Don’t Follow The Sheep

You have your own thoughts and opinions that doesn’t always coincide with the group or part of society you belong to. Don’t let anyone bully you into suppressing your own ideas and follow the sheep.

Sheep.

They stick together, graze together, and if one goes, then all of them go the same way.

It’s the human version of silo thinking.  When you think a certain way, then it’s hard to open your mind to listen, read, or see different ideas or viewpoints.

But in life, you don’t have to follow the sheep, because it’s the right thing to do, or because everyone else is doing it.

Be a black sheep.

I’m always interested in listening to different viewpoints on both sides of the political aisle.  I don’t tell people how, why, or who to vote for.  I don’t roll like that.  That’s your decision.

As long as you don’t guilt me, push me, or tell me who to vote for, then we’re cool.  I won’t hold a grudge, demonize you, or whatever candidates and voters are doing to each other these days.  I expect the same out of you.

At least I know where you stand on certain topics.

Voters are sheep.  Democrats and Republicans are leading the herd. People are forced to choose one or the other.  If they choose one, they are either crazy (Dems) or evil (GOP).  You’re not really allowed to question some issues or topics that merit discussion, for fear of ticking the party bases off.

I’m the black sheep.  A moderate.  An independent. I’m your party’s worst nightmare.

In other words, I’m the guy most of you Dems and GOP hate more than anyone, because I’m not following the sheep.

My views are derived from both parties.  There are some I’m favor of, there are some I’m against.  There are candidates and officials I respect, there are those I’m not crazy about.  Don’t expect me to vote a straight ticket.  I have never voted a straight ticket since I was eligible to vote in 1994.

Baa?

As I wrote two years ago, the Democratic and Republican parties are a mirror image of themselves in almost everything, only that their view of the world is different.  Campaign tactics, organization, structure, spinning messages to the public, etc., are the same on both sides.

I knew early on, as a young kid, that my view of politics was different from everyone else’s.  The only problem is that if I was to say what was on my mind, people would shoot it down, scream at me for not having the same beliefs as they do.

Or maybe because I’m not a flaming liberal or a fire-breathing conservative.

Trying to be civil in an increasingly uncivil society when it comes to expressing views in a civil format has become extinct.

I may not agree with everything Ed Fallon does, but he exemplifies being a “black sheep” by questioning fellow Democrats and their issue positions. He’s not afraid to stand out alone.

Which is why I have become comfortable writing what I think on a blog.  I can put it down in writing without being interrupted.  Since I’m a stutter, it’s hard to get a word in during a conversation, even with someone who loves to hear themselves all of the time.

The point here is that it’s alright, no, it’s perfectly normal, to have views that are from both sides.  If Democrats and Republicans don’t like that, screw them.  It’s your own opinion and beliefs that should trumpet over the sheep mentality of blindly agreeing with everything a party stands for or what they believe in.

Black sheep may not fit the prototype, but they are comfortable in their own skin.

Which is what I intend on doing from now on.

Baa, baa, baa.

An Endorsement Is An Opinion…Not Validation

On Saturday evening, the Des Moines Register announced their endorsement for President of the United States.  For the first time since 1972, the Register endorsed a Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

Of course, this caused an uproar with many (specifically liberals and anti-Romney people) to no end.

Just because your newspaper didn’t endorse your guy, it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll lose. Endorsements are a crap shoot.

I find it funny on how people overreact to such silly things such as an endorsement.

An endorsement is nothing more than an opinion.  Everyone endorses something or someone.  However, for my generation (Xers) and Milennials, we have a bad habit of not looking at history and facts as we’re running around going crazy over the Register’s endorsement of Romney.

First of all, an endorsement, as I noted, is an opinion.  Traditionally, endorsements doesn’t hold much weight or sway people one way or another.  In other words, it means nothing by the time Election Day arrives.  Most of the time, anyone who is endorsed doesn’t always win the election.

Here is a list of the election year, candidates the Register has endorsed, and who actually won the presidential election.  Mind you, since 1976, the Register endorsed a Democratic candidate, until their decision on Saturday night.

1972:  Richard Nixon; Richard Nixon

1976:  Jimmy Carter; Jimmy Carter

1980:  Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan

1984:  Walter Mondale; Ronald Reagan

1988:  Michael Dukakis; George H.W. Bush

1996:  Bill Clinton; Bill Clinton

1996:  Bill Clinton; Bill Clinton

2000: Al Gore; George W. Bush

2004: John Kerry; George W. Bush

2008:  Barack Obama; Barack Obama

Out of 10 presidential endorsements, the Register was wrong on 5 of them.  That’s 50%.  See, endorsements doesn’t provide much of a bounce for a candidate.

Which leads me to this observation:  it’s amusing to read the reaction of those who have had no issue with the Register endorsing their party candidates (for this long of course)…until the paper chooses someone else they don’t like.

In the above classic clip from the British comedy series “Yes, Prime Minister”, PM Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby argue over newspapers.  Humphrey believes that papers only pander to readers’ prejudices, in which Hacker delivers his memorable line, only be upstaged at the end by his private secretary Bernard Wooley.

Newspapers, to me, should not be in the affirmation business when it comes to people and their political views, for the most part.  They are (and should be) in the information business.  You need information and facts, so that you can make your own conclusions or learn more about a topic.

They assessed their interviews and interactions with both candidates, scrutinized their proposed agenda and plans, and made an opinion.  That’s what you and I do on a daily basis about someone or something.

Ironically, most of you have already made up your mind about who you are endorsing and voting for.  There is no difference.

Entities such as MSNBC and Fox News are in the affirmation business.  They provide the biased slant that you want to hear, thus making you feel good by affirming your political beliefs and values.  Where else do people turn to hear Rachel Maddow affirm your liberal views and Ann Coulter to validate your conservative views?

For as much progressive (or liberal) views the Register’s editorial board has endorsed from supporting the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on Varnum v. Brien, more government transparency, endorsement of light-rail service to Des Moines, and others, to let one thing like a political endorsement make you lose your mind, isn’t one of them.

Nor should it.

It’s alright to disagree with the Register’s endorsement, but let’s not get too batshit crazy here.  It’s one opinion, and the opinion is subject to be wrong…including your opinion as well as mine.

No one is obligated to appease your political beliefs, as a way to make you happy.

Hold Your Applause

On Wednesday, President Obama publicly came out and announced his stance on same-sex marriages.  This is a few days after Vice President Biden announced his position on it as well, but with less fanfare. 

To no surprise to me, both have said that they are in support of same-sex marriages, which was something that the LGBT community have been seeking from both men since the 2008 presidential campaign.  In the past, the feeling was that the President has been lukewarm and not “all-in” to the issue. 

Today, everyone is using words like “courageous”, “heroic”, “brave”, and others, to describe the President. 

That is all well and good, but let’s hold our applause for President Obama and Vice President Biden.  They did what they are supposed to do:  take a position that will make some people happy and some people unhappy. 

I tell you where those applauses should be given to…

…the individuals, couples, and supporters of same-sex marriages and LGBT rights who have toiled and fought in the quest to change the perception and the laws that will make same-sex marriages acceptable in our society. 

They are the “courageous” “brave” heroes who deserves your applause.  Nothing against the Prez, but what he did Wednesday pales in comparison to what groups like One Iowa, same-sex couples, and supporters have done. 

What makes them courageous and brave is that they don’t quit.  Yes, they suffered a setback when the North Carolina General Assembly, not the people who live in the state, the legislature voted against same-sex marriages.  But unlike some supporters who are throwing up their hands and giving up because one group of lawmakers said “no”, these committed individuals are persistent.  They get up after being knocked down, dust themselves off, and go at it again. 

Those who are so quick to give up and be frustrated clearly do not understand that it is a long journey, not a race.  You can’t get all 50 states and society to change overnight.  It’s not that simple.  One loss doesn’t (or shouldn’t) define your legacy.  Neither does one win.  Ask the pioneers of the Civil Rights movement about having patience and faith when they could have easily given up.  Don’t give up. 

For every North Carolina, there’s Iowa, albeit it was the state Supreme Court that made the decision in re Varnum v. Brien

Getting the folks in this building to support same-sex marriages is tough, but so is getting ourselves to do the same thing as citizens.

As we spend most of our time  obsessing over elected officials and campaigns, the pro-same sex marriage groups doesn’t get enough credit or full support for what they do.  Ninety minutes after the President told the country that he was in favor or same-sex marriages, over $1 million dollars were donated to his campaign. 

Don’t you think that money could have been sent to the groups who are on the front-line of changing the attitudes and working towards ensuring legal rights for lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals? 

Kenneth Weishuhn should have received your support and encouragement for coming out.  Instead, people turned on him, used cyber-bullying, and faced hostility.  He didn’t have to commit suicide because of the blowback he received for being gay.  He should have lauded for being brave for announcing he was gay. 

President Obama’s decision to support same-sex marriages isn’t as brave or courageous as some want to make it out to be.  His support, however, greatly helps in the effort to change the attitudes towards this issue and the LGBT community in general. 

Those who are not in the public eye who are supporting same-sex marriages are not celebrated and lauded.  Those are the ones we should be lauding and supporting. 

They are the real heroes of this crusade.  Let’s not forget them. 

Death threats, rejection, push back, misconceptions, and other factors are what they face every day.  And yet, they continue on with the fight.  Nothing deters them.  They know the next day is a new day to make a difference. 

What is considered “courageous” and “brave”? 

When all of us, as citizens, are willing to learn how important the issue of same-sex marriage is to the LGBT community, and the openness to support it, not just in spirit, but also financially. 

Don’t you think it’s time that the individuals, couples, and groups who are working towards changing the societal and legal attitudes towards LGBT and same-sex marriages get more of our applause for being brave, heroic, and courageous for taking the risk of doing what is right? 

It’s long overdue, if you asked me.

“A Team Effort”

Minutes after posting tonight’s entry, news spread, on Twitter no doubt, that the Prez was going to have a major presser around 9:30pm CDT.  This sounded big, and according to all of the news sources, it’s a biggie.  The President is about to announce that Osama Bin Laden, one of the main terrorists behind the September 11, 2001 domestic attack, was confronted, shot and was killed.

Here we go. the Prez now speaks.

—————–

Edit:  Okay, the presser’s over and the Prez made the official announcement, confirming the death of Osama Bin Laden.  It’s a bit too early to dissect this, but this news is encouraging and a step towards painstakingly tearing apart insurgent groups that attack innocent citizens, regardless of nationality, race, religion, sex, and et cetera.  Groups such as Al-Qaeda have the mindset of harming people as a means to achieve their goals, which is to cause chaos and eliminate those who do not agree with their logic. 

Pretty simple explanation. 

The early inclinations, which is sure to come, is will the U.S. pull up stakes and get out of the Middle East.  The early answer to that is “probably not” and there are reasons (too many to list, I’ll let you Google it for yourself).  Just because Bin Laden has been cut down and this is a potential emotional blow to Al-Qaeda, there will be continued threats and possible retaliation.  That means we (and I mean everyone in the world) have to keep our heads on a swivel.  There are also other groups, not associated with Bin Laden and his brood, hanging around Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other nooks and crannies on this planet. 

What I got out of the speech, which was to the point, detailed, and brilliantly done, is that this is a “team effort.”  Regardless of your opinions of the individuals that has been involved in this saga since September 2001, a lot of work went into improving intelligence reports, working with other nations despite not seeing eye-to-eye most of the time, and forging alliances, everyone had to work as a team to achieve the goal of capturing an international goon, dead or alive.  Let’s be honest, Bin Laden was a goon, and a very dangerous cat. 

Ten years is a long time, yes, but if the counter-terrorist unit that was assigned to take Osama out didn’t have the support of their superiors, networks, and their comrades, and the citizens (in spirit), what they did on Sunday would have not materialized. 

Tonight is a good night, but remember that anything crazy and sinister can happen anywhere, any day, be it on a large scale like Osama Bin Laden, or small in our backyards. 

Enjoy this evening of historical context, folks.  Patience is a virtue and a bitch to deal with, but it paid off today. 

Had the Prez Did This Instead…

I couldn’t help but to be amused by the “birthers” and the ongoing debate over President Obama and whether he was born in the U.S., and if he’s a full-blooded American. 

One thing came to mind earlier today that I thought he should have done, but a great friend of mine, Sam Burt, suggested a better scenario, for which I love since it’s from one of my favorite movies growing up. 

Enjoy.

Everyone is Not the Same

The President returned to Des Moines Tuesday night for a visit and to circle the wagons. (Eric Thayer/New York Times)

On Wednesday, President Obama will speak to a crowd about the pressing issue of the struggles of the middle class.  The early reports were that he was going to speak at a home.  The Des Moines Register reported and confirmed Tuesday night that the home Obama will speak at is the residence of Sandy Hatfield-Clubb and her husband Jeff.  Clubb is the athletic director at Drake University.

Drake Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb. (Drake University)

State Representative Janet Petersen selected Clubb and her family because she thinks the Clubbs are the epitome of an Iowa family — “they’re both working, they’ve got kids at home, they have busy lives.”

Let me preface this:  there is no doubt in my mind that the Clubbs are good individuals, work hard, and do the right things. This is not about them.  It’s the selection of Clubb’s family to host the President at this “invite-only” gathering that I have mixed feelings about.

State Representative Janet Petersen

I feel that Petersen and the White House could have selected another family, a middle-class family who is struggling to keep up and survive in this current climate of economic uncertainty and upheaval.  An acquaintance of mine inquired why I would suggest another family and not the Clubbs.

Simple.

Sandy Hatfield-Clubb is no ordinary middle-class person.  As Drake’s athletic director, she’s a high-profile local celebrity.  Everyone knows who she is.  The perception to the majority of residents in Des Moines is that she’s doing well at her job, she’s highly recognizable, and doesn’t appear to be a struggling middle-class American.

The President, candidates, and pundits can talk about saving the middle class, but it’s apparent that the middle class is on the cusp of being extinct.  You have the upper middle class and the lower middle class and the wedge that is driven between the two is hard not to ignore.  The middle represents the two directions where this nation is heading towards:  lower and upper class. Poor and rich.

The Prez will be picking up some Baby Boomer cookies along the way.

To Representative Petersen, the Clubbs are the “epitome” of an Iowa family.  To me, the Clubbs do not “exactly” represent the middle class, only part of it.

There are lower middle-class families who are going through more trials and tribulations that the Clubbs.  One layoff, one missed mortgage, or one life-changing event, can turn a middle-class homestead into one of turmoil or breakup.  The middle class no longer is made up of nuclear families.  There are extended and combined middle class families (single-parent families, gay or lesbian families, interracial or interfaith, and even middle-class broken homes).

Not all of the middle class look like the Cleavers.

I should know.  I used to have that “nuclear” family until my parents divorced.  Growing up in a blue/white collar working middle class on the rough and economically-depressed east side of Waterloo can give you a different perspective on what the middle class should “look like.”

The point I’m making is that if the President wants to address the issues the middle class is facing and his quest to help them, why not visit a home of a middle class family that is not “perfect” and has issues that resemble the evolving majority of the middle class.

As Bill Bishop’s book “The Big Sort” pointed out, we fall back on finding people who live like us, look like us, think like us, and emulate us (homogeny).  Rep. Petersen could have found a family who wasn’t similar to her family or neighborhood and yet still be middle class.  By choosing Clubb and her family (who lives in Beaverdale along with Petersen and her family), it plays into the image of a “perfect” middle class family that all of America should resemble.

This is an example of what today's middle class looks like.

Not everyone has a two parent home with two kids, the pooch, and a two-car garage.  The Clubbs represent the old lasting image of the middle class that we, for some reason, want to hang on to.

And it’s wrong to portray that image to America because it’s not accurate and distorts the reality of what the middle class truly is today.

Here We Go Again…

"Uh, Shirley, if you come back and take a new position with USDA, we'll forget that this ever happen. We'll have a good laugh and a beer over this!"

Shirley Sherrod should be upset and angry.  The “rush to judgment” card tagged her like a catfish on a fish hook.  Our society has again perfected the “guilty until proven innocent” rationale.

She didn’t have to accept the apologies from the White House, or the NAACP, but she did.  She sure as hell shouldn’t accept one from Andrew Breitbart, who chose to splice up Sherrod’s speech and turn it into a 30-second “gotcha” soundbite that has gotten national attention over the past 3 days.

Shirley came out a big winner, by how she has handled it:  with class and calmness.

Talk about having…

Let’s get a few things clear here:  Secretary Vilsack didn’t (directly) fire her, President Obama green-lighted and endorsed the firing.  Vilsack’s job is to fall on the damn sword for the President.  The NAACP piled on her as well, despite the fact that they videotaped Sherrod’s speech in February.  They were too lazy to pull out the tape and watch it before they condemned her as well.

To make things worse, this is another black eye to journalism, as an agenda-creating narcissistic hack made a mockery of the press again by “manufacturing” a news story by purposely omitting facts as a way to instigate controversy.  And once again, we invoked the “rush-to-judgment” clause, by condemning Shirley Sherrod, without ever hearing her side of the story.

I guess the Duke University Lacrosse case didn’t remind us that “if you don’t learn from history, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.”

My professor in college said it best, as I paraphrase his thoughts:

“people who look for 30-second soundbites and an easier way to get the news are lazy.  Read, watch, and listen to the entire story before reacting.”

The honeymoon's over, O. And so is the goodwill that you had. Welcome to real life in Washington, D.C.

It’s sad that we’ll never learn to stop doing this, because we have adopted the lazy practice of forming an opinion, based on initial reaction and not what is factual anymore.

And no, Tom, she doesn’t want a new “unique” position.

She wants her old job back.