Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's got to be a morning after...

Hey! Guess what happened today?!?!  The sun rose.  The earth kept spinning on its axis.  It wasn't the end of the world as we know it.

We all managed to survive the last four years, and we'll manage to get through the next four.  And then, as history indicates, the pendulum will swing back in the other direction, and then MSNBC can go back to whining, while Fox News can go back to their "You lost, deal with it" taglines.

Or wait... I have an idea!  How about we all quit shouting "I'm right, you're wrong," and stop thinking that 'compromise' is weakness and means the other side has to agree entirely with what you're saying?  How about -- crazy thought, I know -- we actually start working on finding some common f'n ground and building from there.  Partisanship does not equal progress.  There was a time -- many times, actually -- in this great nation when both parties actually did manage to agree on crucial issues of their day.

Can we all agree that a strong economy means everyone benefits??

Can we all agree that America is and should continue to be 'the' world leader, and lead by example??

Can we all agree that the planet is -- whatever the reason -- really getting hotter??

Can we all agree that freedom means a non-intrusive government but also means individuals respecting the rights of others??

Can we all agree that America still is the Land of Opportunity, but that there is room for improvement and we could make it even better... for all Americans??

Can we all agree that voting in America is not just a right, but also a privilege, and should not only be made easily accessible to all who qualify, but should not require waiting in line longer than it takes to watch all three 'Lord of the Ring' movies??  Director's cuts??

And can we all consider the possibility that there are more than just two solutions to any particular problem we face??  And that maybe -- just maybe -- the best solution out there doesn't come from either party??

I know that a two-sided system was a part of this nation from the very beginning. I know that politics has always been a fierce and passionate debate.  I also know that despite those fierce and passionate views on both sides, throughout our history we have managed to still find agreement when it mattered, and lived with the results afterward.

This is a time that requires us to start drinking some ideological decaf in the morning, and replace that allegiance to dogma with some higher-altitude objectivity and policy pragmatism.  Things are starting to get a little better based on the numbers, but those numbers don't reveal the problems that still exist.

We still have a skills gap -- at this point one could call it a skills canyon -- in our workforce that is contributing to the high unemployment and lingering poverty.  To close it requires adequately preparing our workforce for the technical jobs currently available --  jobs that sit vacant all over the country because employers can't find people with the right skills to fill them.  Our schools, including higher education, need a stronger rapport with the business community to adequately identify those needs, and need to amend curricula to address those needs.  Our federal government needs to make investments, and make the right policy choices, to build that infrastructure.

Speaking of infrastructure, our transportation, communication, and electrical infrastructure require massive re-investment, as they have been ignored far too long.

Yet, despite that need for investment, we still have a massive federal debt, compounded by massive annual deficits, that will require both sides to commit to long-term strategies, on both the revenue and expenditure sides, and stop kicking the fiscal can down the road.

I will always have hope and faith that America will not just survive, but thrive, and lead the world as it should.  But, Folks, can we all just get along??

Thursday, September 20, 2012

All the BS During Election Year

I needed to get a few things off my chest about the election right now.  Eventually I'll re-write this to be more fluid, but for right now I beg your indulgence while I spew a few things.

First, and this is in no particular order, I wish to remind the Republican Party that everyone knows this is not the candidate you wanted.  For those giving their full-throated support to Gov. Romney, I know it's only because the Republican candidate you actually wanted didn't survive Mitt's mud-slinging during the primary.  I know, too, many of you are voting for Romney as part of an "Anyone But Obama" strategy, too.  That's your right and your prerogative. So hold your nose while to make your vote, and God bless America.

Now, let's remember this is not the first time a "private" meeting with Romney's funders was publicized and embarrassing to the candidate.

If the running of his campaign is any indication of how he runs a business, or how he would run the White House, I'm not impressed.  He thinks he can change Washington from the inside?? He thinks if he were President terrorists will be too afraid to do anything??  He thinks he's that much of an intimidating bad-ass??  Sorry, Mitt, even nerds like me think we could take you in a bar fight.

Does he think the practice of foreign relations, the most difficult task any President faces, is as easy as him barking orders from behind a CEO desk?  It's not.  It's even more difficult than working with the opposition party.  I get the impression the only place he is truly comfortable is behind that desk, because anywhere else he's appeared stressed, uncomfortable, or outright annoyed.

Romney had said in the past that he doesn't care about the poor, and now we know why.  He hates them. He considers them lazy, stupid, entitled, and unworthy.  In the past, many of the Republicans have given away this underlying assumption that is the foundation to seemingly all Republican policy proposals: that the poor are poor because they deserve it -- they are lazy and/or stupid, and therefore deserve to be poor in the dream they call a capitalist society.

This is also more evidence that clearly what MR is saying in public is what he really thinks, or perhaps what he really plans to do if he makes it into the Oval Office.  The joke about Romney being a flip-flopper is tired now, any yet somehow Republicans and Conservatives continue to support him, because the alternative is even worse for them.

Ever wonder why Republicans don't agree with Libertarian philosophy more?? Because Republicans don't r-e-a-l-l-y want a truly capitalist system in place, where competition really is king, and companies survive and fail based on their own merit and quality.

Then, the convention tried desperately to paint Romney as good, decent, human.  Numerous examples were tossed out about how he helped a church member in need, or some other inflated tale.  Here's the thing.  Good and decent people don't just help out the people they like, they help out as many as they can.  Jesus helped out with lepers and prostitutes, as I recall.

The person who, with no compunction whatsoever, was willing to go into any business in this country -- really, any business that would've been profitable for him -- close it down, raid the pension fund, fire all the employees, and take millions in profit for himself and this Bain cronies.  A good, decent person would so quickly throw workers out onto the street, causing those workers to become the "poor" that he so obviously despises??

And he obviously doesn't understand moderate voters, either.  His point that moderate voters are sorry they voted for Obama may be partially true, but his premise is completely false.  Moderates knew what they were getting, and they preferred it to the alternative.  This is why Romney will not be getting the moderate vote in November, because they know what they are getting.  We know the President hasn't always been completely honest.  We know he kept C-SPAN cameras out of the health care debate rooms.  We know he's launched more drone attacks in 3 years than President Bush did in eight years.

Moderates want substance, and when Romney says, "wait until after the election for details," moderates say "no thank you."  Of course, the President has been quite short on details and substance in his stump speeches, but that's another blog.  Moderates want to hear on substantial, detailed alternative.

It's not enough to criticize the President for not doing enough.  Put some skin in the game, and bring something to the table.  And the President is actually telling the truth about one thing: the policies Romney is proposing are truly the same Republican policies that shrank the middle class, widened the income gap, and caused the worst financial and economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

Call them what you want -- Moderates, Swing Voters, Independents -- there is no Moderate Party for a reason: the 20 million or so voters in between both major parties are there because they don't trust either party or their candidates.  Moderates don't need a party to tell them how to vote, or a cable new network to tell them that to think.  Moderates are better able to come to their own conclusions on issues than their counterparts in either party.

President Obama is a politician, which means he lies often in order to achieve his goals.  Mitt Romney is just a terrible person.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why I'm not a Republican/Democrat

At this point in the monologue it might be fitting to begin outlining my concerns with the two major parties, and why I'm not a member of either.  But first, a little history...

I turned voting age in 1985, and started fairly actively following politics at that point.  My father was very interested in politics at all levels, and in fact ran for city council in my hometown at one point.  He always instilled in me a respect for our Country, our Constitution, and the right to vote.  So the 1986 midterm elections were my first opportunity to participate in the process, and I did.

I originally registered as a Republican, as my dad was, and my research from my senior year government class led me to believe the Republican Party actually was the party of small government.  It made sense to me that we should try to maintain smaller, balanced federal budgets while keeping a focus on defense and national security.

Even then, however, I could see I didn't quite fit in.  I certainly was not the "pro-business, no matter the cost" that many R's seemed to be, and though I went to church and believed in God, it felt like a growing group of religious zealots were trying to force the entire nation to live by their beliefs, which in my mind is not what the Founders meant by "freedom of religion."

I remember during the Iran-Contra scandal thinking to myself -- after hearing in the news that President Reagan denied having a role, and all his minions confirming it -- "Come on! The President not only knew what was going on, but quite possibly initiated it."

I remember the 1988 presidential election because it was the first time I would be able to vote for a President, and it was also the first time I got exposed to the inflammatory rhetoric that so dominates our elections.  I distinctly remember two events: 1) Michael Dukakis riding in a tank looking as out of place as Dan Quayle at a NAACP convention, and 2) Governor Dukakis, when asked if he would support the death penalty in a case where a member of his family had been raped and murdered, the Governor responded, "Well, the first thing I would do is form a commission."

Are. You. F'n. Kidding. Me.  Form a commission... At this point I realized two things... First, I was going to be forever entertained following American politics, and second that I would never register as a Democrat.  So for the next couple of decades I would slide back and forth between Libertarian, Independent, and Decline-to-State.

I did enjoy and was even impressed with some of the dialogue of the 1992 Democratic primary.  The debates between Bill Clinton and Paul Tsongas were particularly enlightening.  That issues could be discussed intelligently and passionately in public, without the typical catchphrases, talking points, and taglines opened my eyes (a little) that politics didn't always have to be superficial in its discussion, or pandering in its rhetoric.  There was plenty of pandering going on that year, but on occasion there was worthy debate going on, and I appreciated that.

The 1992 general election persuaded me that politics can make even decent people resort to the typical tactics in order to be elected.  In the final days of the election, President Bush began using rhetoric that I though was below his status as an elder statesman, calling the Clinton/Gore ticket "Ozone," and saying things like "my dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than those two Bozo's."  Disappointing, particularly for someone who truly tried to maintain the stature and prestige that the position requires.  Then again, when someone like Lee Atwater is your campaign adviser, not much can or should be expected.

In the end, I realized neither party truly reflects what I see my Country to be, or have nearly the same goals as I do for the U.S.  If either party, no matter which, had their way, without the barrier of an opposition party holding them back, we would have continuous recession, sky-rocketing deficits and unemployment, and wealth concentration worse than Ancient Rome.  This is because neither party really cares, in my view, about the good of the country as a whole, and all the people in it.  They really only care about protecting and pandering to their base.

If Republicans had their way, the top 10% would pay no income taxes, we would be forced to live strictly by Mosaic Law, and unemployment would be in the 30% range, but on the bright side, in their view, immigration would likely drop to negative numbers, because people from other would know there is no more opportunity here than any other nation. Its also possible there would be a balanced budget because all social programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and especially all programs assisting the poor, would be eliminated.  Oh, and the defense budget would explode, too.  The days of the $700 toilet seat would look Libertarian compared to that.

If Democrats had their way, the top 10% would be inflicted with a 90% tax rate -- driving them to hide all income and assets offshore -- Keynes would be turning over in his grave at the gross misinterpretation policies, leading to record deficits, we would all be forced to wear hemp clothing, there would be permanent moratorium on new housing and development of any kind in the name of  habitat conservation, and job creation would be down to nothing because required union membership would make outsourcing to China even more appealing.

So in small, one twisted way, that both sides are so combative is actually a good thing.  but, as long as both parties continue lean even further in the direction of their extremes, as they have been doing for some, the middle will open up even wider, and the number of people who choose to vote from that perspective will continue to grow.

Up next, I will attempt to compare and contrast Moderates, Independents, and Swing Voters.  Thank you for staying with me... all three of you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I Consider Myself a Moderate

In future posts I will (happily) describe the reasons I don't align myself with either major party, it seems logical to first discuss why I consider myself a Moderate voter.  In previous posts, I've compared being a Moderate to the terms Libertarian Light, and Diet Libertarianism, and that is generally what I view Moderate politics as.

While Libertarians tend to fall on the far right on fiscal/economics, and far left on social issues, Moderates land on the same side, in my view, just not nearly as far on each side.  I've come across these descriptions in the past from other writers, though I did come up with the terms on my own.

This might be oversimplifying things to the point of approaching inaccuracy, because there are plenty of voters who might fall slightly to one side for both types of issues, or may be leftish on fiscal but rightish on social issues.  Unlikely, but still possible... these voters might be called Diet Populists.

I've also stated before that trying to create a Moderate party, with a distinct, agreed-upon platform, would be incredibly difficult because the field of Moderates, Undecideds, and Decline-to-State voters is simply to big and diverse to even attempt to put under a single tent.

As stated, I generally find myself on landing on the right of center on government fiscal and economic issues, and on the left of center on social issues.  I believe we should have a small federal government, but one that still is able to protects civil rights and the interests of individuals.  I emphatically believe we should avoid deficit spending at nearly all costs.  The federal government should provide for our national defense, protect individual civil rights, offer guidance and direction on domestic policy -- and perhaps some funding, too, when its available -- but little more.

I think taxes should be simple, and generally low, but simply because we should be raising only enough revenue to cover our budget, which ideally is a fraction of what it is today.  That our tax system is hyperbolically complex, convoluted and unfair is of little disagreement, but Congress simply doesn't have the will to do anything about it.  I honestly ask the questions -- what is wrong with everyone pays 10 or 12 percent, with no deductions??

I happen to support a hybrid flat-tax, negative income tax system, where there is a relatively flat tax -- perhaps a two-tiered system I would be agreeable with -- with relatively few, in any deduction opportunities, but below a certain level of income any taxes paid during the year are returned plus an income augmentation.  A future blog will cover this issue in more depth.

On domestic issues, I think DOMA and immigration reform are sanctioned bigotry.  I truly believe if it were 12 million light-skinned Canadians coming over the border to mow our lawns, harvest our crops, clean our hotel rooms and be maidservants to the wealthy, nobody would have a problem with illegal immigration.  And people should be allowed to marry whomever they want.

I think a woman's body is her own business, and while I abhor the thought that abortions occur, we should be enacting policy to discourage, not outlaw, abortion.  For me personally, I have a problem that any abortions occur, and I can't offer a rational, philosophical reason -- I can only say that's what my gut tells me.  But as one individual voter I do no have the right to tell someone what she can or can't do with her own body.  I do, however, think that medications like RU-486 and the morning after pill should be available.  Critics and opponents will likely want to engage in a "when does life begin" debate, I'll save that issue for long down the road.

I believe the Bill of Rights should be interpreted equally, meaning freedom of speech and religion should be interpreted as loosely as the right to bear arms.  I think a future blog will address who gun rights advocates ignore the first half of the Second Amendment, but either way its there, so we should respect it.

The same holds for freedom of religion -- that means citizens have the right to worship God, or any deity they choose, as long as they don't infringe on anyone else's right to worship.  That also holds for using religion as a basis for policy.  "Because the Bible says so..." isn't good enough for me.  If you choose to life your life based on the Bible's teachings, or the teachings of Jesus Christ, you have that right to do so.  But you don't have the right to force anyone else to live strictly by those teachings.  A future blog will deal with this issue, as well.

So there you have it.  Republicans say I'm too liberal, Liberals say I'm too conservative, Libertarians say I'm too moderate, and Moderates -- well, Moderates don't really talk to each other much... yet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I Love Primary Elections

Friends on mine on Facebook know that I've been beating up more on the Republican party lately, but only because the primary elections were so very entertaining to me.  I couldn't help but notice that nearly every Republican presidential primary candidate -- with the exception of the eventual winner, had said publicly that God had told them to run.  I guess God likes lively primaries, with numerous debates and all the fun and rhetoric that go with them.

I love primary elections, too.  I've always so amazed not only at how ugly they get, but how the media covers the vitriol  -- as if its news!  As if the 2008 primaries were gentle, civil, and intellectual.  Or the 2000 primaries... or the 2004 Democratic primary... or the 1996 Republican primary... or the 1992 Democratic primaries... or the 1988 primaries -- and these are only since I started paying attention upon turning voting age.

Primaries always get ugly, and then at the convention all is miraculously forgiven and support congeals around the candidate in the general election.  That's what will happen this year, too.  That the media is covering this election like it's 1800 or 1824 entertains me... I can only conclude the political media in this country has little, if any, understanding of American history, and even less memory of recent elections.

In Tampa this August, all Republicans will get behind Mitt Romney -- denying me the brokered convention I was hoping for this year.  Afterwards, be prepared for a presidential general election that potentially will rival those of 1800 and 1824.  For those few readers whose history is a little hazy, the 1800 election between Adams and Jefferson was made contentious through the use of surrogates, one James Callender in particular.  Jefferson had hired Callender to print mud against Adams, but after a fallout turned his ink on Jefferson -- that was when the first allegations of Jefferson and Sally Hemings first were made.

The 1824 race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson is considered next in the ugly category.  This time it was Jackson's wife, a divorcee, who was the first target.  Jackson was certainly not one to back down from a fight, and so it went.

Romney's tactics -- use advertising to make the deepest cuts into his opponents -- will come out in full force, and he will have the financial resources to do it.  He not only has raised capital to levels that would offend most voters, he will now have the financial backing of all the other wealthy financiers previously supporting his primary opponents.  Be ready for a lot, A L-O-T, of mud being slung on the TV and radio.  I'm sure you may even see it in movie theaters.

And President Obama will not sit back.  He has shown from 2008 his campaign can raise equally offensive amounts of money, and he obviously knows how to win elections.  He personally will take the high road, as will Romney, in person, but his ads will be just as dirty.  And the use of surrogates will continue, potentially making this election one for the history books.

I don't shout this with glee.  I lament this.  For as much as our political system, and our Constitution, is the envy of the world, our elections have evolved little at all in tone.  Our dialogue, discourse, and debate should be the envy of the world, as well.  Not just between our candidates, but between us voters, too.  We should be able to discuss issues, respectfully, open-mindedly, inquisitively.  I've never, ever heard any Republican or Democrat utter the words, "okay, fair point."  It's always, "Oh yeah!? Well what about (insert the name of the other party here)?!?!"

Our candidates should get together, in public, without a moderator, and each get, say 5 minutes, to speak and rebut, going back and forth, similar to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.  But I don't think that makes for good television, so the networks will have none of it.

The only difference between 1800 and 2012 is the technology -- the hateful tone will be equal, if not more so.  But it's our own fault, the voters.  If mud-slinging didn't work, candidates wouldn't use it.  But they do, because it does... oh so well.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Introduction to Moderate Politics

The title of this blog refers more to my introduction to what being a moderate voter is about, and not in any way should imply that I have any room to lecture anyone else.  Having considered myself a moderate, or independent, or decline-to-state, voter for a few years now, my intent on this page is to explore -- along with anyone else who might be interested in joining along in the journey, however few, if any, there may be -- what it means to be a Moderate voter in California and the United States.

I'm a firm believer in the marketplace of ideas, where we may toss out our opinions to be assessed and criticized by any others participating in the marketplace.  In the marketplace of ideas, we have the freedom to toss out ideas for consideration by others, for those to respond who wish to, as is their right.  That response may be in the form of thoughtful inquiry, harsh critique, name-calling, or a response somewhere in between or outside of those examples.  If I am critiqued, criticized, or even condemned for opinions I bring to this marketplace, well… that’s how it goes.  It is unfortunate that the ideas marketplace has such incivility, but I choose not to let that fact keep me from entering.  Free speech, guaranteed us in the First Amendment, not only includes my right to express an opinion, but others’ right criticize my opinion, and my right to criticize theirs.

Comment, critique, criticize, but don't be an ass.  There're enough of them in American politics already.  I'm leaning toward the conclusion that most politicians, and political commentators, are really narcissists anyway, able to feed not only on the praise of sycophantic party members, but also on the harsh criticisms of political opponents.  Rush Limbaugh is an excellent example of that point.

We need honest, considered, rational dialogue, not taglines, talking points, and BS.  Discourse is not debate.   If one is looking for a debate, or simply to spew out some existing party line propaganda, please move on to the next blog.

So what is it to be a Moderate?  First, I think its important to understand that terms like Moderate, Independent, Undecided, etc., are not synonymous.  Not all moderates are independents, nor would all undecideds necessarily consider themselves moderates, and all the way around.  The Venn diagram might be heavily overlapping circles, but still distinct groups.  For the sake of simplicity, however, I will generally refer to these groups as the middle.

And within each circle are a myriad of viewpoints, hence the name of this blog.  It seems to be, particularly in California politics, but also nationally, that each party is leaning toward its own extreme.  Bad for those parties, but good for all of us in the middle.

I wager that both parties privately like to label Moderates as fence-sitters, indecisive, wishy-washy... you get the point.  I couldn't disagree more.  The Moderates I know and discuss issues with are clearly focused in their perspective, and are very firm in their beliefs, even passionate.  We just aren't tied to any particular policy idea based on ideology, dogma, or party platform.  Voters in the middle tend to arrive at policy ideas based practical, pragmatic analysis.  "Independent" applies also to our thought process, not just our policy conclusions.

Publicly, both sides, especially the presidential candidates, understand they need the middle voters and will be attempting in the coming weeks and months to pander to us.  This will be interesting to witness, and I'm sure I will have much more to say as these campaigns proceed.

Moderate voters generally tend to fall slightly to the right on fiscal and economic issues, and slightly to the left on social issues.  I personally like to call it Diet Libertarianism, or Libertarianism Light.  Having already annoyed those on the Left and Right, why not piss off the Libs, right??  Working on the assumption that Libertarians generally fall on the far right on fiscal/economic issues, and the far left on social issues, this logic makes sense to me.  I understand I'm painting with a very broad brush, but I don't think there will be too much disagreement, except possibly from the hair-splitters.

In future posts, I will be elaborating on specific policy issues, focusing more the policy ideas I have, why both major parties don't agree, and less on why middle voters might agree.  It would be nearly impossible to try to clarify what a Moderate Party platform might look like, because between red and blue, there are at least a million shades of purple.