Archive for the 'Politics' Category

President Obama, can I ask a question?

 

Is it just me who finds this funny?

Is it just me who finds this funny?

Photo courtesy of http://www.superpoop.com.

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How to Make a Real Inaugural Statement

Whether it’s Rick Warren giving the invocation, Gene Robinson praying, Oprah, and whoever else is going to be at the historic celebration, it’s the final cost in the coffers of costly candidating celebrations.  The costs of predefined celebrations are as follows:

  • Cost of Democratic National Convention: $120 million
  • Cost of Republican National Convention: $82 million
  • Cost of Inauguration: $40 million
  • Fed Government allocation for inauguration security: $49 million
  • Cost of 2008-09 Political Celebrations: $291 million

What can we do with $291 million? Well, I suppose we can feed the US Political Economic Machine.  I’m sure some political economist can arrange the numbers to show me how good this is for the American economy to spend this kind of money on self congratulatory parties.

$291 million could sure write a lot of nice thank-you notes like this one to our child laborers.

But what kind of inaugural statement would it make if we tackled a few of the bigger problems on the planet?

Need ideas? I have some.  Tackling these problems would make for change we can believe in, and would be an historic occasion.

Reporting or Storytelling? When watchdogs need glasses…

Today is election day.  It’s taken on a more personal nature as my aunt is running for office once again after losing in 2006.  My aunt is a Republican and lost the 2006 election initially by 9 votes (it became 39 after a recount) in what was basically a lack of voter turnout.

So voting matters.  It really does.

It’s been interesting for me on this election day.  I got my daily email from the New York Times, indicating how the election is epic in nature and giving me a full viewing guide for the election (with popcorn included). I feel like I should be waiting for the violins and trumpets in the soundtrack to this dramatic adventure of an election – because, if you are listening or watching or reading, you know that this is an historic event.

(You know something is important when we place the object “an” in front of “historic” because it is so distinctively different and draws attention.)

Given what little media coverage I have subjected myself to, it has made me ask a lot of questions to the nature of reporting and the media.  After reading a recent confession from Michael Malone of abc.com, I felt like someone came out of the closet and confessed the sins of how journalists have had to play dirty themselves and result to tabloidism and thus abuse their power and position in order to resuscitate a dying industry.  My journalist friends have even felt shame on themselves from what was once an honorable profession.

I comforted one and told him I know what it’s like – I work in Christian Ministry on a secular university campus.  Shame really only has one redeemable characteristic – it can cause us to confess, repent, and receive grace we don’t deserve.

I do a lot of confession on campus.

I later read up on media coverage through the independent (at least I still think it is) Pew Research Center on how the Press has reported the 2008 Presidential Election.  I think they did a good job, but I’m not an expert in this area and would welcome anyone’s criticism of their conclusions.  They measure coverage as either positive, negative, or neutral.  And the numbers show that Obama received twice as much positive coverage and half as much negative coverage.

This was the case in previous elections as well – that whoever is perceiving as winning gets more favorable coverage.  In other words, the American press loves winners.

The second conclusion they drew was that the press tends to instantaneously reinforce and echo every event.  And this is so easy to see: Joe the Plumber, Acorn, number of homes, “spread the wealth,” etc.

And like echos, the press generally caricatures things more and more as things progress, and things begin to snowball.  According to the Pew Research Center data, the story of this election is the snowball effect of John McCain.  And in order to appeal to an increasingly postmodern society, one that focuses on story and not necessarily facts, the press tries to grab market share will entertain the audience through storytelling.

Thus we live in an era of soundbites – not thoughtful research.  And reporting becomes storytelling, and those who are watchdogs need to get glasses, get lean, and get busy.  Otherwise the watchdogs become lapdogs.

And don’t get me wrong – I love lapdogs.  Our old cocker spaniel, Molly, was the best lapdog.  Scratch her right behind her ear and she was instantly your best friend.  In her early years she was very protective and wasn’t afraid to ward off enemies…like barncats, woodchucks, skunks, and women with too much perfume.

But Molly got old, fat, blind, and deaf.  I still loved her, and she still loved me, but her role as a watchdog was worthless.

And we can’t afford for the press to be worthless.

So, back to my aunt running for office.  She authored and passed 11 bills into law in her first two terms as a republican state representative with a democratic governor – more than any representative in the first two terms in the history of the state.  She lost in 2006 because of poor voter turnout and she happened to be a republican in the 2006 election.  She’s my aunt, and she’s awesome.

And I’m totally biased.  I admit it.  I’m certainly not a journalist – geotechnical foundation design and structural analysis didn’t exactly teach me much on how to interview people.

Her opponent has only written three bills in his entire first term and passed none.

I know we are supposed to be thankful for high voter turnout.  But what about when the electorate is uninformed?  Or even worse, misinformed by propaganda that is allowed because our press has become a lazy lapdog?

Case in point – my brother tells me he saw a picture of my aunt’s opponent photoshopped over Obama’s picture saying, “Vote for Change!”

Um, aren’t you the incumbent?  How is voting for you change?  Oh, that’s right, you’re just riding on the wave of popularity and are aligning yourself with the presidential candidate who has received twice as much positive news coverage and half as much negative news coverage.

Thus begins the thought process for most folks:

  • Obama = Cool.
  • Andy’s Aunt’s Opponent = Obama.
  • Andy’s Aunt’s Opponent = Cool.
  • Cool = good.
  • Vote for Andy’s Aunt’s opponent

When the press doesn’t do it’s job well, it’s not difficult to take advantage of a misinformed electorate.  That  is not the intent of the Obama campaign – but the Obama campaign would be stupid to not take advantage of the opportunities given to them.  And it’s not hard to see they were given one.

And by the way, that’s also not a legitimate reason to vote against Obama.  In a democracy, registered voters can only vote for people, not against them.

The bigger question is this – will the media allow itself to be subjected to the same level of criticism it gives?

Maybe this is why I loved what happened last election in 2004 with Jon Stewart on Crossfire.  We need more people who can expose poor press practices for what they really are.

Why People Shouldn’t Vote: With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

I don’t write about politics because I really don’t like them.  The best definition of politics I’ve heard is choosing your words and actions based on how others will think or feel or act rather than what you actually think or feel.

Other people are really good at this.  I’ve never really been at choosing my words based on other peoples thoughts or feelings.  It’s not that I intentionally search for conflict or desire to be offensive – but I do think it helps authenticity in a relationship when what comes out of my mouth corresponds with what goes on in my head or my heart.

(Despite my lack of affection for politics, I was good enough at politics to be voted class president in the fourth grade, but it was a short term since it was only for the month of August and I felt a little gypped that I only got to call rows to go to lunch for a week.  I like to think of it as my own reliving of the great presidency of William Henry Harrison; Tippecanoe and Tyler too! was my official campaign slogan.)

But this election year feels more like a docu-drama; I really don’t enjoy it.  If I want drama, I’ll watch LOST or 24, thank-you very much.  Could someone just provide good reporting on the election for once, rather than all the drama associated with it? Puh-lease?

Yet still, I work on a university campus in which part of the conversations are on how “uncool” you are if you don’t vote.  Especially in this election, when several of my students reside in swing states.

(By the way, I am so glad I don’t live in a swing state.  I went to visit my family in Wisconsin and wondered why several folks seemed on edge.  I looked at the television commercials and now I know why.  Ever listen to the music in political commercials?  So sad…I just wonder how dumb we are that we can fool ourselves so much…)

I do believe that we are very privileged to live in a democracy.  But I also believe that there are certain responsibilities that are associated with a republican form of government, and part of that responsibility is taking the necessary time to understand the issues in order to vote intelligently.

Being a political groupie and regurgitating rhetoric that we’ve all heard before is so unbecoming to our country.  Case in point – watch this clip of John Oliver on the Daily Show recently.  I don’t care what your political affiliation is, this is just sad.

(Best line: “That’s not a saying, that’s just a selection of words you made up.”)

Do we really want these people voting?  Maybe Ben Parker from Spiderman was right – “with great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s probably both politically and socially incorrect for me to say this (hence why I really wouldn’t make a good politician), but I think I’ll say it anyway because of some semblance of social responsibility:

I think some people shouldn’t vote.

When people like those interviewed by John Oliver are voting for who will be running the country, then we fall into something tragic – like what my friend Eddy posted this on his blog today…if this is prophetic, then God help us all.

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

—Attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, ~1770


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