Tag Archives: politics

Thoughts On Last Night’s Election

We voted yesterday, along with everyone else, but I did not stay up to watch the returns come in. I can’t stand the overly-hyped coverage on TV these days. Plus, the fact of the matter is that either way the election went would have affected me, personally, very little. That said, I do have a few thoughts now that it is all said and done.

  1. I’m pleased with the outcome. I voted for Obama the first time around and I voted for him again yesterday.
  2. I was pleased to see Maryland’s referendum on same-sex marriage pass. I’m glad to see people becoming more accepting. Science fiction writers have been making this prediction for decades.
  3. I was disappointed to see Maryland’s gaming referendum pass. I no longer live in Maryland, but I did live there for 6 years. I hate the idea of raising money through gambling, even if it is for education. If that is the only way we can get more money for schools, it tells me we are really in trouble.
  4. I was pleased to see Tim Caine win the Senate seat for Virginia.
  5. I was pleased to see Elizabeth Warren win in Massachusetts.
  6. Perhaps most of all, I’m happy that the campaign is over. No more phone calls, no more commercials, no more commentary on debates. Driving into work this morning, I saw a van picking up political signs from along the road. I think it was the best thing I’ve seen in this election.

I do have sympathy for my friends who voted for Romney and who were and are Romney supporters. Any loss for something you believe in is very tough to take. I imagine that I would have been bitterly disappointed had Obama not won reelection. But it seems to me that, where the rubber hits the road, the choices were not all that different to the vast majority. The outliers are the ones most affected one way or another. This is something that I think most people miss. For the average American, I don’t believe life would change very much, other than the couple of days of glory in victory or agony of defeat. A representative democracy virtually ensures this.

The Political Phone Call Blitzkrieg

I cannot wait until this election is over. We live in a swing-state (Virginia) and both parties have launched on all-out assault on voters. It’s not just getting out to vote, naturally, it’s getting out to vote for them. We probably received 30 calls this weekend–no exaggeration–from various politicians, parties and PACs, reminding us to vote, and vote for them. Between about noon and 4pm, it seemed the phone was ringing every few minutes, which was particularly annoying because I was (a) trying to write and (b) the Little Man was down for a nap.

How can the various parties involved in these blitz campaign not think that they are being annoying? I joked earlier on Twitter that the next political call I received would lose my vote–I’d vote for the other person. Not really, but it’s still annoying in the extreme to get all of these calls. Not only that, but the folks from Obama for America have been by our house three times to remind us where our polling place is. I knew where my polling place was before they came by the first time. But three times? I might be amused if it was a different person each time, but it has been the same person each time!

If the politicians involved in this election put in as much of an effort running the country as they do running for reelection, I think we’d all be in much better shape. For one thing, a billion dollars or so could have been put to better use–like helping the recovery in New York and New Jersey.

What’s missing is a national opt-out system. If you know where your polling place is, if you already know who you are voting for, you should be able to go to a website, fill out a form, and say, in essence, “Save your dime, kids, no need to call. I’m good. I know where go. There’s gas in the tank. And I’ve done my research (such as it is) and I know who I am voting for. Go bug someone who is still undecided.” Maybe we need big red, white, and blue pins to go along with it, pins that read: “I am not undecided!”

Wednesday morning can’t come soon enough.

Cute Animals and Politics

I am just catching up on some debate-related news. I know–I am days behind. I lead a busy life, what can I say.

I caught Mitt Romney’s comments on PBS and Big Bird and it got me thinking about cute animals and politics. Despite the notion that most Americans are issue-voters, it seems to me that nothing trumps issues like a cute animal. We are, when all is said and done, simple people. We love our dogs and cats. We visit zoos because we are fascinated by animals. And sometimes, a cute animal can sideline all other points of formal debate (such as they are) and make or break an election.

It happened in the fall of 1944 when President Roosevelt gave his famous “Fala” speech, in which he said:

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala.

That speech may very well have sealed an election victory for Roosevelt.

And, political viewpoints aside, Mitt Romney’s comments on Big Bird may have sealed his doom this time around. If you’re a politician, you just don’t go messing with cute little animals. Do we learn nothing from history?

Dear political campaigns: I will no longer be a party to nonsense

The transcript goes something like this:

ME: Hello?

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Rubin, this is [name redacted] from the [political organization redacted]. As I’m sure you know this is a tough election year and–”

ME: Let me stop you right there. I’m not taking calls from political campaigns.

CALLER: I understand, Mr. Rubin, and I won’t take up much of your time. You’ve given generously to [political campaign redacted] in the past and I–”

ME: I’m sorry to interrupt you again, but I’m no longer taking calls from political campaigns. Good luck with your efforts and sorry for hanging up on you.

Click.

The thing is, you can no longer open your eyes without seeing some kind of political advertising. It gets worse every year and thank goodness that I no longer watch television or I might go out of my mind. Thank goodness I have satellite radio or I might go bonkers listening to the political ads. Open a newspaper: politics. Read a blog: politics. Browse your Twitter stream: politics. It would be one thing if the ads were in the form of: here is what I did/will do to improve things instead of here is what the other fellow will do to fuck them up. The way we hotly debate political topics in public forums today remind me of the way we debated philosophy (or pretty much anything) as naive college freshmen. We focus only on edge cases. We get overly emotional. We talk and we don’t listen. We think our clever arguments are unique. Well, I’m tired of listening, but no because I don’t like the arguments being made (although, generally, I don’t). I just want a vacation from it all.

And while I hate to say it because I’ve tried very hard over the last ten years to gather in my sometimes unmanageably large ego: I don’t need anyone to explain the “issues” to me. I don’t need the person on the phone pitching their own narrow view like some snake oil salesperson. I don’t need the editorial columns. I don’t need the character assassination spots because, well, I have a brain and a higher-than-average IQ, and I can think for myself. Okay, there, I said it. I may not be setting records as a science fiction writer, or software developer, or blogger, or technology specialist, but I’m a pretty smart guy. I can see the logical flaws that crop up in nearly every ad. I know an ad hominem attack when I see one.

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Some political observations

Over the last few years, the bickering in Congress has pretty much ruined politics for me. Not long ago, I got a call from the Democratic fund-raising machinery asking me for money. I’ve given them money in the past, but I refused to do it this time. When asked why, I told them that I was fed up with how both sides did nothing but bicker and point the finger. I wasn’t going to give another dime until I saw some real leadership. Naturally, the fellow on the phone bickered with me, but I held firm.

It’s been so bad that I’ve really just tried to stay away from the news. Of course, you can’t stay completely away from it. So just a few observations, at least one of which contains profanity, which I don’t normally use, but which I am compelled to use out of pure frustration.

  1. Maryland has legalized gay marriage and that is awesome. On the other hand, it is a shame that people must still fight for rights that should be available to everyone. I shudder to imagine what future generations will think of us when they learn that there were people opposed to gay marriage.
  2. Rush Limbaugh is a dick. But come on, we all knew this. This is not news. He’s a hypocrite, too. He calls a student activist testifying before Congress a slut and a prostitute? Really? And now even some Republican leaders are distancing themselves from him. Look, let’s face it, Limbaugh gets paid to make waves. His behavior is meretricious. It’s exactly what I’d expect from him.
  3. Big government vs. small government? How about just a government that, you know, governs for a change. I know three-year-olds who could run the country better than the current leadership. They are great at name calling, great at issue-dodging, great at raising money. But they suck at leading. I try to avoid being an “issue-voter” but I swear I’m on the verge of voting for the first person in my district, regardless of affiliation, who stands up and says, “No more pointing fingers. We’ve got problems. Who created them is immaterial. My job as your leader is to lead us through them, and try to solve them as best as we can.” But my gut tells me if I voted based on that issue, there’d be no one on the ballot.

It seems to me our biggest problem is that we lack leaders. They’ve been traded in for career politicians. A career politician can never be a leader: their career comes first. Now, it might be argued that these folks are leaders and career politicians, that the two are not mutually exclusive. But being a leader takes courage and all I’ve seen is the most cowardly bunch of politicians ever to take oaths of office, as far as I can tell.

If it were as easy to raise courage as it is to raise campaign funds, we’d be in good shape. Forget the oil crisis, we seem to be in the midst of a backbone shortage.

Comments closed on this one because I’m not in the mood to debate. Just venting steam here, folks.

Yesterday’s payroll tax deal

At this point, I’d be happy to trade in my $1,000 tax break for a new Congress. One that, you know, has something resembling a spine running down its back and guts that aren’t quite so yellow. One that makes it clear they do what’s best for the people and not what’s best for the next election.

That would certainly be worth $1,000 to me.

Security vs. Freedom

I remember a graph from my political science days which had security on one axis (low to high) and freedom on the other (low to high).  As security increases, freedoms necessarily decrease and vice versa. I was thinking of this as I read that President Obama will sign the Levin/McCain detention bill into law. This is yet another disappointing example of where we seem to value security far more than our freedoms. It makes no sense to me. We are a nation built on freedoms and established in part to get away from persecution without a trial. And yet here we are making laws that allow for just that very thing, all in the name of security.

It seems to me that these kinds of laws are victories for those who oppose the freedoms that we have. I’m really starting to get sick of this. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d prefer a more reasonable balance between security and freedom. We encounter risks every day we are alive. I for one would prefer to live in a world where the risks for my personal security might be higher if that means more personal freedom. It seems that we are slowly evolving to a world which looks gloomily dystopian. I wouldn’t want to live in such a world. Maybe it won’t come to that in my lifetime, but I wouldn’t want my kids to have to live in such a restrictive, paranoid, and backwards world either.

It’s one thing to be vigilant about security. It’s quite another to cough up hard-earned freedoms without so much as a cry of despair. Indeed, it seems to me that more an more we give up these freedoms willingly, gladly, and will continue to do so until the day we realize we’ve given up everything we’ve ever valued and find it very difficult to get them back. We are becoming, much like our politicians, a nation of cowards, afraid of our own shadow and its horrifying to watch.

Maybe New Hampshire’s got it right: Live free or die.

Election Day 2011

So I voted, despite being utterly fed up with the current state of politics and politicians in the country. I would have felt guilty if I hadn’t voted. But the truth it, I completely forgot it was an election day, until I saw the tweets start coming in on Twitter this morning. That’s how much attention I’ve been paying. Maybe that’s pathetic on my part, but I look at what’s going on–especially here in Washington–and I get so worked up by it that it’s all I can do to put it out of my mind.

The elections around here were just local. Representatives, district supervisors, school board members. If I didn’t know anyone on the ballot for a particular office, I skipped it. I wasn’t going to vote for someone I didn’t know anything about. All told I voted for maybe four offices and one issue. The issue was a bond issue for $275,000,000 for improving schools. I voted no because I didn’t really understand what was being asked of me and I don’t particularly trust politicians to be responsible spenders.

I voted, for what good it will do, but my vote was one of complete resigned apathy.

I hear a lot of talk about heroes, especially from politicians. It seems like a lot of hand-waving to me to distract folks from the fact that there are 587 cowards running this country. I’ve said it before, and I’m convinced it is true: if our representatives had spines, they’d find solutions. The solutions might not be easy, but who said politics was supposed to be easy. It takes courage to be a leader and that is exactly why we have no leaders in Washington at the moment.

We need a national Rosie’s Bar day

With everything going on in the world right now, I think we need a national Rosie’s Bar day. What is a “Rosie’s Bar day”? It comes from the M*A*S*H episode “A Night at Rosie’s.” Hawkeye decides to quit the war and goes to Rosie’s bar for a drink. Colonel Potter sends someone off to find him, and that person ends up staying in the bar with Hawkeye. More people are sent and Hawkeye and his friends convince them all to stay at the bar rather than go back to the war. My colleagues and I have jokingly threatened to have a Rosie’s Bar day for years now.

Given all of the tension and anxiety and frustration and fear that our politicians have caused in recent months, I think we can all use a Rosie’s Bar day. Quit the office at noon one day, head for the nearest watering hole and spend the rest of the afternoon drinking beer (or whatever you prefer), snacking, and chatting with complete strangers about things that don’t matter much. For a few hours, we can pretend that the ghastly problems with the economy and our increasingly divided (and seemingly powerless) politician don’t exist. No, it doesn’t make the problems go away but it does allow us to take a collective breath and put our minds at ease for a little while.

Heck, I’d even suggest that the President and Congress do the same. Take an afternoon off and head for the bars on Capital Hill. Buy each other drinks, chat about how hot it’s been in Washington, about the Nationals or the fact that football is right around the corner.

Then maybe we can all go back to work and get something done. Surely if we can share a drink together, we can work together, too, right?

The debt deal

I saw late last night that a deal was reached on the debt ceiling. I’m not particularly relieved by this deal, nor do I think the people involved deserve applause for getting this deal done. It should have been done a long time ago without the petty bickering and childishness that took place over the last few weeks. It’s really nothing to celebrate when most of the people involved are not happy with it; that it was the best compromise we could get.  We should be smarter than this. We should be better than this. We should be able to come together to agree on solutions that make sense for the country as a whole, as opposed to one particular group or the other. That we have been unable to do this–that we have come up with a solution that no one is particularly satisfied with is a reflection of just how poorly our leadership is doing across the board.

Taxes have become a bad word. We use the term “revenue” now as if it is somehow better. Our politicians aren’t willing to make sacrifices because they don’t think we are willing to make sacrifices. I don’t understand why Republicans are so opposed to tax increases and I don’t understand why Democrats are equally opposed to cutting some entitlement programs. The only way we are going to get out of this mess is if we all are willing to sacrifice some. Yes, it is painful, but that’s what sacrifice is. We go without for the greater good. Instead, we avoid it not because the country wouldn’t be willing to share the burden (which I suspect they would for a time), but because our representatives are afraid that a vote to increase taxes or cut key spending would be political suicide. Well, maybe it would, but they need to start making decisions based on what’s best for the country, not their careers.

I don’t expect relations between Republicans and Democrats to improve because of this deal. It was a deal that was forced on both because they bickered long enough to back themselves into a corner. If anything, I imagine things will get worse. As the election campaigns begin to heat up, each side will claim they saved the country from the brink of financial disaster, when if it wasn’t for their poor leadership in the first place, we wouldn’t be here.

Why this is a bad time for any politician to be asking me for money

I just got a phone call from the Democratic committee to reelect President Obama. The campaign representative went through the usual schpiel, thanking me for my past donations, pointing out that the Republicans are launching a $20 million ad campaign, and that the Democrats and the Obama reelection campaign needs to be prepared to respond in kind. Would I be willing to make a small donation of $150 to keep Obama in office?

I have never been so frustrated by politics as I have been witnessing what’s been going on these last few weeks. I have to think that most other Americans are equally frustrated. That being the case, the endgame to this debt ceiling crisis is pretty clear to me. In fact, for politicians in Washington, the endgame is the same regardless of the outcome at this point. As irresponsible and selfish as both sides have shown themselves to be, I think there will be a huge revolt against incumbents in the next election–one on a scale that we haven’t seen for a very long time. Congress has dug themselves into a no-win situation for themselves:

  • If they come to a last minute agreement, people will remember the bickering and stress that they had to endure in the weeks leading up to a last minute agreement. They will wonder why such a compromise couldn’t have been reached weeks or months earlier. And they will recognize that it is not the process so much as the people involved that made a mockery of things. And that will come into play during the next election.
  • If they don’t come to a last minute agreement and the U.S. defaults on its debts, well, that will piss people off as well and we’ll see that reflected in the next election.

Some Heinlein quotes that seem apropos today

I just finished reading Robert Heinlein’s “Logic of Empire” in the March 1941 Astounding* and there were two quotes that jumped out at me as particularly apropos to current events in the Federal government today.

First quote:

“I suppose you’re a radical now?”

Doc’s eyebrows lifted slightly. “Not at all. Radical and conservative are terms for emotional attitudes, not sociological opinions.”

And the second quote, from toward the end of the story:

“…sweet reasonableness won’t get you anywhere in this [political] racket. To make yourself heard you have to be a demagogue, or a rabble-rousing political preacher like this fellow Nehemiah Schudder. We’re going merrily to hell, and it won’t stop until it winds up in a crash.”

“But–Oh, the devil! What can we do about it?”

“Nothing. Things are bound to get a whole lot worse before they can get any better.”

It’s eerie how we sometimes read seventy-year-old science fiction stories that are near perfect reflections of today. I guess some things never change.

(*I’ll have more to say about “Logic of Empire” in Episode 21 of my Vacation in the Golden Age, coming on August 8.)