Category Archives: politics

Ted Stevens: Another Case Of Voter Misinformation?

For ages, politicians have been accused of being unscrupulous crooks.  However, voters have managed to keep from putting a known crook into office.

But that track record may come to an end.

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens [who has served 40 years in the Senate, was often quoted when he regarded the internet as a "series of tubes", and was repeatedly denounced by Obama, McCain and Palin for his conviction for failing to properly report gifts] is still in the contest for re-election.  The vote has been so close, the position has still not been decided.

And, to me, that is absolutely mind-bottling.  Here is a man who was convicted just before Election Day, is likely to be forced to resign if he does end up winning re-election, and he still got nearly 50% of the vote of his constituents.  Do they just remember who they voted for last time and do it again, or are they simply ignoring the news of his conviction?  In all honesty, it's stories like this that make people lose faith in the democratic system.

So, next time a convicted fellon decides to run for office in your neck of the woods, remember to do your due dilligence and not vote for them!

UPDATE: Thankfully, the voters did manage to keep the streak going, with Ted Stevens losing out on his re-eleciton bid.  So, maybe there is some hope after all…

Why I Voted For McCain

You've probably heard the old business adage about the three most important factors in the success of a business:

Location, Location, Location

Similarly, in the “most important election anyone in the universe may ever experience” between McCain and Obama, there were three key factors for me:

Policy, Policy, Policy

Regardless of who gets elected, we will see change.  W just took the executive brance too far to the right for us not to see any kind of change.  The question then becomes who's policies will take us in the best direction.

Sure, I have to admit there are some qualities that made me want to vote for Obama, but in general I believe his policies are not long term solutions to our nation's problems.  A few in particular that made me wary were:

  • Increasing Minimum Wage – If there's one sure-fire way to kick-start inflation, it's by upping the baseline of minimum wage.  And to increase it more than 20% over the 15% increase that will already take place in January is sheer lunacy.  This is the kind of move that will cause small businesses to close and large ones to consolidate their workforces or find workers overseas.  So what's the point in paying the least-earning more if they won't be able to find a job to work.
  • Opposing School Vouchers – I believe that our public school system needs to be forced to reform, and nothing can do that like some healthy competition.  Not only will it force schools to be more efficient and effective to attract students, but it will likely lead to better pay for our teachers and attract more and better people to the profession.
  • Universal Health Care – Just ask Canadians about the “benefits” of social medicine, because all I've ever heard are complaints.  When care is mandated and regulated by a governing board, there becomes less incentive to pursue new treatments and develop new medications.
  • Taxes vs. Spending – While Obama's tax plan does finally cut taxes where they should be cut, I am concerned about the number of additional programs he is proposing while having less money to work with.  Can you do more with less?  It would be nice in the government, but I'm not sure that change can happen in the next four years.
  • Immigration - I'm a firm believer that if you don't chip in, then you shouldn't get the benefits.  It really irks me how many children of illegal immigrants benefit from our scools when they don't pay to support them.  If they want to apply for citizenship and all that, that's fine, but no more flying under the radar and raiding the cookie jar.

In the end, I had to go with McCain because his policies are much more in line with what I believe to be in the best interest of this country.  He may be older, and he may be a Republican “maverick” (heard that too many times already) who is campaigning in the wake of a Republican president who has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but he's got the right ideas to take this country back to where it needs to be.  Plus, he's got a sense of humor as well.

Take it from this non-affiliated voter who voted a almost evenly split ticket this morning: Obama's plans sound great at first, but many of them just won't work when you get down to the details.

However, even if you don't agree with me, at least get out and vote!  Otherwise, you have no right to complain about anything that happens in our government for the next four years!

Campaign '08: It's A Shame You Can't Pick And Choose

As election day draws nearer and nearer (only 32 days away as of today), I am becoming less and less clear about who I favor in the coming election.  Right now, I'd love to be able to take stances from each of the four Presidential and VP candidates, and combine them into one ideal candidate.  Unfortunately, that's not possible (besides, I might be looked down on for creating some kind of Franken-candidate) and a decision has to be made.  So I guess I've got the next month to figure things out…

In the meantime, here are some rambling thoughts on the candidates:

  • Sarah Palin comes across like she's running for high school class president.  When she gave a “shout out” to her teacher-brother and his students, she sounded like she was trying to be the “cool” mom.  That just rubs me the wrong way…this should be a serious political contest, not a popularity contest.
  • Joe Biden has been through a lot in his life, including losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident, and then raising his sons by himself while carrying on the duties of a U.S. Senator.  There are many who would not have stood so strong.
  • I think I'd be more likely to vote for Joe Biden for President then for Barak Obama.
  • It's odd how each Presidential candidate appears to be at odds with their running-mates over some important issues.  Makes it seem like they were just trying to appease as many voters as possible instead of taking a hard stand on any issue.  That, unfortunately, appears to be the theme of this year's campaigns.
  • The only one of the four that appears to be in tune with the educational problems in our country is Palin.
  • I do favor Obama's tax plan over McCain's, as it appears to spread the tax burden more fairly across the economic population.
  • The main themes that I find from the two candidates this year are the following:  McCain and Palin are looking to privatize and reduce the reach of the government, while Obama and Biden are looking to see what else the government can do.
  • For the record, I believe that the government has been “bigger” than it's needed to be for at least the last 2-3 generations of Americans, and it's time for the American people to be more responsible for themselves instead of relying on the government.
  • At worst, Palin is probably at least a better shot than Dick Cheney.

If you haven't registered to vote yet, do so ASAP, or you'll lose your right to complain for the next four years…

4 Problems With The U.S.'s Current Political System

While there are a lot of things currently wrong with the American political system, there are several that jump out at me which appear to be holding us back from bettering this country:

  1. The Two-Party System – Besides limiting the choices of the American public, the two-party system is extremely polarizing.  This means that any stance on issues not 110% in line with party platforms gets chastized or scrutinized until it's dropped or dismissed.  It's also created an “Us vs. Them” mentality amongst the public that is probably stronger now than at any time since the Civil War.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that we're all in this together, and there are some cases where neither party's platform is the right decision to take the country, state, city or school district in.
  2. The Popularity Contest – Most candidates will pander to whatever immediate need is at the forefront of their constituents' minds (or their own, in some cases).  Many politicians appear to have forgotten that our government is not a Democracy, but a Republic, where they are elected to make decisions in the best interest of those who have elected them.  This effect then becomes more obvious as levels of government become more local.
  3. Special Interest Influence – Too many of today's laws, acts and motions are strong influenced by special interest groups, who make a lot of noise but don't represent the constituency.  This causes a lot of the general needs of the population to be ignored in favor of these few (see the effects “No Child Left Behind” and our public school systems to see just a few examples of this).
  4. Zero Accountability – In today's political arena, most politicians have zero accountability.  Either their constituents aren't paying attention to what they are doing, or there is almost never enough backlash against their actions to force a recall or any other disciplinary action.  Even the threat of not being re-elected isn't enough to dissuade most politicians from making bad decisions.

What Makes For A Good Politician?

In order to sort out this mess being called as an “election” and “campaigns”, I was doing some more reading about McCain, Palin, Obama and Biden. That's when I got to thinking: What makes for a good politician?

When I began to think about it, it became a much more difficult question to answer. After all, there have not been many candidates in my lifetime who I would label as “good” politicians. So I started thinking about the qualities an ideal politician would possess in order for me to actually endorse them:

  • Honesty – Insert your politician jokes here, because dishonesty is what has become expected of today's politicians. Wouldn't it be nice if somebody followed through on their campaign promises (or even attempted to follow through)?
  • Integrity – I'm less interested in finding a candidate who is trying to ride the waves of public opinion than I am in finding a candidate who will stand up for what they believe in. Don't appease me by telling me what you think I want to hear, but have your own opinions and stick to them. If I wanted someone in office who was just going to do what I asked, I'd vote for myself.
  • Patriotism – Is is so hard to ask for a politician who puts the best interests of the community, state or country ahead of their own political careers or legacy? My ideal politician would make an unpopular decision that benefited their constituents, even if it ruined their career.
  • Intelligence – While our last several Presidents have had the educational pedigree, it seems pretty clear that none have been anything close to a “scholar”. Ideally, a good politician will have excelled in their schooling and used it to help them make their decisions instead of having to rely so heavily on “advisors”, “advocates” and “lobbyists”.
  • Fiscal Experience – The ideal politician should manage money well, because fiscal matters are very central to much of today's politics, especially in terms of debt management. If they can't keep their own credit score above 700, they probably aren't fit to manage millions (or billions) of public dollars.
  • Reasonable – Nobody can change the world overnight, and a good politician should realize that. In the long run, there's very little that a President can accomplish in an eight-year term, let alone only four years. They should still have high goals, but be realistic about what can be accomplished in the time they have, and be open with the public about how their plans are coming. Even if some changes may not be seen until long after their terms (like energy changes for the future), they should at least get the ball rolling.
  • Charasmatic – A good politician should make you want to follow them, and deliver the great speeches that many of us yearn for. However, this is at the bottom of my list because I will not sacrafice any of the above for someone who is simply a good speaker.

I admit, it's a difficult list to live up to, but shouldn't politicians be striving to do just that? Unfortunately, the current candidates clearly don't fit the bill, and I'd be hard-pressed to say that any of the Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidates possess even half these qualities…but that doesn't mean we have to leave the bar low.

Are their any other traits you'd like to see in your ideal politician?

Pushing Off The Inevitable Economic Collapse

Anyone who is interested in the current economic situation of the United States should take a few minutest to read Too Big to Fail? by Peter Goodman in The New York Times.  It's a very terse look at the current American situation, and some of the questionable things that have been done in an attempt to prop up the declining economy.  While the government is again jumping to bail out poorly run businesses, the article points out that is probably not the best option:

For one thing, this argument goes, taxpayers – who now confront plunging house prices, a drop on Wall Street and soaring costs for food and fuel – will ultimately pay the costs. To finance a bailout, the government can either pull more money from citizens directly, or the Fed can print more money – a step that encourages further inflation.

“They are going to raise the cost of living for every American,” said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital Inc., a Connecticut-based brokerage house that focuses on international investments. “The government is debasing the value of our money. Freddie and Fannie need to fail. They are too big to save.”

I know I was upset to hear that the government was going to bail out another poorly-run entity.  The biggest problem is that these companies are being saved at the cost of the citizens of this country.  Shouldn't things be happening the other way around?

Thanks For Wasting More Taxpayer Money, Senator Spectre

money-down-toilet So, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spectre seems intent on wasting more of Congress' time and taxpayer money into figuring out why the NFL destroyed the “Spygate” videos.  I mean, it couldn't be as simple as not wanting other teams to be able to get their hands on them as well to the expense of the Jets.  Nope, they had to be trying to cover something up.  Instead, he has to take a vendetta on behalf of Steelers and Eagles fans (who, by the way, don't particularly care any more) to take down the Patriots and the league.

Glad to see that our government is taking the time to focus on the big issues instead of getting into issues like Spygate and Roger Clemens' performance enhancing drug use…

Politically Speaking: My Take On The Issues

Before you have any serious political discussion, especially regarding presidential candidates, I believe that it is important to identify where we are coming from.  Therefore, I am going to present here my take on a number of the key political issues that have and will continue to come up over the next nine months.

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Iraq / Middle East

First off, let me just say that I'm not happy we got involved in this mess in the first place.  However, now that we are where we are, I have to say I'm conflicted.  I hate playing “police” to the rest of the world; being chastised when we don't get involved in some situations, and being condemned for getting involved in others.  I'd love to be able to step back and say “Hey, it's your problem…deal with it”.  However, that's unlikely to happen any time soon.

On the other hand, I'm sure that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would simply lead to mass chaos.  There's almost no leadership in position to try and run the country, and too many hands grabbing for the power.

Basically, that leaves me in the position that we need to put a loose timetable together for withdrawal from Iraq, and this timetable will likely be in the 5-year range.  Unfortunately, that doesn't seem fast enough for many voters, but given the situation I feel it's a realistic approach.

Immigration

In the simplest form, I'm not a fan of amnesty for illegal immigrants because it rewards those who break the rules.  I'm disgusted by the free education that illegal immigrants who don't pay their taxes get in many areas of the country.  If you want to reap the rewards of living in the U.S., I also believe that you should pay the same price as the rest of us.

Yet, the larger problem is employers, who often are not punished strictly enough for knowingly employing illegal immigrants and not paying benefits or taxes for them.  It's pure greed, and not a desire to benefit the lives of these immigrants.

Taxes

In general, I'm favor of tax cuts for a number of reasons.  And no, one of them is not so that my paycheck will be larger.  I'm quite happy to pay my taxes because I believe the price is often worth it.

However, I do believe that wealthier individuals have a duty to pay a larger percentage in taxes than those with lower incomes.  Almost like a luxury tax in baseball where even if it doesn't level the playing field, it at least helps benefit the lower earners to some degree, leaving them with more of the money they need to get by.

Another problem with taxes is that I believe things are done very inefficiently in most governments (national, state and local) in our country.  Many practices fly at the governmental level that would kill even major corporations.  However, there is no great incentive to improve this because there is no true bottom line.  If we need more money, the government always seems to find it.

Therefore, I'm in favor of tax cuts because I believe many of the governmental departments and organizations need their budgets reduced so that they take a long, hard look at how they do things.  Eliminating unnecessary programs, streamlining communication, and domestic outsourcing could lead to some major improvements in what can be done, even with a reduced budget.

Line-Item Veto

I am strongly in favor of granting the president the power of the line-item veto.  For one, it would strengthen the power of the presidency, something that has been disintegrating steadily over the past several decades.  Secondly, it would reduce the number of garbage add-ons that are often tied to legitimate bills,

like pay raises for congressmen or special pet-project funding cases.

Gun Control

Even though I don't own a gun myself and likely never will, I fully support people's right to bear arms.  Those who take care of their weapons and follow the

existing laws regarding gun control aren't a threat to any of us.

However, I do believe that many of our gun control policies are not enforced strictly enough.  If we focus our efforts on illegal arms, then maybe we can better

work to keep them out of the hands of criminals.

Government & Business

I personally feel that the government should keep their nose out of business as much as possible.  The laissez faire approach works pretty well in most cases, especially in today's information age.  People know about the practices of different companies, holding them to a greater level of accountability that we have seen in the past.

Specifically, in the case of the current real estate market and sub-prime mortgages, I say let those companies dangle in the wind.  They made a bad business decision, and they should have to deal with it and not be bailed out by the government.  We've already seen one industry get bailed out this decade (the airline industry following the 9/11 attacks), and it was simply a government sinkhole that the airlines took advantage of.

Similarly, I don't advocate the involvement of government in finding alternatives to gasoline and oil.  This is because I feel that the market will eventually shift and demand reasonable alternatives, and we should just let the market take it's course.

Keeping companies who are not prepared for emergency cases or to deal with bad markets are not companies we should be trying to keep around anyway.  In the end, someone will step up to take their place.

Education

I know I have friends who are education majors who will vehemently disagree with me, but I'm very much in favor of a voucher system when it comes to education.  The current system is geared too much around bare minimums when the goal should be to make the school system as good as possible.  However, with teachers caught down in the bog of low pay and mandated testing, where is the incentive to change lives.  Even the most dedicated and inspired new teachers quickly get beat into the system like a square peg into a round hole in the current system.

That why I believe it's in the best interest for schools to compete with one another, like is done in the corporate world.  This competition would encourage schools to get their students to succeed, get the best teachers possible, and treat those teachers more fairly.  It would also likely drive down education costs, as each school worked to get the most out of their money.

It's really the only way I can see to change the currently stagnant education system.

Social Security

I am also in favor of the privatization of Social Security, as I feel that it can be better managed by a company with a vested interest than any government agency can do.

Welfare

This is one agency/service that I honestly can't believe is even still around.  It was designed to be a stop-gap assistance program during the Great Depression, and it just never went away.  I'm in favor of completely eliminating a government-run or government-sponsored welfare program, and encourage local churches and non-profit organizations to take up the cause.  I believe that not only can such a system be better run, but it can be more personal and helpful to get people back on their feet instead of helping them to continue to just get by.

Universal Health Care

An idea which I oppose 100%.  For one, it discourages doctors and researchers from trying to push the line with treatments, slowing the innovation that has been synonymous with the medical world the last century.  With a universal health care plan, there is no longer a benefit to do so.

I also am not a fan of having to carry the burden of the health problems of others.  Under a universal health care program, as a relatively healthy guy I'm likely to be paying as much for my annual check-ups as a guy who is on his 4th bypass and taking $800 of medication a month.  To me, that just seems innately unfair.  Sure, it would be great if we could provide healthcare for everyone, but to throw away everything we currently have to do so seems like one step forward and one hundred steps back.

Abortion

First off, let me say that as a man, it's often hard to have a solid opinion on abortion because it's something I'm never going to have to do personally, and not something my wife and I would even consider anyway.

That said, I do take a pro-life position.  While I've heard a lot about the “right to choose”, I can't say I disagree.  I just believe that once you've decided to have unprotected sex, you've already made that choice and should deal with the consequences, even if you chose to give the baby up for adoption.

The only exceptions I can see are situations where both the mother and baby are put at risk by the birthing process and rape.  The former because I believe it's better to only lose one live than two, and the latter because a choice was not made by the raped woman and could lead to all sorts of mental anguish.

Death Penalty

Simply put, I do believe that there are appropriate cases for the use of the death penalty, and each decision should be left to a panel of jurors.

Marriage

I do believe that the term “marriage” should be reserved as the union of a man and a woman.  Homosexual couples are free to have their “unions” or whatever term they would like to use, even though I may not agree with them.

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For the most part, that sums up (can you call this long of a post a summation?) where I stand regarding the major issues that seem to have arisen so far this election.  Where do you stand?  I completely understand if you don't view things the same way, and that's what makes this country great.  I'm still likely to vote for a candidate that sees things similarly to me.

Next time, I'll take a look at the remaining Democratic candidates and how I match up with them, followed by the same treatment for the Republicans.