threat, that would not make it okay for her to be kicked in the head, even by SS.

It's not a trend, but it is disturbing that a) people would do that in the first place, and b) other people would defend it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Equal Opportunity

On the FOX News website, this article was posted that talks about how Obama has appointed more openly LGBT officials to office than any other President in history. The article was somewhat interesting, though hardly considered tough journalism, and I was only mildly bored until I read this:

"One Obama nominee who met some opposition was Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor nominated to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Concerned Women for America accused Feldblum of playing "a major role in pushing the homosexual and transsexual agenda on Americans." Other conservative groups blasted her role in drafting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill that would ban employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Obama is a strong supporter of that legislation."

Now, just so we're clear, this is a woman who is openly gay, that was appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and pushed for a bill that would ban employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. It seems to me that she was doing her job, as it appears to be considering the name of the commission.

So those that are railing against her for her "major role in pushing the homosexual and transsexual agenda on Americans" are really just homophobic and discriminatory. If this were a Black woman on the commission that had pushed for a ban on employers discriminating based on race, would people be screaming that the official was taking a major role in pushing the African American agenda on Americans? Not unless they wanted to be called racist. So why is it that no one is calling out these groups for being equally discriminatory? Just curious.

Term Limits

Listening to the radio this morning, the "news" show was talking about term limits for Congress. This is an issue that I was on the fence about until I heard them talking about it and thought about both sides for about 5 seconds.

For the President, and some state governor's, there is a set number of terms that person can serve. For congressmen however, there is no limit currently, which some people have taken issue with.

In these cases, you're talking about the leading representative, for a state or nation, being given only a certain amount of time to be in charge. This is, of course, meant to deter us from electing a tyrant that simply stays in power forever. But what about Congress? Are they not also leaders who, if given limitless time to serve in Washington, will become corrupt and tyrannical leaders?

Well, no.

The truth is, the longer a congressman stays in Congress, the more effective they become there. What some people call "pork" and "pet projects" are really the fulfilling of campaign promises and the bringing of necessary federal dollars to local projects and communities. Furthermore, individual congressmen are not on equal level with a president or even a governor. Congressmen have to answer for their decisions just as much as any other person in government, often more so as they have more competition at home. People know when their reps have not been doing what's right by them, and will often answer accordingly.

However, my biggest issue with this idea of term limits for Congress is that it requires people to vote against representatives that they may be completely happy with or that are doing a great job. In my state, we have one rep and two senators that have all been in Washington for years. One Senator in particular has been there for several decades. He isn't reelected time and again because he's entrenched and has name recognition. He's reelected because he is effective in promoting programs and projects that bring jobs and grow our state. Yet there are those who say that we should have limits placed on these elected officials! It takes people's right to vote for who they want to represent them. Imagine living in one state for twenty years and having a representative that whole time that did nothing but work for you. Suddenly, you're told that, starting in this coming election, you're not allowed to vote for that person and must choose a new representative you know nothing about who has never been to Washington before. How would that make you feel?

In my opinion (and since it's my blog, I'll give it happily), term limits and especially limits in Congress are more a hindrance to our right of free election than anything else. If we cannot choose to reelect, time and again, an effective and popular representative that serves honorably and admirably, then we have lost our right to be represented as we see fit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Savings and tax breaks

There's been a lot of yelling from citizens and the right that Obama has not done anything about the "tax burden" on Americans during his time in office. This is not true, however. Part of the stimulus bill was that 90% of Americans were given a tax cut, but this tax cut was reflected in less money being taken out of individual paychecks, not in a refund sent out. Obama learned from Bush that an extra check is put in a savings account rather than invested in the economy, whereas a higher take-home pay can be used more effectively to stimulate the economy. But no one noticed.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the righties saying that they will continue the Bush tax cuts and keep the budget balanced by cutting spending. However, not one of them has said where they would cut this funding or what programs will be dropped to maintain it. None of them even seem to consider cutting military spending, but are more likely to go for things like education, health care, and infrastructure. If you'll notice, these are the exact same things that the cons have been railing Obama for "overfunding". Obama was bashed for his health care reform, is being picked apart for trying to promote education changes, and is being called fiscally irresponsible for trying to breathe life into a failing system of roads, bridges, and train lines in this country.

There is just no way that the Reps can do all that they've promised; i.e. maintaining all programs as they are while cutting taxes and spending. It just doesn't work. As a state employee, I know that, if the budget is cut year after year, eventually you're not going to have any more programs. You'll just have the salaries of mandatory officials and a few grants.

Obama has been doing a really good job, but people are suffering under the lies and misdirections of an outspoken resistance Right. Time's running out for the sane people to talk sense into the mad.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No jobs

The economy is getting moving again, and many large businesses are raking in profits once again. But they aren't posting new jobs. Some believe it's because the businesses are waiting for the economy to turn around, while consumers are waiting for jobs before investing in economic resources. This puts us in a rather unfortunate Catch-22.

The real problem with this is that many jobs are probably never going to come back. Companies that have been forced to streamline in a tight economy have no weathered that storm and are seeing record profits due to significantly reduced overhead costs. In this situation, there are probably a lot of execs who are wondering just how many jobs they may be forced to reopen while still maintaining their growth.

I have a feeling that the number of jobs that come back will be nowhere near as numerous or as high-paying as those that were let go. These companies have learned to work on lean budgets and lower quality products and services, and are not likely to go back.

At one of my jobs, I have seen a significant change in the products offered on the shelves. There has been a significant increase in the number of low-cost products that are available for a fraction of the price of their competitors (though they are of significantly lower quality). Only very recently has this trend turned around, and only in those departments that are not known for being very cheap to begin with. Furthermore, while jobs at this place were not cut, the hours people were given was reduced, and have not gone back up except for managers. This is, I believe, because managers are salaried and so the company wants to get as much time out of their money as they can. For the rest of us, we are stuck with lower hours than before.

It seems like the symbol of our times, companies that have scraped their budgets to the bone, cut costs on everything, and are now building up their coffers at the expense of renewed job positions and higher quality services. Unfortunate, but not unexpected.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Living within your means

My fiance wrote a brief note to some friends yesterday about people living beyond their means. It stemmed from an article in the Huffington Post. In the article, one quoted official was explaining that we needed to increase pay for those at the bottom of the economic ladder in order to improve living conditions in this country. My fiance's point in writing her piece was that, most people in our country are living beyond their means.

The poverty level in this country is hopelessly skewed when placed against that in most other countries. The poverty-stricken in our country tend to have cell phones, pay for internet, and have other rather nice electronics. If these same people are standing in lines at soup kitchens and food shelves, are declining to take jobs, and requesting aid from the government, maybe it's time to rethink your spending.

I have nothing against welfare, as long as it is used remedially, temporarily, and responsibly. A person who is on welfare should not be allowed to use that money for cell phones, internet, or satellite T.V. They should be paying for food, clothing, rent, heat, electricity, and medical bills. The person on welfare should have to prove that they are looking for a job and that they have been unsuccessful. I've worked jobs before where I've checked these kinds of things with people, and it's really not that hard.

One of the big problems where I am is that people are not willing to take jobs that they believe are beneath them. They are more willing to remain unemployed than to take a decent-paying job they don't want to do. This kind of arrogant self-importance leaves more people in jobless poverty than any recession.

The times, they are a-changin'

With all that's happened in the last two years, I can reasonably assume that, following the coming elections, things will be getting worse. It's not that I believe the Republicans are bad at what they do, or that they want America to fail. That's not it. It's just that their mentality and belief structure in how the government and "free-market" should run is not conducive to bringing us out of this "recession."

I've written posts before discussing the fact that we are no longer a free-market system in America. That shouldn't surprise anyone. All you have to do is look at the deregulation and conglomeration of every major industry in the U.S., the recent supreme court decision on campaign contributions, the filibustering of a bill that would require commercials to show where their money comes from, and you get the sense that there is a vast monopoly on political voice and representation in our country. In a recession, it makes sense to let the people living on the least have the biggest slice of aid. Instead, we have seen a further move toward favoring big-business and the top 2% of the population and a fleecing of the rest of us.

What we have seen from the Dem camp is a push to bring help to those who need it most: the lower and middle class. It is outrageous to me that the conservatives would think to loudly protest these programs while at the same time calling themselves the champions of the working class. It's like they're outspoken support of free-market Capitalism while denouncing trickle-down economics. Despite this, it is the Dems who are being painted as the evil-doers in these schemes. I don't spend a lot of time on researching politics, but even I am aware of the Republican's disruption of government support and economic progress to help those most effected by the recession.

If the people were largely aware of what the Reps and Cons have voted against, why is it that the people support them? If they are complaining about higher taxes, too-big government, and too much spending, why do they not remember how Bush Conservatives set up government programs without any kind of funding? Do they remember the deficit spending for things like the TARP program? It's not that the Reps are more fiscally responsible. In fact, they are less so. It's just that they have no problem putting programs in place and then neglecting to pay for them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Personal accountability

One of the newest buzz-words going around the political world these days is "accountability". People use it to demonstrate their belief that those in power should be held "accountable" for their actions. Pretty obvious, right? Well, I'm wondering where accountability starts. Do we take personal accountability first, or do we take public accountability?

My stance, of course, is that you have to take personal responsibility in your life for your own actions. The fact is, no one can see inside your head, and so the first and only true master of that domain is you. I know that, for some, this is a ticket to think evil thoughts and to contemplate bad things. I myself have fallen into this trap of thinking that my thoughts do not harm others and that my head is safe for them. Well, let me tell you that thoughts have a curious way of manifesting into actions, even if you don't mean them to. And those actions can hurt. First and foremost, one must hold themselves accountable in their own minds.

Most people, I believe, can do this for themselves. They know what thoughts are wrong to think, and can push themselves in better directions if needed. Many use their religion as a helpful way to implement a kind of external mediator and force of power that one must adhere to. This also helps to bring about accountability, especially for those who find this a challenge on their own.

This is all a kind of roundabout way of saying that, for most of us, accountability and responsibility begins on a personal level. If you do not think you are responsible for a situation or that you are not to blame, you will not take that burden, at least willingly. You have to believe in your own mind that you have some responsibility in order to take a job seriously.

This is, I think, where the new conservatives have a lot to catch up on. The more I hear from and about the leaders of this new campaign of ultra-conservative politicians, the more I think that that these are people for whom personal accountability is forcefully non-existent. What I mean by that is, for those in this new movement, to allow themselves to feel responsibility for anything would require them to also understand their own shortcomings and flaws. They would have to also acknowledge that they have made mistakes, contradicted themselves, been bull-headed and helplessly narrow-sighted, and have essentially embodied all that they believe is wrong with the rest of politics.

But this doesn't happen. There is no personal accountability in this group. Everything is someone else's problem, someone else's mistake, or someone else's responsibility. They adhere to a strongly-held ideology that, no matter how bad it gets, even if they're the ones in power, it's somebody else's fault. This kind of rational ignorance, if you will, is at once distressing and bizarrely admirable. After all, how can you convince someone of the truth of their fault when their belief is that they are innocent? To quote Rupert Murdoch, "It's in the eye of the beholder, I guess."

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Tea Party explained

This is kind of a long article, but worth the time to read if you can. It might come from Rolling Stone, but it sets the stage for a very comprehensive history of the Tea Party origins, aims, and philosophies. Definitely a good wealth of information, should you be so inclined to invest an hour or so to read it.