Love This Op-Ed On What Really Makes The U.S. Great!

Here’s an op-ed I noticed in the New York Post by John Podhoretz with a very important message to Americans – a message too many people fail to understand – but the perfect message during this week we celebrate our independence. This column gives me hope at a time we are forced to watch a negative and embarrassing presidential campaign that troubles millions of Americans – from Democrats to Republicans – as we ask, “Aren’t we better than this?”

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

It’s not our leaders who make America great

New York Post – July 3, 2016

President Gerald Ford sat aboard the USS Forrestal as the watercraft paraded before him along with more than half a million people.

And everywhere you looked, there was an American flag.

This was no small thing. It is almost unimaginable today, but in 1976 in many quarters, the flag had gone out of fashion except as an ironic fashion statement — something you sewed onto the rear pocket of your jeans, so that it was sat upon.

At my tony Manhattan private school, the bicentennial was celebrated with a day-long symposium titled “The American Dream: Has It Turned Into a Nightmare?”

The country was in a bad mood for good reason. Fifty-eight thousand Americans died in a war that ended with our countrymen scurrying onto helicopters from the roof of the Saigon embassy as the city fell to the Communists.

A president re-elected with 61 percent of the vote was compelled to resign because he and his people tried to bug the rival party’s headquarters.

Crime and inflation were on the rise everywhere. Arab potentates forced us into endless gas lines through an illegal embargo — an act of economic warfare — and we did nothing about it.

New York City, the world’s financial capital, went broke.

America felt like it was in decline because it was in decline. America felt bad about itself because the leading figures of its culture and its politics had lost confidence in the American experiment of its culture and its politics, and there was no one speaking up for it.

But our collective self-abasement in the 1970s did not reflect the deeper truth about the United States, even with the United States at a low ebb. On that day of the tall ships, we saw our country again as it was and is — the shining city on a hill, the last best hope of Earth.

On the cusp of Independence Day 2016, America remains what it has always been — the greatest and most far-reaching political experiment in human history. But as it enters its 241st year, there are few of us who really feel it.

The spirit of the left was captured over the past year by Bernie Sanders, who has almost nothing good to say about the current condition of the United States and claims the country is being destroyed by inequality.

The spirit of the anti-left has been captured by Donald Trump, who claims the country is no longer great and needs him to make it great again. The Republican Party has spent the years of Barack Obama’s presidency characterizing them as a cataclysm from which we may never recover.

In so doing, they followed the Democrats, who spent the Bush years characterizing them as a cataclysm from which we would never recover.

Obama came into office belittling the idea of American “exceptionalism,” but now would wish people thought the country great because he’s led it for the past 7½ years.

Hillary Clinton wants people to think America was great when her husband was president, stopped being great when he stopped being president, got pretty great when her party took over again, but still needs her either to restore Clintonian greatness or reach new greatness or whatever you want just so long as she can be in the White House again.

The point here is that America has been getting it from all sides for the past 15 years. At different times and for different reasons, everyone has had an interest in painting things black.

And it’s an enormous wrong that’s being done here, an offense against the truth.

America is not great because of its leaders, who change, or because of the ideology they espouse, because that changes too as the views of the electorate change. America’s greatness has to do with the way it is organized. The central figure in the United States is the person. The central figure in the United States is you.

In the United States, according to the astounding document that was signed in Philadelphia 240 years ago tomorrow, it is “self evident” that “all men are created equal,” and that they have “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The adjective “unalienable” has tripped up schoolchildren forever, but it is the core word of the United States of America. It means that these are rights that cannot be taken away. They are part of what it means to be human. Efforts to take them away or abuse them are acts of tyranny.

It is impossible to grasp just how radical an idea this was in 1776 — and how radical an idea it is now, in 2016. Indeed, it was so radical in 1776 that it could not be fully implemented, with African-Americans remaining enslaved for another 87 years and women remaining without the franchise until 1920.

And it remains so radical now that we continue to fight political battles daily over efforts by government to abridge our unalienable rights at home, while abroad billions still live without rudimentary versions of the freedoms we enjoy.

Perhaps the most important freedom we enjoy is to practice our faiths. Outside the US, Christians are facing near-systematic elimination in Muslim lands while in China, the world’s largest country, believers of all kinds (Tibetan Buddhists especially) “continue to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences and, in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship,” according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Because the United States is made up of human beings, and human beings are flawed, it is a flawed country and always has been. But due to another flaw in human nature — our strange desire to concentrate on the negative and avoid counting our blessings — American politics, culture and our education system have come to dwell on the dark side as much today as they did in 1976.

The history we teach our kids is a history of injustices and infamies — without the corresponding understanding that to a degree unknown anywhere in the world, America is self-correcting.

Indeed, self-correction is woven into its DNA. That is why the Constitution itself allows the amending of the constitution — to fix the document’s flaws and extend the nation’s blessings (and obligations) to those denied them at the time of the founding.

The preamble to the US Constitution explains its purpose is to “secure these blessings for ourselves and our posterity.” Since the Constitution is not fixed in amber and can be amended, the act of securing these blessings for ourselves and those who follow us has remained an obligation for every American from that day forward to this.

It’s not just the Constitution. We self-correct every year, through elections at the local, state and national levels that give us the power to change the country’s direction when that direction leads us so terribly astray. In 1976, four months after the tall ships, the country sought to purify its corrupted politics by electing Jimmy Carter, a former Georgia governor untainted by Washington scandals who promised, “I will never lie to you” as president.

When Carter proved to be alternately hapless and feckless in addressing the country’s financial and international ailments, we changed direction again four years later by electing Ronald Reagan, who vowed to attempt radically different cures for our ailments. Within a decade, the US economy had exploded and the Berlin Wall had fallen.

Our freedoms reside within us. That is the message of America. They are a part of us. Indeed, according to the philosophy that created this country, they reside within every living person on Earth.

But exercising our freedoms — now, that’s a different story. We have the precious gift in this country of exercising them pretty much at will. And that means too many of us have come to take them for granted.

We do so in part because we are human, and we are flawed. But we are also seduced into thinking our birthright as Americans is not what it truly is — the most precious gift any group of people has ever enjoyed. We are told that unless we get this, or get that, or get the other thing, the country is failing us.

We are seduced in this way by political and cultural leaders who seek either to harness our anger or generate it to use as a weapon against their rivals.

The luckiest people on Earth are the people who are born Americans, or who become Americans.

That’s what we all instinctively understood, 40 years ago, when we saw the masts of those tall ships sail into the harbor as they passed by Lady Liberty — her lamp lifted, as it has been since she was placed there in 1886, beside the golden door.

 

Fighting Human Trafficking in New York State

End Human Trafficking NowBy Amy Paulin

Born and raised in New York City, Brianna was nine when she was kidnapped and raped by her school janitor and sold to a pimp. Bounced from trafficker to trafficker, she was sold for sex to men who knew her age. When she was not servicing men, she was locked in a closet in a house without electricity or running water. Brianna is a victim of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a horrible $32 billion industry. In 2013, approximately 27 million people were trafficked, 80% of whom were women and girls. The average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is thirteen, with more than 100,000 youth sexually exploited each year. New York is a leading entry, transit and destination point for trafficking victims, with young people sexually exploited right here in Westchester County. Nearly 60 minors have been identified in the past 18 months by Westchester DSS as sex trafficking victims. The majority are from lower Westchester.

New York has led the nation in efforts to end human trafficking, treating the sexually exploited as victims, not criminals, and providing them with critical services to rebuild their lives. But there is more work to be done. We must hold accountable those that perpetuate this evil – the traffickers and buyers who fuel the growth of this massive underground industry. That is why I continue to push to enact the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA,A.506/S.7), a comprehensive bill I authored that will improve upon current law, strengthening our States response to human trafficking, by including the stiffening of penalties for traffickers and enabling law enforcement to conduct better surveillance of traffickers.

The TVPJA has bipartisan support in both houses and is backed by major womens groups, including NOW New York, Womens City Club of NY, Sanctuary for Families, and the 110+ organizations comprising the NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition, including Westchester groups such as My SistersPlace, Pace Womens Justice Center, and YWCA of White Plains & Central Westchester.

Yet this common sense, bipartisan-backed legislation has been stuck in neutral for two years due to Albany politics. 

In 2013, TVPJA became a part of the Governors 10-point agenda, the Womens Equality Act (WEA). The State Assembly passed all 10 points as a package in both the 2013 and 2014 sessions, but the State Senate did not. Instead, the Senate passed 9 points as individual bills leaving out the component that would codify Roe v. Wade. The State Senate refused to pass all 10 components of WEA as a package and the State Assembly refused to pass the bills individually. Sadly, my bill has been stuck in stalemate. Yet, the State Assembly did vote on one part of the WEA as a separate bill that strengthened orders of protection laws for domestic violence victims, and that bill did eventually become law.

So at the beginning of 2015, we are starting where we left off last year. The State Senate has already passed 8 components of the WEA as individual bills, including TVPJA, and again leaving out the codification of Roe v. Wade. Now the State Assembly must decide whether it will allow the WEA to be voted on as individual bills. Meanwhile, with TVPJA still just a bill, we have not provided law enforcement with all the tools needed to fight human trafficking.

I have spent my entire political (and nonpolitical) career fighting for women’s rights and continue to be a staunch supporter of the WEA. At the same time, I recognize that we have the opportunity to strengthen womens rights in so many important areas such as sexual harassment in the workplace, pay equity, family status discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination, as well as to end the victimization of women and children from human trafficking, by passing each of the bills.

I remain hopeful that politics can be put aside, so that we will soon enact into law the WEA measures, including my human trafficking bill, that will improve the lives of women in this State.

Amy Paulin serves in the New York State Assembly.

The Passing of Two Respected Public Servants

cuomo2 Brooke

This past week, we lost two former elected officials – Gov. Mario Cuomo from
New York and U.S. Senator Edward Brooke from Massachusetts – who led fairly principled careers.  They often stood for what they believed regardless of how popular or unpopular it might be.  Mario Cuomo opposed the death penalty even though it was not a popular stand and likely cost him many votes.  He often used his keen mind and oratory skills during his 12 years as Governor to try to convince others of his beliefs rather than seeking the expedient way.  Edward Brooke, the first African-Amercian popularly elected to the U.S. Senate, likewise stood for and fought for his beliefs.  He ran and was elected as a Republican in the mostly Democratic state of Massachusetts and spent his 12 years in the U.S. Senate often seeking to work in a bipartisan manner for what he believed was for the good of our country, including civil rights.  Regardless of whether your beliefs coincided with theirs, you cannot help but respect them for their abilities and approach.  Our governments can use more people like them.

BG@FreeVoter.com

Politics as Usual

TalkingPast

The report issued by the Senate Select Committe on Intelligence has not done anything towards  creating a better policy on permissible interrogation methods to be used with people apprehended during the fight against terrorist organizations.  The report was prepared only by the Democratic members of the committee without interviewing any of the people who were involved with the decisions on the methods of interrogation to use.  The report, if prepared by a bipartisan group which looked at all of the relevant facts (such as the report prepared by the 9/11 commission), could have helped in creating a better policy which protects the values of our democracy while allowing us to effectively obtain intelligence information that would be useful in the ongoing fight against these terrortist organizations.  Instead, it was done in a partisan one sided manner not for purposes of creating a policy going forward, but for being able to place blame.  It did not put forth any recommendations and does nothing for those on the front lines who are responsible for gathering information and intelligence but create greater uncertainty going forward.  An opportunity for constructive dialogue and progress has been missed and we are left with people talking past each other yet again.

BG@FreeVoter.com

Disheartening

Disheartening is about the only word I can think of to describe my feelings from the events of the past two weeks. One of my first posts on this site was about whether we were in a post racial society. It’s clear we are not judging by the reaction to the decisions.

In two weeks we’ve seen two police officers who have caused the death of two African-American males not be indicted for murder or a lessor charge. Each is problematic in its own right.

So much has been discussed about both these cases that there is nothing new I can add. However, freevoter.com is about sharing independent thoughts and ideas and I think this is a perfect forum to talk about what we can learn from both of these cases.

Ferguson

What’s disheartening about this case is not the lack of indictment but the response from the community. Rioting and looting serves no purpose and only feeds into the stereotypes some have of the African-American community. Social media was no help in the matter. I have friends, like most I hope, that span a wide political spectrum. Most were thoughtful, engaging, and truly inquisitive. Some unfortunately used it as an opportunity to spew the vile that only surfaces at times like these. To be clear, I’m talking about those on both sides.

In every race & ethnicity there are those that feel that they have to defend every member no matter what they do. While I empathize with the plight of the citizens of Ferguson, destroying the neighborhood only deepens the gulf between them and those who do not care about their future. If we truly care, actions and discussions would focus more on the future than wrongs of today or the past.

On the flip side, those that ignore that a community that has been neglected, at best, would react in such a dramatic and self destructive manner has never understood what true despair is. Chants of ‘thugs’ and ‘get a job’ show no regard for the situation in which folks in places like Ferguson find themselves.

Staten Island

What’s disheartening about this case IS the lack of indictment. First there is video record that clearly shows that Mr. Garner had his hands up. Second, unlike Ferguson, there were five cops there to subdue the suspect. Third, the hold placed on Mr. Garner was classified as illegal by the officer’s own police force. Lastly, the medical examiner classified Mr. Garner’s death as a homicide.

The response in New York in contrast to Ferguson was civilized. This is due in large part to the economic opportunities afforded to all in NYC and to the work by NYPD in building relationships with those they police (and the police being more representative of the city demographics).

Grand Jury

It’s clear that we have a broken judicial system. The purpose of the grand jury is to be a check on the prosecutor in bringing charges at will on alleged perpetrators. In brining matters to a grand jury, the prosecutor relies on evidence gathered by the police. So when it’s time to convene a grand jury for a police shooting, police cooperation is not a factor. But pursuing an indictment against a police officer won’t help the prosecutor in future cases where their help will be needed.

In addition, a grand jury’s sole job is to determine whether there is a enough evidence to justify a trial, not to determine guilt or innocence. As an outsider who hasn’t seen what was presented to the grand juries in either case, it seems that the jury was focused on whether a conviction was possible. And it appears both prosecutors metaphorically had their thumbs on the scale. In Ferguson, there was enough inconsistencies in witness statements to justify a no indictment decision. However, I would suggest that shooting 18 rounds, 12 of which connect, would appear excessive. That would be enough for me to allow the case to proceed to trial.  Lack of indictment in Staten Island is absurd and doesn’t merit further conversation.

We need an independent prosecutor to specifically bring cases involving the police. As long as we continue with the system in place, we will never be able to hold the police (most of whom do the right thing), accountable.

And by the way, those body cameras, meaningless. Refer to the Staten Island case.

Too Many People Only Checking News Sources They Agree With

Sources News Pew

We started the Free Voter Blog because we are troubled by too many people getting their news only from sources promoting their political views – liberals only checking liberal websites and conservatives only checking conservative websites. Too many Americans are not speaking to each other about the issues of the day and are not even open to debate. We believe this is bad for our democracy. It’s absurd to think that either the left wing or right wing is correct on every issue. That’s why the goal of the Free Voter Blog is to help stimulate a free and independent electorate. When people tell us they only vote straight Democrat or Republican, we believe this is an admission that they didn’t put much effort into following the issues and evaluating the candidates on the ballot. We can teach a four-year-old to just fill in the circles across only one party’s line on Election Day.

That’s why we found the above chart in the USA Today so interesting. It demonstrates how people are only following the news they politically agree with. The data comes from a thoughtful study conducted by the Pew Research Center, which found that, “When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds.” Here’s the link to this excellent Pew Research Center study:  www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits

Therefore, the Free Voter Blog, which discusses issues in an open-minded and nonpartisan way, certainly fills an important need in our nation’s political discourse. Please join us for a more independent debate of the issues we face – everyone is invited!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

Net Neutrality – Simply

netneutrality-contentblockedToday, President Obama is going to lay out his approach to immigration reform. I’ll wait to see what he has to say before commenting. This post is about his weighing in on the proposed net neutrality ruling under the Federal Communications Committee (FCC).

Before getting in to the proposals the FCC is weighing, a little background on what net neutrality is and how we got here.

BACKGROUND

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not discriminate based on content, user, application, site, platform, or any other distinguishing characteristic. It’s a term coined by a Columbia University Media Law professor Tim Wu. Others call it the open Internet as a means of being more accurate in addition to rebranding.

In 2010, the FCC passed the Open Internet Order which barred the practice of ISPs of charging fees for speedier access to content providers such as Netflix. In January of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. struck down key provisions of the FCC’s ruling thereby weakening the agency’s attempt to keep the Internet open. This opened the door for Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast to charge Netflix, Hulu, Google, and others for faster access to their networks and customers. Subsequently, the commission decided to write new rules to preserve its desire for an open Internet. If ISPs are allowed to differentiate access by content provider, consumers will lose out if they cannot afford to pay for greater access or a content provider cannot or will not pay for high-speed service on the ISP’s network.

Next, let’s discuss the pros and cons of net neutrality.

PROS

  • The founding proposition for the Internet was for free and unfettered access to information from anywhere. That’s why the “father” of the Internet and the creator of the web, Vincent Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee have spoken in favor of net neutrality.
  • Innovation and experimentation will be stifled should a tiered model for content providers as that would effectively create a barrier to entry.
  • Prevents ISPs that are also content providers (think Comcast and Time Warner) from potentially creating a system that favors their content to that over a competitor. (If you don’t think this is possible, read this article).

CONS

  • By disallowing ISPs to charge content providers for higher speed access, they will limit or discontinue investment in underserved areas in the U.S. (See this)
  • Ability to recoup their cost of investment in providing the broadband service  would diminish or possibly eliminate the Internet Service Provider’s ability to recoup its investment.
  • Less rather than more regulation is necessary.

The FCC is considering two approaches to the issues raised by the court ruling in January, regulating ISPs under section 706 or Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Currently, FCC classifies ISP as information service providers which are governed under Title I of the act.

Section 706

Since the section is short, basically two paragraphs with the second defining how inquiries into the enforcement of paragraph one, the entire paragraph is below.

The Commission and each State commission with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans (including, in particular, elementary and secondary schools and classrooms) by utilizing, in a manner consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity, price cap regulation, regulatory forbearance, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.

Title II

Gives the FCC the authority to treat ISPs as a public utility. There are over 100 pages of regulations with this title many of which would not apply. The relevant portion is Section 202 which delineates that broadcast providers cannot discriminate against non-affiliated broadcasters. In other words, cannot charge more to a content provider that is not a part of the ISP’s content production.

A third alternative would be to create new rules and regulations that would specifically apply to the Internet, but we know that is not going to happen so we have these two inelegant approaches.

President Obama weighed in by urging the FCC to adopt the Title II approach over Section 706.

Neither one of these solutions works for me. Providing access to the Internet is an animal of a different color. However, I’m loathe to suggest new rules and regulations, we have enough of them. Instead, I’d like to see Title II streamlined and be less technology & platform specific. Barring that, I’d have to lean toward Title II as the proper approach. The elegance of Section 706 is appealing but I fear the language can be used to force ISPs to provide equal access to rural environments without the ability to recoup its investment. (Which in some circles is what net neutrality is all about.) Title II while over 90% is not applicable to Internet service, Title II is a better fit because its focus on leveling the playing field for content providers by protecting them from the service providers.

For fans of David Pogue and John Oliver, here is a link to their description of net neutrality and its impact (I highly recommend the John Oliver video):

David Pogue

John Oliver

jeffrey hastie
jahastie@gmail.com
@jhastie963

Is the Environment still a major issue?

Environment

While the recent elections hinged largely on economic issues and to a lesser degree, foreign policy issues, there were a fair number of election ads dealing with the environment.  As a matter of fact, it continues to be an issue with the Keystone Pipeline and with the recent U.S.-China Greenhouse Gas Emissions Pledge/Agreement.  Putting aside whether the Pipeline and the agreement with China are good ideas, what these show is that the environment continues to be an issue of some importance.  While the science in support of the global warming theory is not very conclusive, there is enough evidence there to make us pause and wonder what the long-term effects of it will be.  People are more concerned with the economy, but if one tenth of what those most concerned with global warming believe will occur comes true, the impact on the economy and the day to day lives of many would be catastrophic.   The earth’s environment is resilient and can adjust to most things, but why take the risk if one of the outcomes of global warming can be dramatic climate shifts and rising sea levels.  It is better to err on the side of caustion and take pragmatic steps to minimize the effects of global warming.

BG@FreeVoter.com

Charles Barkley Doesn’t Speak For Me

charles-barkley

I can’t decide whether it is Black leaders who feel they must speak for all of us or the media industry that is always looking for the one person to go to. As with everything, it is a little bit of both.

Recently, Charles Barkley stated in an interview to a Philadelphia radio station that successful Blacks biggest problem is unintelligent Blacks. This statement has so many problems on so many levels. First, is this only an issue for Black people? So successful White people, Latino people, Asian people, etc (fill in your favorite ethnicity) don’t have the same issue? Second, the statement assumes that successful people are intelligent and unsuccessful are not. Depending on how you define successful, there’s an argument to be made that intelligence or the lack thereof exists on both ends of the success stratum. Biggest problem? Not institutional racism, the economy, the effects of government policies, or anything else, just unintelligent Black people. In his quote, he states he tells his White friends this. Sounds to me he’s trying to be accepted by his White friends. I was alerted to his comments by my friend George Alexander who has a piece in Huffington Post about high-tech summit held at his alma mater, Morehouse College.

The problem is that no one person can speak for an entire ethnic group. Every group has a wide range of expectations, desires, beliefs, and philosophies. I’m sure Mr. Barkley represents a segment of the Black community, so too Dr. Cornell West, or Jesse Jackson, or Tavis Smiley, or Dr. Thomas Sowell. In the Latino, I’m sure there are equivalents.

As much as I would like for the media industry to provide balanced coverage to issues in matters of race, I know it won’t happen. All I can ask is that we as thoughtful citizens be mindful that what we are hearing is one person’s view and not that of an entire community. As with any politically expressed viewpoint, seek out the opposing view. That’s what Free Voter readers are all about.

Jeffrey Hastie
jahastie@gmail.com
@jhastie963

What Mid-Term Elections Tell Us

republican-democrat

What the mid-term elections tell us this year (as well as during past years) is that the electorate as a whole does not like policies on either extreme of the political spectrum.  When the President’s party over-reaches or pushes policies too far to the left or right, the mid-term elections have a way of pulling back towards the middle.  This is an example of democracy at work.  The elected officials in Congress and President Obama would be wise to try to reach compromise where they can and enact policies in a united manner for the good of the country.  Hopefully, both sides realize this as the country needs the President and Congress to work together at this critical time for our country.

BG@FreeVoter.com

Some Advice To President and Congress

republican-democrat

The press events by President Obama and congressional leaders this week after Election Day demonstrate the tension between Democrats and Republicans in DC, not that this is any surprise, yet it was troubling the President still claims he will bypass Congress by using his alleged executive authority to reform our flawed immigration system. While there is little doubt that immigration reform has been delayed too long – including both a path to citizenship for the tens of millions of illegal residents and better border security – serious legal, political and policy questions exist as to whether this is a thoughtful action by the President. He appears inconsistent after speaking throughout the week about the need for cooperation and bipartisanship. President Obama needs to be more respectful of Tuesday’s election results as a New York Times analysis of the exit polls found:

“Just two years after Mr. Obama’s re-election, the midterm results underscored just how far he has fallen in the public mind. Nearly six out of 10 voters on Tuesday expressed negative feelings about his administration, according to exit polls. For every two voters who said they had cast ballots to support Mr. Obama, three said they were voting to express their opposition to him. The electorate was deeply pessimistic about the country, with seven out of 10 describing the economy as not so good or poor and eight out of 10 expressing worry about the direction of the economy in the next year.”

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans should end the victory lap and roll up their sleeves for serious governing over the next two years. Despite the GOP’s success in the 2010 midterm elections, the 2012 elections brought major losses, and they may face similar losses in 2016 if they are deemed to be the cause of further gridlock and partisanship. There is only one path to 2016 GOP election success and that is governing in a bipartisan and cooperative manner, and the GOP must work better with President Obama. Yes, it will be difficult as the President’s record on bipartisan governance is weak. In watching the President over the last 6 years, it often appears that his definition of bipartisanship is that he proposes a law and the Republicans should just vote for it – see Obamacare. Regardless, if the Republicans want 2016 success, GOP congressional leaders MUST govern in an open, inclusive and bipartisan way for two important reasons:

1)  The US Senate map is much more difficult for the GOP in 2016. Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats in 2016 (and the Democrats just 10), and those states include Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida – all won by President Obama twice.

2) The 2016 presidential election will be tough for the GOP.  A CNN article explains how both parties now have a “wall” of states that are reliable in presidential elections. The Democrat “Blue Wall” is 18 states and DC equaling 242 electoral votes. The Republican “Red Wall” is 22 states equaling 179 electoral votes. This, of course, is an enormous edge for the Democrat candidate since it takes 270 to win. Republicans will need an impressive record of results and bipartisan governing over the next two years to have any hope of competing in the states included in the Democrat’s “Blue Wall.”

So here’s my advice to the President and Congress – Tuesday’s election results clearly demonstrate that the country wants you to govern together in a cooperative and bipartisan manner. If Republicans or Democrats fail to accept this advice, you will be punished at the polls by the voters in 2016 – they are giving you a two year test, so good luck!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

Like. Share. Vote?

ballotbox

Vote on Nov. 4!

A friend sent me a text today, “If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d have no idea we were having an election this year.”

At first, I thought she was kidding or making a statement about her feed being overrun by political posts.

But she went on to explain that she doesn’t watch a lot of television or get the local paper and most of her day is spent transferring kids from school to activities (read the Monster of Youth Sports here on Free Voter). Checking Facebook on her iPhone is an easy way to spend her waiting time. And, apparently, it’s where she’s learning about these off-year elections.

A few things interested me about this:

1. As a female voter living in a highly contested seat for NY State Senate, she said that she didn’t receive  mailings or phone calls. This is odd because many other people have stated just the opposite – too many calls and too much mail.

2. She also said that she likes the mailings and always reads them. Hmm. Go figure. So many people tend to complain about the mailings, not only the sheer volume of them, but also the content.  Maybe the whole world isn’t as cynical as I thought. Maybe people really do still read….

3. ….just not any local papers. This is a huge issue not just for political campaigns, but for everything that impacts our community.  The local paper used to be the hub. The source. The thing that bound the neighborhoods and created a sense of community.  It’s harder and harder to get the word out about issues or events (not just those of a political nature). So many wonderful community initiatives and resources go under-used and under-funded because the local paper is dying.  And no single online website is “the definitive” source the way the local paper used to be.

So, where does this leave us? Let’s go back to her original statement about Facebook. Can social media really be the new source?  It’s sort of terrifying, but it very well may be true. As someone who often posts or shares political information on Facebook, I have to admit that around election time, I become highly annoyed by the number of political posts as well as the tone of them. Don’t get me wrong: if you want to share facts and information, I’m good with that; I’m not good with the petty or mean posts that seem rampant.

Just today, I saw a post: “Vote Democrat. It’s better than the alternative.” What does that even mean? How is that a thoughtful commentary on what is really one of the most awesome and overwhelming rights we carry as Americans?  Should anyone blindly vote strictly for a party and not spend even a minute doing research on the issues? Let’s face it, each party has its own share of less-than-stellar candidates. Having a party affiliation doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate subscribes to each and every doctrine of the party (but I suppose we are all naive enough to believe that if THE PARTY nominated the person, they must be good. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you). In the past elections of my husband, if people voted for his opponents strictly based on party affiliation they chose: a pedophile, a Democrat that was a hard-line right-to-lifer, and a man who, if you did a Google search on his name, would promptly direct you to mugshots.com.  Vote only for the party? I don’t think that’s always the wisest thing to do.  Actually, I can probably train my dogs to just fill in the circles across only one party line – it doesn’t take much intelligence.

That kind of only-one-way-is-right post is irresponsible, narrow-minded and shows that there’s no reasonable perspective left in American politics. It’s part of the concern about the connection between social media and politics. People will click and share a witty but thoughtless, utterly meaningless and most likely vastly untrue status update because it’s easier than actually spending the time to learn what’s going on.  Raise the bar. Have a debate. Talk issues, not parties or personalities.

Remember: you get the kind of government you deserve. The vote is in your hands. Use it wisely.

Jean Maisano
Jean@FreeVoter.com

Looking for Non-Biased News Coverage

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A former CBS Invesigative reporter (Sharyl Attkinsson) has written a book (“Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington”) detailing how the network killed many of her reports because they were critical of the Obama Administration.  Sadly, this is not surprising.  It seems to be the norm that news networks, newspapers and media outlets all have a bias of some type.  Killing a respected investigative reporter’s stories is just a very glaring example of this.  This type of conduct chills objective journalism and deters reporters from going against the desire of their bosses to tilt the news being reported a certain way.   A healthy democracy requires a free and unbiased press that will question the government that we have and seek to ensure that it is acting in a responsible manner.  What we have when this is lacking is the bomb-throwing and spinning that goes on from both sides of the aisle which deters real dialogue and compromise.  News reports are discounted as partisan or biased pieces of reporting by those on the opposite side.  While there are some news agencies and newspapers which try to be more objective, this is not the norm.  Hopefully, the tide will turn back towards more responsible and unbiased  reporting as our democracy needs it to thrive.

bg@freevoter.com

Ebola in NYC – Part Two

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Following my first post about Ebola in NYC, quite a bit has occurred. New Jersey & New York Governors, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo respectively, demanded that all healthcare workers coming through JFK and Newark from West Africa must be quarantined 21 days upon arrival, something I suggested in my first post.

Since my post and the governor edicts, we’ve had the first test of the new law. Kaci Hickox, a nurse from Maine, arrived at Newark after having treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and was promptly placed in an isolation tent. There was a public outcry at her treatment and a threat by her and her attorney to sue for her rights. The state relented and allowed her to travel home. Now Maine wants her to quarantine herself at home but she’s refusing to submit to that.

I agree with those that say we should treat healthcare professionals that risk their life to serve others like we do returning troops. Common sense tells us though that we should take care that the risks they took does not impact the rest of us. So while my first inclination was to quarantine returning healthcare workers, based on what we know about how the disease spreads (after symptoms materialize and through fluids from the infected individual), what may be more palatable to Americans, and more importantly to the healthcare workers, is mandatory monitoring during the 21 days of their return. Any uptick in fever requires immediate isolation, any failure to report for required monitoring results in immediate quarantine. For purposes of tracking movement for later followups if needed, a GPS tracking device affixed  upon arrival in the states.

We need to balance between protecting citizens and not discouraging healthcare professionals from volunteering to help in West Africa. The best way to make sure Ebola does not spread here is to stop it there.

Jeffrey Hastie
jahastie@gmail.com
@jhastie963

Eliminate Hate – Bipartisanship and Cooperation Always Work Much Better!

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At the Free Voter Blog, we work from the premise that hate is a bad emotion which clouds your judgment. It’s usually a mistake to make statements or decisions based on hate. But on Friday night, I was working on growing our Twitter followers for this blog and found so many left and right wingers that even expressed hatred for political opponents in Twitter profiles. These hard-liners made similar accusations – the other side is “evil” or “dumb,” and they were (self-righteously) trying to save our nation.

As evidence of this overly partisan trend, I noticed this week that a Stanford University study found that political animosity now exceeds racial hostility. In some ways, this finding shows progress since we now dislike each other more for political viewpoints than the color of our skin.

See study: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/october/dems-gop-polarized-10-08-14.html

However, as an elected official for 17 years, it’s been clear to me that the best legislative moments at the Westchester County Board of Legislators were always the result of bipartisanship and cooperation. I can’t think of a single issue where harsh partisanship was helpful in the decision-making process. I find it difficult to be overly partisan because I have worked with some excellent Republican and Democrat legislators. The talent on our Board of Legislators never broke down on party lines.

Therefore, join the Free Voter Blog in our effort to support and promote an informed and independent electorate that votes for the best candidates instead of the party line. The result will be better government.

Jim Maisano
freevoterblog@gmail.com