April 2011

The Game of "Gotcha"

Let's Play A New Game

     I think a very obvious problem is missed when talking about politics. It's not that they don't matter. I think we all know that elections and laws all have consequences. It's that when we talk about politics they are always skewered by our beliefs. Democrat or Republican. Conservative or progressive, or libertarian. These are beliefs and to me they are exactly what's wrong with politics. It creates an unnecessary argument that makes people take side. It takes and turns an important subject like politics and turns it into a game. It's time for the game to end.

Russia to Up Gas Export Duty to 44%

We’ve all been freaking out over what we pay at the pump—and we’ve heard that it’s only going to get worse. If Russia’s gas shortage and subsequent actions to make up for it are any indication—and, seeing as Russia is the world’s largest oil producer, it likely is—we’re all in way over our heads.

Back in February, the Russian government tried to help its citizens at the pump by putting a cap on gas prices—something that we’d all love, too, I’m sure. Unfortunately, to account for costs, they had to up their exports—resulting in the current gas shortage in the country.

Distractions

Let's talk about verifying my birth certificate. No, really, let's do that. Let's raise a stink over a non-issue despite it being confirmed time and again by official sources that I was indeed born in the United States and am not, as some have suggested, a foreign national with devious plans to undermine the American government for some sinister, unknown purpose. Yes, let's do that instead of giving comprehensive news coverage to the nuances of the ongoing budget debate so the American people can be properly informed about everything from the contentious tax code to the effect certain bills will have on the way health care is run in this country. Let's just dive right into the media sewer, shall we?

At the Heart of the "Birther" Conspiracy

The past week has seen the years-old “birther” conspiracy reach an unprecedented head with Barack Obama publicly releasing his long-form Hawaiian birth certificate and Donald Trump in danger of seriously pulling a muscle from patting himself on the back so hard for publicly pressuring the president to release the document.  But what’s really at play when such a seemingly irrelevant and far-fetched controversy manages to linger for years only to resurface in a major way?

 

Although the conspiracy theory is centered on a real law—that any presidential candidate must be a naturally-born US citizen—it quickly became clear that the “birther” phenomenon was an especially paranoid manifestation of poor loser’s syndrome: conservative voters, the Republican Party and the Orwellian Fox News/conservative media machine sought to punish Obama by any means necessary for winning the 2008 election.  Does it matter that the “birther” issue has no substantive connection to past or current policy debate?  Apparently not.  Two-and-a-half years later, though, it’s unclear what the surprisingly vocal conspiracy theorists hope to accomplish; Obama has already completed over half of his presidential term, so any fluke revelation that his birth certificate is illegitimate has no hope of nullifying the past, and every passing day makes the issue less relevant.  Unless, of course, the “birthers” are hoping for prosecution or are holding out on some sort of time travel device.  It seems, then, that the only real point of of the conspiracy’s continuing popularity is to impede Obama’s 2012 re-election progress.

 

What started as a crackpot theory has become a legitimate thorn in the president’s side—otherwise we wouldn’t have seen the release of the certificate.  Whether Obama’s birth certificate is legitmate or not, his failure to release it has certainly damaged his trustworthiness in the eyes of many who believe his reticence indicates he has something to hide.  Even Joseph Farah’s comments that the president continues to “cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life” have a sort of ring of truth, and even the publication of the certificate will never be enough to dispel the firmest birthers’ beliefs that the document is a forgery. Indeed, Trump has further proven that the center of the controversy isn’t really about the birth certificate but about continuing to distract and defame Obama in as many ways possible, continuing by calling into question his poor college grades.  The self-demonstrating lack of substance these allegations display point to the true issues that have brought them to such prominence in the public eye.

 

As mentioned above, despite their lack of substance, these types of controversy act as an extremely effective campaign tool.  Regardless of what policy debate is occurring, the conservative media machine can count on its bile-spewing zealots to repeat any allegation it chooses to put forth.  The fact that prominent media faces like Trump partake in the propaganda only makes the accusations get deeper under the administration’s skin and treat them more seriously.  By the time the next election comes around, at least some of the American public will question president’s moral standards—whether or not they’ve seen actual evidence.  Meanwhile, the Republican Party and conservative media have provided little or no substantive policy ideals for their followers to rally behind other than the most basic bullet points like “small government” and “less spending.”  This is where we arrive at the heart of the issue—power. 

 

It’s not about Obama’s legitimacy, college grades or even really the decisions he’s made since he’s been in office.  It’s about the fact that he—not a Republican candidate—won the 2008 election, and the conservatives are mounting a meticulous and ever-growing offensive against his administration in hopes of grasping the reins in 2012.  The fact that they’re willing to do so at the expense of telling the truth, educating their voter base on policy, compromising with bipartisan politics in the next two years or even comprehensively producing a policy plan that isn’t simply constructed to be anti-Obama is proof that the thing they really crave is simple power—top-dog status; the ability to control the government.

 

Before this piece is written off as a pro-Obama rant, please allow me to finish.  What is it that Obama craves?  I’ll give you a hint—it’s not progress, governmental transparency, liberal social values or bipartisanship—it’s power.  If his professed goal of civil service were his top priority, Obama wouldn’t pay any attention to such a ludicrous controversy.  Instead, all he can think about is the 2012 election and holding on to his power as president, forgoing substantive policy in order to clean up a PR mess that could cost him some voters.  Were he to remain true to his election promises and remain realistic, his best bet would probably be to doggedly pursue his so-called beliefs and attempt to make as much progress in the social and governmental progress he claimed to desire for the country.  Acting as a successful one-term president, making principled (if unpopular) decisions while grooming a potential Democrat successor is rationally the most effective way to accomplish policy goals—that is, if that’s what you’re really after.  Obama’s unsurprising obsession with the 2012 election not only contravenes his idealistic 2008 promise to rid Washington of “business as usual” politics, it demonstrates yet again the fact that the US election process significantly outweighs its purpose: as long as the acquisition of power outweighs true civil service, we can expect to continue to see that the bulk of our leaders’ decisions and actions are intended to secure re-election.

Are Voters Ready for a Mormon President?

Some claim that Mitt Romney’s status as a Mormon isn’t what knocked him out of the last election; they say that his status as an unknown did him in instead. Now that people know who he is, they argue, he could be a viable contestant in the battle for the presidency next year.

I’m not so sure about that. After what happened when the Mormons pushed so hard for Proposition 8 in California, I know that no supporters of equality, gay rights, and the general reduction of bigotry are going to be in favor of Romney.

Should Male Circumcision Be Banned?

As a longtime advocate against female circumcision—which typically involves the partial or entire removal of the clitoris, rendering sex painful and even potentially deadly for women—I can definitely see why people are in favor of banning male circumcision. Why harm a poor baby once he is born, after all, while simultaneously taking away a pretty important choice from him before he’s even old enough to know what foreskin is?

Of course, I’m not a man, so I can’t say whether or not I would want foreskin or not if it were available to me. When I asked my husband, he didn’t feel strongly about it one way or another, and said that he didn’t miss his foreskin and didn’t know a man who did! That said, if he’d had it all his life, perhaps he would have felt differently.

The Birther Debate's Afterbirth

How Obama's Full Certificate Release Will Change Nothing

Fringe members from every right-wing sideshow in the country, Donald Trump acting is their pompous ring master, have been demanding President Obama’s birth certificate. Unhappy with the online “certificate of live birth”, these peripheral partisans accused it of being “doctored” or an outright forgery. Today, after nearly six months of a very publicly renewed debate over his origin of birth, the Obama administration released his long-form government-issued birth certificate.

Barack Hussein Obama II was born at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital at 7:24 p.m. on August 4th, 1961. Period.

Trump’s Latest Conspiracy Theory: “Obama Was a Bad Student"

In another garishly obnoxious move to make himself attractive as a Republican party presidential candidate, Donald Trump is now calling President Obama a bad student. Trump claims, in fact, that Obama was a terrible student—which, if you have any sense, pretty much means nothing, whether it’s true or not—and demands to know how the President got into both Columbia and Harvard colleges in the first place.

We Need a Counter-Tea Party

Living in the semi-suburbs of the Midwest near many rural areas, I have been getting my full share of the Tea Party, and I’m pretty darn sick of it. Our little local paper is nothing but silly Tea Party rants in the opinions columns, and throughout the last major election the only calls I received were from Tea Party volunteers (and there were a LOT of calls). And as annoying as these people are, they obviously get results, and they hit nerves—especially across the Bible belt of America.

Connecticut Senate to Vote on Death Penalty Repeal

Several weeks ago, the legislative judiciary committee of Connecticut gave the okay to a bill that would call for the repeal of the death penalty in the state. Governor Malloy has already stated—during campaign promises, of course—that if the bill reaches his desk, he’ll happily sign it, so now it’s up to the Connecticut Senate to vote on the repeal.

Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate Released

Okay, all of you people grasping at straws as you attempt to discount President Obama’s right to be president: you win. No, he’s not being kicked out of the White House, but he and the rest of his administration just gave in to your nearly-terroristic demands (at least where face-stomping is concerned) and gave up his long-form birth certificate for all of you to ogle over, nitpick, and conspira-thize over. To quote Shakespeare, there, art thou happy?

Socialism in America

Why It's Been Here All Along

          Since President Obama’s introduction of a comprehensive healthcare reform bill there has been a word rolling down the news media outlets and political blogosphere, picking up an ugly weight: socialism. In fact, so many of the right-wing conservative mouthpieces (see Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity for the big-hitters) have used it so often that you would think the word would be completely rung out; losing whatever nasty edge they attempted to attach. However, something unusual, and much more concerning, has happened; it’s earned the distrust and disdain of mainstream middle class America.

The Way Things Actually Work

Government isn't bullshit. It's not a pack of lies, manipulations and misdirects. If anything, government is an artful pack of lies, manipulations and misdirects. It's the way things have to be done. We live in a democracy, for better or for worse, which means we can't just do things. As President, I can't hand down decrees, or at least any that would be enforceable. No, I have to have meetings and form committees and enact investigative panels to say and do the obvious. I have to make it look like there's a substantive difference between doing something outright and acting through due diligence. I'm no king. Sometimes life would be easier if I were, but that's the reality of modern politics. Even kings aren't kings anymore.

Thinking Errors

Perpetrators and Perpetuators

There are a number of pretty incredible claims in the world of “poli-tainment”; those news media outlets and talking heads that book themselves as serious journalism but are really just shock-jockies. Poli-tainers and their congregations poison the national discussion with baseless lies and bigotry at a time when an open, honest dialogue about what's best for this country may be most important. There are two types of people that do this; one type comprise the victims in this scenario (thought it may be difficult for us to see them in that light), and the other is comprised of the victimizers.

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