Thursday, August 23, 2012

Key words: Missouri, Senate Race, McCaskill, Akin, Governance, Politics

It Takes More than Being a Nitwit to End

Political Aspirations in Missouri

By: Mildred Robertson

Having come of age in Missouri, it has pained me to watch the sideshow that has become the senatorial race in my former home state. It was appalling that Claire McCaskill appeared to be in the fight of her life to hold her seat against right wing ideologues. But it appeared earlier this week that Republication Senatorial hopeful Todd Akin had imploded, making Neanderthal remarks about rape. Akin asserted that victims of “legitimate rape” could spontaneously reject impregnation; a statement that drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with even Mitt Romney taking a stand against his ill-informed, backward statement.
 Aside from the illogical, unfounded, ridiculousness of the assertion, his statement demonstrated a lack of understanding and compassion toward women in general and rape victims in particular. You would have thought that citizens of the Show-Me State would demand more of its political leadership. But, it appears, it takes more than being a nitwit to end your political aspirations in Missouri. As of Monday evening Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm out of North Carolina, reported that Akin continues to lead McCaskill 44-43.
Even though prominent Republicans across the nation have withdrawn support for Akin, he believes the Christian evangelicals, anti-abortionists and those who simply despise McCaskill and Obama will keep his campaign from failing. He is even using this gaffe to attempt to raise money, saying that “the liberal elite” are attacking him on the basis of his strong pro-life conservatism.
He says he’s not perfect. And on that one simple fact, he is right.
While we do not expect perfection from our leaders, we should expect common sense, the ability to research facts, and the intelligence to interpret them. If Mr. Akin holds this outlandish position on what constitutes rape, and the physiology of the human body, what other wild, unfounded beliefs does he hold that would influence his decisions as a Senator? You would think that his performance this past week would have given him pause, but instead, he seems emboldened.
I hope that the citizens of Missouri recognize that this election is about more than with what party they affiliate, or whether they lean left or right. It is even about more than Pro-Choice or Right-to-Life.  
The problems that face our nation are myriad and complex. Regardless of our political leanings, we should want individuals in our state houses and in Washington D.C. who have the capacity to understand these issues. We need folk who lead us to know that the decisions they make impact real people with real lives. These issues are not just data on a chart, or position papers, but real social and economic issues that affect the quality of our daily lives..
 As these politicians struggle to reconcile their own positions with those of their sometimes fringe constitutents, they must realize that good governance is bigger than a party, a position or an individual candidate. It is time our political leaders understand that truth is seldom found on the far left or the far right, but generally, right in the middle.  We need politicians who can reason together and find that middle ground.
Todd Akin appears to lack the capacity to reason. He is not alone. And as long as the halls of Congress are peppered with people like Akin who are too far right or too far left to ever approach perfection, our democratic process will suffer.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Collective Consciousness: The Demise of American Independence

By Mildred Robertson

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our independence. We see ourselves as individualistic, self-motivating and self-sustaining.

Don’t believe the hype.

In reality, we are more like the “Star Trek” character whose group consciousness swallowed up everything it encountered. American values grew from a stubborn individuality, but we have devolved into “the Borg”; a hive-minded collection of drones who internalize and regurgitate predetermined directives for which we will fight, kill or die, no matter how absurd or bereft of fact.  

Case in point—the right-wing attack on the president’s citizenship. This baseless, futile exercise consumed countless news, radio, TV, webcasts, tabloid and magazine pages. While most thinking people dismissed this controversy as the distraction it was, “the hive” internalized and replicated it, wasting valuable time that could have been used to discuss meaningful government reform.

This mindless dash toward the next political, social or economic issue is facilitated by the media. Once heralded as the fourth leg of government and the people’s watchdog, the media now stumble over each other to be the first to report rather than the first to research and inform. Like reality TV, they hunt for the highest ratings with little regard for the public’s need for unbiased facts to make informed decisions.

Whether we label ourselves liberal or conservative, we have allowed ourselves to be subject to the constant guidance of self-proclaimed spokespersons who determine what is right and wrong, not just on an individual basis, but for an entire nation.

We tune into “Morning Joe”, the “Ed Show”, “Fox News” or Rush Limbaugh to receive our cues. We find out whom to hate, who to trust, for whom to vote, who to oppose. The “hive” lets us know whether we are doing well, or whether we are struggling. It tells us whether to buy stock or divest. It lets us know whether we will be supporting President Obama, or whether the Republicans will overtake him. They tell us who will win an election before a single vote is cast.

The “collective consciousness” not only facilitates the sharing of thoughts, but also the ability to adapt with great speed to defensive tactics for any supposed danger. And then it tells us how to respond to these perceived threats.

During this election cycle, we find our mailboxes, email and phone lines inundated with propaganda from the party of our choosing if we are Republican or Democrat, and from both if we are Independent. Our opponents are painted as scoundrels and thieves; our candidates are pictured as compassionate and impassioned.
It is time we disconnect from the hive and question the source of our information. We must demand less rhetoric and more fact and discern fact from fiction—truth from lies. Only by disconnecting from the group-think that has overtaken our nation can we recapture the true American spirit of independence.
The “Borg” would say ‘resistance is futile.’ But resistance is the only sane thing to do. Only by resisting this hive mentality can we be worthy of self governance.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Voting Rights, Election Process, Partisan Politics, Straight-Party Voting

 Confusing the Election Process

By: Mildred Robertson
If you vote a straight party ticket in North Carolina, and you think you’ve voted for your presidential choice, you are wrong! Voting straight party includes everything BUT the presidential and vice presidential candidate.

When asked to clarify straight party voting in North Carolina, the State Board of Elections responded: 

“If a voter casts a vote for a straight‑party ticket, that vote shall be counted for all the candidates of that party, other than those for President and Vice President, in the partisan ballot items on that official ballot except as otherwise provided in this subdivision.”

Kind of confusing, right!  It appears to me to be a misnomer. One would think “straight party” would refer to ALL the candidates in a particular party, not just those other than the President and Vice President.  

One also would imagine that the State Board of Elections would clearly word the explanation and state that there actually is no straight party ticket in the North Carolina election process. They should just say that voters must ALWAYS select a presidential and vice presidential candidate, even if their intention is to vote for members of only one party.

Of course, politicians probably like this process. That gives them the opportunity to distance themselves from the top of the ticket if they think it might pull them down. But the fact is that many voters think that voting “straight party” includes the presidential and vice presidential candidate. These individuals, therefore, unknowingly are denied their right to cast their vote for the highest office in the land.

The voting process should be as simple as possible. These kinds of politically motivated processes appear to me to be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.  The ultimate outcome of the vote should reflect the voter’s true intention, not an outcome based upon the possible misinterpretation of the process. Citizens should not have to interpret the voting process. It should be clear and straight-forward – just like a straight-party ticket should include the entire party.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brain-Draining Reality TV Shows

By Mildred Robertson
Okay, last night as I was sitting in the living room working on the computer, my daughter and her friend were watching “Love and Hip Hop-Atlanta.” My attention turned from my freelance work to the dramedy unfolding on the screen. I would be lying to say this was the first time I watched it. But disgusted with the Paris’, Kims’, Evelyns’, Kendras’, Snookis’ of the world, and the list could go on; I vowed to watch only legitimate entertainment that had some redeeming social value and did not include girl fights, alcohol abuse and indiscriminate sex.
But, alas, Stevie J decided to invite Joselyn to his couples counseling session with Mimi.
I have to tell you, it was like watching a train wreck where there were no survivors. For those of you who don’t know, Joselyn is the “jump off” who got pregnant with Stevie J’s child, and had an abortion at his prompting. She also is an artist with whom he works, and with whom he plans to continue to work, even though he says he wants to save his relationship with his long-time partner and mother of his child, Mimi.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
But here’s my point. Television producers have discovered a cash cow in this reality TV formula that doesn’t cost much to make, but brings in the big bucks. In the meantime, Americans have these ever-present images of bad boys and girls living outrageous lives, making horrible decisions and profiting from them. Unfortunately, too many of the young people who watch this stuff think its normal.
The louder, more obnoxious, more radical you are, the more TV time you get. Let’s take, for instance, "Basketball Wives".  The women on that show got confrontational, and the ratings spiked. The stars, and I use that term lightly, found that the more they fought, cussed and were sexually explicit, the more the camera focused upon them. They began to act so ugly that last season, while ratings were pretty good, public sentiment turned against them and they were on TV bemoaning the fact that the Reality TV show only portrayed their worst traits, overlooking the positive side of their personalities. You can’t have it both ways.
While the reality stars can’t have it both ways, neither can we, the watching public. My daughter would be furious at me for suggesting that we should work to eliminate or limit this kind of programming. “Mom, its just entertainment,” she would say. But should we be entertained by some of humanities most base inclinations? Should we revel in grown women leaping across a table to pummel one another, or young people indiscriminately mating with one another? Should we reward TV producers who create this drivel and give star status to those who act out these scenes?
My answer is “no.” It is my belief that this obsession with trash TV is pulling at our moral fiber and somehow, we have to stop it.
Now, before you First Amendment folks get all riled up, I don’t believe in censorship – at least not government censorship. We need to censor ourselves. We need to demand more of ourselves. Turn the blasted thing off. If not off, at least to another channel.
As long was we consume it, the television industry will shovel it to us. We deserve better programming. We should demand better programming.
The journey to that destination starts with your remote control – turn it off, tune it out. They will hear you, and they will respond.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Republicans Take Credit for Historic Graduation Rates

By Mildred Robertson
August 4, 2012

Recent figures released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction indicate that, for the first time in our state’s history, 80.2% of North Carolina public high school students will graduate on time.

Oddly enough, Republicans are trying to take credit for this accomplishment after taking a sledgehammer to North Carolina’s nationally renowned education system during the last legislative session.

In a recent release they stated that this graduation rate was based upon the actions of the Republican General Assembly which passed crippling legislation that cut the NC DPI off at the knees. The Republican-led General Assembly made huge cuts in education that will negatively impact our school system for years to come.

Therein lies the irony. While it takes 13 years to matriculate through the system, the Republican spin mill is claiming that in one year, their draconian cuts have taken effect and resulted in a higher graduation rate. In fact, these accomplishments have occurred despite their actions.

It would be laughable if it were not so scary, because the truth will actually be told 13 years from now, unless North Carolinians step up to the plate and turn the tables on these radical conservatives. If North Carolinians do not take back their state house, they will remain captive to politicians willing to cut education and social services to the bone in false homage to fiscal conservatism.

North Carolina is recognized among the best places in America for businesses to locate in large part because of its historic commitment to public education. That could all be wiped away in less than a decade unless we return to the policies that positioned us to earn those accolades.

We can’t do that with politicians more interested in ideology than good governance. We can’t do that with leaders who will spin truth to support a lie. In their release they accused  Governor Perdue and Democrats of using the children of North Carolina as political pawns, when, in fact it is they who have engaged in such despicable conduct.

It is callous of the Republicans to fail to acknowledge the success of the North Carolina education system over the past decade to improve outcomes for our students. It is equally callous to remain unwavering in their crusade to dismantle this system, while taking credit for its success.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg, Leave My Breasts Alone!

By Mildred Robertson

In an ever-increasing crusade to legislate day-to-day living, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has determined that women should only breastfeed their babies. New York state health officials have joined the bandwagon, issuing regulations that limit “unnecessary” formula feeding for breastfed newborns.

WHAT! How condescending. How judgmental! How uninformed!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding, and breastfed both my children. But it was no easy task, especially as a working mother. I chose to make the sacrifice to breastfeed my children even though it was logistically challenging. The key word here is, “chose.” It was not something that some government suit told me that I had to do it. Even my husband felt that was a decision best made by me!

The level of arrogance displayed by Mayor Bloomberg and others like him is mind boggling. How dare they assume that they are better equipped than the everyday person to make intelligent lifestyle and health care choices? It is mind boggling.

I am all for sharing the benefits breastfeeding affords to both the mother and the infant. That is why I made my personal decision to breastfeed.
My healthcare professional outlined ALL the options available to me, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.  I was given the information I needed to make the decision I thought best for me and my children. There is no place in this kind of decisions for government to insert itself. No one outside the family unit should have any but educational input into such issues.
Mayor Bloomberg should be able to find plenty to do without intruding in the personal, private healthcare decisions of New York’s mothers and their children.