Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fare Thee Well, John Edwards. You Are Already Missed.

Today is a sad day in American politics. The most progressive, and arguably the strongest, candidate has left the race. The mainstream media has achieved its goal of a two-candidate race on the left (and are one step closer to getting their way on the right). Yet again, the American people are denied the true opportunity to choose their leader in a fair election. I have always been interested in politics, but John Edwards is the first candidate who moved me to act. He made me want to get up and spread his message to everyone I saw. I am deeply saddened today because the flame in this election has gone out.

John Edwards is the candidate of the people, but he is also the candidate of principle. His mission is to put the government back into the hands and service of the people. He is dedicated to lift up the people who need it most and bring conscience back into government. He truly believes in strengthening the middle class by strengthening our government. He has the bold initiatives and progressive ideas for health care, education, and corporate reform. He is not afraid to act for what is right and to live his life as an example of the American dream.

He is also highly principled, and unfortunately, that may have ultimately led to his exit. John Edwards does not accept money from lobbyists or special interests. He believes in the grassroots nature of American politics. The only people he indebted himself to are the American people. However, without the special interest money and backing, he couldn’t run the $100 million campaign that is required these days.

And then there is the problem of the media and corporations. They all knew that John Edwards would hold them responsible for their actions. They knew that Edwards would work to break up the monopolies that are breaking the American people. He scared them, so they actively worked against him. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but the blatant disregard for the campaign of John Edwards was astonishing. The mainstream media refused to cover him, refused to put his message and candidacy out to the people. The American people were kept from knowing their biggest advocate.

Earlier in this race I thought that Edwards didn’t need the media to win. I believed so strongly in his message that I thought others would catch on and throw their support to him. I believed that the people would recognize the importance of this election and of choosing the strongest candidate. For seven years we have been suffering the backlash of the “corporate candidate” and of the “media favorite.” We have seen the detrimental results of ambivalence. I was dad wrong. I completely underestimated the determination of the mainstream media to willfully direct the course of this election.

In the back of my mind, I know that there is something greater at work (maybe this is denial, maybe it is hope). I have to believe that Edwards would not pull out so close to Super Tuesday without knowing that something greater is in the works. I am grateful that he has not sold out his supporters for a gamble with another candidate. That may be politics, but it is not John Edwards. Besides, there is no guarantee that any of us will support any of the other candidates in the primary. I have already cast my absentee ballot, and John will be receiving my vote. I do believe that we will see more of John Edwards in the next Democratic administration.

But now we turn our attention to John Edwards’ final task: “One America, one America that works for everybody.” I will fully support the Democratic nominee because I believe that this election is still about ideas. It is still about making America a better place. We have strong Democratic candidates who are dedicated to reversing the Republican downfall that has stricken this country. Now, no one is perfect, so we will have to compromise. But, that is what “One America” is all about. We must out our differences aside and come together for a greater purpose. And we must not let the mainstream media steamroll us any longer. We are smarter and we are stronger, but we can only win if we unite.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How The Mighty Are Falling

Has it really come to this? Is the Democratic Party, aided by the mainstream media, going to implode before the general election? Why have we let ourselves get caught up this media frenzy? Honestly, I have mostly ignored the Clinton/Obama fray. In part, it has to do with the fact that I am an Edwards supporter. I don’t make a point of reading anything that these candidates do or say that is outside of the scope of the issues. But, more importantly, I believe that people should not let themselves get drawn down into this media frenzy. It is petty and it does not add to the election process. It actually detracts from the professionalism and electability of the Democratic Party in the general election and it needs to stop. In today’s polls, McCain is leading Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. This is not where we need to be, and it’s all of our faults.

Why are people so unwilling to compromise? Specifically, Obama supporters. It has been shown that likely Hillary Clinton voters would vote for Obama, but the reverse is not true. Why? This idea is absurd and irritating, and it has a hint of reverse racism to it. Many of the Clinton detractors use extremely offensive and racist language when describing her. Where were these protests when she was First Lady and Bill was President? When you look at the three remaining Democratic candidates, you will see that not much separates their positions. When you look at the way our government is supposed to work, you will see that a President cannot single handedly run this country (note that I said “supposed to”). So then, what we need is a candidate who will direct Congress, lead the country, and act diplomatically abroad. All of the Democratic candidates are capable of fulfilling this role. The personal preference is in the details, and as we all know, details are subject to change.

Why are African Americans so firm in the idea of “Obama or bust”? There seems to be some sort of idea that Obama is entitled to the nomination because he is black, or at least this is how I interpret their comments. I have a hard time believing that people who are so mobilized to vote in the primary would just abandon the general election. I have a hard time believing that people would be so selfish in such an important election. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t the Republicans done more that enough damage in the past seven years? How could a supporter of Obama believe that a vote for a Republican, or no vote at all, would be better for America?

Will John Edwards be the beneficiary of this bickering? It’s interesting that for the first time, a white male is at a disadvantage in an election. The media frenzy surrounds the successful minority candidates, but it also drags them down. As Clinton and Obama continue to bicker, Edwards is gaining independent and crossover support, simply because he looks increasingly like the only adult in the room. And it has nothing to do with looks. It has everything to do with attitude. Of course, having the strong message doesn’t hurt. We need a president with attitude to stand up to special interests and those that have systematically driven this country further right.

So here’s my bottom line: This race is about restoring America. It is about Iraq, the economy, education, protecting the Constitution and our personal rights. It is not about race or gender. Unfortunately, some people just can’t let that go. They continue to bring up these issues and perpetuate racism and sexism. To me, the white male candidate is the best not just because he has the best ideas, but because he has risen above the despicable bickering. And to all those that continue to sling mud in the form of racism and sexism: “Stop. It makes you look bad.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Color of Hope

What is the one thing every American child grows up learning? Any one can grow up to be President. Over time, though, we learn that’s not exactly true. "Anyone" technically means American-born citizens (sorry, Arnold). And, up to this point, every president has been a privileged, white male.

What do minorities grow up believing they actually can be? Most don’t have visions of investment bankers or doctors dancing through their heads. Instead, they have images of diamonds and dollars. They want to be Rappers or Running Backs. Those are the options for many minorities. And this is constantly reinforced through a mix of popular culture and reality. But, with the grim statistics of the business world, who wouldn’t want to be famous?

According to 2002 census figures, black men still earn roughly 25 percent less than their white counterparts who have the same level of education. Specifically, the median income for a black man with a high school diploma was $27,224 in 2002, compared to $35,738 for whites. For those with higher educations, the discrepancy is even wider. The median income for a black man with a master's degree was 27 percent less than his white counterpart: $50,763 for blacks versus $69,655 for whites.

And, discrimination doesn’t stop at the paycheck. Many people discriminate without even realizing they’re doing it. Here’s one example (and I’m not making this up): Six weeks into my freshman year at the US Naval Academy, midterm grades came out. Each student has to meet with their superior officer to discuss their grades. Being the outstanding student that I am, I had earned 3.5 and was quite proud of it. So, I sit down with the superior officer, he pulls my grades up on the computer, and says “Wow! You’re actually really smart!” I was shocked. Was this man mentally ill? This is the Naval Academy, not a shopping mall. I had applied, along with everyone else, and was accepted. But, because of my minority status, some people automatically assumed that I was not as capable as my white male counterparts.

And now we come to this historic time. Barak Obama is really a black man. He is very capable and he is running for President of the United States. Every black and brown person should run out and vote for him because he represents the culmination of the Civil Rights movement, right?

In my opinion, this is the wrong attitude. Simply because someone is of a certain race does not mean that they bring any more hope or change than any other candidate. Barak Obama is a great and ambitious man. He is also a privileged man. He graduated from Columbia and Harvard. These are great accomplishments and should be regarded as such. But, has he overcome the struggle that is rampant among so many minority communities? Absolutely not.

If people actually look past the surface of the candidates, they will see that John Edwards is the candidate that has the humble roots. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, but it’s true; John Edwards is the son of a mill worker. He worked his way through state schools in pursuit of his law degree. John Edwards is a self-made man. He is a prime example of hope and the American dream. Hope does not have a color. Hope is not about race. Hope is a feeling. One can only bring hope if they have the personal experience. John Edwards is that candidate.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ronald Reagan Caused 9/11

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something controversial. Ronald Reagan caused 9/11. Not single-handedly of course (that would give him too much credit). But, his actions led directly to 9/11. And to this day, his followers are not equipped to handle the post-Soviet Union world.

If you listen to most Republicans, Reagan was solely responsible for “winning” the Cold War. Their fantasy is that Regan’s strength and power lead the Soviets to only one conclusion: Their time was through, so they should throw in the towel. This scenario is highly doubtful. Reagan was responsible for the largest peacetime military build-up in US history. He presided over the greatest budget deficits in US history. The National Defense Budget reached a high in 1985. Reagan's buildup, in today's dollars, peaked at $494 billion that year. Think about it: Reagan was spending more on the defense budget during peacetime than any other president since WWII, including the time during the Korea and Vietnam conflicts. Ronald Reagan out-spent the Soviet Union. In their efforts to keep pace with America, their economy crumbled. There was no historic “clash of the Titans” in which Reagan prevailed. He may have told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” but his most direct contribution to the end of the Cold War was outrageous defense spending.

The Soviet Union spent an ever-increasing percentage of their budget on defense in order to keep up with Reagan. This directly led to economic downturn and the decline of the USSR. The Soviet Union fell apart. And with that, the fate of thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons fell into the unknown. As Russia struggled to guard and maintain its arsenal, desperate scientists and soldiers were selling their wares to the highest bidder. When a wealthy individual could possess the same capabilities as a nation, that person could make their message heard around the world.

The fall of the USSR ushered in the modern terrorist era. Whereas before we were pitched against a nation, we were now defending ourselves against an enemy without borders who did not operate in accordance with international law. We were now the lone “superpower”; a giant in the world, but unable to look down and see the threats developing all around us.

The World Trade center bombings in 1993 should have been the wake-up call. America was the target, but we weren't being targeted in traditional ways. The new enemy did not follow the same rules. The new enemy did not practice diplomacy nor was he confined to borders. Terrorists moved underneath the radar, praying on the poor governments.

Clinton was trying to move the military in the right direction. A faster, lighter force that could defeat guerilla enemies would need to replace the hulking might that was needed to counter the USSR. He was also working the diplomatic side of the issue. If we could aid the nations where terrorists sought refuge, we could flush them out. If we could entice democracy, the terrorists would lose their footholds.

However, the Reagan faithful saw things differently. When they saw Clinton cut the Pentagon budget, they saw liberal destruction of the Regan strength. No one bothered to address the fact that Reagan built the military up to unsustainable and impractical peacetime levels. Additionally, the success of high-tech munitions in the first Gulf War should have proven the need for “quality” over “quantity”.

They failed to take stock of the new world order and adjust their thinking to match reality. Instead, the Reagan conservatives try to mold the new world order into the old good-vs-evil thinking.

So there we were, trapped in the past to Ronald Reagan’s legacy. Our government officials were too comfortable with how things used to be to realize what they really were. On the eve of those attacks, George W. Bush was elected. He surrounded himself with advisors from his father’s presidency, or even earlier. Men who also thought in the past, who couldn’t see something like this coming. And then it came.

Now here we are, almost seven years later, on the eve of another historic election. The past seven years can be summed up in one word: disaster. The economy is a disaster, the Global War on Terrorism is a disaster, America’s social progress has come to a standstill. What can we do now? Do we elect a leader who has promised us more of the same? Do we elect a leader who will surround himself with advisors from the past?

No. That is not the answer. Bush has proven that we cannot look to the past in order to solve the problems of the future. We must elect a candidate who will have a fresh view. We must elect someone who will move America forward, not backwards. We must move on!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Education 2.0

I’ve been thinking a lot about the American public education system. I am a huge proponent of the public school system. I went to public schools, and I believe that access to quality public education has to be one of the foundations of American society. I would say that I did pretty well by it, but an increasing number of students are not faring so well. These charter schools and vouchers just take money away from the public schools that need it most. The obvious, embarrassing fact is that American public schools are in dire need of an overhaul. The curriculum needs updating, the classrooms are too crowded and students aren’t getting the quality education that they need. What used to be a world-class education system is now falling further behind. In 2007, UNICEF ranked US schools 14 of 24 in industrialized nations.

There are two types of people that get attention in the modern public school system: the smart kids and the troublemakers. Anyone else just gets by. And far too many people fall through the cracks. We need to shift the focus. Tests don’t measure education. Skills and knowledge make up an education. So, here is my plan for revamping the education system in America (I’m not going to say anything about NCLB except this: It’s Terrible. Get rid of it).

Instead of going to elementary, middle and high school, the system would be broken up into 3 five-year blocks. It would retain its similarity to the current system, but preschool would be the beginning of the public school education. This way, we can ensure that all students have access to the earliest building blocks necessary to have a strong educational foundation. Also, secondary language training would begin in this phase. The world is a multilingual place and Americans need to be able to operate in many languages. Also, experts agree that the “language learning window” is closed or closing at age 12, the age at which most Americans begin their foreign language training. It has also been shown that learning a foreign language along with a native language helps strengthen the understanding of the native language. So, if students learn a second language, they will be better English speakers.

The second block would be where the bulk of the learning takes place. But instead of just knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the learning will be focused on skills. Sure, people will still learn history, math, and literature. What we need is an education system that teaches applicable information. Students will also learn computers and international affairs.

And by the time students get to the third block, they will be branching into different areas. The courses available would be similar to college courses. Students would start at the 100 level and progress to more difficult courses. So, instead of Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, the courses would be Math 100, 200, 300, and would integrate all subjects, but progress in difficulty. AP/College Level courses would still be available and encouraged. Students will also have the ability to start learning trades and study or volunteer abroad. We can’t force everyone to go to college, and frankly, not everyone is ready for college straight out of high school, but we can give our students skills with which they can succeed in the world.

Another hurdle we have to overcome is the practice of passing students in order to keep them with their peer group. This requires a total revamping of the school system. First, the school year would be broken into trimesters. At the end of the trimester, the teacher would decide whether the student had sufficiently grasped the knowledge to move further. This puts a lot more pressure on the teachers, but it also gives them the power they need to be effective. Additionally, the student can repeat a trimester instead of having to repeat the entire course.

People might gripe at the idea of trimesters, but summer vacation is outdated and hinders the learning process. No children are helping with the crops. Instead, they are forgetting the information that they learned the previous school year. This system allows for children to be continuously learning, thus increasing their chances of academic success.

These ideas might seem radical or even impossible, but if we really want to change the school system, we need to be drastic. Our education system needs to reflect the world we live in. We need to revamp the system, not adjust what is already there. Let’s make the first step a giant leap.

Monday, January 7, 2008

So This Is Why People Will Still Vote Republican...

Did you know that the number of people who believe that Saddam was tied to 9/11 has actually increased since 2004? According to a June 2007 Newsweek poll, 41% of Americans believe this myth. And this is up 5% from September 2004! Additionally, a 2006 poll found that 50% of Americans believe that Iraq had or has WMD, up from 36% in 2005.

Can this be real? Are people seriously falling for this? Of course they are. And this is what the Republican Party is counting on. They perpetuate and exaggerate the threats (or make them up when they don’t exist), and then they claim that they are the only ones who can save us. This twisted logic is dangerous. It’s dangerous to America and it’s dangerous to the world.

There are the people that support the GOP because:
1) They have more money than 99.9999999999% of the world;
2) They don’t have a soul; or
3) Both
However, most of the people that fall into the Republican trap are just products of an “independent reality” (seriously, that’s a real term). The current reality is that America has spent almost $500 billion, lost 4,000 lives and displaced millions in Iraq. In order to justify this, the broken record of the GOP uses lies and half-truths to brainwash the American people into accepting their independent reality.

The independent reality is that Saddam was behind 9/11 and he had WMD poised and ready to use against American soldiers. Well, I guess he did have the chemical weapons that Reagan sold him in the 1980s, but that fact is conveniently omitted. Instead, the war-mongering Bush administration continues to spew lies. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a scholar of presidential rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania said, "it doesn't surprise me when presidents reconstruct reality to make their policies defensible." This president may even have convinced himself it's true, she said.

My favorite justification for Iraq is this: We will be instilling democracy in the region, and from Iraq, it will spread to other nations. This is absurd and far from the truth, and here’s why. Remember back in the Vietnam Armed Conflict (no war was declared) that America used the Domino Theory in order to justify our presence. In case you’ve forgotten, the theory goes that when one nation falls to Communism, the neighboring nations will soon fall, and so on and so on until everyone is a commie. You’ll also remember that this theory failed to pan out after Vietnam fell to the communists. Sure, Communism still exists, but it is not the threat that it once was. Fast-forward to today and we are applying the Domino Theory to Democracy in Iraq. Yet, if we are to learn from history, we will see that Democracy is no more likely to spread in the Middle East than Communism in Asia.

But, back in our reality, these policies are anything but defensible. They are abhorrent. And they are ruining America. At this point, we cannot do much besides impeach our current leaders. And vote. Vote in such overwhelming numbers that our next president has a true mandate to lead our country the way we want to be lead. We want change. We need a change. So, make your voice heard. Vote in the primary. Vote in the election. Take advantage of our democracy so that our leaders can’t take advantage of us!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Calls For Impeachment

I know that this blog is supposed to be my thoughts, but I found this piece very interesting.

The Only Way To Salvage Our Dignity

The Man With The Plan

Money. Media. History. All of these factors have people prematurely counting John Edwards out of the Democratic presidential nomination race. But, when you look at the field, John Edwards should be leading the pack, not fighting for attention.

John Edwards is the only candidate who has detailed his plan to provide health care to all Americans. He is not afraid to take on the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies in the effort to make health care affordable. Where the other candidates are vague and rhetorical, John Edwards is specific. He has outlined corporate responsibility, personal responsibility, funding, and a time frame. His plan will also eliminate wasteful spending that is hurting so many Americans in the fight for health care.

John Edwards has also strengthened his position on Iraq. He doesn’t make excuses about voting for the war, but he has learned from he previous positions. Edwards isn’t a flip-flopper or a hypocrite, but someone that has learned from the past. He knows that there is no military solution and has admitted that we must leave sooner rather than later. Edwards knows that reducing troop levels raises security concerns, but the Iraqi people must take part in the restoration of their nation. And again, Edwards has detailed his plan to restore America’s military power and regain the trust of the international community. Obama may have opposed the war from the beginning, but because he was not a US Senator, he never had to vote on the issue.

Edwards has a stronger, more specific stance on the issues than the other Democratic candidates, yet the media continue to push him aside. Sure, Clinton and Obama are running historic races in their bids for the presidency, but Edwards is not one to be ignored. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened after the Iowa caucuses. Between the accolades for Obama’s “win”, the dissections of Hillary’s “loss”, Edwards was practically ignored. His second place finish should have been the headline story.

Here is a campaign that is operating on a fraction of the budget than those of Clinton or Obama, yet has a strong enough message to edge out the media “front runners.” How did he do it? Because he cuts through the circus and the hype. Clinton and Obama are counting on the fact that their minority status will convince voters that they can bring change. However, the people that aren’t influenced by appearances know that changing the outside won’t necessarily change the inside.

John Edwards is the man with the plan. He can bring positive changes to America. He might not be the biggest story of this election cycle, but he is the most solid candidate. So, when you look at your choices, look past the media hype and the money. Look at the message. When you do, you will see that John Edwards is the best choice for Democratic Presidential nominee.

Click Here to Support John Edwards

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Oh, What A Night!

The 2008 election season has finally kicked off. And the Democrats are in the lead, at least by my assessment. As expected, Obama won Iowa. I attribute this win to the fact that he pushed for independents to attend the caucus, and that he spend $9.5 million more than any other Democrat. No doubt, Obama drummed up support to a fever pitch and people are excited to participate in an historic election. Could he win the nomination? Maybe. Of course, Iowa is just the beginning and with a race this close, it’s too early to tell who the Democratic front-runner is. What we do have are three viable candidates who are ready to lead America in a return to greatness.

The great news tonight is the second place showing for John Edwards. While the media was busy with Obama and Clinton, Edwards was busy taking his message on the road. While many people counted him out and predicted him to come in a distant third, he was busy proving that he cannot be ignored. His message is strong enough to win votes without all the money and hype.

The best sign, for the Democratic Party, is the enthusiasm shown by independent voters. The early predictions are that the turnout for the Democratic Party was double that of the Republican Party. People are excited about this election process and the Democratic candidates are the ones that people want to support.

The impact of Iowa could be historical. This “red” state had a 2:1 voter turnout in favor of the Democratic Party. If the red-ness of Iowa could be at stake and independents are running headlong toward the Democratic Party, the country could be headed for a red-blue transformation.

And more good news, in the form of the continued downward slide of the Republican Party. Even though Huckabee won Iowa, it’s unlikely that he will win New Hampshire (or any other state without strong evangelical backing). Romney came in second and that could hurt his already low national numbers. His negative Iowa campaign is also going to further diminish his chances of winning the nomination. So now McCain and Guiliani are the likely New Hampshire winners, although they performed poorly in Iowa.

Looks like the Republican Party is having a bit of an identity crisis. No clear front-runner to sweep the primaries and support scattered throughout the conservative spectrum will all contribute to an uphill battle for the Republicans this election season. And an endorsement from Bush or Cheney will certainly hurt any candidate more that it can help. The people want change and the Republicans just can’t (or won’t) make that happen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Clean Slate for 2008

New Year’s Resolutions. We all make them. Or we resolve to make them. What is so compelling about January 1? I like the whole “clean slate” idea. The whole year holds so much potential, untarnished by the follies of the previous year. And 2008 is a year with more potential than the previous years have had. We will finally have a chance to break the crippling hold of the conservative minority. We will have the opportunity to elect a government that can return America to dignity in the global community.

When I think of all the potential 2008 holds, my stomach practically flips with excitement. We have an extremely important presidential election. The chance to make an historic election. We may have out first female president. Or our first black leader. I see a chance for the Democratic Party to win by huge margins. The Republican Party is faltering and we just need to capitalize on their numerous gaffes.

I also see 2008 as the year when we can return to politics and policies for Americans. I envision the end of ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthy, tax havens for businesses, tax breaks for oil. And with that, we have an opportunity for a balanced budget. Fiscal responsibility isn’t easy, but someone has to do it. The mortgage crisis is just the latest proof that citizens are taking their spending cues from the government. Except the government can steal from education and social security to pay for its spending spree. Regular citizens, on the other hand, default.

Once we have our budget under control, we can set out improving America. Health care, education, Social Security. All are currently outdated programs that have just been repackaged over the years. What we have this year is a golden opportunity to lay the groundwork for complete over haul. Let’s put America in the lead in the 21st century. We’ve fallen behind drastically under Bush’s watch, and we can’t afford to play catch up. We need to start strong with innovative policies, not reactive ones.

Of course, the clean slate of 2008 also puts me on edge. Too many times have we seen the Democratic Party slip in the face of golden opportunity. Too many times has the Democratic Party seemed weak in the face of ridiculous Republican accusations and spin. We need to be aggressive from the beginning. Too much is at stake this year. We need to come together. Despite our differences, we can still come together behind one candidate. Despite our differences, we can play a better, cleaner game than our opponents.

So, these are my hopes for 2008. Let’s stay positive and make this year a victory.
(Ok, yes, I’ve also been watching a lot of football).