AZ Republicans in danger of clipping own wings

Updated: May 26, 2015

Last week reports started surfacing about Arizona republicans forming a committee to study the effects of barring indipendants from their primaries. Nothing is official yet, but before the GOP make such a bold decision, it’s very important that they consider all the ramifications. Independents have become the largest voting bloc in the state, which is a good and bad thing for republicans. But it’s also a good and bad thing for democrats. If republicans can’t manage this double-edged sword without cutting themselves, then they don’t deserve to get the independent vote in the first place.

The “problem” is independents are allowed to vote in either primary (democrat or republican) and many conservatives are worried that allowing independents to do so will hurt their platform. Essentially what they’re saying is they’re worried about the more open-minded voter “diluting” the hardcore republican candidate pool. But have any of these conservatives stopped to consider that this may be what they need? Look at Mitt Romney. He actually had a good chance of winning the White House until his fellow party members convinced him to adopt a far more conservative image.

If Arizona republicans decide it is a good idea to bar independents, it will only serve to hurt them in the long run. But it seems they haven’t put too much thought into it. Arizona GOP Communications Director Tim Sifert said in a phone interview, “No work will be done [on the committee] untill after November 4th. We’re focused right now on winning the election.”

And what about the democrats? What’s their take on this? I know independents can just as easily insert more conservative-minded candidates into democratic elections if they choose to go with blue primaries, but are the Dems just as afraid of this diluting their base as republicans are? According to Arizona Democratic Executive Director DJ Quinlan, “I think in an age where independents are the largest voting bloc in Arizona, for one of the major political parties to block them from their primaries is absolutely ludicrous. It sends the wrong signal to independents and taxpayers, since primaries are publicly funded. We have to come to terms with how we are going to engage citizens and voters, and you certainly don’t do that by excluding people.”

Quinlan went on to say that as far as the republican’s authority to exclude independents from their primaries is concerned, there is a legal precedent. “In 2013 the Libertarian party was able to limit their primaries to libertarian voters,” he said. But he was quick to add, “There is no one kind of independent, and we [democrats] welcome them to vote in our primaries.”

If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this isn’t just about protecting the republican base in Arizona. This is about the right to free speech and the representation of an entire group of people. What right do the republicans (or any group, for that matter) have to prevent people from voting in party primaries? It’s the right of every American to vote for who they want to represent them, whether it be in a general or primary election. Denying them that right for any reason other than being a convicted felon is a violation of the First Amendment and the Constitution in general.

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Russell Pearce gaff holds valuable lessons for midterm voters

Updated: May 26, 2015

Most of you probably never heard of Russell Pearce before this week, or perhaps you are still unfamiliar. In any event, he is the latest in a string of Republican casualties brought on by the changing tide of the American demographic. Pearce is the vice-chairman of Arizona’s Republican party, or at least he was until he got a little too candid with his views during his radio program.

Pearce fell into the now-familiar trap of talking about a woman’s reproductive rights despite being a man – it’s a play that’s almost always sure to end badly in today’s PR climate. Pearce said that every women that uses Medicare should be required to use birth control and get their tubes tied. These remarks were part of a larger call on his part to “test [Medicare] recipients for drugs and alcohol.” Pearce went on to say, “If you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

The latter half of Pearce’s comments actually have validity, from a logical point of view. Where Pearce fumbled was in his failure to keep his fingers on the national pulse. His delivery came off as far too strict, even cruel. What could have been a tactful and inspiring call to personal responsibility now lies at the public’s feet as a scandal in need of punishment. Pearce’s intentions were good, but as we’re seeing more and more in today’s republicans, he couldn’t figure out how to rewrap his old-fashioned conservative principles into a minority/woman-friendly package.

After his controversial broadcast, Pearce came under fire from members of his own party. Republicans denounced his remarks in an attempt at damage control. Does it strike no one else as counter-productive for republicans to attack one of their own for views that they themselves have, simply because those views were expressed in a callous way? Instead of punishing politicians for having the courage to speak plainly about their views, we need to educate them on how to speak more tactfully. This will ensure that their message does not get lost in translation, so to speak.

Here’s a link to a Politico article that details Pearce’s defense of his actions:

I will be voting Republican in the upcoming midterm elections, but not in defense of Pearce – quite the opposite. I will be voting republican despite Pearce’s comments, because I can see past them to their intended meaning. I know that we as a nation will benefit more from a republican majority in Congress during the last two years of President Obama’s term. Not because republicans have better ideas than the president and his party, but because republicans have a much better chance of taking control of the Senate than the democrats do of taking control of the House.

It should be clear to everyone by now that members of Congress will only vote along party lines, so the only way to ensure that legislation actually be passed is to give one party control of both chambers. Thanks to the republican’s redistricting in 2010, it  will be far easier for them to win a majority in Congress than it will be for the democrats. But not everyone knows this. What’s worse is that swing voters (who get all their information from media pundits and TV ads) are usually swayed from one candidate to another by gaffs such as Pearce’s.

It is a sad day for democracy when parents can explain party platforms to their kids better than politicians can to their constituents. But that is why I agree with what Pearce said, despite his ham-handed delivery. My parents taught me all about the republican party, what stances it takes, and why it takes them. As a registered American Independent, I am grateful that I’m able to understand the positions of both parties without having a bias toward one or the other. That is the key to voters making a difference: being able to see through the haze of flowery and inflammatory speech and onto the real issues.

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The Middle East: a mistake America can’t get right

Updated: May 25, 2015

Long before Saddam Hussein first brought American troops to Iraq with his invasion of Kuwait, the Middle East had already shown the world that its countries were capable of staving off (and eventually defeating) global superpowers in combat. Look at what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. Afghanistan is a failed state populated by poverty-stricken opiate farmers, and yet they were able to ultimately stop the Soviets from installing a communist puppet government by out-maneuvering and out-lasting the vastly superior invading force.

I would like to say that the U.S. would never have made the same mistake that the Soviets did by invading Afghanistan if it were not for 9/11, but the United States has a history of getting involved in wars that other global powers have lost. America usually has the mindset that we will somehow be better than others at fighting the exact same war in the exact same way. Case in point: Vietnam. In the 1950s Eisenhower said that the French were idiots for letting the Viet Minh outmaneuver and defeat them in battle, and yet sure enough we gradually took the French’s place in Vietnam and proceeded to be outmaneuvered and defeated in battle. We even had our own version of the French’s Battle of Dien Bien Phu that signaled our eventual defeat (the Tet Offensive.)

We are all taught from an early age that history repeats itself, a lesson that our government officials unfortunately seem to have trouble retaining. Sure enough, 40 years later America has made the exact same mistakes in Iraq that it made in Vietnam. We poured money and troops into a region where the native people viewed us as invaders and we were eventually forced to withdraw from the country after failing to make significant progress against the opposition’s guerrilla fighters. But the ironic parallels do not stop there. Two years after the last American troops left Vietnam, the Viet Cong pushed past the border into South Vietnam and secured the capitol city of Saigon. Sound familiar?

The exact same scenario is playing out right now in Iraq. Two short years after the last American troops left the country, ISIS stormed in and seized control of nearly every major city in a matter of weeks. If there was ever a clearer example of how history repeats itself (and how hopeless some wars truly are) it is this. Why do we commit ourselves as a country to “saving” the people of other nations from their own governments? Has it ever occurred to anyone that perhaps global policeman isn’t a good roll for any state to play?

Let’s continue the comparison between the Viet Cong and today’s terror groups, namely the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Viet Cong actually had scattered support from the people of South Vietnam, especially as U.S. presence in the country dragged on. While I’m well aware that ISIS members are responsible for great atrocities, I should point out that they do have support from numerous Iraqis and Syrians (not to mention multiple Americans and other westerners who have left the West to fight for the ISIS cause.) For the uninitiated, that cause is the creation of the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq, or ISIS.

In our media we hear about ISIS members killing civilians and journalists, which is completely unacceptable. But what we don’t hear about from our media is the number of innocent civilians killed by US forces during the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is true that all of the killings brought about by ISIS are intentional, where as the casualties caused by U.S. forces are (mostly) accidental. But I doubt a grieving family would care to differentiate between the United State’s drone missiles and ISIS’s roadside bombs when at the end of the day their loved one is still in an ashtray. Maybe instead of a foreign force imposing a system of government that runs counter to the local culture, the natives would be more receptive to a local force imposing a system of government that they are all familiar with and (for the most part) accepting of.

All we have proven as a country since our shift away from isolationism is that when it comes to foreign policy, we are capable of five things: invading any country who’s actions do not suit American interests, spending ungodly amounts of money building roads and schools for these countries (even as our own fall into disrepair), killing a vast amount of the native people and enemy combatants while sustaining relatively minor casualties, imposing our own values over centuries of tradition, and compromising on our originally stated objectives before withdrawing our troops and calling the mission a success. America needs to take a page from its own textbook and realize that history always repeats itself, in every aspect of life.

Lastly, please consider the following: The Vietnam war was a result of the Truman Doctrine of containment during the Cold War, and what did that doctrine achieve? An empty treasury in the early ’90s and a Soviet state that was on its way to ruin regardless of our actions. The Iraq war was the result of the Bush Doctrine as part of the War on Terror, and what has that achieved? Weakened American prestige on the global stage and proof that we as a people are incapable of learning from our past mistakes. The world does not need nor want America to interfere in its affairs, and the sooner we get back to minding our own business, the sooner we can continue to move forward as a nation.


Updated: May 24, 2015

What happened in Ferguson is not something that is normally seen on American soil: militarized police forces directly attacking journalists. The context for what happened on August 13th in Ferguson, Missouri does not justify police behavior, and in fact only casts a darker shadow over their shooting of unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown.

Those reporters were simply trying to cover the protests and riots across Ferguson, but instead of cooperation from police, they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, TAZERs and other forms of non-lethal force. This egregious example of unprovoked police brutality not only damages law enforcement’s justifications for shooting Brown, but also shows them to be guilty of violating the First Amendment in a very disturbing way. The Huffington post has a great article regarding journalist/police relations that I’ve linked below:

These attacks against members of the Fourth Estate only raise further questions about police ethics, conduct, and whether or not police departments across the country are becoming over-militarized. Tensions over the shooting of Brown have been riding high in Ferguson for the past two weeks, and the aggravated assault of journalists is only pouring salt into the wounds. The police in Ferguson can wave goodbye to any form of sympathy from the press or the public, and if they still hope to gain some empathy, they had better start realizing who their friends are in the field: reporters.

Reporters mold public opinion more-so than any other professional group, and in a town where the majority of citizens are black and most of the police force is white, getting good PR would be an invaluable asset for the cops to have.

Instead of being afraid of the press, police in Ferguson should start using them to their advantage. However, if policemen and women conduct themselves in a way that undermines the legitimacy of their agency, journalists are going to find out and report it. A problem becomes 1000 times worse when people attempt to cover up their wrongdoings, instead of being straightforward with those asking questions. If more police practiced the latter, it would earn them major bonus points with the people writing articles and reports about their behavior.

In today’s world of fast internet and smartphones, it is especially dangerous for agencies with high public visibility like the police to be found using excessive force, even when it is justified. The reason for this is viewers are not going to understand the context in which the aggression is taking place, therefore they are likely to side with the more vulnerable party. This may not be a problem if the footage finds its way to a news station where journalists can disseminate and vet the information, but if the video lands on YouTube the content can be framed however the uploader wishes it to be.

The Ferguson PD and all other law enforcement agencies involved in the attacks on journalists over the past week deserve every ounce of bad press that they are receiving. And until they can learn to use journalism as a tool to better their image, instead of seeing it as a threat, police will continue to circle the drain of public opinion.

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Why America is dying

Updated: May 23, 2015

It should be no great surprise to any of us that America is not the country it once was- and I mean that with as little hyperbole as possible. It’s not that we’ve lost our values or that people “just aren’t as honest as they used to be” but rather something far more sinister: We’ve become our own worst enemy.

I’ll explain. You see, back in the days of the Cold War, the United States profited and excelled more-so than any other time in its history. Why? Because we were united against a prominent, legitimate threat: the Russians. The same goes for when we fought the Germans in World Wars One and Two, as well as every major conflict we’ve ever had with another nation. But for this article we’ll focus on the Cold War as a point of reference.

Most Americans (including politicians, although you’ll be forgiven for discounting them as one of our own) understood that we needed to work together in order to improve as a country and as a people. We understood that to improve is to change, and to perfect is to change often. We were not afraid to find common ground with each other, even if it meant accepting someone else’s idea over our own.

A golden example of what I’m talking about can be found in the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’nell, the Speaker of the House during Reagan’s administration. Both men were extremists in their respective parties (by the standards of their time) and yet more often than not they were able to keep the lines of communication open in order to get things done professionally. Can you picture Obama picking up the phone at the end of the day to give John Boehner a call (or vice versa) so they can discuss issues as equals rather than political rivals? I didn’t think so.

The reason for this is simple. In the 1980’s we were still grappling with a formidable foreign threat (i.e. Russia) instead of small groups of radical extremists with no official country, army, or constitution, as we are today. But more on that in a future post. The main point I want to emphasize here is this: Without a prominent and legitimate threat from overseas, the only real danger America will face is from within.

In the absence of a unifying threat, Republicans and Democrats wage war on each other instead of coming together to protect America’s interests. The gridlock in Congress is at a record high, while their approval rating is at an all-time low. And the craziest part? Americans want it this way. Oh sure, the average voter may say that Congress is unbearable, but when asked specifically about their congressman, people say that he/she is doing a good job. The problem lies in the statistics: 91% of the 113th congress were re-elected to their positions in the last election cycle – this is unacceptable for a legislative body that holds the record for the least amount of legislation passed in congressional history.

The one thing to remember from all this is politicians are only as good as the people who elect them. If we wanted congressmen and women who work together rather than those that rigidly cling to the narrow agenda of their constituents, we would elect them. But we don’t. We like them as they are. The sobering truth is, our politicians won’t improve until we do. And neither will this country.

The inspiration for this article came from the spot-on opening scene of The Newsroom, a brilliant show on HBO. Credit to YouTube and Brian Powell for the link:

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