I Should Belong . . .

My blog includes a small badge that says “I belong to Postaday 2012.” In reality that is untrue, because I haven’t been posting at all. I’ve been far to focused on politics and the upcoming election. I want to change that. There are many different stories throughout the world that deserve attention. Even locally I could talk about Rick Santorum’s victory in the Kansas Caucasus, or the recent shooting rampage that an American soldier had in Afghanistan. There are also more local issues like the redistricting process that will affect the next election. In Kansas this is important because the only district that has much of a chance of electing a Democrat, may have many of its democratic voters removed. There are many more things to talk about. I would like to include a section on food. I’ve been an amateur cook for a while and would love to share some recipes with all of you. I would also like to talk about society in general. Perhaps about my disdain for reality television, or my feelings about technology, which I can’t help but love and hate. Most of all, I should belong to “Postaday2012” because I have worthwhile opinions and experiences to share, just like most of you. I hope to read yours and I hope you will read mine. Whether it is a short quote, or an in-depth analysis, we all have something to share. It’s putting those feelings out there that helps all of us grow as people. I should belong to “Postaday2012” and so should you. Happy blogging.

I Get Blogging and Rick Santorum Gets Some Love

So, I drifted past an email from WordPress just the other day and it came to my attention that I haven’t posted anything since November. It’s not like I quit having opinions and I’m always excited to share them. So after an extended hiatus, Independent Kansan is back. It’s good to see you all again. There is much to talk about as Republicans and Democrats bicker away. The President is running for reelection. Republicans are trying to pick his opponent, and I’m just trying to live my life like most of us. So here are some random observations I’ve been having lately.

1) Mitt Romney is more out of touch with the average american than anyone in the world. I swear he has no concept of what it’s like to be an average guy. I’m not saying it’s bad that he’s wealthy. I don’t even mind that he’s running for office because he appears to think its a cool thing to do. When he makes a quip about how he’s not worried about the extremely poor or when he breaks out his stump joke that he understands America because he’s, “unemployed too,” he just  comes across as totally detached. I’m amazed he was ever the front-runner.

2) Rick Santorum is finally getting some of the attention he deserves. Mr. Santorum and I don’t agree about anything but that’s fine. At least there is little in my mind that doubts his conviction. When comes out and says he’s against abortion, even in extreme circumstances, I don’t think he’s saying that for political reasons. I can respect that. When Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich says some of these things I’m pretty sure if I had the right poll numbers they would change their minds pretty quick. I’ve long said I thought Santorum would make a great VP candidate. He may be proving that VP is beneath him.

3)”Class Warfare” should be stricken from the English language. I’m so tired of hearing about how a 1% or 3%  raise in taxes on millionaires is “Class Warfare.” How is it not class warfare that wages for the middle and lower classes haven’t kept pace with inflation. Or that the rich do not pay social security or Medicare taxes on all of their income.  The rich in this country have it as good as they have in decades. After WWII people making over two hundred thousand dollars a year had that income taxed at 91%. We’re worried that currently millionaires might pay 34%, and that’s if most of their income doesn’t come from investments. I hat e to be the crazy liberal here, but taxing these people will not hurt them, and it won’t hurt you and me.

4)Republicans should continue to fight for the rights of the wealthy. They’ve started a trend here and every fight where they push back on unemployment and a tax cut for working people just to prevent 1% on millionaires. They are writing the campaign commercials that will lead to their demise.

Anyway, I’ve been needing to get that out for sometime. I gotta tell you it’s good to be back. I’m not optimistic, but I hope maybe we can have a real conversation in the coming months. To begin with I’m going to write about a series of electoral reforms I think we need in this country to help give democratic power to the people. I hope to see you there.

Why Can’t Kansas Get Any Good Press?

I’ve been away for awhile. Frankly I haven’t had any inspiration to write lately, but a couple of weeks ago I heard a ridiculous story concerning my home state, and today I read another. Both received national news coverage. Just like when our state Board of Education decided that teaching evolution wasn’t important, these stories make us look crazy.

I was listening to “All Things Considered” on NPR a couple of weeks ago and heard an interesting story about our state capital of Topeka. Apparently, prosecuting domestic violence cases is just to expensive. It’s so expensive that the municipal court of Topeka can’t afford to do it. It’s so expensive the Shawnee County District court can’t afford to do it. So what did these two groups do? The district court told the city of Topeka that they would only prosecute cases outside of Topeka. If it happens in Topeka the municipal court was responsible. It seems pretty cut and dry, but Topeka had an ace up its sleeve.  The city council simply repealed the municipal domestic violence statute. Now the municipal court has no authority to prosecute these cases.  As city manager Dan Stanley points out, this doesn’t make domestic violence legal because it is still covered by state law. The problem with this situation is that the two parties simply fought with each other rather that trying to find a mutual solution. Instead, they fought and ended up in a situation that is truly not beneficial to anyone.

This brings us to the story I just read about 25 minutes ago.  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback apparently had some ‘splaing to do. At a Youth in Government event in Topeka, Brownback made some remarks. A senior at Shawnee Mission East High School (home of the Lancers) made a tweet during his remarks with the hashtag (I hate myself a little for using that term) #heblowsalot. Brownback’s staff saw the tweet and called the school. The student ended up in the principal’s office and was told to write a letter of apology.

Now the Governor is apologizing for his overzealous staff, and saying the right to free speech is a “treasured freedom.” I think Gov. Brownback did the right thing. I don’t really have a problem with what his staff did. They should be monitoring social media that involves the Governor. I don’t know why they called the school. They probably shouldn’t have but that is a minor offense. My real problem is with Shawnee Mission East and principal Dr. Karl Krawitz. At what point did the school believe they have any right to order a student to apologize for a comment made on the internet. The student concerned is an adult and has all the constitutional rights of a  U.S. citizen. There is no reason that she should have spent any time in the principal’s office, and certainly no reason the school should have told her she should apologize for voicing her opinion. If anything Dr. Krawitz owes her an apology far more than  Governor Brownback.

Well, I hope my beloved home state gets some better press in the future, but it does feel good to be back.

One last thing, Herman, another woman, give it up man.

A Comment on Citizen Cain

The Black Walnut strikes again. Just two days ago, Herman Cain, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and Republican presidential candidate, shocked the political world by coming in second in a Bloomberg/Washington Post poll. All the talk was about whether this was for real. Then today in a Wall Street Journal poll he’s leading the field. That’s right according to the Wall Street Journal, Herman Cain might just be the front-runner in the Republican race for president. It’s much to early to be sure, but this race is getting interesting. I have a lot more to say about Herman Cain and his stance on the issues, but as I was reading this article on the WSJ website I noticed there were three hundred or so comments. I decided to read a few. I came across the usual Obama-hating stuff like this by “Joseph Wootten”:

“Herman Cain is by far the most genuine person to be a serious presidential candidate since Reagan. The Bushes were Harvard / Yale elitists. Clinton was a “Rhodes Scholar” (ok maybe his mamma hooker had something to do with that). Obama is a full-fledged “Affirmative Action” case president (I would love to see his transcripts). And Romney is the perfect Hollywood “Country Club Republican”. It is truly refreshing to see an actual accomplished human being have a chance to become president. I am fully on board the Cain Mutiny!”

I love that he put Rhodes Scholar in quotes like it’s not a real thing. Anyway, one commenter called “John Mason” called Cain, “the right wing’s answer to the Rev. Al.” I thought that was pretty funny.

Normally I don’t read the comments on major publications because they tend to be absurd. There is a lot of people saying what they believe while giving no support for their arguments, and a lot of people just being childish. So you will understand my surprise when I came across this comment by “Li-Shi Chen”:

“Certainly Cain makes this GOP race interesting and he is throwing ideas, such as his 9-9-9 proposal out there for debate. This is a good thing.

However, most US voters and in particular more recently GOP voters seem all-to-often willing to anoint some superhuman and elect him (or her) to ride in like a knight in shining armor to solve all of the US’s problems. I am sorry, but the problems the US faces today are far beyond the scope of a one-man show to fix them all. It is not even an issue of leadership anymore as we have seen that the party opposite the president in power (in the Bush years, the Democrats and in the Obama years, the Republicans) will only do what is good for them and not put what is good for the country first. Perhaps that is why people suddenly like Cain, whose statements seem to suggest he is not going to compromise, with his background and attitude more in like with the tradition of a tough-talking CEO.

However, this tough-talking omnipotent CEO image is a dangerous one though for a democracy like the US. In a company, a CEO may talk tough, but his constituents are often either paying customers or shareholders who invest in the company for similar, often narrow reasons. A country and its citizens are anything but that and unlike a company, which can be bought out, the leader of a nation has to ensure that the nation lives on forever, long after they step down. CEOs today are definitely not such long-term thinkers, nor do they need to be. Presidents have to be such long-term thinkers, however, as well as also understanding that global politics is not necessarily addressed in terms of market share nor win-loss.

I am sure Cain will continue to say the right things on the economy and that is no unimportant thing as the economy is in a shambles. However, voters will also need to see a much more substantive debate on his views over issues such as North Korea, Israel, terrorism, the US’s dependency on foreign oil, Russia and a variety of military threats around the world, among other things. America really should not ignore those issues just to get a candidate it thinks it likes now to throw out of the of White House a candidate it thinks it no longer likes.

This is not to say Cain is the wrong man. However, presidential candidates as well as presidents need to be both flexible on the murky issues and steadfast on the clear ones. If Cain can be this, then good luck to him. Meanwhile, voters may want to keep in mind that the candidate they often admire before November as being steadfast and firm often translates into being hardheaded and stubborn after the following January.”

That was an unusually thought out comment. Chen (who I assume would just be considered a Communist by “Joseph Wootten”) makes some very good points.  The debate in this race has so far centered around the economy which is probably the issue that the candidates can influence the least. Foreign policy will be very important in the coming years. The Israel-Palestine problem has shown no inkling that it is going away. Republicans and the public as a whole need to think about that and not let the economy blind us into a bad decision.

Kansas City Under Occupation

That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

Read more:

Andy Rooney Says Goodbye

It is said that all things come to an end. Television journalism just had one of those moments that proves it. Just a few minutes ago, Andy Rooney finished his last regular commentary piece and the CBS news show “60 minutes.” It’s a sad moment in many ways. For over 30 years, every sunday night, Mr. Rooney would spend a few minutes telling people what was on his mind. You may have liked it, or you may not have. Rooney didn’t really care, he was going to tell you what he thought and that’s how it was. I always enjoyed listening to Andy Rooney. I think he had the greatest job in the world. Face it, he was blogging’s inspiration. He didn’t report the news like a journalist. He didn’t just talk about politics and current events like a coloumnist. He was unlike any other coloumnist or journalist, because he just talked about what was bugging him that particular week.I hope they don’t try to replace him, because you really can’t. TV’s grumpy old man can’t be replicated. Rooney’s segment wasn’t great because it was some guy talking about whatever was on his mind. It was great because it was Andy Rooney talking about whatever was on his mind.

Prior to his segment he was interviewed by Morley Saffer. It was interesting to see Andy in a casual setting, becuase you realized that Andy Rooney on TV was also Andy Rooney in life. He said some interesting things. He believed he was more of a Democrat than a Republican, although he would object to being called either. Looking back, he really enjoyed covering World War II as an Army reporter. At the same time you could see the sadness in his eyes when he talked about friends he lost in the war. He doesn’t give autographs, because “what kind of idiot what’s my name on a piece of paper.” You got the sense that if you met him in public you’d think he was a jerk, but he’s not. He’s just a famous guy, that isn’t comfortable being famous.

All in all, Andy Rooney was a television icon. Through the years he contributed so much to television and journalism. It was an inevitable day. So there is nothing left to do but say “Thank you Mr. Rooney.” At least you inspired me, and I promise if I ever have the chance I won’t ask for your autograph.

A Constitutional Question

I’ve done a pretty bad job of posting lately. My interest in politics has been tested throughly. I’m just tired of the same arguments coming from either side over government spending and taxation. The Tea Party has thoroughly destroyed my faith in Congress, and the American public. I will talk more about that in a later post. Today, I want to pose a question. It’s a question I thought of a long time ago, but never got around to asking. First, a little reminder of our recent history.

Back in March, all the talk was about Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker was trying to push a bill that stripped the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senate Democrats fled in an effort to obstruct him. In the end the bill was passed, but not without gaining significant national attention and a repeated FOXNews claim that was completely wrong. In the last six months, I’ve been mulling this issue over in my head. Education is very important to me. I’ve been a public school system employee. I have strong views about the issue. Personally, I don’t believe that public school teachers have the awesome, easy job that conservative talking heads say they do. I also believe that we should be encouraging people to become teachers not discouraging it. Having the smartest people want to be teachers is good. Education in the cornerstone of everything we do.

All that aside, I thought of an argument that makes the repeal of public employee’s collective bargaining rights is unconstitutional. This argument maybe crazy. It may have been addressed already. I would genuinely like to know what you think. So please leave comments below. As long as their civil and honest of course.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says:

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’re going to focus on the last part of that amendment. The government cannot abridge our “right to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  The way I read that is that collective bargaining is a right of public employees. Collective bargaining is people assembling (as a union) and petitioning the government over grievances (such as pay, working conditions and so on.)

I know that a strict constructionist view of the Constitution would not allow this, because it doesn’t talk specifically about collective bargaining, but collective bargaining didn’t exist. I believe we have to view the Constitution in the era it was written in, and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Let me know what you think.