6/24/2004

Media Reform Win

Some news today on the Media Reform front. A federal court told the FCC they had to roll back the rule changes they did last June, which had everybody's panties all in a bunch. The rule changes would have allowed more media consolidation than there is now (here's a history on this issue).

Regardless of what you think of the rule changes, the FCC's behavior on this one was total crap. They held only one official public hearing, and didn't let the public see the proposed rule changes until right before it voted on them. That's lame, and the federal court told them so. More than anything, this is a win for open government. Is it so hard for us all to realize that big money needs to be kept away from government decisions? It's called corruption, folks.

6/22/2004

Kerry Rocks

We interrupt this regularly scheduled stream of open minded political musings to bring you this important news flash:

John Kerry played in a high school band that put out a record!

They were called the Electras, and Kerry played bass. They sound like ... well ... a high school band. But still, that makes me feel more like I am voting for Kerry, instead of just against Bush. No word yet on whether they'll get back together for a reunion tour.

There's also a cool shot of John Kerry w/ John Lennon. No word on whether he is, in fact, the 5th Beatle.

6/16/2004

What is conservatism?

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions on my last post. I figured I would get started with a couple of online explanations, and then move on to some heavier reading.

So to start, I looked up "conservatism" in Wikipedia. Worth a read, check it out. It's rather long, but here's my nutshell interpretation:

According to the Wikipedia explanation, to be conservative is to think that we shouldn't go changing things, because the way they've always been is best. This might include our patriotic traditions, our morals, our business practices, etc.; the traditions that have been handed down to us are "a source of wisdom that goes beyond what can be demonstrated" [Conservatism.com FAQ]. Put more succinctly:

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I can dig that!

Of course, if it IS broke, you SHOULD fix it; to be conservative doesn't mean you have to like the negatives (poverty, disease, etc.). The heart of the question is:

1. What's actually broken? Presumably, liberals think more stuff is broken than conservatives do.

2. How do you fix it? Even reasonable people can disagree on which solution is best.

For the first question (what's broken?), take gay marriage. A conservative might say that things are correct as they are - gay marriages are outlawed, because it's morally wrong. A liberal might say that morality in this area is a personal choice, and that things as they stand now are unjust for gay couples, so they should be changed.

For the second (how do you fix it?), take drug addiction (which everybody agrees is bad). A conservative might say things are working well - addiction is due to a failing of morals on the part of the addict, so they should be arrested, fined, and jailed (as they are today). A liberal might say the fix is to change things - legalize and regulate drugs so you can detect and prevent addictions (as a health problem instead of a crime), and focus your law enforcement efforts on only those who try to get drugs illegally for profit.

(I recognize that the way I phrased those examples shows my bias as a liberal - I'm sure they could be slanted differently by a conservative.)

The vast difference seems to be a willingness on the part of liberals to believe that intentional changes to social institutions can have a positive impact on mass human behavior, whereas conservatives are reticent to do this for fear of unintended consequences.

Am I on the right track here?

6/15/2004

Foundations

In response to some conversations with friends recently, I've been giving serious thought to my political bias. Anyone who's read this blog knows that I am a "liberal democrat". No surprise there. But I've heard it said of democrats - myself included - that we don't think through the consequences of our biases; that growing up and understanding the real world naturally tends to make you conservative (like this.)

I aspire to be open minded, and I prefer approaching every situation with the attitude of a child, ready to learn. Ultimately, I believe that through constantly refining our political structures, eventually, everyone in the world might be able to enjoy "life, libery and the pursuit of happiness".

Is liberalism a better way towards this goal than conservatism? My bias says yes ... but maybe that's due to my socio-economic background, my education, etc. So I am going to undertake a regular comparison of approaches, to forge a strong foundation for my beliefs.

I'm going to start by reading up on conservatism, and occasionally posting short comparisons between positions. That's as good a starting place as any, I guess.

Most importantly, I want to avoid the trap of partisanship. I am coming to believe this more and more: if you feel like you are exclusively on "the right" or "the left", you obscure the process of understanding issues. You're always looking for the way to prove that your side is correct and the other side is wrong. That's not what I'm looking for; I would be happy to find that "my side" is wrong, if only because it would mean I had learned something.

On that note, I'm off to to some reading.

6/07/2004

Co-Op

This past Saturday, ├╝berjam and I found a cool new thing in our neighborhood - Central City Co-Op. It's located at the Taft St. Coffee House, just a few blocks from us. Every Saturday, they have locally grown organic produce. And you can pre-order a big box of it (which we did for next week) for $15. Who'd have thought, in Houston?

6/03/2004

6/02/2004

Spinsanity

Recently found a terrific web site called Spinsanity. It's a non-partisan web site devoted to calling out unfair or misleading spin in the media. Today's example took several publications to task for taking a statement by President Bush out of context:
The event featured seven men who have each been given a prosthetic hand to replace one cut off by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Bush shook the prosthetic hand of a victim, and then said "I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." Taken out of context, Bush's statement may appear to be unclear or garbled. But [...] it was actually perfectly reasonable -- the man has been given a new hand, and Bush shook it.

However, Slate's Jacob Weisberg ridiculed the quotation in his Bushisms column the next day, providing no link or context for readers, who were left to assume that the statement was a verbal stumble rather than a reference to a prosthetic hand. ...

Mocking Bush's verbal stumbles is one thing, but misconstruing his statements is another.

Indeed. And as much fun as it is to mock Bush (and he doesn't need much help there) it's much more important to have a site that takes ANYBODY to task for being misleading, whether they be on the left or the right or somewhere in between. Good for you, Spinsanity.