President Obama and Congress finally came to a compromise about the U.S. debt ceiling. Our country’s financial crisis was avoided by the raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling through 2012; cutting $2.4 trillion in expenses and establishing a special congressional committee to recommend long-term fiscal reforms
Excuse me for not doing cartwheels. Where the hell is the tax revenue? What about the damn Bush tax cuts that got us into this mess? Why the fuck do we need a super Congressional committee to discuss what has already been discussed and published last December by the White House’s National Commission On Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?
After all the political threats, PR tantrums and ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ action going on amongst the Democrats and Republicans – this is what they give us? I have the suspicion that this compromise had probably been mentioned before earlier, but was tossed aside as each party try to out-dude the other at the expense of the American public.
Now that the debt crisis is over (really?) the White House tells us that they will now concentrate on how to create more jobs. This should have been Obama’s number one priority after the 2008 election – not healthcare, but I digress.
How the hell are they going to create jobs when they have no additional revenue coming in? As we all know by now (except for the GOP) trickle down/supply-side economics (aka voodoo economics) does not work, so the Obama Administration can forget about the majority of the haves sharing their wealth. Those pesky Bush tax cuts keeps rearing its ugly head.
As for cutting expenses, it just means that the U.S. government will spend less money. Reducing expenses does not generate revenue, you simply spend less while trying to maintain the status quo. I guess this is America’s version of an austerity plan, though countries who have gone this route include significant tax increases. Most politicians see tax increases as political kryptonite to be avoided as much as possible.
I don’t have positive feelings about how well this is going to work out, but the U.S. will do its best. Unfortunately, this is no longer good enough anymore. I am so sick and tired of this bullshit. I am sick and tired of a lot of things.
I’m tired of politicians making decisions about our social programs as if they’re playing a game of chess instead of people’s well-being.
I’m tired of hearing faulty unemployment statistics which don’t truly report the number of people who are unemployed but no longer receive unemployment benefits or those who are underemployed or making significantly less due to cutbacks and lay-offs.
I’m tired of seeing seeing foreclosure signs and people getting kicked out of their homes while banks are reporting rosy quarterly profits.
I’m tired of the increasing cost of higher education because state and federal grants have been slashed forcing students to take out more loans while job opportunities are fewer and fewer.
I’m tired of wondering how much I will owe whenever I have a new prescription filled because my health insurance seems to cover less while I pay more.
I’m tired of seeing of wounded veterans with loss limbs due to never-ending wars in countries where our reasons for being there are still unclear.
Sometimes I feel that Americans have been run-down by the U.S. government. We’ve become cynical in that we mostly don’t expect government to do the right thing. Battling for change, to have your voice heard can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting.
Lately, I feel that’s what our government has been counting on so that it can go about its day.
It’s kind of hard to holler when you’re just too damn tired.
Frantz Samedi’s grief still haunts me. I hurt every time I look at his face. My body sags whenever I see his daughter’s dead eyes. I’ve stared at the photo over and over, trying to imagine how he felt; knowing I will never know.
I look at the faces of the the crowd that surrounded him that day. There is space between Samedi and themselves. Did they give him space out of respect for his grief? Was it because they were afraid to be touched by his pain because they couldn’t handle much more? What about the Haitian Red Cross worker? Her face looks as if she had seen too much death already. Yet somehow she is able to still feel Samedi’s sorrow.
Questions and more questions have swirled in my head ever since I saw this photo. How did Samedi react when he heard Hurricane Ike was going to hit Haiti? How did Samedi get separated from his daughter? How long did it take to find her? Where did he find her? Does he have other children? What does he think about the photograph? Most importantly, how is he coping after losing his daughter in such a horrific manner?
It Started With A Hurricane
2008 seemed to be the year of the hurricane. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) said 2008 was “the only year on record in which a major hurricane existed in every month from July through November in the north Atlantic.” NCDC stated that there were sixteen named Atlantic storms, eight that became hurricanes and five that became major hurricanes. USA Today reported that 195 deaths were a result of Hurricane Ike, 74 were from Haiti. The National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Cyclone Report estimated that the damages due to Hurricane Ike was $30.2 billion.
Hurricane Ike was the most destructive although it started out as a tropical disturbance off an African coast sometime around the end of August 2008. However, between September 1st and 13th the power of Hurricane Ike had swept through the West Indies, Cuba, Louisiana, Texas and Haiti killing people, destroying cities and flattening towns in its wake. It showed no pity.
When Ike’s torrential rains and floodwaters reached Haiti it crashed through homes, toppled buildings and carried people away to their deaths. For a Caribbean country that has always dealt with decades of poverty and hardship this was even more than it could bare.
After Ike left the area, people started digging through the chaos, seeing what’s left and searching for loved ones. Many were found alive-some were dead, including Samedi’s daughter, Tamasha Jean. As Samedi cried over the death of his daughter, his photo was snapped, eventually for all the world to see.
Once I saw the photo it never left me. I kept wondering about Samedi, so I began my search.
Not Just A Picture
“I was witness to a nightmare,” said Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell in a 2009 interview with The University of Miami magazine, “I still can’t get it out of my head.” Farrell’s photograph of Samedi’s grief won him the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.
Farrell had arrived in Haiti to cover the impact of Hurricane Ike on Haiti. He had taken nineteen other black-and-white photos, but the photo of Samedi with his daughter won the prize.
I had read several interviews of Farrell talking about the photos, but I didn’t find anything about whether he had spoken with Samedi before, during or after the photograph. He just happened to be there with his camera while Samedi held his dead child; he didn’t know much more than that.
I had more questions. Was Samedi still alive? Was he aware that he was in a photograph that won a Pulitzer Prize? Had he seen the photograph? Does he care to see it?
I googled Frantz Samedi’s name. I used various legal and journal databases to find him. Whenever his name popped up it was constantly linked to Farrell’s photograph. Inevitably I stumbled across a ‘Frantz Samedi‘ on Facebook. I clicked on the link and saw a fuzzy picture of a man whose Facebook page said he lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The man in the photo appears to be holding a cellphone. He looks too young, too thin, too pain-free to be the Samedi that I’ve been searching for. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find him. He is lost to me.
As Haiti’s plight has left the front pages I still wonder about the survivors, the people who have been left behind. I wonder how Samedi is doing. I wish I could hold him and tell him everything’s okay, but I can’t. Even if I could it would not be my place.
I still tear-up whenever I see the photo. It makes me want to hug my son and never let go. It’s become my reality check that things could be a hell of a lot worse.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to look at the photograph and not want to cry.
Can social networks increase our involvement in the political process beyond clicking the ‘like’ button?
Politics and social media have finally made a connection. Yet, the level of understanding and usage of social media varies from person to person. The public, politicians and governmental entities are trying to grasp how to use social media while simultaneously learning how to use it effectively as the technology is constantly changing. It makes for a daunting task for those interested in using social media to increase engagement.
The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC held a panel on June 28, 2011 to discuss the impact of social networks on the public’s interest and involvement in governance.
The panelists for “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation” were Mindy Finn, Partner at the Engage, a firm that provides advice about online technology. She also directed Mitt Romney’s digital and online operations during his 2008 presidential campaign; Diana Owen, Social Professor of Political Science and Director of the American Studies Program at Georgetown University; Macon Phillips, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of Digital Strategy for the White House and Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which surveys the effect of technology on our socioeconomic lives.
Though the topic was social media and how it can increase civic engagement the panelists found themselves discussing how social media can be utilized and utilized better when it comes the public’s level of civic engagement.
Social Media Post-2008
Social networking has come quite a way in a relatively short period of time. Prior to 2008 older and newer social networking sites such as Friendster, MySpace and Facebook were seen primarily as tools for the young in which they talked to their friends, shared music and posted photos.
Then social networking stepped into another realm with its use by the Obama campaign and the rise of Facebook. Obama’s campaign heavily used Twitter, Facebook and their website to keep voters abreast of their campaign stops, political stances and scheduled rallies.
Other presidential candidates such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Sen. John Edwards (D-SC) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did the same, but not with a similar level of effectiveness. Obama’s use of social media became the benchmark for how politicians could successfully connect with the public.
After the election, hundreds of local, state and Congressional politicians set-up a website, Facebook or Twitter account. Government agencies took steps to become a part of the social networking arena. The White House’s website became chockful of information about President Obama’s schedule and the Administration’s agenda, information that had been never readily available and with such detail. Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced that President Obama would start tweeting via the White House’s official Twitter account.
However, does the fact that local, state and federal government have become social media users mean that they have connected successfully with the American public?
Politicians, the Public and Social Media
Macon Phillips stated that though the White House has primarily used its website to communicate with the public it wants to create a “more robust web program.”
Phillips said that the White House uses Twitter and Facebook, but that they have started to include LinkedIn as part of their social media work.
“We’ve done some real interesting work with [LinkedIn],” Phillips said, adding that “We try to look at all those communities where we actually wanted to find people where they were . . . their expertise in order to reach them more directly.” Phillips also stated that his office has also looked into Quora and other new sites, which seem “very compelling and full of experts.”
Mindy Finn saw social media as a way to get the public more civically involved at the grassroots level. Finn said that social media’ impact on politics has had a “revolutionary effect.” She cited the uprisings inTunisia and Egypt as places where social media has played a major role in politics in those countries. Finn said that if campaigns can “do social media right it should be the central nervous system of the campaign.”
“Political campaigns are about people . . . it’s about connecting people and forming relationships with people, and that’s what social media is all about,” said Finn.
However, Finn said that politicians still campaign the old way in that they spend most of their time with those who can contribute the big money, “reserving the end of their campaign to try to meet some voters . . . person to person.”
Social Networking and Governance
Social media has also had an impact on the way the public receives their political news and participates in the political process. Finn stated that though social media has been beneficial there remains the perceived threat that “use of social media [is] a distraction” in that it “pulls people away from real friendships and their communities.” Lee Rainie said Pew’s report Social Networking and Our Lives shows that has not been the case.
“People particularly who use Facebook have more friends, more close friends, more likely to be involved in politics, more likely to be open to diverse points of views,’ said Rainie. He also said that usage of social media has continued to grow, as “twenty-two percent of internet users used social media in one way, shape or form in the 2010 election.”
Diana Owen said that there has been a correlation between social media usage and “election purposes.” In Georgetown University’ s Government in Politics in the Information Age, Owen said their report showed that “taking a civics course . . . greatly increases the probability that a person will use social media at least for election purposes.”
What Owen found interesting was that the incorporation of social media into civics education appeared to have an impact on civic engagement. Owens also said that sixty-seven percent of those whose civic courses integrated social media were “engaged in the 2008 campaign.”
Rainie agreed that civics education could add to a person’s comfortability level when using social media for their political activities. Raine said that the Pew study found that almost twenty-three percent of Americans “had tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate . . . and that ten percent had attended a political rally.”
The panelists seemed to agree that the public’s use of social media to post their thoughts, ideas or news within their network or community can be an effective form of political activism.
Social Media and Reviving American Democracy
When asked what could social media do to improve participation in campaigns and “reinvigorate American Democracy,” the panelists mentioned how social media needed to be more a part of the political and news conversation.
Finn said that campaigns will need to accept that they must be “decentralized” in that the flow of information should come from the people and their social networks – not directly from the campaigns themselves.
Phillips has been fascinated by how social media content is currated – gathered and distributed. He said that “people are looking at stuff for alerts, they’re waiting for stuff to use to broadcast on their own vehicles.” Phillps also noted how American policy officials have conversed with large groups of people by way of Facebook chats.
Rainie noted that in the Pew Study twenty-two percent of Facebook users submit a comment on someone else’s post during a typical day; twenty percent comment on someone else’s photo and forty-four percent of social media users claim to update their status at least once a week.
Finn said that the use of social media combined with a very fast news cycle meant that politicians and the government must find new ways to provide information online for its constituents as quickly as possible.
Owen stated that in 2008 Facebook was the social media darling when it came to civic engagement; in 2010 it was Twitter. She said that because “we’re having a greater fragmentation of the platforms that people use for social media to access campaigns” that it is still hard to predict what will be the next big thing to reinvigorate the public when it comes to their political interactions.
2012 Elections and Social Media
Phillips was hesitant to discuss his thoughts given his position and the fact that President Obama is running for re-election. However, he did mention that his office remains interested in making more use of LinkedIn. He said that LinkedIn’s data “is very professionally-organized” and that it gets “looked over a lot.” He also said that Twitter will be used a lot more beyond tweeting White House announcements.
As evidenced by the fact that in the 2010 election over twenty-six percent of the American population have mobile phones is a sign that that mobile apps will play a bigger part in the upcoming presidential election said Rainie, he added that “All of the metrics of [how the public] uses social media are going up . . . the Internet is just going to become more and more important part of the campaign.”
Finn believed that new journalists with print and digital experience will play a significant part in the election cycle. She said that their ability to “determine good versus bad facts will be more important than ever,” especially since “having a good story is now less important than breaking news.”
Also, new journalists “must participate in social media” said Finn. They must think of different platforms to promote their story in the social media era. Finn said that new journalists must be “active social media participants” in that they make regular use of their Facebook and Twitter accounts not to only “post info but also engage with their followers, fans and those in their social network community.”
Owen said that in 2012 that those with the social media resources will continue to be the “social networking innovators” in that that they will have the most influence. Though you still hear about the digital divide being about race, Owen said that socioeconmic status mostly determines a person’s social network involvement. “Users of social media are not as diverse as we would like them to be,” said Owen. She also said that class and education status will play a role in the 2012 election and subsequent elections when it comes to social media.
Social media continues to play a significant part in the public’s political discussions and actions. Yet, does a tweet constitute civic engagement? Does becoming a fan of a politician’s page proves that a voter is paying attention to that politician’s activities?
The panelists seemed to believe that social media can be used to reignite the public’s interest in campaigns, elections and civics education. However, their answers didn’t seem to go beyond what has already been addressed about how social media can empower its citizenry and what tools would best serve this purpose . Maybe this is because many of us are still learning how to use social media, let alone how to use it effectively in the political/governmental arena. Its ability to mobilize citizens to become full-fledged participants in the American democratic process has yet to be determined.
Note: Blog post written prior to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s June 16, 2011 resignation from the U.S. Congress.
It’s been a little over week since a tweeted photo of Rep. Anthony Weiner‘s (New York, 9th Dist.) penis became a news and media sensation. Subsequent photos of Weiner shirtless, flexing his pecs close-up and in the Congressional locker room has popped up as well. Some members of Congress, the media and the general public have asked him to resign, but Weiner has been steadfast in holding onto his seat.
The hysteria over the photos has been ridiculous, though he brought it on himself by posting the photos and then lying about it. However, I still believe he should resign. Not because of the photos, which I found to be more laughable and slightly narcissistic than lewd. He should resign because he is no longer an effective representative for his constituents or the Democratic Party.
Though America has come a long way in redefining what it deems to be immoral, it’s puritanical streak still exists. In Europe, Weiner’s transgression would’ve moved to the backpages of most newspapers by now with a nod and wink to his silliness and that would’ve been it. However in the U.S. he is fighting to keep his job and his marriage.
The Weiner scandal is an example of the fact that many of us live a different life online. We say and do things online that we probably wouldn’t do face-to-face. When you’re online it can cause you not to filter things as well as you would in-person. The Internet makes it so easy to type, point, click and send anything to anyone. As a result, you sometimes forget to think ‘Should I have done that?’ or ‘What would person X think about that?’ By the time you wonder about your online action–if ever–it’s too late. Information such as a Facebook photo posted by a friend of your drunken wife at a strip club, your ex texting a naked photo of you to her friends and neighbors or a tweet in which you called your boss a dick is out there for all to find, read and see. You can never take it back.
Yet the question remains – Is what Weiner did so wrong? He showed an extreme lack of judgement in using his work-related social media accounts to send photos of himself to women who weren’t his wife. He also showed his technological cluelessness in not understanding the online ramifications for his postings. That’s it in a nutshell. The wrongfulness of his actions will be decided by his wife, Huma Abedin, not the general public or Congress since Weiner embarrassed himself and humiliated her with his quasi-adulterous online life.
Weiner should resign because he will no longer be taken seriously by his colleagues, the public or the people he represents. Whenever he opens his mouth to speak on anything his online photos will be mentioned over and over again. Whenever he attempts to take the high moral ground on anything he will have to deal with questions regarding his own morality. Whenever he runs for election candidate X will throw his photos in his political face and everything else will be drowned out. He will, in effect be neutered, pun intended.
All that being said, there is a possibility that he could hold onto his job, but at what cost? He will be a shadow of his former political self. Maybe that is the ultimate and real reason why he should resign.
When I was a teen, I read the classic children’s book ‘Sarah Plain and Tall,’ which is about a woman who dresses plainly but is ‘tall’ of character. This book popped into my head when I heard about Sarah Palin’s upcoming ‘One Nation‘ tour. This Palin is definitely not plain. As for her character, it depends on whom you’re asking at the time.
If you haven’t heard already, Palin plans to visit historical sites along the East Coast (starting Memorial weekend) in which she’ll “share the importance of America’s foundation.” Not exactly sure what she plans to accomplish since details are still sketchy. One can’t help but think that this move–amongst others she has made recently–is in preparation for her run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Palin has been quiet these past few months as her popularity and poll numbers have dropped since the Tucson/Giffords shooting. The GOP weren’t exactly enamored about her possible presidential candidacy, especially when they had other more viable potential candidates in the wings such as Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Romney, Pawlenty and Gingrich are the only bigwigs left and yet the GOP still look like they’re waiting for someone else, someone better. I doubt that person is Palin, but maybe she feels that she is the one person to pull the party together.
Palin could have been the lead GOP 2012 candidate if she had played her cards right after the 2008 election. She knew as the GOP’s then vice-presidential candidate that the general public thought (and some still think) that she is all flash, no substance. Her intelligence and interest in governing has been constantly questioned.
After November 2008 she could have taken stock of her situation and decided to beef up her credentials. She could have sat down and familiarized herself with the print and digital media. She could have hit the books to get a stronger understanding of the U.S. economy, how government works and our nation’s history. Palin could have reached out to experts, journalists, politicians and academics to find out what they think about foreign affairs, the national debt, health care, social reform or the U.S. military presence overseas. She could have written op-ed pieces, co-written reports, posted blogs, showed up on the Sunday talk shows, or participated in panel discussions at think tanks or universities. She could have done town halls or Facebook discussions where the public could ask her questions about the state of America. Palin did none of those things.
What has she done these past 2+ years? She gave a Thanksgiving interview in which a turkey was being slaughtered in the background. She resigned from the governorship of the state of Alaska with 18 months left in her first term. She did a reality show based on her life in Alaska. She became a sometime pundit on Fox News. She wrote Going Rogue which read more like a conversation than a book explaining her political purpose in life. She decried that Obama’s healthcare program would institute bureaucratic death panels which would decide who are worthy to receive healthcare or pass on to the hereafter. She made limited speeches in front of corporate executives and advocacy groups in which she charged five and six figure fees. She wrote notes in black ink on her hand to help her remember talking points during speeches. She joined the social media sphere via Twitter and Facebook which allowed the public immediate access to her word choice skills (remember ‘refudiate?‘) that was cause for ridicule. She showed tone-deafness when she turned the Tucson shooting into a complaint about people targeting her. These are not the things you do when you want to be taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate.
Some people despise Sarah Palin and/or think she is an idiot. I think she is a serious lightweight who loves the media/public attention and the idea of being president, not the actual work that comes with being President of the United States. She doesn’t have the mental stamina or fortitude to handle the job, though she probably doesn’t think she needs it. Palin seems to be a firm believer of guts over intelligence. That’s great if you’re picking who is going to win the Super Bowl, not so great when you have to decide whether to send Navy Seals into Pakistan to kill an international terrorist. There is a difference, though she probably wouldn’t see it.
Palin wasted an opportunity to be viewed as a thoughtful, smart and genuine candidate, even if you disagreed with her politics. Unfortunately for her, our image of her as a semi-dim cheerleader has not changed. She loves to blame others for how she is viewed and/or portrayed. Palin has yet to realize or accept that she has no one to blame but herself.
Note: Sarah Palin decided not to run as a potential GOP presidential candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Mitt Romney ended up becoming the GOP’s nominee. Romney lost the presidential election to to incumbent President Barack Obama.
On May 21st Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain announced that he will run for U.S. president in 2012 at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.
The AP reports: At the speech, Cain tried to build a foundation for his run for the White House. He said the American dream is under attack from runaway debt, a stagnant economy, a muddled foreign policy and an influx of illegal immigrants. He said Americans should be infuriated because the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus program “didn’t stimulate diddly.” “It’s time to get real, folks. Hope and change ain’t working,” he said. “Hope and change is not a solution. Hope and change is not a job.”
The fact that he reminds me of Clarence Thomas is enough to give me serious pause about his candidacy. However, Cain thinks he has shot at the GOP nomination though it’s slim-to-none even with Mike Huckabee and now Gov. Mitch Daniels bowing out. However, the main reason I don’t buy what Mr. Cain is selling is because he’s short on ideas and solutions about how to solve America’s problems. Yet he’s telling us that it’s time to “get real” concerning America’s problems. A lot of us having been living in the real world for quite some time when it comes to the economy, personal debt, unemployment, devalued homes, rising education costs, expensive healthcare, etc. What Cain has told us is nothing new, yet he acts like he’s telling us information we haven’t heard before. Unfortunately it’s some of our politicians–Republicans and Democrats–who have been living in fantasy land, especially in-between elections. But when it’s campaign time then they tell us ‘we’ need to wake up and face reality. ‘We’ are already there, Mr. Cain so why don’t you and the rest of your ilk stop insulting our intelligence and give us some ‘real’ answers.
Bloomberg News said “[During a May 9th speech] House Speaker John Boehner, [gave] Wall Street leaders his prescriptions for growing the U.S. economy and reducing the nation’s debt [in which he] built his case on several assertions that are contradicted by market indicators and government reports.” Read more here.
At this point, I believe both the left and the right are practicing “voodoo economics” (to quote Bush I) when it comes to the the United States’ economy and ever increasing debt. I’m sure that the close-to-correct numbers for either are somewhere in-between what the politicians have been spouting to us. Of course, that is if we can actually truly discover what the in-between number is which could be anywhere between fact and fantasyland.
All I know is that I’m tired of the talking, the whining, the complaining, the pontificating, the arguments, the fake outrage, the meetings, the commissions, the soundbites, the polls, and the town halls that Congress and our presidents have put us through year after year. Enough. We are not children who can’t handle bad news. We already know it’s bad, many of us are living proof. So stop wasting our time and do your damn job.