Politics Archive

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Republican 2010 Congressional District 'Census'

Republican ElephantAs far as party affiliation goes, I'm an independent who usually votes Democratic, but not exclusively. I've never voted a straight Democratic ticket. I always try to look at individual candidates to decide who to vote for. It's just that more often than not, the Democratic candidates match my views more closely than the Republicans (and I'm not about to throw my vote away on a third party candidate). In the last primary, it was actually a Republican race that I was most concerned with, so I voted in the Republican primary. Ever since I've been getting phone calls and junk mail from the Grand Old Party.

One of the bits of junk mail was a '2010 Congressional District Census'. If you want to see the actual cover letter and survey, I've made it available as a pdf here, but I've put the worst parts into the entry below.

Now, I can certainly understand a party wanting to know what its members think about political issues, but the way this survey was worded made it seem that it was more propaganda than a sincere attempt at understanding voters' views.

Let's start off with the name of the survey - '2010 Congressional District Census'. Was there really a reason to call this survey a 'census'? This seems a bit deceptive, playing on the current national census to try to get more people to look at this survey.

There was a cover letter accompanying the survey. The letter made it clear that this wasn't really sincere. One of the paragraphs read:

Because of your high level of political involvement and steadfast commitment to the Republican Party, your personal input on the questions presented in your Census Document is critical to our Party's future.

My 'steadfast commitment to the Republican Party'? Really? I know it's a secret ballot, so they don't know who I vote for in the elections, but I've never donated any money to the party nor volunteered at any Republican events, and this was the first time I've ever voted in a Republican primary. If that's steadfast commitment, I wonder how little affiliation you have to have for them to consider you an outsider.

There was also a bit of hyperbole that I'd expect from a political party.

Your completing and returning this Census today is central to our Party's ability to devise a winning Republican strategy in your area - especially as we take on the Democrats in the fight for the future of our nation. [emphasis mine]

Seems a bit over the top. I also find it a bit odd that they capitalized 'our Party', but not 'our nation'. In fact, the capitalization of 'Party' was consistent throughout the letter, so it wasn't just a typo.

Another section of the cover letter also seemed pretty slanted.

Barack Obama was barely in the White House a month when he dropped all pretense of "hope" and "change" and laid bare his real agenda of massive tax increases, government-run health care, amnesty for illegal aliens, and bigger, more intrusive government.

Okay, I've covered this before, but it bears repeating. Taxes haven't changed much under Obama. For many people, they were actually decreased, and for others, they've only increased slightly. For the most part, they're still lower than they were in the Reagan era.

And did the RNC really pay so little attention to Obama's campaigning that they didn't expect him to go after health care reform? Following up on campaign promises is pretty much the opposite of dropping all pretense.

The cover letter was only three pages long, but three times I was asked to give "a generous contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250 or even $500 in the enclosed postage-paid envelope." (Actually, the wording was slightly different each of the three times, but not by much.) So, it makes me wonder, just how much is the RNC really interested in my views, and how much are they just trying to get me worked up enough that I'll send them a donation?

Once I got to the 'census' itself, the wording definitely made me question their motives.

One question was, "From what media source do you regularly receive your political views?" But the options they gave were a bit limited. For TV, there was one box for 'NBC/CBS/ABC', another for 'CNN/MSNBC', and a third for 'Fox News'. For radio, there was only 'Radio', as if there's less variety on radio than there is on TV. If you're really interested in voter patterns, wouldn't you want to know if voters were listening to NPR vs. Rush Limbaugh?

Another question read, "Which political party do you feel is best able to handle each of the following issues?" It then had a list of issues (war, taxes, etc.) for which you could check off 'Republican', 'Democrat', or 'No Opinion' (what, no Libertarians or Tea Party Patriots?). The last one, though, was 'Protecting Traditional Values'. Now tell me, how is this a political issue? Are they honestly asking if people want the government to pass laws enforcing a strong work ethic, or not letting kids go on dates without chaperones, or outlawing miniskirts? How is it up to a political party to defend 'traditional values' unless you favor an intrusive government that takes away personal freedom? (Oh, I know what they really mean by traditional values, but if you think in plain English and not political speech, it sounds pretty silly.)

This following question was pretty bad.

Do you believe the huge, costly Democrat-passed stimulus bill has been effective in creating jobs or stimulating America's economy?

No hint of bias there, huh? But the question immediately following it was even worse.

Do you thick the record trillion dollar federal deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?

If you're calling it 'out-of-control' right in the question, why are you even bothering to ask? For an actual answer, just look at the deficit spending in WWII that got the U.S. out of the Great Depression (which as a percentage of GDP was higher than the current deficit).

One of the biggest problems I currently have with the Republican party is their anti-science stance. Consider this question from the survey.

Do you believe that global warming is an issue that must be dealt with immediately?

Of course it is. There's really no point in even asking that question. If you're really concerned with solving our nation's problems, a better question might have been, 'Do you think a cap and trade system is an effective method of dealing with global warming without excessive impact on the economy?' Global warming is definitely happening, and we can be pretty sure that humans are causing it. The questions politicians should be asking are how to address it.

Here's another of their misleading questions.

Do you believe the Obama Administration is right in dramatically scaling back our nation's military?

Of course people would be upset if the administration 'dramatically' scaled back the military. But that hasn't happened. Obama proposed shifting funding from certain programs to certain other programs, but the overall military budget has stayed largely the same.

There was also a bit of fear mongering.

Do you trust the Democrats to take all steps necessary to keep our nation secure in this age where terrorists could strike our country at any moment? [emphasis mine]

Was that part that I italicized really necessary?

And then, a question that just doesn't really have a good answer.

Do you favor or oppose the Obama Administration's non-confrontational policies in dealing with radical leaders such as those now in control in Iran, North Korea and other countries?

Because we didn't learn our lesson in Iraq. Is the RNC seriously asking voters if they favor additional wars while we're still involved in Iraq & Afghanistan?

On the back of the survery, there was one more request for money, just in case you missed it the three times in the cover letter.

Enclosed please find my most generous contribution of: _$500 _$250 _$100 _$50 _$25 _Other $_______

So, after reading the whole survey, I think it's pretty clear what the Republican National Commitee was really up to. This isn't the way you pose questions if you want honest answers. This is how you pose questions if you want to play on peoples' emotions.

I have a bit of adivce to the leaders of the RNC*. If you want to win over independent voters like me, quit sending us propaganda meant to drum up your party faithful. Send us clear, rational, evidence based reasons for why we should support your party. When the RNC itself starts sending me letters of dubious accuracy that I'd normally expect in my Inbox after a long chain of forwards, it makes me question even more just what the Republicans stand for.

* This advice may apply equally to the Democrats, but I wouldn't know - they've never sent me any junk mail.

I'm not the first person to notice how biased and misleading this survey is.

Added 2010-05-05 - Looking through the survey, I saw another question that caught my eye.

If you vote in the 2010 elections, are you more likely to vote for the Republican or Democrat candidate?

First of all, 'Democrat' is a noun, not an adjective. When you say 'Democrat candidate' instead of 'Democratic candidate', it makes you sound uneducated. I would rather that the politicians representing me were educated.

I was also struck that they asked if I was more likely to vote for 'the ... candidate'. Is there only one race in 2010? Maybe that one's just a typo.

At least for this question, they gave an option of 'Other' in addition to 'Republican', 'Democrat', and 'Unsure'.

Updated 2010-05-05 - I moved the link to the pdf to the beginning of the entry.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Christian Group Going to Supreme Court for Right to Flout Rules

I heard a story on NPR on the way in to work this week. A case is being brought to the Supreme Court by a student group, the Christian Legal Society, against the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. The university has had a long standing policy that in order to be officialy recognized by the university and receive public funding, student groups could not restrict membership on any basis. The local Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the university had for many years followed that policy, but in 2004, when it joined the National Christian Legal Society, it changed its rules to exclude homosexuals or those engaging in pre-marital sex. The university enforced its policy, and revoked its official endorsement of the CLS.

Well, the CLS didn't like that, so they're claiming discrimination. They want to be exempt from the rules because they claim that the rules infringe on their religious rights. To be clear, the university did not ban the CLS from convening on campus, or ban students from joining the CLS, and did not even stop the CLS from using university facilities. They just didn't officially endorse the CLS and give it the stipend that official organizations receive.

I see two issues here - receipt of public funds, and official recognition from the university. I don't see that the CLS has a leg to stand on concerning public funds, and I really don't see that they have much more of a case concerning official recognition. To be affiliated with a public institution, you have to follow the public rules. If you want a private club that excludes members for whatever reason, that's fine. Just don't expect to use my tax dollars to pay for your club, and don't whine when a university won't advertise for you.

(This reminds me of the whole brouhaha during the election season, when churches wanted to endorse candidates but keep their tax exempt status. You don't get to break the rules just by playing the religion card.)

Calvin and Hobbes Comic from Go Comics
Calvin and Hobbes on GoComics

Friday, April 9, 2010

Response to Anti-Liberal Article by Gary Hubbell

Updated 2011-09-25

I've just been threatened with a lawsuit over this entry, because I included the full text of Hubbell's article. I thought the manner in which I was using it would have fallen under fair use, so I didn't think I was doing anything illegal. But, since this blog is just a hobby of mine, I don't feel like getting caught up in a legal battle over it, especially since I'm not an expert on copyright law. So, for the time being, I'm going to remove most of the quotes from Hubbell and leave my commentary. I am going to leave the first sentence from each excerpt, so that readers can follow along in Hubbell's original article. Certainly, this must fall under fair use.

For reference, here's the e-mailed threat that I received. I suppose I should mention that it's possible to spoof e-mails, so there's no guarantee this is actually from Hubbell.

From: Gary Hubbell [e-mail address redacted]
Date: 24 Sep 2011, 10:21:29 PM
Subject: You have one day to remove my copyrighted content from your website

I will sue your stupid liberal ass for more than you ever knew you possessed if you don't remove my copyrighted content from your website at once.

If you don't believe me, contact your copyright attorney and see who's right and who is wrong. I know the law and you don't, you ignoramus.

It would be fun to go through with this, because you have defamed me, I can prove it, and you have violated my copyright.


Gary Hubbell, Broker/Owner
United Country Colorado Brokers
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

[contact info redacted]

On to the entry...

I got another e-mail forward that I couldn't resist replying to. The e-mail was basically just a copy of an article from the Aspen Times Weekly, Barack Obama has awakened a sleeping nation, written by Gary Hubbell.

Much of what this guy said was just outright wrong. Whether he's lying or misinformed, I'm not really sure. But considering that this is a monthly column that he writes for a paper, it doesn't really make much of a difference. He ought to have the sense of responsibility to fact check statements he wants in print.

Continue reading "Response to Anti-Liberal Article by Gary Hubbell" »

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

McLeroy Out

Woo Hoo!In yesterday's primary, the incumbent State Board of Education member, Don McLeroy, lost to the challenger, Thomas Ratliff. I can't say how happy I am that McLeroy is going to be off the BoE. Most of the news stories I've read about the primary bring up McLeroy's stance on evolution, which is certainly a major problem, but it certainly wasn't the only one. I've covered a lot of this recently, so I'll just direct readers to this blog entry for a brief summary of McLeroy's shenanigans (English standards, social studies standards, back door dealings, 'standing up to the experts'). Or, go read this essay from McLeroy's own site, where he downplays teaching children critical thinking skills. The election was close, though, so those of us in Texas will have to remain vigilent in future elections. But for the time being, we can breathe a little easier, knowing that there's one less kook affecting our children's education.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Texas Board of Education in NY Times Magazine

TEA LogoWhen I tell people from outside Texas what a bad board of education we have, I don't think they realize just how bad it is. They seem to think it's the general complaints about governments that everybody has. But the board of education down here really is horrible. I've blogged previously about the science standards (and again, and again), the language arts and reading standards, and the Chris Comer affair.

Now, there's a very good article in the NY Times Magazine describing their shenanigans in regards to the new social studies standards. I highly recommend this article. Here are a few highlights to wet your appetite.

Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.
...some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next."
McLeroy makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education. “I’m a dentist, not a historian,” he said. “But I’m fascinated by history, so I’ve read a lot.”

I'm not a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

McLeroy remains unbowed and talked cheerfully to me about how, confronted with a statement supporting the validity of evolution that was signed by 800 scientists, he had proudly been able to “stand up to the experts.”
Merely weaving important religious trends and events into the narrative of American history is not what the Christian bloc on the Texas board has pushed for in revising its guidelines. Many of the points that have been incorporated into the guidelines or that have been advanced by board members and their expert advisers slant toward portraying America as having a divinely preordained mission.
when Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., testified at the board meeting last month in opposition to the board’s approach to bringing religion into history, warning that the Supreme Court has forbidden public schools from “seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum,” and in the process said that the founders “did not draw on Mosaic law, as is mentioned in the standards,” several of the board members seemed dumbstruck.
One recurring theme during the process of revising the social-studies guidelines was the desire of the board to stress the concept of American exceptionalism, and the Christian bloc has repeatedly emphasized that Christianity should be portrayed as the driving force behind what makes America great.
Besides the fact that incorporation by reference [trying to tie the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence] is usually used for technical purposes rather than for such grandiose purposes as the reinterpretation of foundational texts, there is an oddity to this tactic. “The founders deliberately left the word ‘God’ out of the Constitution — but not because they were a bunch of atheists and deists,” says Susan Jacoby, author of “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.” “To them, mixing religion and government meant trouble.” The curious thing is that in trying to bring God into the Constitution, the activists — who say their goal is to follow the original intent of the founders — are ignoring the fact that the founders explicitly avoided religious language in that document.
What is wrong with the Texas process, according to many observers, is illustrated by the fate of Bill Martin Jr. The board has the power to accept, reject or rewrite the TEKS, and over the past few years, in language arts, science and now social studies, the members have done all of the above. Yet few of these elected overseers are trained in the fields they are reviewing.
To give an illustration simultaneously of the power of ideology and Texas’ influence, Barber told me that when he led the social-studies division at Prentice Hall, one conservative member of the board told him that the 12th-grade book, “Magruder’s American Government,” would not be approved because it repeatedly referred to the U.S. Constitution as a “living” document. “That book is probably the most famous textbook in American history,” Barber says. “It’s been around since World War I, is updated every year and it had invented the term ‘living Constitution,’ which has been there since the 1950s. But the social conservatives didn’t like its sense of flexibility. They insisted at the last minute that the wording change to ‘enduring.’ ” Prentice Hall agreed to the change, and ever since the book — which Barber estimates controlled 60 or 65 percent of the market nationally — calls it the “enduring Constitution.”

Those quotes are only a taste of the article. Go read the whole thing.


Selling Out