Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The real battle within the Republican Party

If you follow political theater, you've probably heard about the big battle within the Republican Party between the "old guard" and the Tea Party, or the moderates and the extremes. The actual battle within the party is more complex and more intersting. It's between the Conservatives, which includes the religious right, the Tea Party, The Progressives (who prefer to be called moderates) and the Libertarians.

The Progressives want to progress toward a more and more government centered society. Specifically, a Federal Government centered society. Conservatives would say they favor traditional family values, a strong military, and fiscal responsiblity. The religious right became a big player in the 80's when they came out for Ronald Reagan. They are steadfastly pro-life, anti-gay and promote what they deem to be Judeo-Christian values. The Tea Party came about in 2008 and 2009 in response to the bail outs. Their issues are smaller, limited government, adherence to the Constitution and smaller balanced budgets. Then you have the Libertarians who recognize that government is needed to referee interactions and trade between individuals and to protect the nation from foreign enemies, but would like to see as little government possible at the lowest possible cost.

Progressive Republicans differ from Progressive Democrats in that they realize lower taxes don't mean lower revenues. They wont come out and say out loud that they want big government, but while you may see taxes go down under Progressive Republican leadership, you will not see government get smaller. Conservatives can work with Progressive Republicans so long as a good portion of the growth of government comes in the form of military spending. The religious right can go along with all of that as long as the party remains pro-life and anti-gay and supports Judeo Christian values. The Tea Party was at first welcomed into the party tent because, frankly, they needed the votes. The smaller government thing seemed to match up okay with lower taxes, however, it turns out when the Tea Party said smaller government, they meant smaller government. This is not sitting well with some of the other factions within the party. They also have not officially adopted the more socially conservative stances on issues like abortion and gay marriage. They've pretty much stuck to the Constitution and fiscal issues.  The Libertarian wing can work well with the Tea Party, but also has a tough time with the Conservatives and the Progressives when it comes to the size and scope of government. Libertarians are flat out in 180 degree opposition with Conservatives on social issues. They believe individuals may disagree with each other, but it's just none of the government's business.

So you have at least four factions currently duking it out within the Party. Something has to give. You can't have a party that marries Libertarians with Progressives, big government with small government, individual freedom with adherence to social dogma. I wont have the audacity to declare (publicly) who is right or predict who will win this war, but until a coalition of compatible forces gets the upper hand, it's not likely Republicans will do well, even if they manage to gain power as a party. Their agenda will remain a confusing mish-mash of conflicting statements, positions and contradictory actions and strategies. That's not sustainable for a major national political infrastructure, so eventually somebody's going to win. In the meantime, it will certainly be fun to watch.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What to tell the kids about Miley

Contrary to popular belief, the former Hannah Montana fans have not been traumatized by Twerk-gate, and have not turned on their hero, Miley Cyrus.

The character has changed of course, but as the young, out of control, rebel without a clue, she's ridden the wave of her own generation and is now more popular than ever. But her behavior is irresponsible and unsafe, right? Of course it is. So what do you tell youngsters when they see such behavior from celebrities?

Well, what you don't tell them is what kind of music they ought to listen to. That's a proven loser. What you can tell them is that Miley Cyrus has an army of body guards and lives in a fortress. She's an entertainer; an actress. If your average American girl were to behave that way at a party, or a bar, or the mall, or even YouTube, there's a good chance she'd wind up on a "Missing" flyer. You don't want to be that kind of famous.

Friday, August 30, 2013

How to kill a discussion

I was having what I thought was a potentially productive discussion on Facebook when one of the participants said something like, "I don't think all Republicans are racist, but there tends to be racists within their ranks and many who are supportive of such positions." I am not a registered Republican, but I tend to vote that way. However, I was not supposed to be insulted or take offense because he didn't say "all".

This is actually a very common tactic, used for many years by Democrats to insinuate that if you're not with them, you're probably a racist. I know those of you who employ these tactics think you're being subtle or subliminal, but in case anyone wonders why it makes non-Democrats so irate, let me illustrate.

"Many supporters of President Obama and Democrats in general, are child molesters or tend to be sympathetic and supportive of child molesters." Note that the preceding statement is absolutely true and I didn't use the word "all" or even "most". Therefore, nobody should take issue with the statement right? Now if the tactic were to catch on and enough people dropped "child molester" into discussions about Democrats, eventually Democrats would become associated with the molestation of children in the minds of many.

Yes, implying that someone might be a racist, even when you're trying to be clever about it, is extremely offensive and insulting. No, people aren't going to embrace a collectivist agenda because they're afraid you might insult and offend them if they don't (at least not people that matter). So if you want to debate real issues, debate real issues, honestly. Resorting to the kind of tactics illustrated above is just an admission that you have no logical case to make and that continuing the conversation would just be a waste of time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why would Weiner stop?

Many political pundits and party leaders have expressed amazement at the fact that Anthony Weiner continues his quest for the Democrat nomination in the NYC Mayoral race, despite revelations that he continued to send x-rated text messages to strangers even after resigning from Congress in 2011. I find their amazement puzzling.

Some of the most popular shows on television feature individuals and couples acting like total baffoons. The only rule is that you keep people wondering what you'll do next. If you can keep people watching your antics, you can make a nice living being an outrageous, obnoxious, ignorant clown. What could get you kicked off the Real Housewives of (insert city here)? Only being boring. Even the couple from the New Jersey show who may be facing prison time may well wind up with a whole new show if they ever do go to prison.

Ratings is all that matters if your goal is just to be rich and famous. That seems to be what the Weiners are going for. Mr. Weiner doesn't need to win a primary or an election. He's getting all kinds of free air time with which he can find and build an audience. Even if most people find his antics distasteful, they only need enough to support a decent basic cable rating.

Stepping out of the spotlight at this point would be for the benefit of people who are sick of this story. It would not do anything for the Weiners. He can't embarrass himself any more than he already has. What would be the payoff? On the other hand, the American public has shown a penchant for rewarding dancing monkeys. If you're willing to put yourself out there and have no sense of shame, you too can be a star. It's the new American dream.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is social media helping to keep the peace?

Before the verdict in the contentious George Zimmerman trial came down, officials were worried about potential backlash from those who disagreed with whatever the verdict would be. They didn't want to see a repeat of the Rodney King verdict riots. They ran a couple of really lame Internet spots urging people to speak out rather than resort to violence and vandalism. Although there were a few exceptions, the reaction was much more civil and restrained than might have been expected. Was that due to these Internet videos? I don't think so. I think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like deserve a lot of credit.

Why do people tip over cars, throw bricks through windows and/or set things on fire in protest? They're frustrated that they are unable to reach a significant audience to have their point of view heard. They feel like they are being ignored. It's a pretty sorry way to try to get exposure, but some feel like it's all they can do, so that's what they do.

Now, you have a new alternative. If you have access to the Internet, you can develop a ready audience of hundreds of people in fairly short order. If your point is well made, perhaps they'll even share your opinion with their audience. It's actually possible for an unknown, with no money or political influence, to reach millions, even tens of millions of people, from the comfort of their couch or the local library.  This is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind and I can only conclude that it's going to be a good thing.

Regardless of what you think about the Zimmerman case, people were able to share their thoughts, insights and emotions, not only after the trial, but during it. A national discussion actually took place instead of just a national knee-jerk reaction. In the past, we'd have been fed bits, pieces, highlights of information and then the only public response would have come from politicians, pundits, news anchors and protesters in the streets. This time, everyone who had an opinion or thought they wanted to share was able to do so.

This is no trivial development. Conversation on the Internet, among normal individuals without marketing managers, handlers and experts has already toppled governments and made or broken companies. The ability to manipulate the masses by restricting information flow is rapidly diminishing. This is good news politically, socially and economically. It doesn't mean we're all suddenly going to get on the same page, but it does mean we can all be working with much better quality information. Better input means better output. Viva la Internet!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's wrong with kids today? Are you kidding?

While watching the ORielly Factor tonight, I heard Bill and the panel discussing the plight of a teenage beauty queen who had to give up her crown because she had made a porn video months earlier. The discussion turned to how kids today have gotten to the point where they can't seem to recognize the potential consequences of bad decisions. Are you kidding?

We have made celebrity millionaires out of the Kardasians, The Real Housewives of Whatever, the Jersey Shore crowd. Honey Boo Boo's family makes more money in one episode than many people make in a decade. Politicians and their well connected friends make their fortunes in back room deals and lying to and manipulating the rest of the population. Do you think the kids don't see all this? The whole notion of personal responsibility has been demolished. Everyone is a victim of their circumstances and it doesn't take much imagination to spin any set of circumstances into an excuse.

How can kids or anyone else foresee the consequences of bad decisions when there don't seem to be any bad decisions? In reality there is still some reward in being a decent human being. That is that you get to walk around with the knowledge that you're a decent human being. Personally, I think spending our grandchildren's future earnings on Chinese wind turbines is a much more serious moral offense than making a porn video, but in any case, the kids are clearly not the problem. Many may work things out okay on their own. But the fact that they have to work it out on their own is our fault, not theirs.