Friday, July 10, 2009

Article from Twodaymag.com -- 2/2009

By Joshua M. Patton

Iraq is not a place for lovers. This war’s purpose was to be the stepping-stone for a major change in the Middle East. It was not to last more than six months and while no one ever expected it to be easy, it was not supposed to last this long. Iraq is a country ravaged by violence – Iraqi against Iraqi, mujahedeen from radical Islamic sects fighting locals or the coalition forces, and our forces themselves -finding it difficult to differentiate between enemy and civilian. Just being there takes a toll on those of us who have never seen war before. The Army does its best to establish a support system for its troops. There are chaplains of every faith available and soldiers often lean on other soldiers. Yet there is no substitute for the voice of a loved on even across miles of ocean and desert.

It is a challenge for couples to work through the stresses of a relationship even when there isn’t war raging around them or a separation of thousands of miles. The true problem couples face in this situation is a lack of selflessness. The soldier faces an entire change of lifestyle with restrictions on everything he or she does from eating to recreational time. Violence can erupt around one so suddenly, it can be difficult to ever let one’s guard down. Yet, the person at home also has to deal with everyday life made worse by the absence of a partner. The problems tend to come when couples stop listening to each other and focus on oneself. The couples that “make it” are those who in spite of all their immediate concerns remain focused on the needs of their loved one, trusting the other to do the same.

My friend Hank was married to the mother of his two sons, Karen during our deployment. She met him at a party at the college they both attended at one of the local frat houses. Karen found herself facing the unwanted advances of one of the frat brothers, literally backed into a corner. She was contemplating the self-defense moves her mother had taught her before she left for school (thumbs in the eyes or a knee in the groin?) when the very drunk boy was grabbed from behind and she found herself face to face with her rescuer, Hank.

“Mind if I take this guy’s place and ask you to dance?” He asked her with a wry smile.

“It was yours to begin with,” Karen replied softly.

In six months, they were living together in a small apartment in the Southside of Chicago. Karen continued at the University of Chicago, while Hank left school and began to work in the newly exploding mortgage market. After a few successful months, Hank surprised Karen with a cruise to the Bahamas. On the last night of the cruise, they stood on the deck watching the sunset into the Atlantic.

“Have you ever seen anything more beautiful,” she asked looking out at the horizon.

“Yes, you” said Hank. Karen turned to him to smile and saw him on one knee, arm extended, and a small box in his hand.

“What are you doing?” she asked breathlessly.

“Asking you to marry me,” he replied, the normal air of confidence in his voice absent, replaced with nervousness she had not heard from him before. They both wept tears of joy as the sun disappeared for the night.

As with all love stories, the actual business of living happily ever-after was more of a challenge than they had imagined. Hank’s mortgage business was struggling, as the bubble seemed poised to burst at any moment. When their second child was born, Hank left his reserve unit with two years left on his contract remaining in the Army. Yet without the extra money, he became more desperate for business. One particularly stressful day, Hank took a call from a hysterical Karen. He had been called up from the inactive reserves and was to be deployed to Iraq. Without him to run the day-to-day operations, the business he worked to build was doomed. Karen, however, thought the steady income from the military would bring some needed financial stability, Hank’s absence notwithstanding.

The couple had been growing distant for months before this and Karen had decided to go graduate school while Hank was gone. While he was still stateside, Karen was often rushed to get off of the phone when he called, late for some class or behind on reading or homework. Once our unit was in country, we would travel to the phone center and Hank was always the first one through with his phone calls. He would speak to his oldest son for a few minutes and then after a few terse exchanges with Karen he would hang up without the air of relief and comfort most of us had after calling home. He was buckling under the pressures of duty, the separation in general, and uncertainty about his future post-Iraq since the mortgage business was all but gone.

I was attached to a unit from Chicago, but our unit was attached to a National Guard battalion from Idaho. Lisa was a platoon leader in the headquarters unit and we often interacted, becoming fast friends. Her husband was a truck driver attached to a different company and stationed on another base. Despite what we thought, even though he was in country with her, this too came with its share of problems. The spoke only through e-mail and rarely saw each other. When they did, the differences in rank prevented them from expressing their love through physical means – a hug, a kiss, handholding – all verboten by US Army standards. She would often wile away the down time by telling us about their relationship and its beginnings.

Matt and Lisa had been friends since he had joined the Idaho National Guard. Yet, that all changed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during their annual two-week training. They were at the on-post club when compelled by drink and dancing Lisa kissed Matt. They loaded up on buses to be taken back to their barracks, and once back at their rooms, armed with a small bottle of rum, they located an empty barracks to spend the night in each other’s arms.

It was common knowledge in the unit that the two were a couple, despite the fact that they worked in different sections. Lisa climbed through the ranks and became an officer. Matt, a troubled soldier at best, was still a private first class, but he harbored no jealousy about Lisa’s promotion. In fact, he was very proud of her and often joked about having an Officer “in his pocket.” These words found their way to the commanding officer. In a meeting with the couple, she explained how the regulations were poised to change to disallow any relationships between officers and enlisted soldiers unless they were married. An angry Matt yelled at his captain, “Well then just TRY and stop us from getting married,” and stormed out of the office.

“Well, that wasn’t the result I was looking for. What do you have to say, Lieutenant?”

A shocked Lisa looked at her fellow officer and said, “I think I am getting married!

When the battalion received orders to deploy to Iraq, Lisa was on the list to go but not Matt. He ran around frantically and found himself a place with another platoon. Iraq was a scary prospect, but now they could face it together. Once they arrived in-country, Matt’s platoon was placed on a base in Tikrit and Lisa’s on our base two hours north near Kirkuk. The only way they could see each other was to convoy between the bases. Each time he would convoy, Lisa would wait by the gate nervously until they arrived. Only rarely did they get to do much more than eat a quick meal or maybe sneak off to her quarters for a few short hours. “It’s maddening,” she told us, “for him to be so close and yet always at least an arm’s length away.”

As our deployment wound to a close, Hank noticed that the letters and e-mails from Karen were becoming more and more infrequent. Hank’s duties were of an administrative nature, so he rarely left the base. Still, this comes with its own pressures. As a squad leader, he also had to deal with increasingly stressed soldiers suffering from the cabin fever that comes from living and working in this horrid desert for almost a year. His happiest moments were his talks with his sons; they were spending more time with Hank’s parents and Karen’s lack of communication worried him. The tension he suffered between work and his personal situation became serious and our commander ordered Hank to take the next rest and relaxation leave, giving him two weeks at home. He spoke to Karen only twice to arrange for transportation home from the airport.

After no less than 20 hours of travel time in cramped military aircraft, Hank arrived in Chicago feeling a mixture of relief and the sense that something bad was about to happen. Karen met him at the airport, accompanied by a man. They had met at school, not unlike her and Hank, and had fallen in love she explained. Hank said nothing when Karen asked for a divorce but after a few tense moments broke the nose of the man standing next to his future ex-wife. He picked up his green duffel bag and walked off to find a cab; he was the only one weeping this time.

Back in Iraq, the tensions were heating up as the second round of elections loomed. During election time, the attacks against civilians and soldiers would double. These usually came in the form of roadside bombs. Matt and Lisa had continued to see each other infrequently, but they were always happy times. Hank once asked his secret, and Matt simply said when he saw his wife – his concerns, his stresses melted away and he was only concerned about her. “Helping her deal with her problems somehow erased mine.” They had started to use the military postal system to send each other letters and small packages, finding joy in the smallest of things.

Right before the election, the couple had not spoken in about three weeks. With the increasing violence, travel between the two bases was only by helicopter, but there were some supplies that by truck. The road between Kirkuk and Tikrit had been heavily attacked, but Matt was so desperate to see his wife, he was the only one to volunteer for the trip. Lisa arrived at the gate to see the guards frantic – barking into the radio and receiving the standard Med Evac reports. Matt’s convoy had been hit and two soldiers were wounded, one dead. The guards did not know the names, so Lisa had no idea about her husband’s fate. After what seemed like days, the vehicles pulled in to the base. Lisa scanned the vehicles not seeing her husband and her stomach went cold. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes and then she heard her name. In what seemed like slow-motion she turned to see him jump from the back of a large truck – dirty and covered in blood that was not his own.

“I thought…” she stammered.

“Shh,” Matt said, holding his wife and keeping the tears at bay, “It’ll take more than a war to keep me from you.” As the commotion continued around them, they held each other weeping a mixture of joy and despair for being together but in this place.

War by its very nature is destructive, but the casualties are not always victims of some form of violence. The mental distress soldiers suffer upon their return from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan is vastly underreported and undertreated. Some casualties are families ripped apart because the soldier and the spouse do not know how to support each other or ask for the support they need. All too often couples will just talk at each other, each relaying why it is they need the others' support, instead of just listening. Also, ten minute-phone calls and fifteen minutes to use computers, do not lead to healthy communication in relationships. The military is taking "efforts" to reduce the strain on families and couples, but whatever they do it will not be enough. Iraq is not a place for lovers.




Tuesday, July 7, 2009

THE LAST RUBE

By Joshua M. Patton

The title of this blahg is in homage to the only blog I ever read faithfully...Hey Rube on Espn.com, written by Hunter S. Thompson. It was written on a typewriter and somehow, I think one could tell in the reading. Anyway, I was stumped and The Last Rube seemed like a good title and it is literally the first thing you have to think of when you create a blog...I have always saved my titles for the end. It wasn't until today, I found out what I meant by the last rube.

When I was younger, about 14, I began writing for America Online's teenager section. I didn't get paid, but my family also did not have to pay for AOL when it was $40 bucks a month for unlimited internet access. It was great, I just wrote what I thought for about 500 or 1000 words and that was that. I was amazingly fortunate over the next three years, meeting and working with a number of people that have gone on to some moderate fame (they had an amazing race to dance with stars, but their survivors). When I joined the military and became a father, I left this field behind because I needed to provide for my family.

It was when I was serving in Iraq that I realized how much I missed writing and I wanted to get back to it. I found it much more difficult than before to break in and at first I blamed blogs and twitters for shortening our collective attention span for written words, plus most people were just giving their words away (sort of like I am right now, but we'll get to that). Yet, I realize that it is just I have lost the luck that comes with being a bright-eyed and talented teenager. Now I am just a whiskey-soaked, raspy-voiced, unemployed war vet with a mouth to feed, who even cares if I have any talent?

Still, I march onward. I write for a political site for a few months, to get my feet wet and get used to writing again. I move on to some freelance work, not journalism but certainly journo-tainment. Paper copies of the Writer's Digest part of my past, I sign up for the Writer's Market website. I see there is an agent in my town and I think it's 1994 again and you can just e-mail someone and expect a helpful, human response. This, was not the case. However, I don't blame the agent. All salesmen are whores, agents are just the literate ones.

No the real surprise came when I posted something at the AbsoluteWrite forum, what passes for an online writers' community these days. These other writers reacted as if I hadn't written a simple recount of an experience, but had pasted a picture of my forehead with male genitalia growing from it. One of the actually asked why someone would read any e-mail from me if he or she did not stand to profit directly from it. The irony of her replying this to a strangers' e-mail on a public forum apparently escaping her (I assume it was a female, it was a feminine screen name anyway).

This is why I consider myself the last rube. I am still foolish enough to believe in kind strangers. I am still foolish enough to try and help someone even if I don't stand to profit from it. Hell, I'll help someone I don't even like just because I was raised this way. I can be an asshole, but I try not to be one on purpose. Apparently, this is my largest and most glaring mistake.

Whatever, there's a guy who thinks he can guess my weight, if he doesn't I win a stuffed owl...I think I'll take my chances with him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Big States, Little States, United States.

Big States, Little States, United States

An article discussing the dangers of the "big-state" theory of campaigning that has turned all of our national elections into a matter of winning Florida or Ohio into winning the nomination or an election. Do read and comment, thanks!!

While watching the twenty-four hour news networks form a narrative for the elections, most specifically this current primary season, I have noticed a disturbing trend that threatens to marginalize the democratic process in these United States of America. The pundits and talking heads dismiss the primary and even general elections in states such as Idaho, Mississippi, Utah, and others. The way the primary system is set up, my state of Pennsylvania is typically irrelevant in the nomination process. Sure, our voice is heard to the tune of possibly 21 electoral votes in November, but in that election we have rarely had any say about for whom it is that we are casting our ballots. Today, our primary election is seen as the next significant battleground for the Democratic candidates and I am surprised at the small amount of attention we have been getting from these candidates.

Senator Clinton made her play for the state early, riding her momentum from the victories in Texas and Ohio. She appeared at my native Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade and wracked up significant endorsements from politician delegates and local officials alike. Senator Obama has conducted some town hall meetings in the outlying areas of the city and had one rally in the Oakland area of the city around a number of the largest colleges in the area. I had hoped for some more vigorous campaigning on his part, but the politics of race have been played rather heavily in this area, and I think the rural folks across the state need a little more time with the candidate than those of us in the city. We shall see what the final weeks leading up to the election bring in terms of campaign appearances.

I wonder, though, how many people in Mississippi would have liked the opportunity to have a town meeting with the candidate of their choosing as the Iowa or New Hampshire constituencies enjoyed. I wonder if the people of Delaware suffer less from the effects of this crippling economy than those in big "important" states. The disenfranchisement of the American Voter seems to continue in an a day and age when technology is as such we no longer need these antiquated contrivances that served their purposes in their day but should be pushed to evolve into a more pure version of this experiment called democracy.

After all, this is simply the party nomination process and we tend to forget that the political parties are organizations that should be allowed to make up their own rules. Yet, the two-party system we have in place limits the ability for all of the voices in the population to be heard. However, given the arguments made by this particular party during the resolutions of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the party that dares to call itself democratic should ensure that their nomination process is as democratic as possible. The delegates should be bound to vote as the voters which sent them to the convention directed. We are in a day and age where we can move towards a more popular vote.

I do not believe that we should get rid of the Electoral College, it actually promotes fairness in that it protects states that are outnumbered in population maintain a voice in the democratic process. However, I do believe that we need to bind these representatives in both the Electoral College and amongst the ranks of the delegates elected in the primaries to adhere to the wishes of the voters in their districts. I also believe that a party calling itself democratic should remove the politician delegates they so adorably adorned with the moniker "super." While I am not so keen on the notion of only a two-party system, this is what we are stuck with. Thusly I believe the party should be bound by the will of its members not of its bosses and top elected officials.

Barack Obama has effectively ignored the type of "big-state" strategy that Senator Clinton has employed. He has taken the opportunity to campaign vigorously in all states sending a message that transcends simple delegate tallies and exit polls. He is sending the message that every vote matters to him and that he is running for President of the United States not President of the Blue States. I believe his opponent's logic is fatally flawed and his current status as front-runner is the evidence of that. The opposing candidate herself has said that despite which of them will be the nominee, the Democratic Party should align itself behind the nominee and truly be a unified party for a change in the current Washington scene. Senator Clinton's campaign messages of late, and to a lesser extent the responses of Senator Obama's campaign, have not carried that harmonious tone. However, are we to believe the solid blue states will not toe the line and fall in to support Obama were he to win the nomination? The swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and some of the south hang in the balance and will require attention from both candidates in the general election as none of these candidates are like anything that we are used to.

I am sure that John McCain will run a dignified campaign and I believe Barack Obama has shown that he too wants to change the timbre of political campaigning for the betterment of the process. There are a few contests left in the primary season, will there be substantive debate on the differences between these candidates or will they rip each others' characters to shreds and in doing so destroy their own effectively doing the work of the Republicans for them when it comes to exploiting the weakness of these candidates? And what of the message Senator Clinton is sending to the voters of the states she ignores on the campaign trail while at the same time speaking up for the "disenfranchised" voters of Florida and Michigan because she desperately needs them now?

On a side note, the Florida and Michigan debate also causes me to scratch my head in bewilderment. Back when this was first decided, no one seemed to care that the voters' voices had been silenced because it was supposed to be over before 50% of the country had voted. The voters however, have retaken ownership of the process. It seems disingenuous that there is such an outcry now, when the offenses were committed so long ago. It is not a concern for a constituency to be fairly represented bur more political positioning in order to either regain or maintain an advantage. Senator Clinton is almost out of it, I believe, but she will not go down with out a fight. My only hope is that she does not take half of the party with her. The time has come to make a change: a drastic change of what is considered politics-as-usual; a change that allows us to look beyond skin color or gender; a change to the myth of political experience equating executive qualification; a change that allows us to see past the partisanship that should represent a foundation for ideological debate instead of vicious infighting that strangles our government and renders it ineffectual. The largest indicator in my mind that someone represents that change is when they break from the mold, do something unexpected, and take the road less traveled by.


The Day Hope Was Murdered on a Hotel Balcony

4 - 4 - 1968

On Friday we remember the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He has now been gone longer than he was alive. What is important to remember at this time about the man? The mystery surrounding his death? The suggestions of government conspiracy? There are better things to talk about....

"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored"
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.



In my MP3 player I have an eclectic mix of music to get me through the 40 minute bus ride from my home to downtown. Along with music, I have a collection of spoken word pieces and some inspiring speeches. One of these is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" and it is a speech that I never tire of hearing. We can see what was unequivocally bad then with the benefit of hindsight, what has changed by comparing the present to then, and even can apply these words to stimulate real discussion of where we still have to go. It is something that I think all Americans should be familiar with as we are with JFK's inauguration speech, the Gettysburg Address, or if I may be so bold, the Sermon on the Mount.

I am not trying to assign a sainthood or divinity to Dr. King. He was undeniably a typically flawed human being just like the rest of us. Sadly, the FBI pursued Dr. King through countless wiretaps and electronic surveillance. They were searching for anything that could ties him to the Communists, in an attempt to attach a powerful black leader to the nation's fiercest enemy. All they discovered was an intensely self-critical man that had a weakness the President who authorized the surveillance also suffered, the problem of infidelity. The relentless harassment that Dr. King received in terms of written threats and physical acts of violence possibly aided by the Federal investigation serve to further exemplify that this was a man who was larger than his faults and begs the question what scared the establishment so much about this man that they devoted so many resources to his downfall? For the might of the FBI all they could find was pillow talk and tabloid news that today's society relegates to the entertainment news. Was it a fear that he was a megalomaniacal leader looking to overturn the infrastructure of the government?

From his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech:
"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood,"
and
"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him."
These quotes do not reflect the Anti-American ravings of a dangerous subversive. These powerful statements come from a man who so loves his country that he will castigate it with no hesitation when its actions go against the values we hold sacrosanct as a nation. These are the characteristics of the Patriot. Unlike the most commonly misunderstood idea of patriotism, unquestioning obedience to the government and the current agenda, Dr. King -- like Lincoln and the delegates of the Continental Congress -- held the national authority to task and ensured that our shared equality was equally honored.

Thus we remember the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, a particular milestone the man himself never achieved only 39 years of age when he was gunned down. Some believe his killers to be the great white establishment, an entire conspiracy network put into place to remove from power a man that was, according to an FBI Memo, "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country." How tragic it would be if this great man was killed by a singular hateful and small-minded man. Truly a life as grand as his deserves an equally grand finish. The truth may be forever argued and never discovered. Now 40 years past his death, I wonder if it isn't one of the more irrelevant points in the discussion. What Dr King, I believe, would have us remember about his time on earth is what he said, and how we relate those words to our experiences in today's world. As we remember his passing -- when a champion of peace had his life taken in an act of cowardly violence -- let us reflect on the way this change was brought about and look at ourselves for the courage to continue to strive for a better cohesion of cultures.

Change was achieved and ground was made to level the racial playing field. We no longer have Bull Conner keeping his police officers at home and allowing his town to come under mob rule. The journey of the Freedom Riders ensured that nothing like that could ever happen again. This was a victory of the civil rights movement and Dr. King. Today's racism is more subtle and more subverted. There are no more great demonstrations of hate or intolerance, merely quiet acts that "hopefully" go unnoticed by the mainstream media. This is part of the reason that the racial discussion has become stagnant because it ultimately comes down to "It's better than the 60's, right?"

In times like these the quiet resolve of Dr. King can inspire us all to strive for the betterment of our national community and to have the courage to stand up in the face of corruption, ignorance, and violence without sullying one's own principles. The courage to take unpopular stances will be tested in no more difficult way than when attacked. Dr. King would instruct us to turn the other cheek as individuals or as a people. Today, he would be called soft, Un-American, and perhaps a traitor when considering the war on terror and the fervor behind it. During these times we remember not just the way Dr. King was taken from us, but what he did while he was here. His love of the people extended not to just the black community but the entire community. When we look at the life of the man and not just his death perhaps we of all colors and beliefs can emulate in some small way the character of a man who had the courage to peacefully stand up to an entire nation for the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness


The Argument for The Democratic Process

The Argument for The Democratic Process

There are calls from Party insiders on both sides of the fence for a short primary process. This has not been the case in this particular season. The Democrats wasted a huge opportunity and are on very thin ice as the voters demand to be heard. Add your opinions to the end if you agree or disagree with the idea that the elections should continue.

The dominating political discussion is the Democratic primary, and Pennsylvania's relevance in this contest is rather exciting to voters all across the state, Republican and Democrat. Throughout the Republican Primary season and this continuing Democratic race there has been a call from some in the parties expressing eagerness to make the latter contests irrelevant with the underdog ceding the nomination to the front-runner. If one looks at the political party nomination process as party business and not as an exercise in democracy, then the position makes sense. There is more time to stimulate the general election debate, raise funds, and organize constituencies. Therefore the late scheduling of the conventions and disqualifications of some states were party business as well. The parties deemed that the conventions had become more coronations and, it is my guess, that they scheduled these conventions to build momentum for the home stretch of the general election race. However, given the actions of the Florida and Michigan governments, and the almost down-the-middle divide in the party between the candidates the voters and the party leaders are sadly reminded of what the traditional purpose of the convention has been, to fairly and effectively select the party's nominee.

Some have called for Senator Clinton to leave the race and cede victory to Senator Obama. While as a voter, I would love to see Senators McCain and Obama begin their campaigns and the greater national discussion to follow. There are some within the Democratic Party that believe this continued primary season hurts the party. Others say it is fantastic for the party and should continue until the convention is held, (with time adjusted for the effect of 24-hour news media) some half-dozen years from now. Either of these points-of-view could be correct, it depends on the manner in which the campaigns are conducted throughout.

For the past month John McCain has been able to quietly rally the Republican troops, fill in the gaps in his organization, and essentially begin his general election campaign while the two Democratic candidates lambasted each other's character. The question changed from which of these two would be the best agent of change into why the other candidate and, by extension, those they associate with would make for a bad candidacy. This to me was a wasted opportunity and one of the reasons why Democrats are viewed as disorganized and their own worst enemy. When John McCain secured the nomination Mike Huckabee was still gaining a significant percentage of votes building steam seemingly because Sen. McCain was the front-runner. Every media outlet drove into the voters' mind that since there was no way for Huck to win the nomination, that it was time to call the race. When Huck bowed out, both Senators Obama and Clinton should have picked up right where he left off. Sen. Obama had the right idea, identifying their differences but also pointing out why Democrats should be respectful of John McCain and thus appealing to some of McCain's moderate and independent support.

However, his opponent then launched her 3 A.M. ad and he had to turn his focus on his primary opponent. Had she taken the same approach and deftly included why she would be superior to Sen. Obama in challenging Sen. McCain, he would have had to fend off attacks from two directions with little organization to handle such work. This is her current strategy in Pennsylvania. Attacks directly against Sen. Obama have not worked before. However, now that the subject of race has been introduced by her surrogates and the Rev. Wright attention, the notion that "She's the only candidate that can beat John McCain," has a new effectiveness with some of the blue-collar white democrats in the state.

The notion that any election in a democracy is not good for the country is ludicrous. The voters have made this more than simply party business. When there are only two significant parties presenting candidates on a national level, the selection of the nominee is very important. However, if the tones of these campaigns are not dignified and helpful to the party first and the candidate second, then effectively the Democrats make the Republican's workload much easier when it comes time to start raking muck. The differences in policy are not attention grabbing and will not keep the senior election analysts on the news networks talking. Instead they have engaged in snarky backbiting and character assaults that grab headlines but may hurt their efforts in the long run to November 2. The challenge lies at the feet of the Democratic candidates and the steps they take on the road to the convention. Senator Obama, in my opinion has so far done the best job of attempting to elevate the debate and focus forward rather than at sinking the ship sailing along next to him. He is content to make his case rather than be divisive and then let the American voter decide like adults. This week it seems as though Senator Clinton is attempting to lighten things up as well, even engaging in a poorly-delivered April Fool's joke. I only hope that she has the courage to run her campaign with dignity and honesty, not for herself, not even for her party, but for the American people so that we may move towards a future in which we are able to again believe in not only the candidates but the process itself.

The Other Candidate in the Pennsylvania Primary

The other candidate in the Pennsylvania Primary

Congressman Ron Paul returns to the city of his birth to continue his campaign for President. Aware that he will not win his party's nomination, it's more about the message and keeping the citizens involved.

While John McCain is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, there is still one candidate that has not officially dropped out of the race. Dr. Ron Paul, a Pittsburgh native - and like Jeff Goldblum and Bret Michaels before him, I always support the local kid - is currently a member of Congress and still campaigning for his party's nomination. With the Pennsylvania Primary looming, Ron Paul was the only candidate with the decency to schedule his appearance after typical business hours. A small detail that one would think candidates so aware of the working-class nature of this state would be more aware. A small University of Pittsburgh lecture hall became Ron Paul Revolution central as a major motion picture filmed a few blocks over.

There were about 700 people in attendance that night and the chatter in the auditorium before Dr. Paul's speech. In a terribly unscientific polling of the attendees, I asked the couple to my left and the mother and daughter to my right why they were supporting Ron Paul. The couple to my left was divided in thought; the young lady was undecided and open-minded while her male counterpart was adamantly for Ron Paul. He told me that he was "the most honest politician since George Washington," and that he agreed with almost everything he has said on the campaign trail. I followed up by asking their opinion of his thoughts on taxes and the economy. They were unaware of his positions exactly and stressed that this is why they were here. To learn a bit more about this candidate that had been completely marginalized by the media.

In the Republican debates, Ron Paul was asked significantly less questions than the other candidates and stood passively by as McCain and Romney argued over semantics. When he did get the floor, it was usually to answer an inane question. Still he conscientiously made his case to the American people and was very straight-forward and honest in his discourse. His words were often taken out of context after these debates. As the only candidate that opposed the war, often his analysis of United States Foreign Policy and its relation to our economic problems caught my attention. Yet, the important points he made were lost thanks to chest-thumping and flag-waving candidates stifling a point-of-view in the name of casualties of the attack on our supposed freedoms that our enemies despise. The media treated him no differently; he made appearances on many newsmagazines and effectively stated his case. However, the talking head before and after spent significant time marginalizing his comments as either the ravings of an isolationist kook or as with the conspiracy theorists.

To my right in the auditorium were a mother and a daughter. The daughter will turn 18 just before the general election and is instead planning to vote for Obama. She had done a lot of research on Ron Paul on the internet video sites, more so than the older, arguably more educated man to my left. She liked that he was for the decriminalization of drugs and no income taxes, although I am unsure if she was aware of the pros or cons of the replacement, Fair Tax. Her mother, like the woman to my left, had come to the speech for two reasons. The first is that she wondered what Ron Paul had to say because she was perfectly aware that he was unable to win the nomination, but believed his message deserved to at least be considered. The staunch supporters of Ron Paul tried to create a rally atmosphere with chanting of slogans and the candidate's name. We played along initially but it was unsustainable. It was as if that type of enthusiasm caused more pain than cheerfulness. The faithful would do their duty on April 22, but they seemed reticent to allow themselves to believe that victory in its traditional sense was all but impossible.

Diminutive in stature, Dr. Paul took the stage to uproarious applause and a standing ovation that lasted for well over three minutes. After this he began his speech. He had no prepared remarks, no prompter; it was just us, him, and his thoughts. He spoke of personal and economic liberty, that we are not beholden to the government but that they should be beholden to us. He spoke of abolishing the income tax, lessening the size of the government, and a plea for the voters to be politically aware. He said that the government has no business telling us what to eat or drink, prohibiting substances without a constitutional amendment, and interfering in sexual habits. A relatively unique perspective for a 21st century Republican - but more aligned with the original principals of the party than those calling themselves conservatives today. The crowd seemed to have mixed reactions to this message. The older, traditional Republicans felt that his talk of decriminalizing drugs and his tolerance of homosexuality a little disconcerting. He also delved into a deep discussion of monetary policy and while his general message was not lost on the crowd, looking around the room during some of the more detailed sections of his talk I saw confusion on more faces than not. This is the first time I have ever heard a candidate discuss his policy proposals in such details to his constituency.

He spoke of our fear of countries having weapons of mass destruction. We now will go to war with a nation to prevent them from obtaining these weapons. He pointed out that during the Cold War, we stood down the only other nation to posses nuclear arms such as we do. He then asked how could a nation that possessed maybe one or two of these weapons be such a threat when we survived the Cold War and the arms race that went along with it, by diplomacy and a little CIA subterfuge. The youth in attendance were very responsive to his calls for personal and economic freedom. The idea that a room full of mostly college students would cheer at the call for the disassembling of the Department of Education leads one to believe that perhaps this system is flawed and pumping more money into it may not be the answer.

Dr. Paul has been ignored by the media and marginalized by his own party. He still managed to obtain a significant portion of votes in his areas for the limited media exposure that he received. He attributed the strength of the movement to the people at the grassroots level and the internet as the great equalizer. He acknowledged that his campaign was greatly mismanaged and for that he apologized to us his supporters. He did not say that he wanted to leave the race, but he did say that the entire campaign was driven forward by his supporters and as long as people kept donating and asking him to speak he would oblige. He also talked about writing a "manifesto" for the "Ron Paul Revolution" and said that is available on Amazon(already so many have ordered it that Amazon has ordered a second printing and the book is not yet complete). Perhaps outside of the context of a Presidential campaign, Dr. Paul's message can find a wider, less skeptical audience. His understanding of monetary policy, the problems we have in the Middle East and across the globe, and his notion of freedom are consistent with the ideals we had as a nation in its infancy. He has been accused of being an isolationist, but is more accurately described as a non-interventionist. In a perfect world, we would be talking to everyone and warring with no one. Rather than forcing our ideals on other nations, Dr. Paul believes that if we tend to our own needs, we will become once again an example to the world and others will want for a government based on American Democracy rather than be coerced into adopting it. Now that the dollar is losing value , our military is increasingly strained, and our government is larger and more limiting of our freedoms than ever, perhaps his message deserves a second look.

Ultimately, this speech was a concession speech. Without saying it directly, he encouraged us to vote for him "to send a message." Unlike Mike Huckabee he is not in this to "win this," but to get the national discussion to the point where we are talking about the real issues. There was no pandering, only truth - and that is a bitter pill for many voters to swallow. Yet, his message was a hopeful one. That the movement started by his campaign should continue, calling on government to act and holding those we do elect accountable for the will of the constituency. When I asked him after the gathering what he had planned for the convention and beyond (before I asked him to pose for the fanboy picture you see above), he essentially said to keep fighting, to keep engaging the young voters, and to make America stronger. This is a man who ran for President not because he wanted to hold the highest office in the land, but because there was no one else he saw that was trying to do that. His unvarnished truth did not shine attractively under the lights of the mainstream media, but to the people who have met and heard the man's message, it was undeniably truth. Long Live the Ron Paul Revolution.

When Changing Your Mind Means You're A Big Fat Liar

Flip-Flop

When changing your mind means you are a big fat liar.

John Kerry had a number of problems as a candidate for President. However, the largest nail in that coffin was the accusations of "flip-flopping." Did Senator Kerry change positions on issues for political convenience? Some felt that he did and it may have cost him on Election Day. As such maneuvering should. It has become almost commonplace for politicians to say whatever they believe will get them elected. Some candidates, Mitt Romney in my opinion, do this so blatantly one has to believe his supporters have been hypnotized. However, it seems that once this was perceived to have prevented Kerry from claiming the presidency every change of thought or policy seems to bring about accusations that the candidate is a "flip-flopper."

First of all, I am against the unnecessary "verbing" of a word. Especially if it is a word for shower shoes. The media, being what it is, oversimplifies and likes catchy phrases that fit well into a sound bite or headline: "Politician weighs issues and changes mind after meeting with advisers and voters," always loses to "Politician Flip-flops on issue." It poses quite a threat to the type of people we find successful in politics. To make it an unforgivable sin to change one's mind will only leave us with those unwilling to change his or her minds. That type of absolutism has always led to peril. And I again remind you, it's not really a word.

This week, countless hours of television and radio have been spent discussing the ramifications of Senator Obama using the words "refine my policies." Now, even though the proceeding word was "continue" implying that this is something that he has been doing since posting his
Blueprint for America on his website. It was viewed as the beginning of a drastic change in his position on the war, the flip that precedes the inevitable flop. Personally, I cringed every time I have heard a candidate give a definite timetable for troop withdrawal. Not because I believe it is to be surrender or that it will allow our enemies to merely lie low until that time, but by not being afraid to change plans often reveals the multiple paths to success. With the FISA vote impending and his recent reversal on public financing there is enough there to frame a good story.

Abraham Lincoln flip-flopped on slavery. He was willing to change his position on it where it existed already to avoid civil war. Ultimately, he held fast to his principles and realized how important it was to the survival of this country to end this evil practice. In today's world, he would be eaten alive by the press for such a move. The ability of a leader to change his or her mind when it is for the best of the people he or she leads is typically a defining moment. How it is defined is important, and to limit a president's ability to change his or her mind is a dangerous move.

The Race Race

The Race Race

In a recent blog posting at CNN's website about Black Congressional leaders facing a loss in popularity for supporting Senator Clinton from their home constituencies, the real story was in the comments posted below it.

I had intended to do my next piece on McCain, trying to give equal time and all, but I feel compelled to write about the still lingering vibe of anti-Obama sentiments coming from former Hillary Clinton supporters. I was just perusing the comments of the political ticker on CNN's website, and I saw three under one story from former Hillary supporters swearing that Obama and Black Liberation Theology are going to bring about the ruin of the country and emphatically voicing support for McCain. Listening to AM talk radio, specifically the callers, I hear some of the same sentiments. Interestingly enough, the toughest challenge Obama faced during the primaries - in my opinion - was the contest here in Pennsylvania. A light, light blue state, it was during the weeks leading up to the primary here that the Rev. Wright story broke and it touched off largely unspoken, save for whispers, racial questions and criticisms.

I was in an inter-racial relationship that began in Georgia while serving in the military, but it continued back here at home. Never did the racial tension bubble over in the south, but here in Pittsburgh, it happened quite often in just our first few weeks of living together. Some came from my own family. Despite what the exit poll data said, Race played a very large role in that election. I personally questioned many of the Clinton supporters that I met who said that were Obama the nominee they would vote McCain. I would ask how they felt about the war and they all favored Clinton's vague withdrawal plan over Obama's vague withdrawal plan. When I then asked why they would vote for McCain who wanted to keep troops there for decades to come, the answer was never convincing -- even to themselves.

One of the Clinton supporters I discussed this with is a single, unemployed mother. A veteran, she trusted that her needs could be met by the VA and her son was covered under Pennsylvania's state child coverage. When I asked her about the difference between McCain and Obama's healthcare ideas she told me that on a federal level health insurance just wasn't important to her. Education benefits are vert important to her however; she has been in and out of school because of the aid available to her and it being insufficient for her chosen career path. When I highlighted the difference between Obama and McCain on education she cut me off by saying, "I just won't vote then!" An uncharacteristic outburst, there was something else there that even she did not want to voice.

The media speaks of the healing that needs to happen in the party and they speak of "introducing" Barack Obama to the country. The campaign appears to be struggling, but is it because they are administering treatments based on an incorrect diagnosis? There are a lot of things his campaign needs to do to make a success of this venture. It is possible for him to win, but success will not happen if the campaign does not again mention the elephant in the room. Only by addressing these very real fears, does Obama have hope to overcome what happened in Pennsylvania. The final protestation from these former-Clinton supporters is usually posed as question: why it must be racially-motivated if he or she does not vote for Obama? I always begin by saying that in the primary, it wasn't necessarily so. Yet, when that same voter, casts a vote for a candidate that is the polar opposite of their beliefs -- there is something else going on. Typically those motivated by race reveal themselves by bringing up the Rev. Wright, the theology, secret muslim allegations, or merely say "I don't want to make this about race,
but... .

It is an issue that remains undiscussed and one that it is increasingly more difficult to address because in the late nineties someone decided that racism was essentially a thing of the past. I still remember an 8th grade social studies book with that exact statement. Typically these issues are only brought up in our comedy or dealt with in person. Is what happened in Pennsylvania a localized thing? Will this be a problem on a national level that Obama should address? The answers to these questions are not easy and we may not know until after Election Day.

Kristol Klear

Kristol Klear

Bill Kristol is a respected member of the neoconservative community, a journalist, and associated with a number of professional think-tanks. Accuracy of claims notwithstanding, it is always something very thought provoking. Leave comments about what you think about them.

Fear is a great motivator, especially when it comes to politics. These are very fearful times and we depend on those we elect to safeguard his or her constituency from threats at home and abroad. The permanent-campaign style of government that we have endured over the past seven and a half years of the current administration has capitalized on how much of a motivator fear can be. Not just with those of us on the other ends of the internet and televisions, but more importantly with other members of the government and the press themselves. It continues in this current campaign as I type these words. Yet, the Republicans are not the only folks using fear; the Democrats are merely using it in a different way with arguably more subtlety. We are a nation facing serious issues and playing on the very real fears of the voters is arguably a good way to ensure the vote on election day.

I began thinking about this listening to Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday this week which I was watching to remind myself how much I am going to miss Tim Russert.
Weekly Standard Editor and regular contributor to Fox News, Bill Kristol is a good one to make us afraid. His background is academic and he is involved in many of the conservative think-tanks here in the U.S. and even in the U.K. and he remains a respected member of the political and journalistic community. The discussion turned to Iran and at first it seemed as if it was just going to be your typical terrorists-love-Obama discussion. Yet, Kristol then speculated that he believed that President Bush would be more likely to wait on Iran if McCain wins the election or appears to be poised to do so. However, he then speculated that if it appeared that Obama were going to win, he would be more inclined to attack Iran. What disturbs me is that even though Kristol's predictions are often incorrect it does not necessarily mean he isn't correct when it comes to this.

He is currently serving as a foreign policy adviser to John McCain's campaign, so this is fairly considered as coming from his campaign. This of course was not disclosed during the program. It reminds me of 2005 when Kristol praised the president's second inaugural address in many places, never disclosing that he was a consultant in the writing of the speech. He also has very close connections to many members of the administration and the conservative think tanks he is associated with, which makes the outlandishness of his statements all the more unsettling to me. This is the counsel that is sought by those who guide the course of the government and the nation? What he seems to be saying is that either John McCain wins and gets to bomb Iran in his own due time or President Bush will be "forced" to do so before leaving office and he even suggested other enemies would nuke us to "test" the next President. There is no way out of going to war with Iran with this understanding of things. If this is the type of counsel he had provided in the past to the current administration and the type of counsel that will set the foundation for a McCain administration in the future further war is inevitable.

Obama has addressed that his opponents would try to instill fear in the voters about him. From my favorite allegation about his being a "secret muslim" to more subtle questions of his patriotism, race, and the impossible probability that he succeeded in Chicago politics an honest person. The democrats are using the potential horrors of the McCain(Bush III) term to scare voters, specifically Hillary Clinton supporters, in line behind the democratic ticket in areas where McCain is making it a contest. It is a much more feeble set of fears than enslavement of the white race or the idea of adding minarets to the White House, but it ultimately boils down to the same thing: our opponent equals more war, more government, more debt, and less security to the people. Yet, the Republicans seem more desperate with their attacks. The Democrats feel as though they are the team to beat this time - as they have for the past two general elections to no success. The Obama phenomenon has helped shape the media's narrative that this is Obama's election to lose rather than McCain's to win. As the campaign continues, I believe that these two candidates that love to be underestimated will have some surprises for us. In the meantime, the same old characters are using the same old talking points. Kristol's comments made me instantly think of the scene in
Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little's character escapes the townspeople by grasping his own throat and holding a gun to his own head. Only in this case, Black Bart is the whole country or possibly the world and there may be warheads on the bullets in the gun.

The End of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning

As the final primaries are held tomorrow, where are we and where are we going?

The weekend meeting of the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws folk settled the painful matter of what to do about Florida and Michigan. It was an interesting conundrum, if they listened to the arguments put forward by the members of the group supporting Hillary Clinton. Long ago, when the decision was made to censure the two states for their desire to ensure their relevance in the selection of the nominee of the party, these same Clinton supporters voted for the measure because of the notion that Senator Clinton would lock up this nomination by Super Tuesday. They also realized the precedent that would be set if they allowed to states to change the schedule based upon the political climate at the time. Yet, as the Obama phenomenon began to take off, the campaign realized they needed the votes that Hillary Clinton received in what was sold by all Democrats as merely a beauty contest.

As Senator Obama closes in on the nomination, he was ready to make some compromises and concessions. The Florida results are fair, set an appropriate precedent, and the fact that both names were on the ballot and that John Edwards has come out in support of Senator Obama suggests that he did not lose much in Florida. Michigan however creates a much more interesting problem. Harold Ickes argued that since Senator Clinton's name was on the ballot in Michigan, she deserves the delegates for the votes she received. To award the uncommitted delegates to Senator Obama, who like all other candidates removed his name from the ballot, is unacceptable to them. They hoped to have those delegates be "uncommitted" and possibly add more to Senator Clinton's column.

There are two problems with this thinking. First, the moral, ideological argument that the voters' voices must be heard is a hard one for the Clinton campaign to stand with. Earlier in the race, she virtually ignored some states, discrediting their value in the general election when she was defeated. Her most recent victory came from Puerto Rico which does not have a vote in the general election. Had she shown the same attention to Mississippi and closed the gap there, perhaps this would be a different picture. Mr. Ickes also reserved the candidate's right to take the results of this meeting to the credentials committee, which essentially means to keep the contest going until at least a month before the convention. The other problem is that Hillary Clinton, who was for the move made by the DNC at the beginning of this race, looks very calculated when 12 of the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee are involved actively in her campaign, it is fair to consider that this is a manufactured issue driven more by the needs of the candidate than of the voters in the two respective states.

The tenor of the mass media storyline, still points to Hillary bowing out of the race soon with reports of her cutting staff and moving her rally tomorrow night to her "home state" of New York. Even the former President hinted that his campaign duties would be ending, at least in support of his wife's campaign for the presidential nomination. After the primaries tomorrow, we should know much more about where this campaign is going next. John McCain was at work in Tennessee today and attacking Barack Obama in full general election campaign mode. Senator McCain is not to be underestimated; he was counted out early and has spent less on his entire campaign that the Democrats have spent in one state. The Democratic Party is still its own worst enemy, but it might not be for long.

Support The Troops (Offer not valid in all 50 States)

Support the Troops (Offer Not Valid in All 50 States)*

*Unless for some reason said support hurts retention or goes against the agenda of the Executive office.

From Capitol Hill to the stump speeches of the Presidential candidates, the new G.I. Bill has been given more coverage than most legislation that trudges through Congress. The bill, proposed by former United States Marine and current Senator Jim Webb, calls for a massive overhaul of the current GI Bill. It most specifically recognizes the service of the Reservist and National Guard Veterans unable to complete their degrees with continued support in the form of a military education benefit. The way the current G.I. Bill is structured, one must be enlisted to receive the benefits. Ten years ago, this made sense: the reserve force was not being depleted, so outside of drilling dates the soldiers were essentially left to earn their degrees and find careers. However, the current picture reservists and the guard face the near certainty of multiple deployments in only their first enlistment. This creates difficulty for soldiers to complete degree programs or find a good job as companies are increasingly reluctant to hire the citizen soldiers.

This applies directly to me. I have not as yet obtained my Bachelor's Degree - earning credits while I could between deployments - and at the behest of my 5 year-old daughter, I left the armed services and in doing so I left behind the benefit promised to me when I entered into my contract with America. I, as with 75% of returning war veterans, left the service despite the cost in benefits. This bill proposes that veterans that have answered the call of this country will not find themselves years behind their contemporaries that did not serve upon entering the workforce as not a citizen-soldier, but as a student-employee. With the decline of opportunities for the American worker without a degree or accredited certificate, this assistance with education is the least that the honorable soldier leaving the military deserves.

I am enraged when the argument against this bill is the argument of retention. Inside the military, the retention officer and non-commissioned officers are often the customer service departments of an army unit. They are the person to see when you have a question about your current benefits or what will be entitled to you after you leave. It is in these meetings that one discovers what is truly in store for the non-disabled veteran upon separation. The problems with retention are real and present with benefits as they are today. Awarding the veterans leaving the military the opportunity to at least earn a degree will not create a mass exodus from the military, but in fact could encourage others to serve by making a promise to the soldier and keeping it.

I am greatly disappointed in the stance that not only the President has taken on this issue, but the stance John McCain has taken. As someone who has never been employed by anyone other than the Federal government, I would not expect him to co-sponsor the bill. However, to take the stance that because of his service others supporting this measure who did not serve are wrong on this issue is despicable. The passage of this bill in the House and the Senate is a positive step in the right direction, however I fear this bill may be left to die in committee or stopped in some other way. If it is signed into law, this will be a mere scratching of the surface of what we must be prepared to do to properly care for these veterans today and tomorrow. Yet, with an education, perhaps some of us can then solve our problems for ourselves.

Frankly, I blame you

Frankly, I blame you.

Politics is broken in this country, but how do we fix it? What is really important to the voters? I noticed that the two candidates that called for clean politics and fair play are the ones left standing as we close out the primary season. Why is that? The answer inside....

Our politics is broken and whom do we have to blame? The politicians, the media, or the voters: which group is responsible for this state of the state? The important answer is that it doesn't matter where the fault lies, but what we do moving forward. The Republican side is in a period of regrouping. Political blogs talk of the reorganization of the party leadership if they lose the White House and more seats in the Congress. Their party is fractured and certain large voices - ultra-conservative radio and the far-right - have found they are further out of touch with the general mood of the nation. The far-left, while as equally off-center as any right-winger, are seen as less villainous than they used to thirty years ago. The majority of our nation's electorate, while at ideological odds are finding themselves looking for a candidate that will address the looming problems that this country faces. Regardless of party, the concerned in this country want a candidate that speaks of solutions and strategies, rather than the divisive, silly character assassinations that have dominated the previous election storylines.

Nowhere is the division more clear than on the issue of the war. Not just the Iraq war, but the war on terror and the overall strategy of that effort. The architects of this war anticipated it to last thirty years or more and planned it in about a week. The strategy, either out of necessity or in comparison to the current strategy, was a pretty good one. Utilizing both CIA actions - specifically their ability to work with indigenous people to aid in the battle -- and Special Forces with military support is a good strategy when looking first at the terrorists and then states that harbor them. However, when the focus shifted to Iraq the mission changed from an assault to terror as a tactic to what could ultimately boil down to a "family feud." It did go much deeper than that; however Saddam Hussein was not only on the administration's agenda before 9/11 but truly feared by the people who put him there. Going forward, the American people are looking for someone who will assemble a staff of people with an agenda of keeping America safe and quelling the terrorist groups that bring harm to innocent people in order to force the hand of an enemy.

The future of this country is on the line and there is a ubiquitous sense of urgency to start feeling better about where we are headed. The economy is uncertain; it is shifting to the tipping point and with little effort could change the landscape of the country. The military has been poorly applied in the effort they were asked to undertake. When I was in-country, there was nothing a soldier wouldn't do if he or she believed it would save lives and ensure we never had to come back in such a fashion. Yet, the upper levels of the Defense Department did not properly prepare the soldiers for the mission in strategy and equipment. Had they been tasked properly, had the Afghanistan strategy been applied, the Iraqi army conceivably would have been able to maintain order for a fraction of the investment we have made in the past years of blood and treasure. The domestic issues from care of our citizens, the protection of the homeland, and who we allow to immigrate, have been left mired in the partisanship of the legislators. The American people are looking for a leader that can work with Congress to accomplish something. This election has the eye of the people.

The media is the media and is ultimately about the profit margin. While the intellectual content of the programs are ultimately the responsibility of the network, there is a viewer responsibility as well. The electorate must continue to be educated and not trust low-brow, loudest-person-wins theater dolled-up and packaged as news. We need to retake ownership of the process from campaign to daily activities once elected. In the age of the internet, all it takes is one well-done website (kinda like this one ... ) to keep things in perspective and speak to what is important to people and not dazzle us dumb with Jerry Springer politics, pandering, and bullshit. Citizens in this country, women and minorities especially, have literally fought and died for their right to vote. To not pay attention or even vote uninformed, insults the sacrifices made in defense of these freedoms from the Revolution to the present day. The Founding Fathers, Jefferson especially, would be disgusted by the degeneration of our politics and the willingness of the American people to let it be so. This year could be different. If Barack Obama wins the nomination and adheres to the idea of a "new politics" and John McCain, perhaps the most tragic victim of "old politics," also keeps his promise to not use negative campaigning when they compete in the general election, this could very well be the most civil, intelligent campaign we could be given. It is up to the American people to hold them and those of us that talk about them accountable.
 
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