State of the Union, Pre-Elections 2012

Four years ago I wrote a longish post about how much Dubya and Obama had influenced my life.  Basically, a coming-of-age while Dubya was governor of my state and owner of my baseball team, and then president of my country, and then commander-in-chief of my military-issued Army body, followed by the emergence of Obama from the Senate and from the best-seller lists to provide a return to a more sensible America.

The Last Four Years

Since Obama became President, I finished up my degree in foreign policy, studying alongside future foreign service officers, UN & World Bank leaders, etc., saw the cocktail-drinking elite crowd that David Brooks (why do you guys keep reading him?) sniffs derisively at while actually being one of them.

I worked for a couple years for Homeland Security, exploring the fringes of national security and learning just how little is in public awareness, such as the worsening Missouri/Mississippi river floodings/droughts, the Mexico-Guatemala-border cartel violence that led to Operation Fast and the Furious, the hush hush arms race between crackers and the government that led to AntiSec.  Getting to learn about the goings-on of border towns and small cities struggling with the aftermaths of tornadoes and downsizing and local corruption.  Seeing the Plaquemines parish forums light up after Deepwater Horizon, seeing anonymous bloggers and Twitter users report cartel movements in Mexico border towns because all the journalists were silenced/murdered.  In the reeds.

Then I decided to move to NYC for more school, mainly to get immersed in startup culture and in learning coding the hacker way.  The first year was tumultuous but I produced pretty good work — I attempted most of the project goals I set for myself already before NYU-ITP, while this school year I’d like to pursue two key ideas.  One, Galapag.us, my reputation ecosystem, which will be my final thesis project.  And two, an idea Monkey Pope and I threw around about having a site that sells unfashionable men sets of basic must-have clothes, which are then zeroed in upon arrival by a tailor.

The last school year ended with a whimper.  Got dumped (second time in a year), had to move out of my place, didn’t know what I’d be doing over the important summer break, wasn’t feeling it from NYC.  But it vastly improved: I got a paid internship at a tech startup (which is what I came to NYC to do), I met a woman who has proved to be someone who not only can keep up with me, but who also enjoys it and tests me (all very difficult things to find), and I’m happily living in Stuy Town in Manhattan.  I’m pretty comfortable flipping from Arduino code to Python to crunching big data to building a kickass prototype, thanks to ITP.  And I still have a whole school year to continue to improve.  NYC taketh away, and NYC giveth.  But NYC also means culture, big money, melting pot of ideas, massive opportunity, and, surprisingly, liveability.

The Message

So the Republican message from the RNC convention was, “Are you better than you were 4 years ago?”  This old Reagan line is intended to blunt the Obama Hope message of 2008.  It is intended to pick off the voters who vote mainly on an economic agenda, since the Republicans know they’ve isolated themselves from all but the most morally traditional die-hards on moral and religious issues.

My response?  Yes, I’m better than I was four years ago.  I spent 2001-2007 preparing for or acting in the service of the country after it was attacked by Al-Qaeda, who took advantage of our ignorance and lack of action.  A small segment of the American population which concluded its military service in years since has fallen behind other Americans in many respects, because it chose to serve the country in its time of need instead of pursuing “rational self-interest”, a core Conservative belief.  Americans after World War 2 were united by experience, whereas Americans during GWoT scarcely shared anything, anything at all.

Since Obama came in, my life has gone from pulling shift work on holidays and overnights in helping in some very small way to protect the nation towards creating cool cutting-edge shit in Silicon Alley, in the belly of the Manhattan beast that churns out culture, fashion, art, comedy, publicity, utility, productivity, business.  I’m far closer towards building the future for myself and my family-to-be than I was in service of my country, an isolating enterprise.

Is the rest of the country?  Well, obviously not — but it’s disingenuous to put the blame on Obama unless one also points the finger at the pursestrings that is Congress.  But this is politics, so one shouldn’t be surprised.  Public understanding of how Congress affects the workings of the nation is pretty low, possibly as low as the public’s approval of Congress itself.

A more accurate description of the last 4 years under Obama has been a massive churn.  People write of a lost generation since 9/11, where middle class wages have dropped, the safety net and minimum wage are not enough to do their jobs, and the nation is polarized.  But that’s not entirely accurate either.  Inequality is the story: some people have become fabulously more wealthy and better-off, while some have completely dropped off American society’s radar — and the rest of everybody else has just held on, trying to make it with a harder job but less satisfaction.  The churn I feel is structural, though most think it’s cyclical.  The nation’s treasuries have had to absorb massive blows from military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan and then bailing out a corrupt Wall Street whose tantalizing greediness sucked in both our most-talented kids as well as a labyrinthine system of new financial instruments along with high-frequency trading systems to arbitrage them.

But the lack of integrity in the core Republican message of “the last 4 years sucked” just isn’t going to have legs.  They bring no grand vision which will unite their party — somewhat surprising considering before Obama took the stage, the Republicans appeared to have a bulletproof national campaign.  The Republicans are playing a short-term game against a long-term winner (Obama, one of the most formidable figures in American history ever…more on that later).

Inconsistency

I wrote a post earlier in January of this year about the election coming up in November.  The stuff on Mittens and Bain stuck to some degree, and now there’s more about his wife’s dressage horse, his multiple houses, his sheltering money, his disconnect from the middle class he’s courting, etc.  [N.B. I even wrote this before the campaign-ending tape came out with Mittens telling a private audience that 47% of the country is made up of victims who will vote for Obama no matter what.]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfwRyal5fVk

But Mittens is bizarre, because he’s not even a Republican’s Republican.  Absent from RNC were quite a few themes that fell into style recently: the Tea Party, Palin, national security.  Obama effectively negated the national security edge for the Republicans by doing that little thing…I don’t know, I forget…oh yeah, sending Navy SEALs to shoot bin Laden in the face.  The Tea Party, predictably, disagreed with the Party, and Palin is a damn fool.  The Tea Party was not even mentioned during the convention, was it?

I’m trying to understand Mittens better.  He’s just so maddeningly obtuse.  I’ve said it before but I keep hoping he’s Bruce Wayne.  He’ll disappear for 7 years in Asian prisons, getting to know the criminal element and the life of those less fortunate.  Then he’ll be taught by R’as al-Ghul about guardians and destroyers of society, and then he’ll return to the US to become a seemingly wealthy playboy by day but a vigilante servant of the goodness of society by night.  I keep hoping.

The truth is it looks like Mittens is a cloistered politician who doesn’t even know that that’s what he is.  I mean, here’re photos of him as a 17-year-old at a Republican convention, which he attended because his dad was Governor of Michigan.  Career politician family.  I am flummoxed that he would joke about being unemployed at a time when there’s such a high number of long-term unemployed.  He says this because he honestly believes he is unemployed and running a campaign out of the goodness of his heart, and not because he’s no longer a private equity dude (e.g. leeches who prey off companies at their weakest).  That he’s associated with being a business dude seems strange, because it wasn’t he who was entrepreneuring a new company or selling a good product, he was trading debt on other peoples’ work.  Everything derivative, nothing original, nothing bold, now fantastically wealthy off escalating amounts of investment income.  Wall Street and finance types are NOT businessmen.  Business folk are Bezos, Gates, Hsieh, that hard-working family that does your dry cleaning or runs your local deli.

If anything, here’s what Mittens represents about business: “consults” others on how to do their jobs, doesn’t actually know how to do any job himself, and got over-promoted above his capability level.  Sound like people you know in YOUR office?  Business, this pinnacle of self-correcting efficiency, is FULL of people who are supposed to lead but don’t even know how to do, or follow.

I say Mittens is cloistered because I really don’t think he allows himself to view criticism of himself, or to see what the American public is dealing with.  He was taped saying he thought the trees were the right height in Michigan, TWICE, the second time after he got pilloried in the press.  Did he not get briefed on how dumb a comment that was?  Furthermore, he has mentioned in more poppy interviews that he liked Twilight, and said, “I’m kind of a Snooki fan”.  Probably the pop culture equivalent of Sarah Palin saying she reads “all of” the magazines and “a vast variety” of them.  He either 1) doesn’t give a damn what people say about him (which is scary since he’s running for President) or 2) he literally has no connection with large segments of the American public.

He strikes me as incredibly uninteresting and destructive to the people around him.  When he was in prep school, he teased a classmate for having bleached-blond hair over one eye and for possibly being homosexual.  He then clipped the guy’s hair while his “posse” pinned the kid down.  He got a Michigan state trooper’s uniform and pulled people over for fun.  These kinds of kids in school now, you call them frat bro douches.

Contrast this behavior with Obama’s upbringing.  Obama wrote 2 books before running for office, but what was interesting about those books was that Obama was framing his life as a fascinating, varied, expansive adventure through American society.  The intent of all this, including describing the equally fascinating stories of his parents and family, was to show the country that he deserved the highest office of the land, that he represented America, that he would understand how to deal with the broad array of issues a President would be faced with.  He wanted to convey that he had walked the walk, put in the time, would bring honor to the presidency.

This message didn’t play as well against McCain (which made Palin even more puzzling as a choice) since McCain was a war POW.  Then again, McCain was an entitled, protected product of nepotism who also played pranks on people (Dubya did this too) and managed to crash planes not just once (which would get most pilots taken off flight duty) but multiple times.  The myth, the narrative, trumps reality.

But it is crushing to Mittens.  Mittens is a nice enough family man I suppose, and would have been fairly harmless as just another rich person, but he’s completely inadequate for the presidency.  And we don’t need nice familymen who made some money to be in a position dealing with an expressly-granted mandate to lead the military, protect the public interest, and advance a wide range of American priorities (you know, all the shit other than lowering taxes and gutting government).

He has not been in the reeds, he has not seen how the rest of America lives.  No respect from me.  I’d like to see him live anonymously.  I’d like to hear him, and other rich types, or DC types, or whoever else overlooks those without power, talk about, say, all the people I see every day who, expecting nothing in return, make my day better.  The very smiley old Korean lady at my old laundromat in the East Village who said I was handsome and find a wonderful woman to marry, her co-worker who never forgets which bag is mine even though it looks like everyone else’s, my Russian Jewish barber Mila in the East Village who tells me about her beautiful family and gives me kosher vodka, the bartender Noel at The Horse Box whom I witnessed handle the ENTIRE bar by himself on an NBA Finals game night, the checker at Duane Reade who’s tired of the city and is moving to Rochester, the folks at my bagel place who every morning when I grab a quick bite ask how school is going or where my girlfriend is or teach me new words in their language, the bartender Graham at 7A who says he will always listen to my problems, the Arab kid at the deli who’s studying foreign policy and asked my opinion of Iran, the dude at the front lobby of my office who never ceases to give the nicest “have a good night” wave, the people who when you just ask how their day is or how much longer till they’re done with their overnight shift, light up and realize that you actually care about them and don’t think they’re just low-wage incompetents.  Those are the hard-working folks, the delivery guys who spend all day running food to the rest of us in the rain, at late hours of the night, hustling their asses off to make a few bucks on the streets of NYC.  Those are the people who feed, support, help the rest of us get through our days, particularly as I’ve learned in Manhattan.  I feel more kinship with these people than I do with the shit hangers-on who sit at their desks all day perusing light blue shirt and red tie combos on Pinterest and maybe getting a memo done about sending 50,000 more troops to Nowherefuckitallistan before complaining about how tired lunch made them (e.g. what happens in DC while, you know, the kids mentioned in their Afghanistan policy memo are sitting on a less-than-20-person patrol base surrounded by Taliban).

That’s the stuff I’d like to hear from someone like Mittens.  Instead, we get him on tape saying that a town’s pride, its baked goods, must be from 7-11.

We deserve better than this shit.

The emergence of Paul Ryan was fairly interesting to me for two reasons.  One, he’s the perfect DC type.  Very athletic, younger, very studious on economics, probably wears those douchey button-up seersuckers and herringbones that DC folks love to wear throughout their days of, whatever it is, critiquing other peoples’ policy memos and browsing LivingSocial for shit to do on the weekends, to get away from the “fat tourists” who sully their city that they don’t use.  The other interesting thing is that he has disavowed his hero worship of Ayn Rand.

I admit I’m fascinated with Ayn Rand.  I mean, get a load of her.  She was an immigrant who falsified documents to get to the US, and then she tried to cozy up with people in Hollywood, and then she wrote simple Manichean jerky books and essays about how economic self-interest is essentially Americanism (after she came around from hating democracy to loving it) and how being an asshat is justified because by only caring about yourself, you will prevent collectivist thoughts which would turn America into the totalitarian state Rand grew up in.  To Rand’s credit, wow, she worked her tail off and totally bought into being an American citizen.  Her theory of pursuing self-interest at all costs is completely unrealistic, and was layered into some pretty shitty L. Ron Hubbardish fiction, but I guess at the time, when communist thought ran rampant through Rand’s writing/intellectual peer community, she had at least an excuse to be paranoid.  She crystallized self-interest in a way that no one else had, so much so that she continues to be popular today.  But her view of the world, it’s so extreme and completely unrealistic and unbalanced that you have to question anyone who would want to apply it across the broad section of American life instead of treating it for what it is: intellectual exploration.

Anyway, Ryan disavowed Ayn Rand because her views against any kind of collectivism run right into the other pillar of Republican-ness right now: religion.  She was an atheist and looked down upon religion, for what she cared most about were ideas, unique to each individual.

Can you imagine how fucked up the conservative school of thought is right now?  It has to incorporate its belief in a strong military that can be used to push other countries and non-state actors into line, but it has to cut budget because it wants to starve Big Brother.  It wants to take a bunker-buster missile to any sort of entitlement programs, Margaret Thatcher-style, to allow the market to fairly regulate itself by judgment of the dollar.  It has to incorporate religion into a platform, but religion plays by rules separate from politics — oh, abortion? Drugs?  Gay sex?  These causes don’t directly lead to dollars so they’re a drag on the economic conservatives.  Hell, the world’s religions have enough problems on their hands modernizing into today’s increasingly tolerant and connected world, and now politicians are trying to take the reins on them?  Good luck.

I agree with the people who say that there aren’t really folks who believe in Reaganomic trickle-down theory.  It’s really just about making sure that the government is smaller and that no one free-loads off the system.  When I went on my trip to Ecuador this summer, there were a bunch of Americans and Swiss and Danes and a Brit.  The Americans were drinking during dinner, and the topic of health care came up, because Americans LOVE to talk about health care.  I wanted to peace out of that conversation so badly.  Really what it was was a microcosm — drunk Americans telling anecdotes loudly about some lazy person they heard about who was living off welfare and not getting a job, while people in other first-world countries sat in disbelief that anyone would even argue about universal health care.

This particular conversation concluded with one American woman — who works in finance, I might add — saying that, although she gets scanned by TSA every time at the airport, she turns around and thanks them for their service.  I chimed in, having worked for DHS, that no one at DHS thinks TSA is worth much respect at all.  It gets all the funding, has a super-swank operations center, and employs low-wage people with no actual security or counter-terrorism accolades, to judge whether a bunch of already-pissed off passengers (because of shit airlines) are sneaking through with drugs in their asses or lizards strapped to their chests or some explosive residue in the soles of their shoes.  EVERY DAY THIS HAPPENS.  The most useless form of security.  And she turns to me and says, “Well I know a guy in the DEA who says the FBI is useless, so it’s all relative and there’s always in-fighting.”

Fuck me.  This is our America.

Leadership

I’ve witnessed excellent leadership many times, in multiple contexts, most notably in the military.  The Army taught me that looking the other way is wrong, it taught me to step up quickly and make things happen, it taught me to get things done, it taught me to always try to improve, and most importantly it taught me to take responsibility even if it’s bad, and even if I wasn’t directly involved in something going wrong.

I’ve also witnessed a stunning lack of leadership in other contexts.  It’s rare that I’ll look at a politician’s biography, which I consider very important in understanding the depth and potential of a person, and be impressed.  Usually well-moneyed, they came from rich families and pursued law (with no other experience) and then made a play for politics.  And yet they are qualified to govern us, to “represent” us on deeply complicated policy issues in areas they would never hope to understand because they have neither the background nor the capacity to do so?

And I am expected to respect Americans who think Obama is the worst, even though objectively the guy has pushed as many, if not more, stuff in his first 4 years than most presidents in history have?  I am expected to listen to conservatives talk about budget cutbacks while at war, to liberals who think they’re open-minded even though they hate religion and are on their third iPhone and sip lattes while clucking at some clever legerdemain in The Economist?  I am expected to respect conservatives’ hailing of business while whole sectors in America are dominated by oligopolies?  I am expected to respect liberals’ views on pacifism and negativity towards drones while they’ve never volunteered to serve to be boots on the ground instead of the safer approach of unmanned death from above?

Conservatives believe they should pay fewer taxes, liberals believe religion is the cause of ignorance and war.  Liberals are wary of showing nationalism, conservatives want to make it rain vouchers in schools and God knows what else because public institutions are wasteful and incompetent.

Here’s what all that sounds like to me.  It sounds like an American culture where people are afraid to volunteer their own time and bodies towards anything.  Money is fine — easy enough to make a donation — but when it comes to volunteering to serve in the military or in the civil service, or when it comes to committing to a religion (by the way, religions’ core messages are always to be humble, charitable, and helpful to those less fortunate, despite what modern Elmer Gantries get notoriety for saying), or when it comes to being a proud American, or whatever, that’s when people tune out.  American “duty” consists of raising a family and working hard, which are good enough values, but it’s NOT enough, particularly for men.

The problem with powerful men, and especially notable amongst politicians, is that they have been given the ability to change the world around them for the better, and yet they do not.  It’s good enough for most to get paid, or to raise a family, but the true measure of a man is whether he can see outside himself and his immediate interests, and whether he can make other peoples’ lives better.  Can a man be self-confident and assertive, yet still treat all walks of life as equals, and sacrifice his own safety to help the weak and oppressed?

Men are destructive creatures — it’s what they do best.  But that recklessness and, to some degree, hopelessness, is also a man’s greatest strength for good: those qualities can push him to try to help others to his own detriment or destruction.  That selflessness and blatant disregard for pre-established order is what could allow a man to make breakthroughs for society as a whole.  I’m not saying women can’t do this either, but I’d rather a woman explain from her point of view how it’d be possible than for me to fumble through it.  I know men better.

You don’t hear a thing about Afghanistan.  Fuck that.  We have tons of servicemembers still over there and it barely registers in the news.  Last election, Iraq was a big deal, and so was Afghanistan.  Obama promised to re-orient towards Afghanistan, and he did, and he even killed the big kahuna.  And now he’s put an (albeit delayed) plan in place to leave Afghanistan, the destroyer of empires.  Mittens cannot even hope to discuss Afghanistan in any sort of depth, just like him and the rest of the chickenhawk smalldick Republican leaders who never served can never hope to discern Chinese politicking from fat, lazy Saudi scheming in the Middle East.  Seriously it would be nice to at least have a worthy Republican competitor who would not embarrass the US on an international tour, instead of figuring out ways to insult everyone along the way:

Anyway, my point is that true leaders and heroes are few and far between, those people who will stand up for something even if it kills them — and we are surrounded by people who have accepted a culture of “get rich or die tryin'”.  We all need to expect more of ourselves.

The Real America, According to DC

I don’t purport to know what the real Real America is, since we live in a beautiful, massive country where my America is vastly different from that of a black bayou person in Louisiana, or a Mexican illegal immigrant sending remittances back to his family while he works his butt off in California, or some wealthy financier a few miles down the street in Wall Street, or a roughnecker or oilhand up in Alaska, or fucking Private Snuffy in Afghanistan wondering if that Afghan soldier is going to shoot him in the back, but I’ll give it a shot from what I think the political point of view is, bird’s eye view from DC.  I guarantee you it is at least more accurate than what you’re hearing at either of the conventions right now.

The US absorbed two massive body blows, one on 9/11 that hit the finance district of the heart of American business and at the seat of American military Power Point power, and one in 2008 that resulted in the handing over of the reins from the government to banks in the name of saving the economy after quantitative coffer robbery.

The middle class and poor were the ones who took it in the gut.  Banks are doing well, DC politicians aren’t much threatened by a changed political landscape, and Occupy was treated like a bunch of troublemaking unemployed no-gooders by even people my age.  Middle income families lost a ton of wealth in the turmoil and the nation is still turning itself around economically.  However, despite the resulting vast number of books calling out America as a superpower in decline, the US geopolitically, globalization-wise, militarily, and economically, is outperforming many places in the rest of the world, and those books have gone out of vogue.

The banks figured out how to make their operations even more opaque, and it dovetails nicely with what’s been happening in DC, which has been the classifying, privatizing, and disappearing of top secret contracting and government activity as our military transitions towards a drone future where fewer and fewer American lives will be put on the line, enabling for even less public outrage than we already have.

It blows my mind that a Republican public would be fine with eavesdropping of all our communications, the true form of control used in China, Soviet Russia, etc., but not fine with even the suggestion that a handgun be registered with ATF.  This either shows a massive lack of understanding of the power of information after the 20th century, or an assumption that a redneck America that loves its guns is and should be the normal state of affairs and anyone else can screw off.  I’m not sure which is worse.  And how was that blown Fast and the Furious operation not a bigger thing in the news?

For most of my adult life I was worried about the terrorist threat but now, with most of the key players in that very particular generation of Al-Qaeda dead or detained, I’d say most of my old counter-terrorism friends have moved on and no longer see it as our chief security threat.  What this leads to, along with a nation that is formidably resilient in the face of the turmoil in the last decade of absorbing so much damage, is a sort of optimism that there’s more upside than down.  That we can go back to being creative, hard-working people with healthy families and tons of social mobility.

There are obstacles.  Citizens United is a pretty horrid precedent, allowing corporations some individual rights.  Opaque campaign financing so that ever-increasing cash reserves at companies (which are not re-investing those profits because they don’t need to or see no benefit in expanding operations) are being pushed into campaigns.  See, this is where the two conflicting pillars of conservative thought are reconciled.  Funnel enough money into candidates from your profits, buy them off, and they’ll give you deals to make more money, and at the same time, they will support your jackass social and moral and religious beliefs that you would not otherwise have been able to make sensible investments in.  Money, in this beautiful free market capitalist society everyone dreams about, is supposed to let stupid ideas die (like disenfranchising whole segments of your population even though immigration can be the lifeblood of an economy), but in a corrupt system, money allows stupid ideas to carry on and even kill smarter ideas.

Freaking “run it like a business”.  I grew up in a suburb of Dallas, TX when Ross Perot was running as the independent who sloughed votes off the Democrats because he was running on the Green Party ticket.  The main reason for voting him was because he owned EDS and would come in to run the country like a business.  I remember buying into this because that was what I was told, and that’s what everyone around me was saying.  The philosophy grew into what has now become framed into libertarianism.

Here’s the problem.  Like trickle-down, this philosophy holds little merit except as a mental exercise.  It’s like a stupid business coaching book you see prominently described at the airport.  It has some catchy title, it looks like it’s ball-busting cut-the-fat get-down-to-business business, but it’s really just simplistic meat-beating.

Let businesses be businesses.  Let them hire and fire, grow and die, compete or not compete.  May they boom and bust, create retired millionaires or leave the founders penniless.  But they are not the other pillars of our society.  The government is not a business — it has to answer to other forms of capital beyond financial capital.  It has to respond to social and human capital.  Religion is not a business too, I might add, and I’m sure within the inner circles of Republicanism, there’s some unspoken conflicts between run-it-like-a-business and help-thy-neighbor.  Not even Calvinism or Ayn Rand’s contempt for altruism can get rid of that nagging feeling that you should look out for those around you, even if you don’t get a tax break for it.

Congress

So the thing is, the presidential race was over as soon as Obama was elected in 2008.  No one else has been as influential as he has.  I keep harping on this but Congress is where peoples’ focus should lie.  According to Nate Silver’s 538 blog as of recently, the Democrats have an 80% chance of maintaining a majority in the Senate, but the more seats they pick up, the more likely they can work in concert with Obama instead of the deadlock that exists now.

The House is dire:

Stunning distribution of red states.  The House is like intramural league for government.  Anyone can sign up!  Seriously, it contains some of the most mouth-breathing useless politicians in the country, and apparently anyone can get elected anywhere, regardless of party.  Like, I think someone should run an experiment in their politics class where they choose one student to run for the House from their local district.  I’m pretty sure they would win.  All those ridiculous bills you hear about on TV? They come from the House, and thankfully they are usually shot down quickly by the Senate or even by the Supreme Court, right?

In my district, District 3 (Richardson/Plano), TX, Sam Johnson keeps winning elections (since 1991!).  Democrats don’t even try to compete there — my district has been firmly red since the end of the 60’s.  Johnson is a military veteran and votes with the Republican party line 95% of the time so his position is pretty safe.  Though, he has a competitor this year (!) in Harry Pierce, an Air Force vet who offers these pearls:

  •  “We need an amendment establishing term limits for all Congressmen. I believe Congressmen should have the same retirement and medical plans as their constituents and salaries commensurate with those in the private sector. I am for a six year term limit and have signed a pledge for term limits. The two year election cycle for the House is a good thing, providing for constant turnover.”  Oh hi, shots fired at Johnson?
  • “I oppose legal tactics to silence any opposition to the homosexual lifestyle and the state law requiring the teaching of homosexual history to children in public schools in California in grades one through twelve. I oppose the unequal balance of demands by atheists that their freedom to not honor GOD in public requires my loss of freedom to honor GOD in public.”
  • “Some Federal Departments could be eliminated because they are not necessary or their functions could be handled by state governments. This would cut costs and put power more in the hands of the people than Washington bureaucrats.  The EPA, Department of Education, Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Department of Labor are on that list.”

Not an uncommon political ideology in Texas.

So, this election, don’t worry about Obama.  He’s got this. (you should be more worried about who will run in 2016 for the Dems)  But look to the House to see what the next 4 years will be like.  The Senate will go to the Dems, but how strongly?  The Dems I think should be pouring money into the Senate and House.  The Republicans need to figure out some way to modernize their party and incorporate socially progressive views (which will pick off Dems and rope in liberaltarians), while at the same time coming up with a realistic way to deal with the necessity of government as one of the main pillars of a functioning American public life (government, business, the people, free press).  And man, they also need to figure out how to incorporate immigration to reach out to non-white folk — after all, it’s been proven over and over that immigration (even illegal immigration) helps economic output and creates future generations of proud Americans.

Long rant, I know, and it’s missing tons of stuff.  But I’m done with this now.

Caveats:

  • Not saying Obama’s perfect.  As a wannabe hacker and media consumer, I think his handling of copyright reform, cyber-security, treatment of hackers, etc. is abysmal, particularly with regards to citizens’ privacy and eavesdropping.  As a voter who relies heavily on information exchange and technology, this might be one of my top core voting values, as an Internet-American who considers online freedom and privacy as important civil rights concerns.
  • I’d classify myself as cosmopolitan or progressive, but I’d love to have a competent Republican party.  I think the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian schools of thought are valuable to American politics, and most Democrats have no concept of the importance of guns, God, and limited federal power.