Sharing sentiments with McCain

I know a lot of people in the Democratic party are blasting McCain for not saying what they want to hear about the Iraq war (I don’t agree with him either). And there are those who believe that he is nothing but a continuation of the Bush administration (I stop short of saying that, but I’ve been watching with an unsatisfied feeling as he makes some turn abouts on previous stances). And I know a lot of Republicans are leary of McCain because they say he isn’t conservative enough (see my post “In which I run across the issue of polarization…again” for more specifics), but I have to recognize his calls for a more international community and his recognition of the climate change issue as an important one. The Washington Times reported today that McCain, in an address that was apparently to give a layout of his international vision for the United States, “said the U.S. can no longer assume the mantle of lone democratic superpower, and is instead now a first among equals that must rely on an emerging ‘league of democracies’ to secure peace and freedom.”

Yes, I’m looking at the words “first among equals” with some skepticism, but his call for more international cooperation (which has been sorely lacking these past eight years) and his previous calls to draft a new treaty to fill in when Kyoto runs out are welcome words coming from the Republican camp as far as I am concerned. I want to feel that (whatever the reality) both major political parties have the country’s best interests at heart…I’ve not felt that from the R’s for a while. Good for John McCain.

In which I run across the issue of polarization…again

This morning, as I’m home for the first day of spring break, I picked up an old copy of the Washington Post that I had bought a little over a week ago while on a trip with my students. I never ended up getting a chance to read over it, and decided to just sort of pick through it. I like to read the opinion page because I like to see what those with some authority at the paper are thinking. What should I see but an editorial about entrenched incumbency and it’s role in creating polarization on tough issues. As anyone who has scrolled through my few blog postings up to this point will have noticed…this is something I have begun to harp on lately. It’s everywhere! I know I’m not the first to notice it or even bemoan it’s effect on our society, but I’m always proud to add to that chorus. The fact that we now have a congress whose collective minds are made based on how ideologically pure they stay to their party ideals is a poison…nothing less. It means that instead of being loyal to us, the citizens and voters, they are loyal to some conceptual Big Brother created by those party leaders who are looking to root out moderates and others who wouldn’t tow the party line as flamboyantly as they would like. It means that decisions are being made, not by those we elect, but by ideologues that are back at party headquarters deciding what it means to be Republican or Democrat. It means that Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter (every time I say their names now it’s almost like welcoming back an old friend) are making decisions in the legislative branch, because anyone who crosses party lines on an issue or who dares try to mediate a compromise will be decried a party traitor. Now I have no love for our current crop of Republicans, and I’m not planning on supporting John McCain, but I find abhorrent the reactions of Rush Limbaugh toward the candidate of HIS OWN PARTY for the presidential nomination. He said that he betrayed conservative principles (not Mr. Limbaugh’s words, but his sentiment), and even jokingly backed both Hillary and Obama rather than McCain. And he’s not the only one. This venom is being splashed from some who seem to revel in the polarization of our process. David Limbaugh, a nationally syndicated columnist, wrote about some of the responses he recieved for his willingness to support McCain as the Republican nominee in an article for the Washington Times. One response read as follows:“For me to cast a vote for [Mr. McCain] at this time is totally unthinkable. I would have to don from head to toe our surgical isolation gear with heavy gloves and boots and wear a gas mask, too, and carry my ballot over to the ballot box by a pair of tongs. Then I would have to hurry home to shower off in the hottest of water and then douse myself with bleach. … And I say this knowing that McLame is (supposedly) more conservative than Obama or Hillary.”All of this may possibly be the cause, or maybe at least in part cause, for the interesting turn that McCain has been making as we near the elections. Limbaugh (the David one) goes on to mention some of these conservative inconsistencies in Mr. McCain’s messages. McCain says he’ll extend the tax cuts passed by Pres. Bush although he “vigorously opposed them initially.” He seems to be giving lip-service to the conservative side of the immigration issue by saying he’ll protect the border although he favors amnesty for 20 million people who are considered illegals. There are other examples, but I feel like I may be getting a bit off topic. It’s the idea that this polarization is necesary for American politics that upsets me. It’s the idea that to support someone who isn’t the candidate incarnate of the party’s every ideal is a betrayal of the country somehow that makes me boil. I hate to burst their bubble, but America is bigger than either of their little political parties. I realize that we’ve been taken over by the two main parties and that most politics run through either the House of Republican or the House of Democrat, but we must realize that our government wouldn’t collapse without them…they just happen to be in the spotlight right now. In the grand scheme of things political parties come and go, and until we get back to politics as a way of supporting and helping our lives and away from politics as a way of proping up these political parties, who can be just as much hives of extremest political ideals as some terrorist organizations are hives of religious ideals, we will be a country trapped at the poles of discourse.

For some more food for thought, and some nicely written thoughts on balance, read this blog post by LeoPardus.

The impossible “dream-ticket” and my conversation on polarization

Today’s post has one branch of it’s roots in a blog post I read this morning called “Obama Calls Out the Silliness of VP Idea”. I’ve been saying for months now that I had hoped that when all was said and done that whoever received the nomination would then turn around and ask the other to be VP because I felt that, underneath it all, they actually complimented each other a bit (although I admit I was secretly hoping it would be Obama asking Hillary). I’m aware that it was, at best, just a bit of wishful thinking and, at worst, probably even extremely naive…but I felt that it could have worked. But that was before Hillary went negative. Her constant attacks, via commercials and statements made about his voting record, his experience, his tactics, and more (relating him to both Karl Rove and Ken Starr at two separate points), have created a divide in their party, and even a situation in which Obama felt compelled to travel down the dark path of negativity himself, calling for her tax records to be released and then inviting public scrutiny when they weren’t. Although I feel I must say here (thanks to blogger seethirty for calling me on blaming Hillary exclusively in one of my responses to a post of his) that Obama is an adult and is completely capable of staying away from negative campaigning, even if just for the political reason of staying on message. But to give credit where credit is due, it was Hillary that fired the first shot in an extremely thinly veiled attempt to slow Obama’s progress in the primaries. I get the feeling that the attacks have less to do with her own reservations about his preparedness, or even her concern for the country should Obama win…she’s just trying to slow him down ’cause she wants to win. While that may be a “duh” moment for everyone else in this country…to me and any other realist-idealist, knowing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. Makes me a little wary of her.But the larger issue is that all of this negativity has now made even the possibility of this “dream-ticket” impossible. In responding to the originally mentioned post I made the comment:“I agree that it is very backward for either of them really to be calling to the other to back down and be the VP…they haven’t left much room for that to be considered a genuine option…after the negative campaigning, how are we as voters supposed to believe that the offer is honest, and that they believe in each other to do the job? How could we as voters see it as anything other than a complete political move based entirely on gaining votes? “I’m upset that what could have potentially been a balanced ticket isn’t even an option any more because of the campaigns run by the candidates. Nancy Pelosi, speaking New England Cable News reporter (linked here to the story in the CNN Political Ticker), said that the possibility had basically become a non-issue. And, although she cites a specific instance where Hillary commented that even “Senator McCain would be a better commander-in-Chief than Obama,” I think it runs further back than that. I think the chasm created in the Democrats of the country and the prying at the chasm that has been done by both campaigns has all led up to the situation where we now stand. No matter who wins the nomination I believe we stand to lose a potentially powerful combination in the White House over the next four years because of the in-fighting going on for the Democratic nomination. I can’t think of stronger candidates for the VP for either candidate, short of Al Gore coming back to serve another 4 years in that role. But, I guess that doesn’t really matter, because there’s no way, after all this primary season has seen, that they could pull together on a ticket and have us trust them together…(If you hadn’t read or heard anything about this latest uproar, here is a link to the NY Times article on it, and here is the story in Washinton Times…take your preference.To end today, I wanted to acknowledge a conversation I’ve had over the course of the day (man, you’d think I don’t have to work like the rest of the world) with one of the blogger’s whose post I cited in my last post from March 10th about polarization. The gentleman (“Ed Darrell” – I’m assuming that’s his real name) commented back to me that, although I had taken his use of the word “hysterical” to mean one thing, he had actually meant something different:“Noting and refusing the sexist implications from the word’s origin, “hysteria” generally means a neurosis characterized by calm periods interrupted by periods of “hallucination, somnambulism, amnesia or other mental aberration.” A second definition offered by The American Heritage Dictionary is “excessive or uncontrollable fear or other strong emotion.”I think that accurately describes Crichton’s flight from reason here. If he thinks DDT is not harmful and deadly, if he thinks Carson’s work not top notch and accurate, if he thinks DDT an easy and cheap answer to malaria, he’s hallucinating. He may look calm, but he’s hallucinating.”I just wanted to give him credit here in the blog continuum for his intention. By his intended definition, “hysterical” could be an acceptable word to use. And, although I did point out that the intended definition isn’t always the one taken by the reader (as evidenced by both my original response and subsequent post on my blog, and the original response from a user calling himself only “George”), and that we must be careful of our word selection, I think it only fair to stand at least somewhat corrected due to my using his blog posting as an example of polarization. The lesson here is that polarization is so common that these mistakes can happen for that alone. Part of the reason that I used his blog as an example was that I had, immediately prior to reading it, just read the other post I used as an example and found myself in that frame of mind. Ed’s fault? Certainly not. But I believe this polarization to be a growing trend propagated by select media sources and our current political climate coming down from the top. Not everyone has the opportunity to have the enlightening conversation about a writer’s exact intent when reading something and that’s why we have to be careful. If we truly want to propagate honest and open debate and discourse we have to be aware of exactly how we are saying things and making our points. Ed, thank you for your handling of our exchange. You have added just a little bit more meaningful communication to the world.

currently reading:

World War Z by Max Brooks

currently listening to:

going old-school with Incubus’s 1999 break-through album Make Yourself

The science of black and white…

We are moving towards the far ends of the spectrum. Over the past 6-8 years especially we have become increasingly polarized across the board on every major issue…especially here in the United States. Maybe I’m just too young to remember polarization of issues in the just-out-of-recent past, but it seems to me that polarization is a problem in every major issue I hear about. You’re either a skeptic or a fundamentalist-nut every time you open your mouth these days. I came across this post as I made my rounds through the blogs today. Now, (because I always try to give full disclosure) I believe that climate change is happening and we are causing it. BUT, I also believe in healthy debate and people forming their own opinions. I’m totally fine if someone doesn’t believe that we are effecting the atmosphere enough to be causing this, or if they feel that this is a cyclical process (not that I’m not passionate about what I believe, mind you…the point of debate after all is to convince). I don’t mind being disagreed with. But this post is a classic example of polarization. By addressing, not the issue of climate change itself but whether people who agree with it have turned it into a religion, you have now made anyone who says contrary sound like they are proving you right. You have taken away the chance for real honest debate. Want proof? Look at the responses. The first post doesn’t even argue the climate change position either. He makes a rather rational statement (passed on from someone he admired) that, even if we’re not effecting climate change, does it really hurt to take care of our planet? Now, scroll down to the 4th response (from someone with the name “papertiger”). This response states that there’s “[n]othing like having the first commenter inadvertently confirm the thesis of your post.” First off, I fail to see how the response from “Chris” actually confirmed any “thesis” (if you can call writing four sentences, a failed attempt at wit, and posting seven links to other people’s work a “thesis”) of people who agree we are affecting climate change turning it into a religion. He passed on a philosophical point of view, nothing more. No impassioned pleas, no insults, no climate change science. There were plenty of people who added those things in later, but not in this particular exchange. Second, (and this is actually kinda related to the first) by expressing this opinion-point and then inviting others to comment on it, the post-er has now polarized everyone who responds into those who agree with him and those who will be dismissed as having succumbed to the “religion”. The blogger here posted on the end of the discussion (at least the end when I found it) and said he just “disagree that man is the cause” of climate change, but his posts to begin with created an environment where the discussion could only be impassioned on both sides and turn to more than just the facts of the scenario (aka – get ugly), as blog responses so often do.For another example of this polarization, read this post about Michael Crichton and DDT. While I happen to agree with the blogger about DDT and the facts surrounding the issue, the writer has written in such a way as to polarize the issue (i.e.- using the word “hysterical”). I just see this so much in the discussion (as mentioned in the context of liberals and conservatives in my “Who knew Vermont had the balls” post) surrounding any issue. If you’re not in complete agreeance with one side, you must be the enemy, and therefore berated instead of reasoned with.You know who I blame…(surprise surprise) the current administration. They have set the standard across the country by polarizing people into “patriotic” or “terrorist sympathizers”. They’ve even added the category of “evil-doers”. I also blame Anne Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and most everyone who works for Fox, but they are prospering because of the atmosphere of acceptance given to this sort of discourse by Bush, Cheney, and they’re cronies.