Democratic Debate Recap: 30 Seconds to Mars

Sunday night before a federal holiday? Ahhh yes — it must be time for another inconveniently-timed Democratic debate! It’s laughable at this point how ludicrous the DNC has been with scheduling these things. In a statement earlier Sunday, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz indicated that the debate schedule was designed to “maximize the opportunity for voters to see….candidates.” Okay, Debbie. If you say so.

In any case, the show went on. It wasn’t the most exciting of events, but then again, this isn’t the flashy crop of GOP candidates. The first question after opening statements asked the candidates to present their top 3 priorities for their first 100 days in office. Sanders pointed to fixing healthcare, raising the minimum wage, and job creation. Clinton lumped job creation, raising the minimum wage and equal pay for women into one “jobby” priority (hey, if she can weave all those into one issue, then I can make up a fake word to describe it); then said she also wants to improve the ACA and finally “bring the country together.” Still waiting on the specific proposals to bring about that last point, but I’m fairly certain a kind of national kumbaya sing-along is involved. O’Malley pulled a Clinton and put “getting wages up,” equal pay for equal work, collective bargaining rights, raising the minimum wage AND immigration reform into his first priority, then pointed to combating climate change and getting “a new agenda for America’s cities” as his final two. 500 points to O’Malley for mentioning climate change in there.

This was about as specific as my notes got on this debate. A few of my actual notes after this point:

  • SANDERS SHOUTS
  • O’Malley is smug and hates guns
  • HRC sure does know a lot of stuff, huh

The healthcare debate got things moving pretty well. Sanders reiterated that he doesn’t want to gut the ACA, but does want to push the country toward his “Medicare for all” proposal. Clinton (rightly) pointed out that even with a Democratic Congress, it was impossible to garner enough support for the public option in the ACA. How on earth is Bernie Sanders going to make this vision of universal healthcare happen? This exchange was pretty indicative of the overall ideological clash between Bernie and Hillary; Bernie has big ideas (and big ideals), while Hillary’s feet stay firmly planted in the real world. All told, a Bernie presidency would probably result in grand expectations and even grander failures to meet those expectations. But electability and viability aside, his populist message is still a good thing for the Democratic party right now.

One common refrain of the night was in Clinton’s repeated praise for Obama. At one point she even called out Sanders for badmouthing him. Someone should have nudged her and whispered reminders of the 2008 election into her ear, no?

On foreign policy, while Sanders didn’t flounder as much he had in previous debates, HRC still demonstrates detailed and in-depth knowledge of these issues above and beyond any candidate in probably either party. It will be tough for anyone to best her in this field.

Martin “can I have 30 seconds, too” O’Malley was basically the annoying little brother of this debate. Maybe in another 4 (or 8) years you’ll be old enough to play in the big leagues, kiddo.

And Lester Holt? I’d type something about him, but ran out of time.

 

Would You Rather: Politics Edition

In the classic game of “Would you rather…?” the premise is simple: you must choose between two options and state which you would rather have/do/be. If both options are undesirable, as they often are, it can become a pretty tough choice to make — and subsequently, also a pretty awesome game.

Some examples:

  • Would you rather give up coffee or alcohol?
  • Would you rather eat 50 crickets, or 400 ants?
  • Would you rather be ultra rich and terminally ill, or ultra poor and immortal?
  • Or as this Buzzfeed article asks, would you rather have Cheetos fingers for the rest of your life, or have a popcorn kernel stuck in the back of your throat for the rest of your life?

Maybe tough choices for some, and not so tough choices for others.

With the 2016 election year kicking into high gear already, I wanted to offer a politically themed “would you rather” query — either as a real question for people to answer, or just food for thought.

So, for Democrats:

Would you rather have a GOP candidate who is likely to perform poorly in a national election (e.g., Donald Trump) OR….

Have a GOP candidate who is a stronger political opponent, but would make a better president if elected?

Bear in mind that this is a “would you rather” that is predicated on actual current political conditions with unknown outcomes (read: the weaker GOP candidate might really get elected to the presidency. Would it be worth the risk?). Which one would you choose?

Likewise, for Republicans:

Would you rather have a Democratic candidate who is less likely to perform well on a national scale, but whose policies you’d find more worrisome if elected (e.g. Bernie Sanders), OR…

Have a Democratic candidate who is a stronger political opponent, but would support more moderate policies upon election?

These questions are somewhat hard to pose — and probably also to answer — given that their hypothetical tinge is likely distorted by real world circumstances at the moment. Many people right now have visceral emotional reactions to actual candidates to the point where their answer might change with the insertion of different names, regardless of a candidate’s political leanings or policy positions.

But I think it’s still worth reflecting upon, even just on a more general hypothetical level: in a political contest, when considering an opposition candidate, would it be preferable to have someone who is easier to beat (but still might win), or someone who’s harder to beat, but better for the job if elected?

Answers to this will depend upon personal preferences and political priorities. If you find it more important to support your party candidate and give him or her the best possible chances to win, then perhaps the weaker opposition candidate is preferable. If you’re more concerned with mitigating risk in potential outcomes, then perhaps a contest between two strong candidates — even if it makes things tougher for the nominee you support — might be a more appealing option.

Which is the case for me? At least regarding the presidency, I think I’d lean toward the latter. I’d much rather lose to a qualified candidate than run the risk of electing someone with very real potential to seriously bungle the job.

GOP Debate Recap: Birther of a Nation

Last night’s GOP debate marked the first of the election year, and the second-to-last (I believe) before Iowa caucuses. So the good news is, an end is in sight for these free-for-all grand ol’ party debates. The bad news is, an end is in sight for these free-for-all grand ol’ party debates.

The tone was slightly different last night, with a mere 7 candidates and the obvious pressure of primary season bearing down on all of them. There was noticeably less elbowing among the candidates for speaking time and somewhat more eager/grandiose displays of leadership potential. No one perhaps exemplified a bigger shift in style than Marco Rubio, whose previous calm, smooth and occasionally smirking persona was replaced by a tiny Cuban version of the Incredible Hulk. Rubio seemed uncharacteristically angry from start to finish – which for a 2.5 hour long debate is actually pretty impressive. If nothing else, the guy’s got stamina. (“I DARE you to call me ‘low energy,’ Donald. I DARE you!”)

The biggest clashes of the night were between Cruz and Trump, whose media exchanges in the lead-up to last night were getting fairly heated – presumably due to Cruz’s questionable status as a natural-born citizen, but more realistically owing to his rising polling numbers. Trump initially denied this was the case when Cruz pointed it out last night, launching into a rather farfetched explanation of how his birther comments were intended to subvert potential lawsuits that might arise after Cruz made his way onto the Trump ticket as VP, and then the two of them sauntered into the White House with linked arms and matching sneers. Of course, this convincing account lasted for about 30 seconds until Trump admitted Cruz’s newfound frontrunner status was a factor in his passive-aggressive smear campaign. A shocking revelation to all.

Speaking of Cruz, he started off the night “cruising” into typical territory with a long and impassioned soliloquy right off the bat. If anyone didn’t know that Cruz was both a) a college debate champ and b) formerly a successful attorney who had argued before the Supreme Court multiple times, these biographical details should come as no surprise whatsoever. His most fervent oration of the night came in response to the so-called “New York Times Attacks,” which raised questions concerning Cruz’s past campaign finance disclosures. Because these “attacks” pertained directly to him, he is likely to have deemed them the most serious and severe assaults upon American soil in recent history.

I mentioned this was a long debate. In the interest of time, a few additional notes are bulleted below:

  • Chris Christie was as determined as ever to distance himself from that post-disaster Obama hug that has haunted him ever since. “WE ARE NOT FRIENDS!!!” was essentially his mantra all night. He also reiterated his firm belief that governors are better than senators in every conceivable way.
  • Jeb! Bush really tried extra hard to give off the adulting vibe again. Did it work this time around? Maybe a little better than usual, but not enough to get him out of the polling gutter. Also, when Trump outright called him weak at the end of the night, he responded with “Come on, man.” I don’t know what a better response might have been, but that was – well, frankly, a little weak.
  • DOCTOR (never forget) Ben Carson wavered between trying really, really hard (and failing) to show off the foreign policy points he’s been fed, and making his mark as the Candidate Most Concerned with Burning Existential Questions. “Is this America anymore??” He did have one of the more humorous lines of the night when he claimed his name was invoked by Jeb Bush because, as he explained to a confused Neil Cavuto, “he said everybody.” I admit I laughed. Also, flat tax. Flat tax. Flat tax. (Flat tax.)
  • Kasich still has just about no chance whatsoever at the presidency, but his presence in these debates is appreciated nevertheless. His statement about there being no real room for on-the-job training in foreign policy was an accurate and pointed nod toward the ridiculously underqualified candidates in that arena (*cough cough* Trump. Carson. Fiorina.)
  • Ahh, Fiorina. Carly. Can I call her Carly? I thought I might be starting to miss her a little bit on the main stage, but then caught a couple of “her” tweets and remembered how infuriatingly irritating she is. Not all that sad she’s descended down into the ranks of the undercard group, to be honest. Don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha, Car.
  • Speaking of tweets, can we give all these candidates some kudos for their incredible abilities to tweet WHILE debating? Amazing! They even managed to type out quotes of themselves immediately after speaking the very words! Bored 14 year olds around the country will doubtless be contacting them soon for tips on such impressive subterfuge.

Well. The whole thing was an interesting ride, as always. And again par for the course: he biggest moments seemed to come from trite clichés and direct personal digs. It’s Trump’s element, basically. It pains me to type that he and Cruz are the probable frontrunners, at least for now. Hopefully the actual caucus and primary outcomes will send them both spiraling back down into the pits of regular, non-presidential (natural-born?) citizenship where they belong forevermore.

Unfinished Business

I keep starting big long and important blog posts, and now I have approximately 7 big long and important half-finished blog posts sitting in my draft posts.

Something about watching kids and writing doesn’t seem to mesh well.

A few things that I HAVE been able to accomplish while watching kids: (and this is just for today!)

  • washed and dried laundry
  • dried laundry a second time because #@&$ing dryer is broken
  • washed dishes
  • cleaned floors and baseboards
  • vacuumed
  • cleaned cat puke (x5)
  • re-washed several blankets because cat puked on them
  • fed kids
  • dressed kids
  • cleaned kids
  • engaged kids in mental and physical stimulation (i.e. brought them to an indoor play gym where they ran around like wild animals for an hour. While speaking multiple languages and doing complex arithmetic.)
  • made up some lies about stuff my kids did
  • wrote 75% of this blog post

Kids are up now. One is crying. I…must go. Sadly.

But in blog news, I’m planning to live tweet the GOP debate tonight and hopefully put up a recap here in the next couple of days — if the tiny tyrants in my home give me the chance, that is.

A Few Thoughts on ‘Making a Murderer’

Spoiler alert: Um, there are a lot of them in this post. So if you haven’t watched the series yet, climb out from under your rock maybe don’t read this.

 

It’s the show that has swept the nation in recent weeks. And pretty much everyone with a Netflix account has weighed in on it, from journalist-types to Donnie Wahlberg (yes, that Donnie Wahlberg). The rough trajectory of general public viewership has been as follows:

  • Days after its release in mid-December: A few friends of friends see it. You hear about it here and there through word of mouth and social media. Sounds interesting.
  • 1-2 weeks post-release: Wow, this is really picking up steam. You need to watch it.
  • (Some span of 10 hours after this point): You have watched. You have seen. And WHAT IS THIS TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE?! You furiously Google to find out more behind the scenes information and alternative murder theories.
  • In the immediate hours/days to follow: You’ve read all the counterpoints and new statements from Ken Kratz and waffle between being angry at the filmmakers for their obvious one-sidedness and being angry at everyone else for believing Ken Kratz again.
  • Present day: Oh, you guys are just seeing ‘Making a Murderer’? It’s so passé. Let me tell you about why it sucks and also why these other obscure true crime stories are so much better.

In what has seemed to be the fastest-moving pop culture phenomenon the world (or at least I) have ever seen, ‘Making a Murderer’ has gone from It-Series to yesterday’s news in literally less than a month. But regardless of its current standing in the public eye, I’ve still found myself captivated – not just by the story itself, but by the reaction to it.

The series seemed to hit a nerve with the American public in a particular and peculiar way – in that it evinced rather forcefully in people the Primal Need to Be Right. At first this was demonstrated by the initial viewers’ responses and their calls for justice for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. They were clearly framed! Free them! Free them! Start petitions! Alert the world!

And then of course, as viewership exploded critics of the series were fast to hop aboard the ‘what was left out’ train. The hood DNA! The phone calls! Biased filmmaking! Media lies! Don’t be like the rest of these sheeple – damn the man!

But then Dean Strang (that gifted, gifted god of a man) gives an interview or two, responds to Kratz and other critics, and then suddenly…well, maybe those omitted things WEREN’T such compelling points. But then again, maybe they were. And now all of us really just need someone to tell us what to think, because our brains hurt.

I guess my takeaway from all of this is kind of on board with what the filmmakers (regardless of what you think of their intent, bias, or whatever) have kept saying – in that truly, as interesting as the Avery and Dassey cases are, the bigger picture of ‘Making a Murderer’ is in examining the justice system and how it operates. Because frankly, we could probably write articles for days – and in fact, we have! – detailing everything we know about the cases, what evidence points to what outcome, and concluding from this whether Avery and Dassey are totally innocent, totally guilty, or some combination of the two.

But ultimately, can most of us determine this, to a reasonable degree of certainty? Probably not. Do at least one or possibly both of these guys deserve a new and impartial trial, where all of these questions can be more effectively hashed out? Possibly so. But more broadly – does the series highlight a wealth of serious reforms that we need to implement (or at a minimum, advocate for) within our criminal justice system? Most definitely. These are the issues upon which we have the most power, and upon which the public voice can potentially make the most difference.

 

But anyway. On to the Next Big Thing. Whenever that is.

Friday Round-Up

Below are a few posts I’ve found particularly noteworthy this week. Check them out and enjoy — or don’t, AT YOUR PERIL.***

 

That’s it for this week. Happy reading! More to come next Friday.

 

***I tend to say “at your peril” a lot these days. You can thank Making a Murderer.

Feeling the Love

Recently I was hanging out with my kids in the family room when we heard their dad walking out of the home office and into the kitchen. “Hey,” I said to the 3 year old. “Why don’t you go give Dad a hug and tell him you love him?” He was very excited at the prospect and promptly dashed off into the kitchen.

“Daddy, I love you,” I overheard him say. And then — “Hold on. I have to go tell Mommy something verrrry special.”

I beamed. My heart swelled. And I realized, in this small moment, how all those parenting difficulties, toils and trials amounted to nothing in the face of this pure love that children can bring. This tiny person, so sweet and sincere — how did I get so lucky? How did my life get so full?

I waited for him with outstretched arms and a knowing smile. He rounded the corner, face alight, stopping just short of my ready embrace. “Mommy?”

“Yes, honey bunny,” I said, my smile growing bigger.

“…Could you get some more bananas? There’s only one left.”

Then he ran away.

 

Position Paper

mad world

 

I think that there needs to be more regulation when it comes to (guns/abortion). People need to realize that we are dealing with a very serious, very dangerous issue here. Individuals are dying. We must do something to stop the death and destruction. My opponents on this issue would argue that freedom matters more; our Constitution defends this view. I argue, what about the freedom of those who are killed? Does one person’s autonomy matter more than another person’s life?

If you fail to understand and agree with this logic, then your perspective is nonsensical.

 

I think that there needs to be less regulation when it comes to (guns/abortion). People in this country need to be free to make their own choices about their own lives. If these choices involve (guns/abortion), then whose business is it but their own? This is America. In this country, we abide by the Constitution. The Constitution protects a person’s right to have a(/n) (gun/abortion). Our forefathers fought to make this a place of freedom, liberty and independence. My right as a citizen is to practice and enjoy this freedom.

If you fail to understand and agree with this logic, then your perspective is nonsensical.

Happy New Year — and A Request

no cat

Usually the ushering in of the new year is a time to work on self-improvement (at least for a few well-intentioned weeks days). It’s a chance for a fresh start. A clean slate. A blank page in the voluminous tome of life. The uncharted water in that epic sea voyage we call “human existence.”

Awesome metaphors aside, though — today I am bucking that trend. My 2016 New Year’s resolution is not so much a personal goal as much as it is a favor I’m asking of basically everyone on the Internet. Because, to my mind, especially this year, it is of the utmost importance.

There’s no denying that, like it or not, we are now living in the age of Donald Trump. Not just in terms of politics (though this is certainly a new forum for his exploits), but also in our everyday online interactions. Memes have become the self-imposed newspeak of our generation. Thoughtful expressions are eschewed in favor of trite denunciations and personal attacks. The quality of civil discourse is stunted and sad.

This is not to say that the well-crafted meme, much like its predecessor the political cartoon, does not hold a place in political discussion. I love a good meme. It can drive home a point in a single image sometimes far more effectively than any written explanation. And it’s usually hilarious to boot. But the meme-market isn’t limited to witty political satirists. Anyone with an Internet connection can whip up a meme (or alter an existing template), and — perhaps more frustratingly — click “share” to send them all over social media in the blink of an eye. The ones that are most problematic are those that attribute quotes and incidents to particular figures that are not only misleading, but also flat-out wrong. And yet they spread like wildfire, with only a few (if any) of those sharing it even bothering to check its veracity. I would venture to call it an epidemic. (Epi-meme-ic? I’m not sure if that fully works. But let’s go with it.) So what are we — the public, inclusive of these memers, but more specifically those of us who hope for a better way to dialogue — to do?

Here’s where my request comes in. Please, Internet users of the world, for the love of everything good and holy, do NOT share and repost things without first doing a 10-second Google search to check if they’re true/correct/attributed to the right person/not a totally fabricated piece of drama-stirring lunacy. While there isn’t much we can do in the way of preventing idiots from creating terrible and inaccurate memes, we sure as hell can control our own temptations to indiscriminately perpetuate bad information. Keep Snopes in your bookmarks for easy access, if it helps.

Following this, then, is part two of my New Year’s request: after your 10-second search, regardless of your findings, KEEP READING. If you’re looking into a topic that interests you, learn about it. Try to find more than one source. Whenever possible, stick to reputable resources; if you’re unsure of what’s reputable, try to find a variety of viewpoints to get a better picture of what’s going on, who thinks what, and why that is the case. Use this generalized research as a tool to better discern fact from fiction and to make sure your own opinion is being formed from a careful weighing of all available information. Don’t just click and share. FIGURE STUFF OUT. Contemplate it.

The point of this (admittedly preachy) post isn’t to put myself above the masses in terms of my opinions. Of course I think my own ideas are right, but I welcome and enjoy discussions with others of a different mind — as long as they have come to their viewpoints through a process of reasoned thought and deliberation. My goal is for the vast majority of click-sharers (you know who you are) to take control of their own opinions — whatever those opinions may be. I would love for the American public — and anyone else — to be able to raise the bar of civil discourse and counter opposing viewpoints with more valid critiques instead of distortions and lies.

Because, oh my God, you guys — these memes. THESE MEMES. They are killing our capacity to dialogue with one another in any productive way.

TL:DR (ugh, you are already part of the problem); research stuff. Be aware before you share. Please and thank you. The end.

And, um, Happy New Year.

 

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[Cat pic courtesy of Chris Erwin.]