Category Archives: General

Some ramblings on fairness

How do you talk to a kid about fairness, about the idea that despite what might seem fair, sometimes things just don’t work out? When I deal with my students, I try to think about this. I often wonder if my grading is fair. I wonder if that boy was more polite and less aggressive, or if that girl didn’t have a pretty smile and kind demeanor, would I still give them the same scores? And how do you tell an athlete that despite hard work and obvious ability, that he or she won’t get much of an opportunity or much of the credit because of the way he or she is built. This is what drove Kobe Bryant crazy when he played with Shaq.

I know that sometimes, the idea of “fairness” is just a mirage. That it’s all about point-of-view. Could I read an essay and give the student an “A” and another teacher read the essay and give it a “C” and could both of us have been fair? Absolutely, but more likely than not, certain immeasurables related to the student’s personality play a large part. (The solution to this is easy: use ID numbers, but I don’t want to have to look up students’ names after the fact to put them in the gradebook.)

As a society, we want everything to be fair. Politicians speak of it all the time: those on the right saying it’s not fair to tax the wealthy more and those on the left saying it’s not fair to let the poor starve. We cry about it when we find that a co-worker who comes in later and leaves earlier earns the same amount as us. I think about it when I think about USC’s football team and their sanctions. I think about it when I grade. I think about it in my private life and ask if people are being fair to me.

I don’t think I have a romantic sense of justice, just an idea of what the world should be like—effort, obstacles and dedication outweighing talent when it comes to competition and a blind judgment based off production and quality when it comes to work.

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On abortion and Mitt Romney

Now that Mitt Romney has the same exact stance on Roe v. Wade as President Obama, why would single-issue Christians still vote for him?

Oh, you haven’t heard? Romney wouldn’t challenge the Supreme Court ruling.

On Fox News (of course) a few days ago, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson dismissed abortion as a campaign issue:

“I’ve had one person talking about the abortion issue during this entire campaign. It’s just — it’s not even an issue here in Wisconsin, it doesn’t even move the radar at all.”

Maybe that’s not a super clear statement about Romney’s position on the issue. But yesterday, another Romney surrogate, Norm Coleman, clarified that, if elected, the “pro-life” candidate wouldn’t do anything to hurt Roe v. Wade:

“President Bush was president eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. It’s not going to be reversed.”

And, for good measure, Romney’s sister Jane (described as a bit of a loose cannon) said last month that Mitt would NEVER ban abortion:

“Women would take to the streets. Women fought for our choice, we’re not going to go back.”

Translation: Romney is personally opposed to abortion, but would do little to overturn the ruling that makes it a constitutional right to have one.

In other words, Romney has the EXACT position as President Obama on the issue.

Those single-issue Christian voters could have a problem with that. Especially considering that the rest of the Republican platform goes against Christian doctrine. Caring for the poor isn’t exactly a top priority of Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

There’s a long-standing belief that leading Republicans know that if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, it will probably destroy the party. The moderates will leave. Women will leave. And single-issue Christian voters could leave if they aim to follow Christ’s teachings.

Romney has three choices: 1. State clearly that he opposes Roe v. Wade and wants to see legal abortion outlawed (he says he wants states to decide the issue – clearly a cop-out); 2. He can admit that he is personally opposed to abortion, but will do nothing to help overturn Roe v. Wade; 3. He can say nothing except some lame platitudes about how he wants it legal only for the health of the mother and in cases of rape.

I praise candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana for his comments that he opposes rape in all circumstances, even in the case of rape. His belief is consistent and principled. That is admirable.

Romney doesn’t have those kinds of principles. Anti-abortion Christians, he doesn’t deserve your vote.

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President Obama’s biggest “failure”

When I discuss President Obama with those who don’t plan voting for him, there are two phrases that always precede whatever charge is about to be levied against him: “He said he would…” or “I hoped he would…”

The phrases are used in reference to Obama’s hope of changing the tone in Washington. They are used in the mythical charge that the unemployment rate would be under 5 percent if his stimulus bill passed.

And they are used when referring to what the left hoped the president would be: the anti-George W. Bush.

Regardless, each of the phrases emphasizes the president’s biggest failure: he’s failed to deliver a successful narrative for his presidency.

President Obama has been the most progressive president since Franklin Roosevelt. He’s the first president, despite nearly a century of trying, to pass a form of universal health care. He’s made clean, alternative energy a viable source of fuel. He’s made it law that women should be paid the same as their male counterparts for equal work. He rescued the American auto industry.

And conservatives should be thrilled with the president. His health care law is built on conservative ideas. The mandate is an idea from the Heritage Foundation. The entire law is based off Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts law, which is based off of President Nixon’s universal health care proposal. He’s also shown himself to be an effective Commander-in-Chief, using drones to assassinate known terrorists and taking decisive action in taking out Osama bin Laden. A dove Obama is not.

Plus, the economy is growing at 2 percent, which is slow, but miraculous considering Europe is still in recession and Congress has refused to pass any stimulative measures the last two years.

But for some reason, no one is happy. Progressives don’t think Obama has been liberal enough. Conservatives just hate the guy.

This is because President Obama hasn’t told an effective story. He didn’t make the country realize that the recovery would be a long, hard slog, to steal a Republican phrase. He didn’t make people realize that health care reform is directly tied into the economic recovery. He didn’t effectively call out the Republican-led Congress and the minority in the Senate who had effectively stopped governing in hopes of stalling the economy and making Obama a one-term president, which they very well might succeed in doing.

Three and a half years after he took office, President Obama finally found a perfect slogan to tell his story: “Forward.”

During the Democratic Convention, speaker after speaker pushed the “Forward” message and Obama’s chances of re-election soared. No one wants to go back to the Bush days.

Then the first debate happened. Obama allowed Romney to change the narrative. The president didn’t fight back.

We have new plans to get the country moving forward, Romney said in Denver. (He doesn’t. He is just rehashing Bush-era policies of tax cuts and increased military spending.)  It’s the Romney narrative of “the president said he’d do this, but he failed” that has taken hold in independent, mostly white working-class voters.

To be clear, Obama hasn’t failed in his job as president. If he only serves one term, he will go down as the president who saved the country from a second Great Depression and who passed universal health care. You aren’t considered a failure for having done those things.

He’s just failed in telling the country what he’s done.

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Regarding enthusiasm for Obama and the Pew poll

A new Pew Research Center poll came out today showing Mitt Romney holding a 4-point national lead among likely voters over President Obama. The key term here is “likely voters.” Among registered voters, Obama and Romney are tied at 46 percent. The difference, according to Pew, is that Romney voters are 15 percent more enthusiastic about the campaign.

This idea that Romney supporters are more enthused than Obama supporters definitely makes sense.

Sure, Obama has probably accomplished more in his 45 months as president than most first-term presidents ever have. And, in a decade, historians will look back and write about how his actions when taking over the White House saved the country from falling into a second Great Depression.

But I do find it hard to be enthusiastic about three and a half years of Obama having to fight and scrap his way for any progress on anything, regardless of how big or small the action.

Not even a basic jobs bill meant to repair the country’s roads and provide extended unemployment benefits without adding to the deficit — the type of bill that used to pass regardless of who was in the White House and regardless of which party dominated on Capitol Hill — could be brought up for a vote in the House and the Democrats couldn’t break a filibuster in the Senate (50 votes were not enough).

(Speaking of filibusters, the Republicans have filibustered more bills and Obama appointees in the last 21 months than a Senate has in the history of the country.)

It is a jobs bill that could “raise GDP by 1.5 percent before any multiplier effect.”

It’s the same bill as his campaign’s jobs plan, which, if passed, would generate 1.1 million more jobs than Romney’s plan, according to independent analysis.

Plus I believe Obama wouldn’t hurtle the country into another Middle East war like Romney seems intent on doing (who would he attack first, Iran or Syria?).

Most importantly, Obama would probably have a little more leverage to tackle climate change without worrying about re-election.

Obama’s greatest domestic accomplishment, aside from the stimulus bill that took the United States off the fiscal cliff, is the passage of Obamacare, a bill neither left-wing Democrats or any Republican liked. The piece of legislation, which is based off Romney’s Massachusetts legislation, which is based off President Nixon‘s ideas for healthcare reform, is solid change, but not what most of us on the left wanted. We wanted single-payer. We believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Hell, we would have been happy with a public option, or Medicare for all. But we didn’t even get that.

Then we see President Obama using drones to kill suspected terrorists in frightening numbers.

It’s hard to be enthused when we disagree with so much that Obama’s done or see how much he has been unable to accomplish?

Meanwhile, Romeny is running against a chair, the greatest actual application of the Rorschach Test in the history of American politics. Republicans have been able to use that chair and project their greatest fears on the president:

“He wants to make America like Europe.” “He’s instituted a government takeover of healthcare.” “He wants to take away your guns.” “He wants to take away your hard-earned money and give it to black and Mexican people who refuse to work.” “He’s an Islamic-black nationalist who honors Hitler and Stalin and wants to start jihad in the United States.”

If this is the common Republican view regarding the president no wonder they’re pumped about defeating him, even though none of it is true.

The reason I will still vote for Obama? I think of what the Republican Party stands for and am frightened. The Republican Party doesn’t believe in science. To them, climate change is “fake” and melting ice caps are nothing to worry about. There is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and the female body naturally fights off sperm women don’t want. “Energy” means drill, baby, drill and tear those solar panels down from the White House.

Business regulations mean “let us fuck the consumer in the name of money.”

What would drones look like in the hands of Romney or his advisers, who would most likely be neocons from the Bush era? What would our energy policy look like when we’re reaching a tipping point in climate change? What would the economy look like when it returns to unpaid tax cuts that benefit mostly wealthy people? What would it look like when Romney gives the banks the leeway to make the same bets that put the economy in the situation they put it in in October 2008?

Simply put, this, defeating the GOP, is what motivates me to vote for the president. I’m sure the Pew poll didn’t take this feeling into account.

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R: Race and the Tea Party

Whenever I bring up race and the Tea Party, or race and President Obama, or race and the angry opposition to the president, I’m often told, “Why bring race into this?”

I want to get into a long, rational discussion about race and how it has been the main antagonist (protagonist) in American politics basically since the country’s inception.

I want to discuss the murder–genocide, really–of the tribes of the Americas.

I want to discuss slavery.

I want to discuss the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction.

I want to discuss the rise of prisons and how blacks were incarcerated to continue picking cotton and harvesting crops.

I want to discuss the use of blacks as strikebreakers, which angered white workers and helped empower groups like the KKK to terrorize black communities.

I want to discuss laws in California that prohibited the Chinese from owning property in the early 20th Century.

I want to discuss the imprisonment of Japanese citizens during World War II, while German and Italian citizens roamed free and fought for the United States.

I want to discuss the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

I want to discuss the anti-Semitism that was a major reason the U.S. did not get involved in World War II until it did–reports about the atrocities dealing with Jews were out there, just on Page 33 of The New York Times.

I want to discuss the split of the United States into North and South–AGAIN–in the late 1940s and early 1950s when President Truman made Civil Rights part of the Democratic agenda.

I want to discuss South Carolina’s Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond’s attempt to run as a Dixiecrat with a strong, anti-Civil Rights agenda.

Then I want to tell these people that in 1964, Thrumond switched parties. The lifelong Democrat became a Republican. A switch that helped create our current political structure.

A structure that can now be explained as follows:

Democrats: The Party of change and progress.

Republicans: The Party of the good ol’ days.

Democrats: The Party of the minority.

Republicans: The Party of the old guard.

Democrats: The Party of “this is our country.”

Republicans: The Party of “this is my country.”

Thurmond wasn’t alone, but he became the face of the anti-equality movement.

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, there have been several battles over race. They just take different names: busing, immigration, welfare, prison.

Since Obama’s been inaugurated, hell, since he’s been elected, the battle over race has taken on a different mantra:

“Let’s take back our country.”

We hear it over and over. Tea Party members say it. Republican candidates say it. Republican talking heads say it. Republican morons say it (couldn’t help it, sorry).

But what does it mean? Has Obama created a radical takeover of people’s lives? No way. Have taxes risen dramatically for all Americans? No.

But the opposition has made it clear: they don’t like government messing with their Medicare.

There are subtle messages that race continues to drive the politics: blame the immigrant as is happening in Arizona.

Vivid messages are shouted at protests.

And double-dipping, covering-all-bases messages are given by candidates like Rand Paul who was asked by Rachel Maddow whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

“What I think would happen – what I’m saying is, is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in any private property should discriminate, either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.”

Huh?

Oh he explains more today saying that he doesn’t favor a repeal of the Act, but:

“This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it.”

Wait, what?

“Government bad.”

“Government overreaches.”

“Civil Rights Act good. Sort of. No. Good. Really.”

Civil Rights Act of 1964 forcing businesses to desegregate?

“Government– hey, look, fire, over there!”

Now, the entire Tea Party movement isn’t built on racism. I don’t want people to believe that I think that. But, where the movement is taking place, racism is still prevalent.

That said, the Tea Party movement IS built on race. Like I said before, our entire political system is. The fact that there is a black president angers and SCARES many Tea Party members, especially those from the Midwest and the South.

It’s important to acknowledge this fact. If not, the entire dialogue, the entire tone of politics in this country doesn’t make sense.

It’s like reading The Great Gatsby without knowing the difference between old money and new money.

I’m going to say it one more time: politics in the United States is built on race.

Now let’s deal with it.

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