Monday, December 8, 2008

Team America

Wow! It looks like the Congress and the President are working together and Obama isn't President yet.  Finally, the government has decided to come together to save the auto industry and oh yeah a couple of million American jobs.  Perhaps its the spirit of the times.  Obama is so good that he doesn't even have to be president to spread his bi-partisan spirit, or is it "post-partisan"... they're still deciding.  

In the new plan "Democrats would call for an overseer, also known as a "car czar" and the Bush Administration would appoint someone to oversee the restructuring of the companies.  If that doesn't sound like team work I don't know what does.

Commenting on the actual money being given to the companies,  Rep. Barney Frank said "We have done everything possible to make sure the $15 billion come back."  This sounds like a real plan.  With this mentality we might get a few things going forward again.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bailout Plan No. 243321

Once again the Treasury and Congress are working on shifting the bailout plan or augmenting it.  At this point it doesn't really seem like they've had much of a "plan" to begin with.  Every week policy-makers are calling for new additions to the plan further demonstrating the lack of preparation the first package had.  As we continue to add to the bailout, policy-makers fail to step back and formulate a "plan" that will have an overreaching and long lasting effect.  Until they do, each attempt at solving the crisis will have no true direction or effect.

Hank Paulson's most recent "plans."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Era of Unity?

It looks like it may back to politics as usual. Since the election of Barack Obama both parties have begun reassessing who and what roles will be kept within in each party. While the Republicans struggle to find a new face for the party, the Democrats are trying to get rid of old ones. Among those old ones, is Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Lieberman created quite a problem for himself in endorsing Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, for presidency. Now that Obama has won it seems that many democrats are looking for blood. They want to strip him of his chairmanship of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But to mee it seems vengeful. Lieberman has amost always voted witht he Democrats. He is no right wing Republican nor was Mr. McCain who he endorsed.

Sure many Democrats are angered but they must realize although Mr. McCain lost he has had a past of bipartisanship, which is the reason he was able to become such a close friend of Mr. Lieberman. And for this reason Democrats should realize that their friendship was based on this ability to work together even though they were on opposite sides. Many democrats in the caucuses may be too short sighted to see that they are already undermining Barack Obama's message of unity but I feel that it is his duty as the leader of his party to speak out on the subject and make peace with Mr. Lieberman. Otherwise, the era of bitter politics which we have been through for the last eight years will continue.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

It's been a long eight years since the Bush administration took power.  In order to move forward, we must look back and see what characterized the failure that was the Bush administration.

For too many years Bush and his team used division through fear to maintain their power.  The politics of fear proved to be effective in winning votes but its longevity as many are predicting, will be short-lived.  In a time of crisis our country is no longer looking to be frightened but rather they're looking for a way out and someone who will instill that feeling of hope in them.

The one trick pony that was the Roveian political theory failed to adjust to the times.  McCain seeing that these tactics worked in 2004, has chosen this route once again.  Unfortunately for McCain, the political landscape has changed.  Obama on the other hand has seized the opportunity and has stuck to his positive message of "change" through the duration of his campaign.

The latest example of this was in Obama's infomerical that aired earlier this week.  The 30-minute special did not mention President bush, nor John McCain or Sarah Palin.  Rather than using the half hour special to deride his opponents, Obama focused on the same positive message that he has pushed for the last two years, "change."  Below is the video:

McCain who began his campaign with a message of "change" in the way which political campaigns were run, did not stick to his promise and his scope of "change" was too narrow.  His narrow scope led to his initial failure in motivating voters.  The lack of success led to desperation for McCain and prompted party leaders to push his campaign into the good old Bush formula, Fear Fear Fear.  

The formula has become all to obvious to the media and American voters.  Lies began to seep out of the McCain campaign saying Obama was a "muslim," a "terrorist," and the most recently a "socialist."  One by one the media knocked down the claims as none were factually based.

Not only was McCain's reputation tarnished but it was clearly revealed how his campaign was using the same tactics of our beloved president, George W. Bush (approval ratings now soaring at 20%)  A bit ironic as Mr. McCain was attempting to distance himself from the president throughout the campaign.  You can't distance yourself if you turn into him.

While McCain clamors to find next negative message, Obama maintained the moral high ground as he has scoffed at the remarks made by the opposition and continues to hammer in his message of "change and "hope."  

As McCain has failed to see that "hope" is the new "fear," Obama has begun to set the platform for his presidency's legacy.  No longer will our government endorse "division through fear" but instead "Hope through Change."

Fear and division can no longer be a part of our political system.  We have to much to recover from the last eight years.  Whether its our reputation globally, the strength of our army, our volatile economy our decaying infrastructure ( just a short list)  the public has awoken.  

They've realized that this climate of fear has divided them and the government.  Nothing has been done in the last eight years that has moved our country forward.  A politician like Obama had to come in and capture this disillusion and infuse our nations politics with hope.  hopefully the new politics that Senator Obama, if elected, will bring will change the direction of our nation's progress and restore our confidence.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Really? He's a Terrorist Again?

You would think that McCain would learn his lesson. But old dogs can't learn new tricks. As his campaign continues to slide into chaos, the candidate has failed to address the many factors that have caused it.

His negative campaigning seemed to be fading in the public eye although it continued through "Robocalls." Many thought that his failure to link William Ayers to Mr. Obama would force McCain to attack with a different strategy. His initial strategy seemd to be waning but a new story in the New York Times states differently.

McCain's focus has now shifted to a new video that the LA Times is said to be withholding. The video supposedly has Mr. Obama praising a friend named, Rashid Khalidi. This "friend" is known to be a spokesman for th PLO.

Knowing that his weakness is the economy, Mr. McCain has had to target Obama's character. Unfortunately for Mr. McCain 9/11 is over and the recession is here. Americans are no longer thinking about Al Qaeda and Iraq but whether they're going to maintain their jobs. And most Americans are smart enough to realize that this late in the election the Republicans would be so lucky to all of a sudden find out that they've been running against a terrorist all along.

It's truly sad how McCain has abandoned all ethics in his campaign and fails to see that this year was the right year for him to run the kind of political campaign that he was known and respected for. He needs to remember that the reason he won the GOP nomination was rooted in the fact that he was the least like Bush.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain is Dead

It's been quite the free fall these past few weeks not only for Wall St. but for John McCain's presidential campaign. Polls across the country are indicating his bid for presidency have been fading. Americans are worried about the economy and neither candidate has offered much. While neither has offered much, McCain's campaign message has wavered not only on the economy but on the integrity he promised would characterize his campaign.

His past success with independents has depended on his consistent message as a reformer and an honest politician that believes in ethics. The recent inconsistencies of his campaign's message has caused many of his supporters to stray.

At this point in the campaign the contradictions have begun to mount. For some reason the campaign continues to pump them out, even when they have become extremely obvious. McCain began his campaign saying that he would run it with integrity, unlike like the campaigns that have become the signature of the Republican party. This was one of the main tenets that he was running on.

A couple of weeks ago at a town hall meeting McCain was asked about Obama's character and his association with domestic terrorist, William Ayers. McCain actually knocked down the accusation and professed the good character of Obama. Very noble of him, unfortunately, his campaign has been pushing a very different message for the last few weeks.

Many loyal McCain supporters have begun to abandon him as they begin to see that his campaign has begun to take on a Machiavellian approach, similar to President Bush in 2004.
McCain spoke out against the supposed ties that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers had and said it was not relevant to the campaign. While rejecting this accusation his campaign has begun a "Robocall" campaign attempting to link Obama to Mr. Ayers once again. This was not the beginning of McCain's ethical shift.

The new approach began with choosing an unprepared candidate for the vice presidency. For months on end McCain attacked Obama on his inexperience and the possible danger it could pose to the United States if he were elected. Ironically, when McCain had the choice to pick his VP he chose Sarah Palin, at best equally as qualified as Obama. The idea was that she would capture the disaffected Hilary voters and energize the conservative base. The cheap political trick backfired as the public and media began to see her inexperience. Once again, McCain would abandon another of his campaign's messages "country first." He chose politics first.

This shift from honesty and integrity to political expediency has changed much of the public's opinion on McCain. He's seen as the "New McCain" with his campaign's Roveian tactics and his lack of integrity. Although, his new tactics are deplorable it is sad to see that even George Bush was more effective at campaigning in this manner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The American One-Party System

Welcome to America, a nation with a two party system that often resembles an inept one party government. In recent years, our government, whether in its legislative and executive branches, has become increasingly unproductive. The many differences on both sides, Republican and Democrat, have come to forge one main overriding similarity: the ability to do nothing for our country. The increasing influence of the media, the pressures of the never-ending campaign, the explosive flow of money from big business and the political structure itself have all contributed to this trend. The structure of the system may be flawed but it is these external currents of media, politics and money that have come together to create the perfect storm over Washington. This storm has delivered us a highly polarized government, unable to complete from the most menial to the most urgent of tasks.

This era of “gridlock” politics has been set in motion and perpetuated by these various factors. It can be seen in the current bailout plan for Wall St. or immigration reform in the past. The wall created by polarization has either slowed or completely prevented legislation. The true problem with polarization is not only that those on the extremities of the political spectrum are in power and at odds with each other but rather that the moderate centrist base has eroded away. The erosion of this base is detrimental to a legislative system that depends on centrist compromise to reach any goal. Whether it is the empowerment of radicals or the erosion of centrists, it is the media, big business and the nature of the modern election cycle that inhibit any progress within our government.

The media’s role in this dilemma has various facets. The arrival of the 24-hour news network has made information on politics and current events widely accessible. While the access has empowered many voters it has also given clout to these new media outlets. The influence wielded by these media outlets is not only rooted in the number of its viewers but also through their ability to consistently repeat their messages and the constant use of multimedia to manipulate viewers’ emotions. Closely related to this concept is the “CNN Effect” which acknowledges this newly found influence but uses it to address CNN’s influence on the public when dealing with foreign relations issues. I believe this same concept can be applied to domestic politics, specifically, elections. The election cycle dominates most of the coverage on most news networks now and this certainly fits in the message repetition I mentioned before. What’s interesting about all of this is that there are two different ways in which these news networks are affecting the general public’s views.

After all these news networks are businesses and they have to operate on business models that guarantee success and profitability. Some networks like CNN try and give voice to both Democrats and Republicans in order to maintain high viewership and to avoid alienation of any group. This seems noble in cause but in effect CNN sees the nation and its public as falling under to two distinct ideologies. And these two ideologies are not pushed forward by CNN, but rather they are showcased by CNN through their many talk shows, which always have one or multiple constituents of the Democratic Party debating constituents from the Republican Party. Since these debates only discuss the ideas of the two parties’ ideologies they limit the market of ideas for the viewer. Limiting these ideas creates the two poles that viewers are left to choose. What’s worse is that these debates many times stray from fact and relevant content and become pure political hacking. The tension, which often surrounds these debates, makes for great television but never serves as a proper forum for discussing ideas. A great example of one of these shows was Crossfire. Crossfire was a daily debate show that was on CNN. The show had a stage and discussion table that was divided down the middle; one side was blue in color the other red. The concept behind the show was that CNN would have political figures from both the Republican and Democratic Party on daily, discussing and arguing over policy. It was known for being one of the more inflammatory of shows on CNN for the constant conflict and fervor between the two sides. At one point the show invited Jon Stewart, a political commentator and humorist, to the show. Stewart came on to the show with a purpose. While on the show he attacked both of the hosts, saying they served as political hacks and messengers for both political parties and that nothing that they debated ever strayed from the main messages both parties were putting out each day.

A video of Jon Stewart on Crossfire.

The show was canceled shortly after the exchange. Unfortunately, the format of having political hacks battling it out on networks like CNN, has not been phased out.

Other networks like Fox News are also seen as being mainstream and appealing to a wide audience, like CNN has. But many have criticized it for leaning to the right with a lot of its coverage. The targeting of a more conservative audience shows a different business model. The growth of the news industry and of the market itself has led many in the industry to target certain groups, like conservative or liberals, to create a market share and loyalty from these political bases. This nature of seeking profitability and market share overtakes the responsibility for proper news coverage and usually seeks to exploit the market. Regrettably, news coverage has become entertainment. And as all successful entertainment requires, news coverage has had to find a form of appeal. This appeal has been found by the creation of conflict and political drama. Whether its networks like Fox News which tend to lean to the right and attack those on the left or if its CNN which has both sides represented but at battle, it is clear that the successful business model in news requires the media to not only create polarization but to also ”fan its flames”

The media has played a great role in polarizing the public but at the end of the day it is the politicians who are then controlled by public opinion. The constant coverage of political figures in our modern times has created a new a phenomenon, the “endless political campaign.” While the media is partially to blame the political parties have wholly embraced the extended race for office. Many say that Barack Obama’s campaign began the night he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 for presidential candidate John Kerry. This is when the media picked up on the politician but also when the Democrats and Obama himself saw his potential for a future candidacy. Certainly this is just a minor example but the idea is that political parties are launching campaigns for elections a lot earlier than in the past. The length of time that a candidate must spend under the microscope may seem beneficial to the public. Instead politicians have still remained vague about their intended policies in order to maintain appeal to a larger voter base but what is worse is that is this desire to cater to public opinion has not only kept their messages vague but has also made them reactionary to public opinion. The ever-elusive message leaves most voters in the dark as to what candidates plan to do with their country or state. The void of knowledge is filled by reactionary policy from the candidates, which often shifts and maneuvers according to the latest polls. These policies are then left for political hacks to reinforce and argue over on CNN or Fox News, constantly drawing on viewers’ emotions rather than reason. The success of evading reason by politicians has created a culture that has permeated many political campaigns. This culture has pushed politicians to formulate policies based on short-term popularity instead of long-term effectiveness. What’s best for the country has now been sacrificed by what’s best for my candidacy. It is not to say that this element has been missing in past elections. The difference now is that the length of candidacies and the amount of news coverage have extended the presence of this element out of the election period and into the legislative process.

Now what’s most disturbing is how the two previous points I made of media influence and the endless campaign work symbiotically with the last, big business. Big business has always been intertwined with politics. Government has a massive influence on the operation of business not only with simple things like tax rates but also specific laws that govern how a business must operate. It has always been an element in American politics. What has changed is that politicians need big business’ money more than ever for their campaigns. Their endless campaigns need funding and large corporations have the most money available for the contributions needed by politicians. Not only are these contributions needed by political campaigns but the companies are more than happy to have teams of politicians owing them favors. Corporations have caught on to the trend and as statistics show these companies are always trying to contribute to the winning candidates. Since the Democrats won midterm elections and the popularity of Barack Obama as candidate has increased, there has been a marked shift in donations to the Democratic Party from the Republican. The Republicans had experienced the reverse prior to the 2006-midterm elections.

Corruption is the main issue that comes to mind when we observe this massive infusion of money into politics. But when discussing political polarization we must realize that this money serves more as fuel for both Republicans and Democrats to continue their campaigns. The corporately fueled campaign makes the endless campaign sustainable.

What we need to observe is how all of these elements truly are interconnected to create the main problem, polarization in government. I made the direct connections obvious but what is hardr to capture is the starting point of the problem. The politicians may be running endless political campaigns but the news media seeks the profits generated from coverage of these extended campaigns. The politicians need the money from corporations in order to compete with each other but the corporations need the help of the government to maximize their profitability. When we stop to look at this it is clear that the true problem is the desire for power rather than progress by the politicians and the abandoning of social responsibility for profitability by corporations. It is hard to find a solution to such a problem not only because its origin is convoluted but because two of the most influential institutions in our society, businesses and government, are both at fault and unwilling to change.