Friday, October 31, 2008

Us vs. Them

I've mused frequently on a topic which again came to mind this morning, so I thought I'd ask you all, dear readers, what your thoughts on the topic might be.  This is the topic about the styles of communication of representatives of the two major political parties in the United States.  The differences are stark, in my opinion, but at the same time somewhat subtle; the messages are certainly used to generate support in their respective "bases", but the fact is that those messages are in fact quite different.

Media attention has been put on the fact that John McCain, currently running for president, is "on the offensive."  He is striking out at his opponent, Barack Obama, and looking for negative things to say about Mr. Obama, his beliefs, and his alleged policies were he to be elected President.  McCain points out that Obama intends to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, with the underlying implication that if one day any of the rest of us become wealthy, we wouldn't want those taxes.  Sarah Palin, McCain's vice-presidential running mate, has explicitly distinguished "Real Americans" from whoever those rest of us are.

Meanwhile, Obama, running on a platform of "change," is doing all that he can to bring the people together.  One could say that it's because he's in the lead; he doesn't need to sling mud at McCain and Palin because he has nothing to fear, but if we look back at previous Presidential campaigns we find this pattern repeated.  Indeed, it occurs outside of Presidential elections too: George W. Bush is famous for saying to the American public, "if you're not with us, you're against us" after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

So, is it just a matter of fact that the Republicans divine their power from dividing the population and the Democrats work to unify, or is this just a lame matter of perception because of the media I choose to consume?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

California Proposition 8 equals hate

I've been working on some posters to campaign against California's Proposition 8 which will put into the California constitution a line along the lines of, "Marriage is only recognized as being between a man and a woman."  While I am not a big fan of the institution myself, I don't believe that it's up to the state to encode the fundamentalist Christian thoughts on this issue into the constitution which at present is silent on the topic of marriage.

Religion aside, should there be a mechanism in our society for people to share assets and achieve survivorship when one partner dies?  Yes, there should be.  I feel it is unfortunate that such a mechanism comes with the religious underpinnings of "marriage," but that is the vehicle by which civil unions are made and exceptions for lifestyles and life choices that some individuals find disagreeable does nothing but fiscally punish those who are homosexual and who want to be able to make decisions for their partners when those partners are incapacitated.  How much does it cost to get married at the County Clerk's office, versus how much it costs to get the lawyers to draft powers of attorney and the other requisite documentation that is wholly unnecessary when the county recognizes two people as married?

Anyway, I've made a bunch of posters that are intended to be printed at Kinko's.  There's not a lot of time left, so chop chop!  The previews are at my facebook page and the PDFs and source material are in this ZIP file.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Revolution?

I've been reading Ron Paul's book The Revolution recently, and it's inspired me to write on similar topics.  I'd love to go point-by-point through the book, but that'd take a long time and I'm just borrowing the book from a colleague, so I'll just rattle off a blog-sized impression that I'm left with, and follow up on specific topics at some unknown point in the future.

The most immediate point to hit me while reading this book was that Paul offers many words to say tell the reader what the government should be doing, but does not follow it up with what the government should be doing.  The easy answer to this is that the government should only do what is written in the Constitution for it to be doing, but that sidesteps the issue for me; I was reading a book that wanted to tell me that the government's behavior needs to change, but it offered no particular insight on what should remain.

As any Ron Paul supporter likely knows, Paul's core statement is that the government should do less.  Fair enough; folks all over the political spectrum feel that the government is overstepping its authority on any number of topics, from gun control to abortion to corporate subsidies and tax breaks for select sets of individuals.  In some ways, Paul wraps all of this up and states that the government should do none of it.  Ultimately, the government should not meddle in anything.

Breaking into the book, I was hit by the feeling that Paul believes that the pursuit of profit is the purest and most noble of pursuits, the One True Path, within which we will all feel the light if it were only allowed to take place without government interference.  "Let the market decide," he says several dozen times throughout the book.

The problem, ultimately, is that by the time the market gets to decide, it is often too late.  Are there no things that we hold dear?  If we were to decide that the pursuit of profit is great and glorious, so let's sell off the national forests to the highest bidder and let them operate them however they wish, what will we do when they are clearcut and there are no more national forests?  Does it matter, if profit is made?  If it does matter, what can the market do to change the fact?  Indeed, in the case of pollution often the market has no choice; silicon is very toxic to produce but the population is eating up computer equipment at an incredible rate.  If IBM starts dumping their waste into the river, how long will it be until people find out?  How many individuals will be born with problems?  How many will develop chronic symptoms as a result?  What does the market decide then?

There's a lot going on in this book.  I thought it was a good read, even though I believe that Paul is way off base in some aspects of most of his points.  He comes from a much different background from the one I come from, and that fact alone colors his view of society in a much different hue from that of my own glasses.  I fundamentally agree with his motivation and I fundamentally agree with the sorts of things that he wants to do, but I just don't think that his end goal would be the United States that many of us want to be a part of.