Archive for April, 2009

100 Days!

Since FDR started the concept, a President’s first 100 days have been an important early measure of success. History will be kind to Obama’s first 100 days — not since FDR has so much 100-days progress been made.

In recent history, Democrats often have done things that obviously should have been done already — like when congressional Dems finally raised the minimum wage in early 2007. President Obama has his fair share of why-haven’t-we-done-this-yets: the equal pay act, closing gitmo, and easing travel restrictions to Cuba come to mind. He has also started on the great challenges of our time: fixing our broken economy, creating a health care system that works, and moving us toward renewable energy and sustainability.

Also, President Obama has renewed the promise of American diplomacy in the world, where the US is an ally in solving global problems rather than a unilateral bully. His presence at the G20 summit, European tour, Mideast tour, and the Summit of the Americas marks an end to cowboy diplomacy and a return to pragmatism and partnership.

We can also see the seriousness that the Obama administration gives to transparency. They don’t have a perfect record so far (way better than the last guys, though!), but they have made great strides nonetheless. The first ever online Presidential town hall meeting happened in the first 100 days. The white house and other federal websites have been overhauled to be more accessible and interactive. The president’s weekly youtube addresses continue. And, he has appeared in public (TV, town halls) as much or more than any president in recent memory.

The jury is still out on some important issues, but, along with most Americans (the most since Reagan, and he had the “I just got shot” popularity boost), I remain pleased with our President’s 100 days of progress.

Don’t forget: big party tonight at Murphy’s Pub at 35th and Slide starting at 7:00pm to celebrate the successes of President Obama’s first 100 days!

More 100 days goodness:

White House Photostream on Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse

White House First 100 Days Blog
http://blogs.america.gov/campaign/

State-Specific Recovery Benefits
my.barackobama.com/page/content/foundationforchange

Always Looking Up

Finished this book a few days ago, and it’s a good one.

Scientific research is not supposed to be politicized, but it always is. Michael J Fox (henceforth MJF) got caught in the middle of it on account of his advocacy for Parkinson’s research, starting in the early 2000s. MJF was thrust onto the national political stage when Rush Limbaugh infamously mocked his condition in response to his extremely successful ads in support of pro-stem-cell research candidates like Claire McCaskill.

Sure, MJF endorsed Democrats in 2006, but he’s also endorsed Republicans in the past, such as Senator Arlen Specter in 2004. (Arlen Specter will have his work cut out for him next year, facing a right-wing primary challenger as well as a ready-to-rumble Democratic opponent should he win the primary.)***

While much of the book is about MJF’s political experiences, one of the more powerful parts of the book for me was his candid discussion of his family and his faith and how they are affected by Parkinson’s Disease.

Parkinson’s and alcohol took a sledgehammer to any illusions I may have had that I was in control. I came to accept that any disease or condition beyond my control is, in effect, a power greater than myself. To survive this destructive energy, I must look to an even higher power. For my purposes, I need neither define it nor have others define it for me, only accept its existence. It is evident in Tracy’s love and inexhaustible friendship, the toothless gap in Esme’s smile, Aquinnah’s grace, Schuyler’s grit, Sam’s intrepid curiosity. So much to savor, so much to be grateful for. And since I’m not sure of the address to which to send my gratitude, I put it out there in everything I do.

(emphasis mine. NB: Tracy is MJF’s wife, while Esme, Aquinnah, Schuyler, and Sam are his kids.)

Needless to say, I admire both his optimism and his attitude of service.

*** Update: Right as I was about to publish this post, I got the news that Arlen Specter switched parties today. He was still a Republican in 2004, so my point about MJF stands, but Specter’s own future is harder to guess at this point.

Concealed Carry on Campus: Bad Idea

Well, it seems that concealed carry on campus is up on the docket at the state legislature these days, and lawmakers are actually taking it seriously.

Outside of the military, I can’t think of a school anywhere in the world where students are allowed to pack heat. After all, the presence of weapons in a classroom does not exactly foster an atmosphere of learning and achievement. On top of that, suicides, crimes of passion, and accidents all become easier, deadlier, and more likely to occur in the presence of guns. Conservative pundits claim that having lots of guns everywhere will protect us from the bad guys, but I believe that ubiquitous guns only make everyday life more dangerous.

However, at the core of this issue is a hierarchy of rights: property rights versus second amendment rights. Both are guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the land, but the former almost always trumps the latter. Property rights are more sacred than second amendment rights, and that’s as it should be. You have every right to own a gun and to carry a gun, but you don’t have a right to carry it into the home, business, etc. of someone who doesn’t want guns there.

This hierarchy of property rights over second amendment rights is obvious and non-controversial. It only becomes muddled because conservatives have a habit of forgetting or ignoring the concept of public property. Public universities, courthouses, city halls, park facilities, and so forth have as much of a right to control their property as individuals and private institutions do. Moreover, these decisions of how to use public property are ultimately accountable to each of us, by virtue of the people we elect.

A public institution banning guns is not acting contrary to the Constitution; it is following it.

Also at play here is the myth of the gun-slinging cowboy who solves problems with the iron on his belt. Attention conservative pundits: a concealed handgun license does not turn you into Jack Bauer. Get over yourselves. The theoretical possibility of stopping a crime in a blaze of glory is no more likely than the theoretical possibility of needlessly increasing the body count of a crime. Exhibit A: the complete Joe Horn 9-11 call.

CHL bearers are trained to use their weapon safely and accurately, but peace officers are trained to handle dangerous situations legally and ethically. It’s true that the CHL bearers I know personally are good people (indeed, I plan on getting a CHL myself some day), but I would still rather have a police officer or sheriff’s deputy watching my back than any number of CHL-certified citizens.

Call your representatives today and tell them that you oppose concealed carry on campus. Here’s the contact info for Lubbock-area representatives:

Senator Robert Duncan
(806) 762-1122

Rep. Carl Isett
(806) 763-2366

Rep. Delwin Jones
(806) 763-4468

Rep. Joe Heflin
(806) 675-8076

Events Megapost

Happy Belated Earth Day!

There are tons of great Democratic and progressive events happening in Lubbock throughout the rest of April:

First and foremost, The Lubbock County Democratic Party, along with Lubbock Democracy for America and Texas Democratic Women of the South Plains are hosting a celebration of President Obama’s first 100 days in office! Here are the details:

First 100 Days Party
Murphy’s Pub @ 34th and Slide (3502 Slide Road)
7:00pm Wednesday, April 29

DFA and TDW members have put together an illustrated timeline of our favorite achievements of the first 100 days of the Obama administration which will be on display at the party.

Coming up the very next day is an exciting movie event:

Trouble the Water
Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ (2809A 74th St)
7:00pm Thursday, April 30

This Lubbock DFA-sponsored event is free to attend, but limited to the first 50 people who show up. Trouble the Water is an Oscar-nominated documentary (and winner of best documentary at Sundance) about a ninth ward family with camera-in-tow who endures Katrina and its aftermath, which continues to the present day. This is a powerful, critically acclaimed film that never made it to theaters in Lubbock.

Also, if you’re free this Saturday, two more events are happening. First, the Lubbock Democratic Party is having a trunk sale fundraiser (basically a large garage sale) at Party HQ:

LCDP Trunk Sale
Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ (2809A 74th St)
9am-4pm Saturday, April 25

Lastly, an STD Awareness health fair is also taking place on Saturday:

Who: South Plains Community Action Association, Inc.- Project CHAMPS
What: STD Awareness Health Fair
When: April 25, 2009, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: Lone Star Amphitheater, 602 E. 19th Street, Lubbock, TX 79403
Info: Sexual health fair, free STD testing for first 200 persons,
booths from community agencies offering information on sexual health
to include STDs, safer sex practices, vaccine preventable STDs (HPV,
Hep A, and Hep B), cervical cancer, infertility, pregnancy, talking to
partners, parents, and health care providers about your sexual health,
drug addiction, sexual addiction, rape, sexual abuse, and more.
Contact: Leigh Arrington, LBSW/Program Director, 806-771-0736 ext.
204, larrington at spcaa dot org

I hope to see you at some of these events!

Secession Talk

Between Gov. Perry making a fool of himself on the national stage and the usual crazies feeling emboldened to speak their minds, Texas Secession is being talked about a lot lately.

I have only a few things to say about it, so I’ll be brief:

(1) American States don’t have the right to secede in general.

(2) Secession is not a right guaranteed to Texas in particular by our State Constitution, the Texas-U.S. annexation treaty Congressional resolution, or any other legal document.

(3) Secession is, by definition, unpatriotic.

Republicans in general and Texas Republicans in particular have a serious problem with their Party if issues like secession are talked about seriously in the light of day by their leaders.

Read more at:
www.texassecede.com (a website for the crazies)
US Secession on wikipedia
Discussion thread on the LubbockOnline forums
Congressional resolution annexing Texas (1845)
That Texas Magazine article with some good history

Ship of Fools

Media treatment of the whole pirate+hostage situation over the last week is funny to me because right-wing blowhards have been trying to politicize it from the start. It’s not a political situation. It’s a tactical military and law enforcement situation.

But, misconceptions like that never stop the right-wing punditocracy from putting their feet (peglegs?) in their mouths…

The video above summarizes the doom and gloom that right-wing talking heads were predicting up to the point that Navy SEAL snipers took out three pirates, freeing their hostage — actions approved by the President himself.

I’m not surprised that the pundits are way off course. Look who’s steering this conservative ship of fools:

 

“This is the administration which keeps trying to find some kind of magical solution that doesn’t involve effort, that doesn’t involve risk, that doesn’t involve making hard decisions.”

_____________/

Captain Newt

 

“We’ve become so politically correct that no one would even dare think about sending the marines to fight pirates.”

_____________/

First Mate Beck

 

(What can I say — I finally found an excuse to photoshop a pirate eyepatch onto Newt Gingrich, fulfilling one of my childhood dreams. No way was I gonna pass that up!)

The right is desperate for any issue — no matter how inherently apolitical — that they can latch on to and be correct about. That’s why they talked up this pirate hostage episode so much this week. Unfortunately for them, they got it completely, hilariously wrong.

Fortunately for America, we got to see how a strong President handles a delicate situation, letting our military and law enforcement professionals do their jobs.

So Close to True Democracy

…and yet kinda far away (we don’t wanna get up off the couch).

I’m doing a little thinking out loud here, so bear with me.

Live polling is a modern dream of every populist, and we’re now at the point — technologically speaking — where we can make it happen.

Here’s what I picture. Our current system of elections would stay the same, but elected officials at all levels of government would have access to instant polling tools that they would use to aid their decision-making. No more relying on pundits or lobbyists or even activist groups to claim ownership of public opinion — we have the capability to build a system where elected officials can just ask the voting public directly. It could be an opt-in system offered along with voter registration. It could be done online and over the phone (”Press one to nuke Iran, press two to try diplomacy…”). These instant polls would not be binding, but the results should be publicly available and taken into consideration by our elected leaders.

This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. The business world is already catching on to the power of instant polling. Website advertisers certainly get it; easily half the ads I see online are invitations to participate in surveys. Fundraising groups use surveys to generate interest. Even the Nintendo Wii features a free “Everybody Votes” channel where Wii owners can vote in simple A-or-B opinion polls, predict the results, and see an analysis of the results (and it has more participation than many countries’ elections).

What is missing right now is a way to wed such technology to our system of voter registration, a way to prevent massive fraud in the system, and the political will to make it all happen.

The dawn of the internet age is opening up everything, including politics. I think that we will see politicians becoming more accessible, government becoming more transparent (we need it!), and the path between constituent and elected official becoming more direct.

Tuesday: Coffee for Progressives

No drama today, just a heads-up that the monthly “coffee for progressives” get-together is coming up on Tuesday:

What: Hanging out and talking progressive politics
When: Apr 14, 2009 @ 5:30 PM CDT
Where: Sugar Brown’s Coffee, 4818 50th St.

Full event details and RSVP are available over at the Lubbock DFA site.

I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend!

The Teabaggers Are Coming

Exercising their freedom to assemble and make fools of themselves, literally dozens of misguided folks will converge at the courthouse to wave teabags around and listen to windbags talk on tax day.

As near as I can make out, the guiding principles of the teabaggers seem to be a strange conflation of hard-line Christianity and selective outrage over fiscal policy. They don’t know what they want, but they’ve been told by FOX and friends to show up and protest for it. Never mind that most Americans will get a tax cut under Obama, or that President Obama has already implemented higher standards of transparency and accountability than we have seen in decades, or that the President has reached out to Republican leaders only to be attacked by them for it. But, reality will not get in the way of this GOP fundraiser.

Teabaggers, I know I sound like a mean ol’ liberal, but it’s for your own good. The hard truth is that nobody cares about protests anymore. I learned that through first-hand experience, and the whole world learned it when the largest global protest of all time did nothing to slow America’s nearly-unilateral march to war in Iraq. Moreover, the conservative media has worked hard over 4 decades to make protesting seem uncool and boring.

Congratulations, you will be reaping what you have sown with your uncool, boring protest.

Enjoy.

Attention Obama Haters

The current right-wing attack tactics are appearing more ridiculous by the day.

Behold:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

(mild language in the above video, in case that sort of thing bothers you)

“Speaking crazy to power” is about right.

One more for the road:


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