I watched bits and pieces of the Inauguration today and caught much of Obama’s speech on NPR. But I really enjoyed much of the festivities through Twitter and the various reactions, comments and snippets. Apparently I wasn’t the only one enjoying Twitter: Traffic was up five fold.
The breadth of opinions was hilarious. One person would be euphoric about an Obama presidency and the next person would be taking potshots at hope and change. One person loved the inaugural poem and the very next tweet called it a flaming failure.
It was also great to see people’s personal reactions, what lines of speeches/prayers/poems stuck with them, what made them laugh, what made them cry (quite literally).
Continue reading Enjoying the Inauguration with Twitter
I stayed up last night to watch history. I couldn’t stand watching the pundit chatter, so I kept checking in and out. We watched the Clinton/Dole-Kang/Kodos episode of the Simpsons, watched some more returns, and then watched an episode of the Office. Then when I clicked back to check the results I heard a commentator say “President Elect Barack Obama.” It took a minute to confirm it, to see the map and the huge electoral lead. But it was over.
America had just elected its first black president.
From there we stayed up to watch history, seeing McCain’s gracious acceptance speech and then watching the crowds in Grant Park as a visibly tired and emotional Barack Obama came out to address the crowd. The images of the first black president are powerful and moving. No matter your politics, this is an intense moment for our country, our world, our generation and our children.
There is a palpable excitement in the air like I’ve never seen before. Granted that has a lot to do with the fact that my guy won, but I think this is categorically different, both because I actually like this candidate (I can’t imagine dancing in the streets for any previous presidential wins in recent memory) and because of the historic nature of this win. And I’m clearly not alone in that first point.
But for all the jubilation, there is a lot of work to do. There are enormous expectations on Obama and it would be hard for anyone to live up to all of them. I’m eager to see how he proves himself and if he can live up to his promises to bring change to our caustic political climate. I’m eager to see if he can prove his detractors wrong, if at the very least he can gain their respect if not their support. In short, I’m eager to see if he can live up to the hype.
In the end Barack Obama is just a man. He needs prayer and support, counsel and wisdom.
And in the end this is just one moment in history. It is preceded by innumerable moments that won’t make it in the history books, but without which this moment could not have happened. It is only by concentrating on those many small steps, persevering in each day, that we can ever hope to bring about the change we seek.
There’s a lot of debate going around right now about tax policy. I thought it’d help to look at the actual tax rates compared to historic numbers. But let’s keep in mind that I took Math for Elementary Education in college (i.e., I’m no mathematician or economist).
The big question seems to be whether or not Barack Obama’s tax policy is socialist (or how socialist is it, depending on your perspective). So let’s take a look at those proposed income tax brackets and compare them to historic income brackets.
To simplify things, I’m only looking at income tax rates for the highest bracket:
- Current income tax: 35% for those earning more than $357,700.
- Obama’s proposed income tax: 39.6% for those earning more than $357,700.
- McCain’s proposed income tax: remain at 35%
(The current tax brackets are set to expire and revert to 2000 levels, so both Obama and McCain talk about their plans as cuts, which is a bit misleading. They’re both talking about extending the cuts, except that Obama wants to expire the cuts for the top two brackets; Source)
So the difference between McCain and Obama for the top bracket is 4.6% (for the second highest bracket the difference is 3%; for other brackets there’s no difference*). I have a hard time believing that 4.6% pushes us into socialist territory. The fact is both favor a progressive tax policy where the more money you make the greater percentage of taxes you pay.
Bottomline: The McCain and Obama tax proposals are relatively similar. Compared to a historic perspective, they’re very similar.
Continue reading Historic Tax Rates in the U.S.: Socialist?
In the 2008 presidential election I’m going to be voting for Barack Obama. That’s probably not a surprise to people who know me, but I feel the need to explain that position.
I’ve been contemplating this post for some time. Should I even write it? As a person who makes a living writing for a faith-based market (for the most part), it’s some what dangerous to talk about politics. There’s a very real possibility that people won’t hire me because of my political views. It’s happened for much lesser reasons.
But I guess because of that rationale I feel compelled to give a defense for why I’m voting for Barack Obama. I’d rather someone understand my reasoning and still reject me than reject me based on an assumption from something random like a Twitter post.
I think this will be the first time I’ve ever publicly blogged about who I’m voting for. The above rationale is part of the reason, but I’ve also never cared that much about politics. Part of the reason why I’m doing it this year is because of how important the times are. That’s said every year (I said it last election), but this election is historic on several fronts.
I’m not going to load this post up with links and sources. Perhaps I should, but writing this is going to be grueling enough. I don’t have time to track down all the links. My arguments have come from watching the debates, listening to the candidates, following the campaigns and reading fact check sites. That said, feel free to call me on facts that I get wrong.
I’d also like to remind people of the importance of disagreeing well. How we disagree perhaps says more about our character than what we agree on.
Continue reading Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama
A couple weeks ago I wrote about how Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim—but what if he was? Who cares? Sometimes it’s nice to be backed up. In this case former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell has my back:
“I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.” (Meet the Press)
Powell went on to talk about a 20-year-old soldier who died in Iraq and earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan and he was a Muslim. He was 14 on a 9/11 and wanted to show people that not all Muslims are fanatics. He served and died for his country, proving that point.
Continue reading Muslim Americans
So Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman said Barack Obama may be anti-American on Friday and suggested that other members of Congress were anti-American and should be investigated (now she’s blaming Chris Matthews for trapping her).
Then we have Sarah Palin talking about how much she enjoys visiting the “pro-American” parts of America. She too has quickly back tracked and acknowledges that all of America is pro-American.
And now John McCain is saying Western Pennsylvania is the “most God-loving, most patriotic part of the country.” I never knew we even had a God-lovin’ patriot contest.
So much of this is just politics and pandering to locale. It all reeks of who’s wearing a flag pin.
I appreciate how Barack Obama responded during his speech in Tampa Bay, Fla. yesterday:
There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation—we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Florida and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America—they have served the United States of America.
We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose—to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.
You can hear the audio on NPR (starts about 2:40). I couldn’t find the report I actually heard which had better audio, and I’d love to see the video.
The question of Barack Obama’s faith and background keeps coming up. Despite his long-held Christian faith, the rumors that he is a Muslim persist. An April poll showed that 1 in 10 Americans thought Obama was a Muslim (one would hope that number would have dropped in the months since).
Is Barack Obama a Muslim? No. (Visit IsBarackObamaAMuslim.com for the short answer.)
But what if he was? Who cares?
Is Barack Obama an Arab, as McCain crowds in Minnesota seem to think (yes, I’m embarrassed for my state)? No. His father is from Kenya, his mother is from Kansas (hey, my mom’s from Kansas!) and he was born in Hawaii.
Again, but what if he was an Arab? Who cares? Continue reading Is Barack Obama a Muslim? Who Cares?
Tonight is the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. I’m not sure if I want to watch. Having watched the first presidential debate and the only vice presidential debate I came away with the conclusion that debates are broken.
- “Facts” are tossed around by both candidates and then challenged and defended with no regard for what’s factual. Even when multiple sites and news organizations fact check the candidates, those misleading, deceptive or blatantly false claims still come up. Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin used “facts” in the VP debate that had already been fact-checked and swatted down after the presidential debate.
- The follow-up questions are limited so there’s no actual resolution for any issue. A candidate can make an outrageous claim and it just sits there unchallenged. This happened multiple times in both debates.
- Finally, the underlying issues that inform policies are never actually debated. For example, we go round and round on who’s tax policy does what (here’s a good breakdown of their respective tax policies), but we never get to the issues behind the opposing policies: What will improve the economy more, giving more money to the middle class or more money to the wealthy? That’s the real debate, with real historical examples (Reagan vs. Clinton), but we never actually get there.
Continue reading The Presidential Debates are Broken
With a month and a half to go before the election, the campaigns are getting pretty intense (no matter who you’re voting for I hope we can disagree well). New accusations, gaffes and bizarre stories seem to surface every day. It’s hard to know who to believe, so I offer three fact checking resources:
Offers a ratings for ‘True,’ ‘Mostly True,’ ‘Half True,’ ‘Barely True,’ ‘False,’ and ‘Pants on Fire.’ In investigating 114 of Obama’s statements and 113 of McCain’s, Obama gets 18 ‘false’ claims and 0 ‘pants on fire’ claims, while McCain gets 22 ‘false’ claims and 6 ‘pants on fire’ claims. It’s run by the St. Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly.
I came across this one today and it offers a straight count of outright lies from each campaign. As of right now the tally is Democrats: 6 lies, Republicans: 11 lies. This one is run by two web guys with some spare time.
This one is the most thorough and has the least spin. They don’t have any counters of who’s “winning” and sometimes they’re overly careful in their fact-checking and statement splicing. The one downside is all that careful truth-finding takes time. They’re backed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. (Curiously, FactCheck was even used in a McCain ad, which they then fact-checked and called a distortion.)
Also of interest, though not for fact-checking, is Every Moment Now, which shows the level of media coverage of both candidates. Perspctv is another good visualizer of McCain/Obama coverage, though it’s much wider in scope (web searches, blog mentions, etc.). Both links via two cents.
It’s sad that we have to call out either candidate for lying or stretching the truth, but that’s the reality. Boo politics.
This has been an interesting couple weeks of politics, getting sick of politics and not listening to myself about politics. I’ve been twittering and spouting off about politics because it riles me up. Because I disagree. Because I hear things that strike me as wrong and I want to respond. And what I failed to realize is that so often we just disagree (like I said before and then ignored) and pouncing on each other doesn’t help. I’m sorry.
I think politics would be a lot more friendly if we could cut out the rhetoric and just focus on an issue. If we could see where and how we disagree and just be fine with disagreeing. It’s easier to find a path forward if you understand where the other person is coming from. Too often in politics (myself definitely included), we don’t take the time to do that. Instead we jump to the conclusion that you must be stupid. That’s probably why I don’t usually talk much about politics (I tend to disagree with the standard Christian/Republican stance) and why in the past two weeks of talking more about politics I’ve annoyed some people and riled up others. Not that frustrating or riling is bad, but I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing.
Take the Test
So let’s accomplish something. My sister-in-law took one of those online quizzes that tell you where you’re at politically. These things are always goofy because on some questions I hem and haw and then wonder if I had answered differently if it would have changed the outcome (I checked, it didn’t change much). But at any rate, I think it can be helpful to see where we stand.
So give it a try. It’s about 40 questions and takes less than five minutes.
Continue reading Here’s Where I Stand: Let’s Disagree Well