Tag Archives: Election 2008

The Consequential and The Conscientious

Shes making a difference

She's making a difference

A friend asked me the other day why I stay involved. I am just one person; a small cog in the internal combustion engine political machine.  So why bother? Why be so self-important as to assume that I can make a difference?
It’s a tough question, with a lot more philosophy involved than you might think. Being involved: with community service, in politics, in student government- means giving up your time and energy and not getting a whole lot back. So why bother?

Those who work in politics in particular can tell you how frustrating campaigns can be- months and indeed years spent in preparation, half of the time all for naught. Late night strategizing sessions, early morning canvassing, hours upon hours of phonebanking and confirmation calling and volunteer organizing- only to see your candidate lose because of a stupid word slip or semi-slanderous commericial or maybe just because people didn’t like your party that year. Why even try?

I guess the answer to these questions is that, if you don’t try, who will? One thing the Wall Street Meltdown Crisis of the Century taught is that people have to look out for themselves. The government won’t, your friendly local banks won’t, and Wall Street most definitely won’t.  If you want to make your neighborhood safer or cleaner or prettier or nicer, you have to do it. If you want a candidate to win, you have to help them yourself. If you want change to happen, you have to make it happen.

But it goes deeper than just doing things for your own good. Politics are about changing the world, changing history, profoundly affecting the lives of your future children. Think about a world without Bush- without the war in Iraq, without No Child Left Behind, without being so far on stopping global warming and environmental destruction, without such terrible debt, and probably without the aforementioned Wall Street crash. A few more people could have prevented all of these things- by ensuring enfranchisement for African-Americans in urban Ohio in 2004, or by educating a few more voters in Florida in 2000. These were elections that were quite literally decided by a relative handful of votes, and the impact they had is quite plainly devastating.

Not deep enough for you? How about this. Think about the time you spend watching TV, surfing the internet, playing video games, and whatever else you do in your free time. To avoid any unecessary preachiness, I’ll put myself in this position- I do these things, far more than I should. When I look back on my day every night, I think, what did I accomplish? If the answer is “watching the entire 5th season of America’s Next Top Model on VH1” or “napping and eating a lot,” then the day was probably a waste. Those are not the kind of things I want to think about when I lay on my deathbed. Those are not things that make the world the better place. Those are not even things that make me a better person. And while they may be relaxing or easy or even fun in small quantities, they are indeed wasteful and fruitful and, when repeated millions of times all across a listless nation, harmful.

John Kerry lost Ohio by just over a 100,000 votes. Bush won Florida, and the election, in 2000 by 537 votes. All of this could have been prevented. But it wasn’t. Who is going to stop it from happening next time?

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Catching Up- Who the hell is Sarah Palin?!

My apologies for not updating recently. I have been off in the magical land of “college,” full of all sorts of mythical challenges including “reading like a million pages a day” and “barely being able to afford food.” But now I am back, so we shall begin.
There’s a lot of information floating around about Sarah Palin. When I first heard she was John McCain’s VP pick, my (early morning, semi-awake) stream of consciousness went something like this:

1. Is this a joke?

2. Why would all the news networks conspire to report such a dumb joke?

John McCain introduces Sarah Palin as his runningmate

John McCain introduces Sarah Palin as his running mate.

3. I hate her voice.

4. Isn’t she under investigation?

5. Isn’t she like, terribly inexperienced?

6. WORST PICK EVER.

Of course, one woman’s terrible VP pick is apparently another person’s treasure, which is why her pick has been described as a “brilliant” but “risky” choice by some, and McCain’s numbers have shot up recently (also due to a probable “convention bounce“).

I’m still stuck in the mentality of #6, though. Let’s take a look at Ms. Palin:

1. She calls herself a “hockey mom” and “got her start” working in the PTA.

This is all well and fine, although none of these make her particularly qualified for president. If they did, my mom could do the job just as well.

2. She ran for mayor of the town of Wasilla, population approximately 6000. The Frontiersman (the local newspaper) reports that:
“When asked how she would run the city without experienced department heads, she responded, ‘It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.’ “[Seattle Times]

She later (at the RNC) compared this experience to Barack Obama’s as a community organizer. I have a few issues with this:

  • Community organizer was one of Barack Obama’s first jobs. This is sort of like saying I’m inexperienced because I one time worked at Jamba Juice, and her job of mayor was much harder.
  • Cesar Chavez was a community organizer. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a community organizer. JESUS was a community organizer. Just because you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean its a worthless position.
  • If you don’t know what it is, maybe do a little research? Perhaps read Obama’s book Dreams from My Father, in which Obama describes his tasks as an organizer, which included improving the housing situation for hundreds of people in the poor parts of Chicago.
  • How the hell do you make helping poor people sound like a bad thing?
  • Even if we say that Obama’s job as a community organizer did not prepare him for the presidency, we are forgetting that he was later in the Illinois State Legislature and then IN THE SENATE.

3. She is FANTASTICALLY inexperienced. And not in a good way. Let’s break it down:

She has LESS THAN 2 years of experience as governor. In these two years:

  • She was commander of the Alaskan National Guard, which the McCain campaign claims to give her foreign policy and executive experience. However:

Since governors have no role in overseeing Guard members federalized for service in Iraq, military experts said that should not count as foreign policy experience.

Furthermore:

Closer to home, the bread-and-butter duties of most state National Guards are natural disasters. During Palin’s 21 months in office, there has been one declared disaster: widespread flooding in June and July this year. Palin quickly signed a disaster declaration, officials said. The Guard’s role was limited to providing two water tanks and 30,000 sandbags to local authorities. [LA Times]

  • She claimed at the RNC that she said “no” to the Bridge to Nowhere. This is, of course, after she said “yes” to the Bridge to Nowhere.

…political leaders of both parties said the claim was false and a betrayal of their community, because she had supported the bridge and the earmark for it secured by Alaska’s Congressional delegation during her run for governor.

The best part?

The state, however, never gave back any of the money that was originally earmarked for the Gravina Island bridge, said Weinstein and Elerding. [Reuters]

  • She is currently under investigation:

The legislative council approved 100,000 dollars for the investigation that will find out whether Palin was angry at Monegan for not firing an Alaska State Trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin’s sister…

Legislators approved hiring a special investigator to look into the controversial firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan was fired two weeks ago without explanation and has said he was pressured by the governor and her staff to fire a trooper who was once married to Palin’s sister.Accusations have risen that Monegan was fired for his refusal to fire trooper Michael Wooten. The council’s intent is to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of Monegan and potential abuses of power and improper action by the Governor and her administration. [KTVA]

  • She was an enthusiastic member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group in Alaska that has the ultimate goal of the state seceding from the United States.

“Keep up the good work,” Sarah Palin told members of the Alaskan Independence Party in a videotaped speech to their convention six months ago in Fairbanks. She wished the party luck on what she called its “inspiring convention.”

The Alaskan Independence Party, founded in 1978, initially promoted “the Alaskan independence movement.” But now, according to its website, “its primary goal is merely a vote on secession.” [LA Times]

This is spectacularly ironic, since she is running on which a main campaign tactic, publicly or otherwise, has been to question Barack Obama’s loyalty to the United States.

  • She claims that as VP she will be an outspoken advocate for education and kids with special needs (as mentioned in the comments), but:

Before her run for the vice presidency, advocacy for special needs programs had not been a central part of her political campaigns or during her administration, despite her sister’s autistic son. [CNN]

4. But let’s get back to the Alaska thing. Here’s a few facts about the state:

Population: about 680,000

All right, that’s actually the only part I care about. Less than 700,000 people. The following cities have larger populations than all of Alaska:

New York

Los Angeles

Chicago

Houston

Phoenix

Philadelphia

San Antonio

San Diego

Dallas

San Jose

Detroit

Jacksonville

Indianapolis

[Wikipedia]

Not only does Sarah Palin lack foreign policy experience, she is the governor of a state that has fewer people than 13 major American cities. This is not to downplay the state of Alaska, since obviously it holds in its snowy bosom a favorite thing of all Republicans: oil. But the fact is, the state is not a huge economic powerhouse. Nor is it a huge political powerhouse. My point is that being governor of Alaska is simply not experience enough to become president.

To be fair, though, its no wonder McCain chose her, since he did so little research to look into who she actually is. Can you imagine how little thought McCain might put into important positions such as the Secretary of State, or Supreme Court justices? [NY Times]

To summarize, Sarah Palin has zero foreign policy experience, very little national policy experience (unless you consider getting enormous amounts of pork-y funding for your state national policy experience). And yet John McCain, potentially the oldest first-term president in American history, has put her one step away from being Commander in Chief. She is a no good, very bad, terrible pick, and if her selection process was any indication, McCain shouldn’t be president either.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re still convinced that Sarah Palin can do a good job as vice president, you should probably tell her what a VP does, because she doesn’t even know.

——

By the way, everyone should read this awesome article by feminist icon Gloria Steinem in the LA Times titled “Wrong Woman, Wrong Message.” It will be a good wakeup call for anyone who thinks that having Palin on the ticket is good for women.

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On Elitism

Politicians are not normal people. It takes a special kind of person to run for office, one with an incredible amount of confidence- “arrogance”, if you will- and a belief that they are the best person for the job at which so many have had problems. For these reasons alone, it is ridiculous to for a candidate- running for president, no less- to call another candidate “elitist.” Of course he is elitist. So are you. I am, of course, not referring to any two candidates in particular.

The most comical part of this whole exchange has been the comments leading up to it.

1) In a forum at Saddleback Church in Southern California a couple of days ago, when asked what he considered “rich,” John McCain responded that the term can be applied to anyone who makes more than FIVE MILLION DOLLARS a year.

2) Today, when asked how many houses he owns, he responded that he didn’t know and “would have his staff get back” to the inquiring reporter

3) When Obama started using the “houses” statement in ads, McCain’s spokesman responded:

Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people “cling” to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who’s in touch with regular Americans?

By 100% non-partisan logic, therefore, Barack Obama is not rich, but by virtue of “only” making $4 million a year, just middle class. What kind of elitist does that make him?

So Obama isn’t rich, and McCain has so many houses that he can’t keep track. Which sounds more elitist to you?

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That’s My Baby! A roundup of anything interesting, stupid, or funny around the web

This is a continuation of a feature that I started a couple of weeks ago and will continue to continue… whenever I feel like it. Here we goooo:

My personal favorite blog, Wonkette, has a great way to freak out your Obamaniacal friends with a fake text message announcing his VP as…. Michael Moore! Or whoever else you want. [Wonkette]

John McCain is gaining ground in national polls– a result of his performance at the Saddleback Church event? Of people getting tired of Obama? Or something else? Will this climb continue? This whole thing makes me nervous…. [Pollster.com]

Rudy Guiliani is set to be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, as Republicans are trying to live their post-9/11 days of domination. Did I mention that Giuliani was the mayor then?! Former Democrat and winner of the Benedict Arnold Prize for Bipartisanship, Senator Joseph Lieberman will also speak. [HuffPo]

If you want to learn more about Obama but wish you could be taught in your native language of “frat boy,” Brobama has your back. Learn about the issues and how they apply to you, the common bro. [Brobama]

Check out these TRULY, TRULY awesome buttons from Democratic Stuff: Bug Enthusiasts for Obama! Mohawks for Obama! Oil Barons for Obama! Etc Etc Etc- check it out- all 3 pages. [Democratic Stuff]

Anything else?

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From Me to You: Why Hillary Supporters Should Back Obama

So the media is blowing up over the idea that “embittered” Hillary Clinton supporters (affectionately called “Hilltards” by the Wonkette crowd) would be so angry at the DNC’s treatment of Clinton that they would vote for John McCain, who–get this– is a Republican.

I hope that these predictions do not come true, and I don’t believe they will. I have only encountered one person who, after Hillary lost, switched their allegiances. This person, “Mona,” responded to an email by the UC Berkeley campus coordinator who was trying to rally up support for Obama. Mona wrote (to everyone who received the original email):

When the leaders of the Democratic Party did not stand up to the Trinity Church of Chicago when they mocked Hillary Clinton and when they stayed silent while Randi Rhodes called her a f’ing whore and when the media disrespected her – they in turn showed me this is NOT a party I want to belong to.   Not only will I give my vote to John McCain I am seriously considering flying to a swing state – IF the race is close – which I doubt – to help GOTV on his behalf.  The DNC chose Barry before Country during the last 3 months of this race when she was kicking his ass.

When she was challenged by another person on the mailing list, she wrote back:

HILLARY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY DECISION and to blame her is frankly immature and just another “scare” tactic.   I have a brain — I am a leader not a follower.  I make my own decisions.  When Hillary stepped down today that left me a free agent.  I didn’t believe in everything Hillary stood for, however, I stood by her.  I for one hope she’s NOT the VP – she outshines Barry – he needs her – not the other way around.

You don’t get IT – what I am standing up for is WOMEN TO BE TREATED FAIRLY and with RESPECT.  That’s the stance I am taking.  The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to take heed.  When they lose in November they can blame themselves.  I won’t stay in an abusive relationship.

The whole exchange was melodramatic and frankly sad- the culmination of almost a year of hard work leading to a rapid decline and then failure, resulting in in-fighting and finger-pointing.

I quote this email because it gives us a glimpse of the logic behind a Hillary->McCain supporter. Otherwise, I really can’t grasp why any Hillary fan- Democrat or otherwise- could think that McCain is the better choice.

I mean, really:

  • Hillary- Pro-choice
  • Obama- Pro-choice
  • McCain- Mostly pro-life
  • Hillary- Against the war
  • Obama- Against the war
  • McCain- For the war (“100 more years!”)
  • Hillary- Against Prop. 8 (CA Constitutional ban on gay marriage)
  • Obama- Against Prop. 8
  • McCain- Supports Prop. 8
  • Hillary– Supports habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees
  • Obama– Supports habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees
  • McCain– Against habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees

…. the list could go on forever. The fact is, John McCain, while not maybe as truly terrible as some many most Republicans, he is still a Republican, which means, like it or not, he follows in the footsteps of George Walker Bush (remember him? the President?). Another Republican president not only means 4+ more years of Republicans claiming to represent mainstream America, it also  means Republican Supreme Court appointees (bring us even closer to the overturning of Roe v Wade), and the people who currently advise Bush on issues of foreign and domestic policy will just switch over to the McCain administration. We can’t have this happen.

Hillary Clinton supports Obama. I find it fascinating that Mona can be so enraged by the DNC’s alleged maltreatment of Clinton and then completely disregard the endorsement of the woman she so passionately admires. Furthermore, the idea that Mona is somehow punishing the DNC by voting for McCain is both delusional and self-important. She seems to miss the fact that she is hurting herself and the very rights she supported when voting for Hillary by voting for the Republican party- and therefore against abortion, gay marriage, and, most tragically, the Constitution.

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On Affirmative Action

I will start this post off by saying that I am white, middle-class, and a child of the suburbs. I was born and raised in uber-blue Northern California, to Democratic parents, and now I go to UC Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school (a stereotype that is not entirely deserved, but that is another post for another time). This does not give me an easy position to discuss (and even less, denounce) affirmative action, but I’m going to do that anyway.

AA has been in the news recently because John McCain recently stated that he supports a measure in Arizona that would get rid of the preference system.

I am against affirmative action because it gives an unfair advantage to minorities based on race (and, in some cases, women based on gender). It’s that simple. AA was designed to give underprivileged youth a boost in college admissions (it also helps underprivileged adults seeking government employment). By itself, this is not an ignoble cause. There is no doubt that poorer communities live in a vicious circle of poor education leading to poor jobs leading to their kids having poor educations and poor jobs…and on an on. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed, but affirmative action is not the answer.

Problem numero uno with AA seems so obvious that it is often taken for granted. AA is based on race. No where does it specify that a college applicant must be poor, or live in a particular neighborhood, or go to a particular type of school, or have fewer than a particular number of TV channels. No where does it specify that they need to have faced certain hardships, nor does it require that they even be underpriveledged at all. Therefore, a minority student born to wealthy, upper-class parents (and yes, they do exist) is in no way disqualified from receiving preferential treatment.

What this means (see if you can follow along here) is that a rich (or otherwise “privileged”) black, or Latino, or American Indian student is admitted to a college before an equally-qualified yet underprivileged white or Asian student.

Affirmative action therefore does not help underprivileged students, but rather minority students. The equation to represent this thinking would be X=POOR, (where X=an African American, a Latino, or a member of any other group considered a minority). X=POOR, X=IN NEED OF SPECIAL HELP, X=UNDERPRIVILEGED. These equations, for various obvious reasons, do not compute. Minorities are not inherently poor, and indeed as time goes on more and more are climbing up the ladders towards the middle and upper classes. To assume that ALL minorities need assistance in getting into college or getting a good job is racist in itself, but it also disqualifies those who deserve the assistance who cannot get it because they happen to be white or Asian.

This brings up another issue which I will only touch on lightly: reparations. Some people believe that AA is a form of reparations- a way to make up for all the bad things white people have done to, well, everyone else. I am against reparations because I don’t believe that the children of today should have to pay for the mistakes of their (often distant) ancestors, and nor should they benefit from their hardships. History cannot be (or, at least, should not be) rewritten by money or privilege. Affirmative action as reparation even ignores history altogether by forgetting that plenty of other groups- Irish Catholics, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, and more- also faced terrible hardships when coming to this country (this is not to say that their lives were as difficult as those of African-Americans, but to question where the line is drawn between “privileged” and “unprivileged”).Things are not as simple nor easy to separate the American people into “minority” and “privileged” and assign help accordingly, but that is what AA tries to do.

A final issue that is important to note is discussed by Barack Obama, from the article:

“If you’ve got 50 percent of African-American or Latino kids dropping out of high school, it doesn’t really matter what you do in terms of affirmative action. Those kids are not getting into college,” he said.

Affirmative action does not and will not ever guarantee that minority kids get a good education. That is up to them.

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That’s my baby!: A recap of funny, interesting, or stupid things found on the internet

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