The Sovereign Mind

Free thought on politics and real life

Archive for January 2010

Obama: Changing the Tone of Our Politics

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There were a lot of things to like about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But I’d like to focus on this part for now:

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — (applause) — I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.)

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it’s clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

Right on, Mr. President. This is something I can get behind. We really do need to change the tone of our politics.

We want to debate the issues respectfully and listen to opposing views with an open mind:

And we need to stop taking cheap-shots on the opposition. Intelligent people often disagree, so we shouldn’t be belittling people’s character or intelligence:

And we certainly shouldn’t be criticizing our opponents because of their age or disabilities, particularly when those disabilities are due to war injuries. That would just downright dirty politics:

Despite all of your efforts, Mr. President, the tone of our politics hasn’t changed much. But keep up the good work. Your consistent example is appreciated and is sure to bring about the change we hoped for eventually.

Written by Mike

January 28, 2010 at 12:16 am

In Defense of the Court

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As if the United States Supreme Court needs a defense from me…

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the government cannot prevent organizations, including corporations and labor unions, from weighing in on political campaigns. The reaction I’ve seen has been almost all negative, with some claiming that it is the end of democracy as we know it. While I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I am concerned that this will make it even easier for corporations to gain political influence. However, what strikes me about that argument is that it is completely irrelevant: if something is unconstitutional, it doesn’t matter if we like the consequences of it or not.

Glenn Greenwald starts with that point and then goes on to make several other good points in defense of the court ruling, including linking to this response to those who say that money is property, not speech, and also posting a follow-up on the subject.

As someone with a lot of opinions but not much time to write, I’ll just ask the reader to consider Glenn’s writings on this subject to be mine (in the non-plagiarism sense, I mean), because I think I agree with him entirely.

But since I can’t bring myself to write an entirely “go read this guy” kind of post, let me add this thought experiment:

Is it unconstitutional to restrict a person from expressing his political views? Of course it is unconstitutional.

Is it unconstitutional to restrict that person from gathering with like-minded people to pool their voices together? Of course it is unconstitutional.

What if that pool of people decided that they needed to engage in fundraising efforts, such as selling stuff, in order to raise money to get their message out? Would it be unconstitutional to ban that? I think it would be, and I don’t see any real difference between that and a corporation or labor union buying air time to get their political views heard.

Now, as I said, I do worry about the influence of special interest groups in politics, but the way to fight them is not to take away the rights of the people in those organizations–it’s to exercise ours. Corporations may be considered “people” in some sense (although really I think that line of reasoning is a distortion of the decision–that’s not really what it said), but clearly they are not fully “people”. They cannot vote, and as long as they can’t, they can only be as powerful as we, the voting kind of people, allow them to be. That might sound overly idealistic–to believe that the people will rise up to think and act for themselves instead of allowing themselves to become the pawns of higher powers–but it also happens to be what the founders were counting on when they went all in on this new experiment called democracy.

Written by Mike

January 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm

The Tragic Miscalculation: Where Democrats Went Wrong on Health Care

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Last August, as health care town hall protests broke out across the country, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement which included these words:

The Republicans and their allied groups – desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill – are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country.

However, much like we saw at the McCain-Palin rallies last year where crowds were baited with cries of ‘socialist,’ ‘communist,’ and where the birthers movement was born – these mobs of extremists are not interested in having a thoughtful discussion about the issues – but like some Republican leaders have said – they are interested in ‘breaking’ the President and destroying his Presidency.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. As it turns out, that group of “right wing extremists” just won a senate seat in blue Massachusetts. Tragically, the Democrats underestimated the public discontent with health insurance reform from the beginning. Instead of downplaying and marginalizing the opposition, they should have taken it as a signal to moderate. Instead, they dug in even more, and that is tragic, not only for Democrats but also for the American people. Although I don’t support health insurance reform in its current form, I do want something productive done. Unfortunately, thanks to the Democrats’ fumble, we might have squandered our opportunity.

Written by Mike

January 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Would You Rather Lose a Leg or a Mistress?

(Assuming you were of such a character as to take a mistress, that is.)

Adam Smith makes an interesting point:

The loss of a leg may generally be regarded as a more real calamity than the loss of a mistress. It would be a ridiculous tragedy, however, of which the catastrophe was to turn upon a loss of that kind. A misfortune of the other kind, how frivolous soever it may appear to be, has given occasion to many a fine one.

(In case it’s not clear, he is using the word “tragedy” here to mean a form of art depicting suffering, as in “Shakespearean tragedy”. I had to read it a few times before I got that, but maybe you’re smarter than me.)

Written by Mike

January 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm

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