Politics

The Buck Stops Here!

Posted in Honesty, Politics on April 11th, 2012 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

I have always loved President Harry S. Truman as a sort of mythical underdog who beat “Dewey” (whomever that was) who jokingly commented that his middle initial shouldn’t have a period because it doesn’t stand for anything, and who championed the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.” Granted that was back in 5th grade when I knew very little about the man and even less about politics and DC.

Now I have grown up more and I have spend some time learning a bit more. I know who Dewey was and how President Truman wouldn’t go down without a fight and that spirit helped him beat Dewey in the Presidential Election of 1948 despite everyone at the convention thinking he was down for the count. I am currently reading a couple of books about Truman to learn even more, but the most interesting thing happened to me the other day as I quoted his favorite phrase in a discussion to a friend.

As I was telling my friend, in Washington DC everyone thinks that they know it all or at least pretends to know it all so that they don’t look dumb. If you’ve ever had that friend who is too stubborn to ask for help in understanding something and then went along as if they understood it, she probably would fit in well in DC. I fully admit that I do this as well at times, but I am working on it.

The problem with this attitude is that it often causes problems and when those problems start no one wants to step up to the plate and say “I did it, it was my fault.” I have talked about this before when an Umpire owned up to his mistake making national news and later when Sarah Palin claimed that a typo was her coining a new word. These are just a couple of examples, where I have discussed this, but I have seen it take place on a smaller scale all the time.

Now this is what is so profound about Truman, he made certain everyone knew that “The Buck Stopped Here” with him, and that he wouldn’t pass the blame but own up to it. It wasn’t until this last week that I realized how rare this was in our society and especially in DC.

I want you to do something for me, next time you get a chance to talk to your Representative or Senator ask them the question “When was the last time that you truly messed up in such a big way that you couldn’t fix it?” This is a standard job interview question that I bet most politicians will be ill-prepared for and will likely involve some buck passing.

When you find someone who is willing to own up to his mistakes and tell you why he did what he did and that he messed up, but for a reason that makes sense to the broader good, then that is your guy and you should stick to him until he starts passing the buck. Why? Because in DC, we need Honest people leading, not those who are afraid to admit they are wrong or they don’t know.

Is WikiLeaks a harbinger of things to come?

Posted in Activism, Google, Net Neutrality, Policy, Politics, Privacy, Rant on December 11th, 2010 by David B Baker – 3 Comments

President Roosevelt called December 7th, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” due to the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, and with those words launched us into World War II. Currently we are in the midst of two wars which some believe to be nearly as infamous.

During the equally infamous Vietnam war, Daniel Ellsberg released the “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times as proof that the Government was lying to the people. At the time, Henry Kissinger dubbed Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America,” and he was later prosecuted on charges of espionage that were later dismissed in court.

Many, including Ellsberg himself, have compared Ellsberg with Jullian Assange, the founder of the controversial website WikiLeaks who was arrested on the 7th. WikiLeaks recently released confidential documents about both the Afghan and Iraq wars as well as roughly 250,000 U.S. embassy cable communications sent between 1966 and 2010 similar to the Pentagon papers in the 1970’s.

I don’t have an opinion on Assange’s actions, but I want to take a moment to talk about the role of government in policing the Internet that has been brought to light in the midst of this scandal. (What!?! I just went from Pearl Harbor to Vietnam to the Pentagon Papers to WikiLeaks just to get to the role of government? Bear with me, I’ll bring it all together, I promise.)

As the current WikiLeaks scandal “CableGate” came to light and after reading press reports that Amazon.com was hosting WikiLeaks website, Senator Lieberman, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, contacted Amazon on Tuesday, November 30th. The following morning, Amazon decided to “terminate its relationship with WikiLeaks.”

Since then a slew of companies have followed suit and likewise ended their relationship with WikiLeaks, companies like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal. These government-influenced decisions begin to look scarier when you take a step back and notice the pattern. You see, on “Cyber Monday” the Department of Homeland Security took over (not just took down) several websites that sold knockoff goods. Apparently the Government has a kill switch to take over your website and replace it with this warning.

Senator Lieberman’s call for further action regarding WikiLeaks’ associated groups led directly to the removal of visualized content like charts and graphs previously provided by Tableau Software who removed it at the direct “request” of the senator. Now Senator Lieberman is calling for the investigation of the New York Times because of their choice to publish some of the leaked cables.

It is a scary and sobering thought that one man, a single senator can wield so much power as to scare companies into complying with his mere whims, especially when Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has said that the release of this information is negligible and effects diplomacy only “fairly modestly.” Is it that unfair for me to say that Joe Lieberman is looking a lot like Joe McCarthy as of late?

The Internet was built on freedom of accessibility, and private corporations play a role in that by not discriminating in the content that travels through the now famous “tubes.” But when the government starts to flex their muscles and control the Internet, I draw the line. The government should NOT be tampering with the openness of the Internet.

December 7th will always remain a day of infamy, but will it be for Pearl Harbor or will it mark the start of the government’s crusade in meddling with the Internet?

Shining Light on the DISCLOSE Act

Posted in 42, Capitalsim, DC, Policy, Politics on July 27th, 2010 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

Justice Brandeis famously stated that: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” What does this mean for politics? It is a simple statement that a transparent government, a government without back rooms (smoke-filled or not), is best for the people. This is the motto of , an organization dedicated to the making both government and the electoral process open, honest, and public so that corruption has no dark corner to take root in.

Their organization, which I have highlighted before, is one of the main organizations behind the DISCLOSE Act scheduled to be voted on later today. Yesterday, in a lead up to today’s vote, they listed several things you should say to anyone opposed to this bill. As one of just 7000 active participants in their “Public Equals Online” campaign I am in a unique position to provide counter-point to their claims about the DISCLOSE Act.

Why, when the Supreme Court specifically said “transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages,” are you opposed to a bill that does that?

I am not opposed to bringing transparency into the electoral process, but at what cost? Should the NRA and the Sierra club both be able to stay in the dark and not provide that same transparency to the electorate? Schumer’s new version still allows the NRA and other organizations from the reporting requirements.

How can you claim that the DISCLOSE Act violates first amendment when disclosure regimes have long been upheld as constitutional? Campaign contributions, candidate, party and PAC expenditures and lobbyists disclosures have long been upheld as the legitimate methods of deterring corruption and the appearance of corruption in the political process.

The DISCLOSE Act violates the 1st Amendment rights of speech by trying to carve out exceptions to that speech by specific industries and types of companies. The DISCLOSE Act explicitly prevents 1st amendment rights of foreign-held companies, companies with government contracts greater than &10 Million, or companies who received TARP monies (understandable regulations) and, oil exploration companies with holdings under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The oil restriction is a blatant blocking of 1st Amendment rights and should be stricken from the bill before it even gets to the floor, sadly it won’t because Members of Congress want to use the Gulf Oil spill for political gain.

What is the basis for claiming the bill treats corporations and unions differently? The House and Senate bill ensure that unions and corporations are subject to the same transparency provisions, including disclosure of contributions to electioneering communications and stand-by-your-ad requirements. Under the Senate bill, both corporations and unions are required to report transfers among affiliates, including dues, greater than $50,000.

The disclosure portion of the bill is great, organizations should have to report the top donors and in fact all donations received by the organization. But because of the very structural organization of corporations, trade associations and unions, this only effects the corporations and trade associations whose member donors and companies would need to be disclosed allowing for union dues members to not be reported. This is a travesty of policy that happens too often. A great concept become politicized and corrupted. Also, the affiliate reporting for unions was just barely added by Schumer and isn’t present in the already passed House version.

How is the public served when a shadow group can conceal everything about itself and still influence elections by pumping unlimited amounts of money into campaign ads? The interests of the messenger can easily be disguised by giving a group an innocuous or even misleading name. At its core, the DISCLOSE Act is designed to lift the curtain off of such groups so that pubic can judge the veracity of a campaign ad and the credibility of the speaker.

The interests of the public aren’t served by shadow organizations pumping money into elections and if that were the only goal I had I would be right in line with the Sunlight Foundation. However I look at the broader picture of the bill and after shinning light on it, I see so many things wrong.

At it’s core this bill is a good idea, and a decent attempt, but so much needs to be surgically removed before it becomes healthy for the public good. Congress should be doing its job and working for the good of the people, not working for their own pet projects and partisan politics.

Politics and Prose

Posted in DC, Honesty, Politics on July 21st, 2010 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

I have written about making mistakes and owning up to them before but it has recently failed to happened again and I feel the need to highlight it.

What would you do if a political candidate absolutely told the truth? None of this Cover your Ass BS but told the honest truth and, when they made a mistake owned up to it and promised to be better.

Imagine it for a second. Imagine a politician who, when called out for making stuff up told you the honest truth. Wouldn’t that politicians human failings and humility fill you with a sense of pride and endear him to your heart? I know that for me it would, after all, honesty is the best policy. Imagine if Nixon had stated from the beginning that he was wrong, that he had done wrong and broke the law rather than stating, after stonewalling for ages, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal“. Perhaps he wouldn’t be used as the proverbial whipping boy of honesty and he would instead be remembered for his rather good policy decisions. But alas, he decided to hide the truth, to cover it up and to insist that he had done nothing wrong.

Oh how the times have stayed the same. The reason for this post is yet another politician who, instead of claiming ignorance about the english language decided to elevate herself to the level of the Bard. Sarah Palin, upon being called out for using non-word like “Refudiate”. Here is her tweet
but rather than simply state I misspelt a word or stating “Yeah I messed up” she then sent out this tweet.

I’m sorry Sarah but you are not on the same level as the Bard and you are certainly not even in his league. Sure new words enter the mainstream English language but not through a horrible misspelling, not through some woman tromping through the garden of the English language, but by organic use and the minds of a few truly great men and women. Sure this might be a flash in the pan and we even had to deal with 8 years of poorly worded presidential grammar but right now I know that I will refudiate any claim for the presidency you take unless it is with the TEA Party. For we all will remember this al too telling quote from the Bard of Wassilla “But soft What light from yonder window breaks. It is the East and I can see Russia from my porch.

A Fair Analysis About the City Weekly Article on Gays at BYU

Posted in BYU, Homosexuality, News, Politics, Utah on July 21st, 2010 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

I sent this email 7 days ago after hearing about this on Romulus’ blog, I have yet to get a response

Dear Mr. Campbell,

I read your article about the City Weekly’s story on Gay Mormons at BYU and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a place for me to comment but your email was attached so I figured I would send this your way. In the interest of full disclosure I am a former BYU Student, Gay, Active LDS member serving in my ward in Washington D.C. If you visit my website you can find out more about me and my point of view. Personally I try and find the middle ground in most topics and this topic is certainly no exception.

I agreed with many of your points regarding the bias in the City Weekly article, that being said I would like to take a moment of your time to address the points I disagree with you on. Namely the issue of double standards.

You state “BYU’s standard is very clear, no sex outside of a heterosexual marriage”. I agree that that is a very clear stance and that it does foster a positive learning environment However that is not what the BYU Honor Code states. If it was understood as such then there would be nothing wrong with two female BYU students holding hands and kissing on the grass outside the WILK. I think it is safe for me to assume that you disagree that two women kissing is on the same plane as a heterosexual couple kissing in the same manner in the same location. That is a personal decision and I don’t mean to belittle that value that you hold. But if the Honor Code has such a clear line that there shall be “no sex outside of a heterosexual marriage”. Then either the Honor Code or your statement is a double standard which I think was one of the main points the City Weekly article was trying to address.

The other point I wanted to bring up was the manner in which you call the City Weekly an “alternative tabloid” and then criticize them for not following the SPJ Code of Ethics. Either they are professional journalists who fail at ethics or they are tabloid writers. But in reading a majority of the SPJ I find that they followed most all of the items listed minus the ones you pointed out.

While your column is opinion and not news I would hope that you also held yourself to the same standards as put forth in the SPJ but was again disappointed to see that you also had “a few violations of the journalistic canon”

SBJ: Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
DB: The City Weekly article was an opportunity for a discussion and a dialogue and rather than support an exchange of ideas you belittle them as a tabloid and unethical. Certainly you are able to support that

SBJ: Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage
DB: You may have taken into account the many BYU Students who are gay and struggling to stave off suicide but I don’t see that in your words that make it appear that there are only 3 people who have been effected by the Honor Code office’s ambiguous stance.

SBJ: Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct
DB: I hope that you will clarify this news coverage if I have misunderstood your views and I invite us to have a dialogue over this issue but if not then you (Mormon Times more than you) would be failing to uphold the SBJ Code of Ethics.

SBJ: Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media
DB: Wait, you did get that one.

I don’t know if you will read this or respond but I am an extreme centrist. I believe that humanity can come together and do amazing things but only when we are able to find common ground. Sure the City Weekly article wasn’t that great, but by attacking it so vehemently I feel that you only drove the wedge further. While you may take some of the things I said as offensive I assure you that they are not coming from a place of personal attack. I don’t believe that that is ever the right thing to do. Please look at this email as an attempt to reach out and begin a dialogue of understanding between you and I.

Sincerely,

David Baker

How Facebook and Google Rock at Privacy

Posted in DC, DNC, Google, Moveon.org, Politics, Privacy on June 21st, 2010 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

Some people are concerned when it comes to privacy but every time you enter your email address into a form on a website someone collects that data. Every time someone visits a page it is logged; every time you use a service it is your responsibility to be aware (caveat emptor) of what data is being transmitted.

A firm that gives you the option to opt-out of their data collection is 2 steps ahead of what they have to be and it satiates the bloodlust that privacy junkies feel. A firm with a clear privacy policy that outlines what data it keeps is leading the charge in privacy. Your credit card company tracks every purchase you ever made and if they wanted to could use that or sell it to the highest bidder and absolutely no one cares.

So why do people get concerned when a socially responsible firm publically tells you that they are changing their privacy policies and settings? Facebook was remarkably above the curve.

Moveon.org consists of 5 million members. All of whom could be contacted to act on a campaign. Each member’s data is shared with the Democrat’s version of Voter Vault and many other third parties. A firm that keeps its data in a silo meant only for its organization is a privacy giant that should be celebrated and not attacked.

Google keeps its data on you secure and private and in fact you can manage what they keep on you by visiting www.google.com/dashboard/. Their views on privacy and security are built to protect your data while simultaneously helping them develop better products for you. Google is the shining beacon of privacy in our modern world.

If you are interested, below is the Privacy Policy(emphasis added) of RaiseYourVote.com the DNC/OFA’s voter registration site meant to help gather personal information for their candidates. Their form includes a request of your Social Security Number. If someone should be concerned with privacy it should be targeted not at Facebook or other sites that take a step above the curve but at sites that don’t even give you an opt-out button.

RaiseYourVote.com Privacy Policy
Date of Last Revisions: APRIL 26, 2010
Privacy Policy
This privacy policy (“Policy”) explains how personal information is collected, used, and disclosed with respect to your use of the Vote 2010 web site located at https://register.barackobama.com/ (the “Site”) operated by the Democratic National Committee (“DNC,” ‘we” or “us”). (“DNC”, “we” or “us”) so you can make an informed decision about using the Sites. Please read this Privacy Policy before using these Sites or submitting any personal information to us. By accessing or using the Site, you consent to the information collection described in this Policy.
We reserve the right to change the provisions of this Policy at any time. We will alert you that changes have been made by indicating on the Policy the date it was last updated. Your use of any of the Site following the posting of such changes shall constitute your consent to any such changes. We encourage you to review the Policy whenever you visit the Site to make sure that you understand how any personal information you provide will be used.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
As used herein, the term “personal informationmeans information that specifically identifies an individual (such as a name, address, telephone number, mobile number, e-mail address, or other account number), and information about that individual’s location or activities, such as information about his or her use of the Site, when directly linked to personally identifiable information. Personal information also includes demographic information such as date of birth, gender, geographic area and preferences when such information is linked to other personal information that identifies you. Personal information does not include “aggregate” information, which is data we collect about the use of the Sites or about a group or category of users, from which individual identities or other personal information has been removed. This policy in no way restricts or limits our collection and use of aggregate information.
WHAT PERSONAL INFORMATION DO WE COLLECT?
Active Collection:
Personal information may be collected in a number of ways when you visit the Site. We may collect certain information you voluntarily provide to us which may contain personal information. For example, we may collect your name, address, phone number, mobile number, email address and other contact and demographic information when you use the Registration Form Tool on the Site, request information, sign up to be a volunteer, make a donation, request voter registration or polling location information, make a purchase, use a service on the Sites or contact us by e-mail or other means. Personal and demographic information may also be collected if you provide such information in connection with creating a profile or blog, leaving comments, posting content, sending an email or message to another user or participating in any interactive forums or features on the site. In addition, from time to time we may collect demographic, contact or other personal information you provide in connection with your participation in surveys, contests, games, promotional offers, and other activities on the Site. In addition, if any donations are made through the Site, the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) may require us to collect certain personal information from donors. For example, the FEC requires us to collect (and disclose) the name, mailing address, occupation and employer of all individuals whose donations exceed $200 per calendar year. Please note that you may also provide either your driver’s license number, your social security number or the last four digits of your social security number in connection with using the Registration Form Tool, but that information is deleted after the form is printed, so we do not retain it.
Passive Collection:
When you use the Site, some information is also automatically collected, such as your Internet Protocol (IP) address, your operating system, the browser type, the address of a referring web site, and your activity on the Site. We treat this information as personal information if we combine it with or link it to any of the identifying information mentioned above. Otherwise, it is used in the aggregate only.
We may automatically collect certain information through the use of “cookies” Or “web beacons.” Cookies are small data files that are stored on a user’s hard drive at the request of a Web site to enable the site to recognize users who have previously visited them and retain certain information such as customer preferences and history. If we combine cookies with or link them to any of the personally identifying information, we would treat this information as personal information. Web beacons (also know as clear gifs) are small, invisible graphic images that may be used on the Site or in emails relating to the Site to collect certain information and monitor user activity on the Site. If you wish to block, erase, or be warned of cookies, please refer to your browser manufacturer to learn about these functions. However, if a browser is set not to accept cookies or if a user rejects a cookie, some portions of the Site may not function properly.
HOW DO WE USE THE PERSONAL INFORMATION WE COLLECT?
In general, we use personal information we collect:
• to process your requests or transactions;
• to remind you to send in your voter registration form and to vote;
• to provide you with information or services you request or that we think will be of interest to you (including without limitation information to keep you informed about various campaigns, candidates, issues, events, resources, promotions, contests, products and services);
• to assist you in finding your registration information and polling location;
• to help connect you with other supporters, and to solicit volunteers, donations and support for the DNC and for candidates, issues and organizations that we support;
• to facilitate your use of, and our administration and operation of, the Site;
• to respond to your emails, submissions, comments or requests; and
• for any purpose for which the information was provided.
HOW DO WE SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION?
It is our policy not to share personal information collected through the Site with third parties except as described in this Policy or as disclosed on the Site. For example, we may share personal information as follows:
with vendors, consultants and other service providers or volunteers who are engaged by or working with us and who need access to such information to carry out their work for us;
• when you give us your consent to do so, including if we notify you on the Site that the information you provide will be shared in a particular manner and you provide such information; and
• with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that we believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives;
• when we believe in good faith that we are lawfully authorized or required to do so (e.g. sharing certain donor information with the FEC) or that doing so is reasonably necessary or appropriate to comply with the law or with legal process or authorities (e.g., a lawful subpoena, warrant, or court order);
• to enforce or apply this Policy, our Terms of Use, or our other policies or agreements;
• to respond to claims; and to protect the rights, safety or property of this campaign, other website users, or any other persons from fraudulent, abusive, harmful or unlawful activity.
Note that nothing herein restricts the sharing of aggregate information, which may be shared with third parties without your consent. We are not responsible for the actions of any third parties, nor are we responsible for any additional information you provide directly to these third parties, and we encourage you to become familiar with their practices before disclosing additional personal information directly to them.
Online petitions:
When you sign and an online petition, you understand that we may make such petition, and your name, city, state, and any comments provided in connection therewith publicly available. In addition, we may, provide such petitions or compilations thereof, including your comments, name, city and state to national, state or local leaders or to the press.
Interactive Features:
If the Site includes any interactive features, such as forums, blogs, comments, and other interactive areas of the Site that enable you to post any content, then any personal information that you post to such interactive areas will be available to other users and in some cases may be publicly available.. We cannot control how other users use or disclose such Personal Information that you make available. Therefore, we recommend you be cautious about giving out personal information to others or sharing personal information in public or private online forums. We are not responsible for the actions of any third parties with whom you share personal information.
OPTING OUT AND MODIFYING INFORMATION
You may opt out of receiving text message or email updates or newsletters from us by following the instructions in those text messages and emails or by opting out when you use the Registration Form Tool. Please note that we may still send you other types of emails such as emails about your registration form or the use of our Site even if you opt out of receiving email updates and newsletters.
LINKS TO OTHER WEB SITES
Our web site may contain links to other web sites. Any personal information you provide on the linked pages is provided directly to that site and is subject to that web sites privacy policy. We are not responsible for the content or privacy and security practices and policies of web sites to which we link. We encourage you to learn about their privacy and security practices and policies before providing them with personal information.
SECURITY
We take reasonable measures to protect your personal information in an effort to prevent loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction.
CONTACT US
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this Policy or our use of personal information, please contact us at info@barackobama.com.

Sunlight Disenfects Corruption: Or Why I Like 17th Amendment

Posted in 17th Amendment, 42, DC, Elections, Politics, Sunlight on June 17th, 2010 by David B Baker – Be the first to comment

I have been researching political candidates in Utah’s Senate race I hear a lot of talk of Amendments being brought forward as if they are likely to get passed. The politicians are making gestures of empty promises and they know it. Mike Lee is in support of repealing the 17th Amendment. For those of you who don’t have their pocket constitutions ready to whip out, the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished the practice of electing Senators from the state legislatures and instead put power back into the hands of the people.

When the framers originally created the constitution there was a strong fear of mob rule (or the tyranny of the Majority) and so to safeguard against this, the original constitution created the upper house of Congress (The Senate) in such a way that those elected would be chosen by the sharpest minds no the loudest ones. Now while there is merit in that concept – given our age of soundbyte elections – I strongly oppose all this talk of repealing the 17th Amendment for 2 reasons.

1st is Corruption. Corruption was such a fear of the Founders that they wrote in safeguards against it into the original Constitution. The Emolument Clause explicitly prevents Members of Congress to, after leaving congress, take a job in which their was a pay raise given while they were in office. This was to protect against the corruption that they saw upon looking at history. But what they didn’t protect against was people like William A. Clark who I refuse to honor with the title of former Senator.

In 1899 William Clark wanted to become a U.S. Senator and so he spent time literally buying votes in the Montana State Legislature so that he could get elected. You think that Blagojevich is bad, William Clarck litteraly gave bags of cash, $10,000 in a personal, monogrammed envelope got him a vote for the U.S. Senate. His corruption is precisely what the Founders were trying to prevent throughout the Constitution. Mark Twain wrote of Clark,

He is said to have bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment. By his example he has so excused and so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has has an offensive smell. His history is known to everybody; he is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since [Boss] Tweed’s time.

Clark’s defense was to state “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale”

The second reason I oppose the repeal of the 17th Amendment is because it simply would be a really dumb thing to do. People hear it and it sounds like a great idea. After all, the Beltway status-quo are what elect Senators so why not get their influence out of our elections and force the elections to be focused and maintained by the individual states. I understand what their goal is and I commend it. Senator Bennett was ousted largely by The Club for Growth. And they are located where? a 10 minute walk from my office just off of K St. People are right to be concerned that their elections are being highjacked by “grassroots” movements from outside the state and that candidates are being funded by special interest lobbies.

Most of these repealers are Republican (all I think but I haven’t checked) and this is also a push from the TEA Party. but if you look at what would actually happen on a national scale should it be repealed you would actually have a larger majority of Democrats in the United States Senate. Why? because a majority of the State legislatures are controlled by Democrats who will elect other Democrats. The very people who feel disenfranchised by Government will become even more so if the 17th Amendment is repealed. (see Nate Silver’s article for more comprehensive data)

I do recognize the legitimate concerns from both sides of aisle. Elections are becoming more and more corrupt and influenced by outside special interests. Honestly it is the easiest way to get a law in your favor passed. So rather than channel the energy into an attempt at repealing the 17th Amendment that will ultimately fail (Senators aren’t going to voluntarily give up the reigns of power) we should focus on better campaign reform laws. Laws that shine light into contributions to campaigns and regulations that a certain % of the money raised in an election has to come from inside the state. I don’t have the answer to the problem but I do know that repealing the 17th amendment will only cause more problems. Perhaps we should try something else.

For more information on shining light into elections please visit The Sunlight Foundation and/or their campaign Public Equals Online. They are a phenomenal organization that could use your support of time, money, or just plain spreading the word online.

I Accuse Myself: Or Who Caused the Crisis in the Gulf

Posted in Politics on June 13th, 2010 by David B Baker – 2 Comments

Re-posted from Thomas Friedman’s column. Originally in The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina. It expresses my view entirely.

“I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V. Mark Mykleby.”

Nobody’s Perfect: How an Umpire is Nobler than a Politician

Posted in Baseball, DC, Politics on June 5th, 2010 by David B Baker – 1 Comment

This post will be a bit out of context because I don’t follow sports and I especially don’t follow baseball but it is the “American Sport” and so it is with pride that I share with you this story from the Washington Post, and just about every other news outlet today.

On Wednesday, during a Detroit Tigers game, the umpire completely missed a call. He didn’t just miss it, he missed it by 2 feet, literally. He called safe on the last player of the game. But it wasn’t just any game either, the pitcher in this game had thrown a perfect game. Until the last player, no one had reached a base safely. The umpire’s missed call of SAFE destroyed a perfect game.

In sports, particularly the midwest, it is not uncommon for fans to get blood thirsty at a ref or umpire and it is a given that the ref saw the call wrong no matter what angle a spectator had. Given this call you would have expected Lion’s Tiger’s fans to lynch the umpire. But that didn’t happen.

Jim Joyce looked at the instant replay after the (near-perfect) game had ended and realized his mistake. But rather than sticking to his guns and being adamant about his position he “manned up” and admitted that he was wrong, that he was in error, that he had made a mistake.15 hours later, at the next game, his reception by Detroit’s fans was cheered. As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell puts it, “In a kind of cascade effect, one person saw unexpected virtue in another and decided, ‘Well, I guess I can suck it up and do the right thing, too, if he can.’”

I read this story (like nearly all of my print news) while on the metro headed into DC, the heart of politics and what the agitated TEA Party sees as the cesspool of mistakes. Without a doubt mistakes are made everyday in D.C. and they often get media attention. But hardly ever to you see a heartfelt “I screwed up” come from a politician’s podium. Eric Massa? Nope. Blumenthal? No. Souder? Nada.Ensign? Zilch. Joe Wilson’s “apology” for yelling “You Lie!” was a simple admission that his actions were “inappropriate”.

This mentality of passing the buck onto someone else, of stating “Mistakes were made” instead of stepping up to the plate and saying “I screwed up” is why American’s are cheering for an umpire and railing against Washington. The American people are disillusioned with falsehoods. We will no longer sit idly by while politicians pass the responsibility of their actions onto someone else.

There is a simple truth in this world, everyone makes mistakes, it is what you do next that matters. When you make a mistake will you hide it? will you blame someone else? will you pretend nothing went wrong? or will you own your mistake and stand tall as you place the blame upon your own shoulders?

UPDATE:
Something I thought of yesterday was the biggest of all mistake makers… Washington, George Washington.
Chopping down the cherry tree was a mistake. And he could not tell a lie so he owned up for it.Building the fort at the bottom of the hill was a mistake but he took responsibility for his actions and we rewarded him.

The Electorate wants to hold “Washignton” responsible right now and they should. But if you are campaigning on cleaning up the mindset of “mistakes were made” don’t shove off blame of the American system onto the inanimate object that is congress. 

Liberals!: Or why I support Sarah Palin

Posted in About Me, DC, Politics on May 19th, 2010 by David B Baker – 7 Comments

So recently I have been re-watching the West Wing and I watched the episode “The Debate.” In that episode the Senator Arnold Vinick (the Republican) is calling Rep. Santos (the Democrat) a “liberal” and a “progressive”. Santos retorts that “Republican’s have tried to paint the picture that “liberal” is a bad word, but Liberal’s ended slavery.” Vinnick responds “A Republican President ended slavery.” Santos then states,

“Yes, a Liberal Republican, What happened to them? They got run out of the Republican party, why? Liberals got women the right to vote, Liberals got African Americans the right to vote, Liberals created social security and lited millions of elderly people out of poverty, Liberals ended segregation, Liberals past the Civil Rights Act, the Voting rights act, Liberals created Medicare, Liberals past the clean air act, the clean water act, What did Conservatives do? They oppose every one of those programs, every one. So when you try to hurl that word ‘Liberal’ at my feet as if it is something I should be ashamed of it won’t work Senator. I will pick it up and wear it as a badge of honor.”

I look at that statement by Matt Santos and it lines up with my established ideology pretty well. It was because of this speech a few years back that I knew what to call myself. For a while now I have been a Democrat. But recently I realized that I forgot the first part of this speech. Look back at the top of Santos’ quote. I realized that I wasn’t a Democrat, but instead, I am a Liberal Republican. I am not some “Reagan Republican” as most seeking to pass the GOP litmus test claim to be (ironically enough, Reagan wouldn’t have passed said litmus test). I am a proud Liberal and a proud Republican. Wow, talk about a paradox today. Except it isn’t.

The party lines are fracturing and elections are focusing on issues over campaigns and that means that the time is ripe for political parties to re-identify themselves. Take a look at the fact that President Obama and Carrie Prejean (Miss-America 2009 runner-up) have the same views on Gay Marriage whereas Cindy McCain and Laura Bush both believe in Marriage Equality.

Let me shift gears for a moment and fly us over to London where Conservative David Cameron is now the Prime Minister. For those of you who aren’t policy wonks, how did he get there? Not because he got the majority of the votes, but because he formed a coalition with the Liberal-Democrat party that only then gave him enough votes to become the Prime Minister. He courted their votes by compromising on some issues creating a more moderate government than he would have otherwise had. How did this happen? Its simple really, the UK has 3 main political parties.

George Washington advocated against political parties but rather for a united nation. That vision was never really achieved and now we have two deeply entrenched parties that are always fighting against each other. This reminds me of a Voltaire quote which states,

“If there were only one religion in England there would be danger of despotism, if there were two they would cut each other’s throats, but there are thirty and they live in peace and happiness.”

While this quote is about religions, I think it is relevant for political parties as well. If there were one political party we would be China or Soviet Russia. We currently have two and they are at each other’s throats. Why don’t we try something else and create a third party?

The Tea Party is poised to create itself as a third party by taking the religious right away from the republicans while also giving voice to many libertarians. In reaction to this, the democrats on the Far left are pushing to go further left. This creates a vacuum for the Republican Party. They have a choice, either follow the Tea Party into the extreme wings, or take a look at themselves and return to their roots. President Abraham Lincoln, the Liberal Republican. So man up Republican’s and look at where the market is going, you can do better for yourselves and the nation by becoming extremists. Extreme moderates, or, as I am, Liberal Republicans.