Life As a Blogger

I have really enjoyed the past couple months as a blogger. And I’ll be the first to admit that blogging is HARD WORK. It requires quite a bit of discipline to continually find new stories and ideas that fit your beat, and then turn those in to actual posts. Especially with my topic of trying to find middle ground and showing both sides of an issue. The bloggers out there who are doing this several times a week have my utmost respect.

One way that blogging has changed me relates to how I perceive and interpret news stories. I guess you can say I now see things through a different lens. For me, continually writing about a certain topic forced me to look at things in a “how might I blog about this?” sort of way. In other words, a news update is no longer just a news update: it’s a topic for my blog and the possibility for me to bring about the type of change I wish to see.

Going forward, I will certainly be thinking about my beat topic but I doubt I will be blogging about it. To be honest, I never really got comfortable enough to publicize my work, and I am not one to write for the sake of writing. Instead, I will likely follow other bloggers and share their work so that similar types of change may still occur.

Overall, this has been a very rich learning experience for me. I feel armed with enough training to be a participant in the blogospehere, and perhaps I will be effective at promoting change by commenting on blogs and engaging other readers. If any one is interested in the topics of “all sides thinking”, “moderate politics”, or “media accuracy” I suggest checking out the following sites:

Thanks for reading!

-Dave

Posted in About | 6 Comments

Is it Really Class Warfare?

While I am not one for conservative media outlets, I’ve been seeing some Facebook posts lately suggesting that Obama is waging “class warfare” in hopes of earning himself another four years as Commander-in-Chief. There is no denying that Obama is targeting the middle class and those who wish to ascend to the middle class, using terms like “fairness” and talking about “income inequality”. But are his tactics really class warfare?

I believe many Republicans would say yes. In their eyes, the overall chaos between the self-described “99%” and everyone else is a direct result of Obama strategically dividing our country. Obviously, not everyone sees things this way, since there are clearly many other factors at play. One of the biggest factors that my Facebook friends seem to miss is the fact that less than ten years ago, the rich were given roughly 10% tax breaks by President George W. Bush. This is where the debate about class warfare gets fuzzy for me, since apparently this day in age, only liberals can wage class warfare.

If we are going to define class warfare as any conflict between the rich and the not-so-rich, then class warfare has been rampant in the US since the early 1900’s. Back in the 1930’s, tax rates on the rich ranged from 60-80%, and by 1944 were at 94%. Tax rates on the rich remained above 90% until they began falling in the mid-60’s. Since then, the rich have been waging a silent war against all other classes, bringing their rates down as low as 28% in the late 80’s and leveling out around 35% since the Bush Tax Cuts were enacted in 2003.

History of the top income tax bracket, 1913-2008. (Source: http://www.ntu.org)

Now that the rich have enjoyed relatively low tax rates for eight consecutive years, many of them are doing everything they can to keep them, which makes perfect sense to me. If you’re the type of person who works 60, 80 or 100 hours a week because money is more important to you than anything else, the of course you will do everything you can to fatten that bank account. But insisting that class warfare is some kind of liberal weapon of mass destruction seems a little absurd. In fact, it’s a basic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Posted in About | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Double Edged Sword of Unemployment

Raise your hand if you don’t want the US unemployment rate to decrease. Thank you, you can put your hands down. What’s that you say? Your surprised anyone would raise their hands? I hear you, I mean, what kind of person these days is not in favor of more jobs!?

Well, there are plenty of people who don’t want to see more jobs IF Obama would get credit for them. Everyone wants “jobs”, but some people only want jobs that their political party can claim responsibility for, or if they are created in ways that coincide with their particular ideologies. Many people believe that Obama’s chances of re-election will remain low if the economy remains poor, and vice versa: that a stronger economy means a greater likelihood of Obama’s re-election.

The question I want to ask is whether or not this is fair. More specifically, is it fair to request that other people endure difficult times in hopes that it will bring about one’s selfish desires? Let’s look at a couple hypotheticals to try and answer this.

Suppose one is convinced that another term for Obama is certain to bring about even worse times for our entire economy. He believes that it would be a small sacrifice to ask that the economy stays the same or worsens over the next year, so that a Republican can get elected and then truly begin to fix the economy. In his eyes, it’s okay to ask for this temporary hardship given the overall positive outcomes in the long-term.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose someone is tied to the clean energy sector and selfishly hopes that the price of oil and other conventional fuels go up, knowing that higher prices will lead to greater adoption rates of alternative fuels. His selfish motives would translate to a greater financial burden for others in the near-term, but in the long run he knows that everyone will be better off. Is this fair, and how is this different than the scenario above?

Charles Darwin and Adam Smith would likely agree that it is not only natural, but favorable for us to act according to our own best interests. In other words, we shouldn’t fault people who want the economy to remain weak for the next 12 months so “their guy” can get elected, just as we shouldn’t fault people who want the cost of fuel to go up so “their energy sources” can be adopted. But the tricky part is that we don’t actually know what is going to happen in the future. How do we know whether or not Republicans will be more effective at improving our country? And how do we know whether or not higher prices will lead to alternative fuels? If we can not be 100% certain that our desired current situation will lead to our desired future situation, then we need to be very careful in wanting others to endure hardship on our behalf. Especially if we are able to influence the 

Posted in About | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Complete Faith in Agnosticism

I watched the season finale of South Park this week and I loved it, as usual. The episode, entitled “The Poor Kid“, featured a family that would adopt foster children and force them to be Agnostic (Warning: episode will probably offend and/or disgust you). While I do not label myself agnostic , I basically am one. Or am I? This inability to say one way or another is exactly what the creators of South Park are making fun of, and it cracks me up. Here’s a short YouTube clip that gives a little taste:

Imagine the man forcing these “beliefs” down the throats of his adopted children throughout the entire episode…

Jokes aside, I am left wondering if this is even possible: Can one be agnostic and believe full-heartedly that his or her agnosticism is “right”? Doesn’t imposing your view, even if it is that nothing can be proved 100%, contradict the very notion of being agnostic in the first place? I think so, and I hope there aren’t too many people out there doing so.

Another question that comes up for me, assuming we can never be certain about a particular issue, is if that warrants whether or not we should talk about. The man in the South Park episode says there is no point to talk about things we cannot be certain of, and there are likely others who feel the same way. However, without talking about these issues (like religion and man-made climate change, to name a couple), we lose out on the ability to connect with other people and see how they view the world.

For me, that’s what it comes down to: what you believe dictates how you see the world and how you behave within it. Therefore, if we can never be absolutely certain about something, why not have beliefs that make you happy and cause you to see the world in ways that bring joy to your life and others’? Whatever that belief may be that accomplishes those two things, I say go for it! Even if it is that there is a giant reptilian bird in charge of everything.

 

Posted in About | 5 Comments

Global Warming is Finally Real

We found out today that physicist and long-time global warming skeptic, Richard Muller, has reached a final conclusion about global warming. He now concludes temperatures are in fact rising rapidly, after running a two-year study with his daughter.

Unlike most people skeptical of global warming, Muller had both the expertise and motivation to conduct his own research and see for himself whether or not temperatures are actually rising. And unlike most scientists conducting this same research, Muller does not appear to buy in to the idea that human activity is behind the rise in temperatures. At least I assume so, since he made no comment about the cause in his latest study and because of his history of skepticism and disbelief. Which leads me to some important questions and the main point of this post: if an overwhelming majority of experts (i.e. climate scientists) believe something in their field to be true (i.e. human activity is causing the earth’s temperature to rise), is it true? Since climate scientists are unable to run experiments that 100% accurately simulate the Earth’s climate, are they taking a leap of faith in regards to the causes and effects of climate change? How might this impact the conversation and dialogue between man-made climate change believers and disbelievers?

As with most people, I think we should take very seriously the scientific research claiming that our temperatures are rising as a result of human activity. At the very least, consider man-made climate change a possibility. Regardless of what I think, there are countless people who don’t listen to these scientists and think the whole idea of climate change is a hoax, or “junk science”. My hope is that Muller’s findings will bring these skeptics back in to the climate change conversation with a more open mind and engage some people for the first time. Thanks to Muller’s findings, we should, at the very least, be able to get past the initial controversy of whether or not the globe is actually warming, and focus more on the potential causes.

On the other side of the coin are people who believe without question that humans are to blame for Earth’s rising temperatures. While these people are likely right, given the overwhelming consensus among experts, I believe they lose their effectiveness to engage “non-believers” in the conversation by refusing to consider any possibility that human beings are not responsible, after all. Despite the good intentions, it can be seen as a personal mission to “convert” someone to believe the way that they do, and some people are simply unwilling to be converted. For any subject, it is crucial that people engage with an open mind, lest we risk alienating the other side from the get go.

Climate change is a heated issue, and for the most part, it seems as though people have made up their minds. Unfortunately, having our minds fully made up about what is or isn’t happening, why, and what the results will or won’t be can stall our dialogue and reduce our effectiveness to create change, should change be needed.

Posted in About | 7 Comments

Good Ideas, Poor Leadership

I recently learned that Obama’s American Jobs Act of 2011 included a program called the Bridge to Work plan. The Bridge to Work would allow companies to hire unemployed workers without having to pay them. Essentially, the plan boils down to free labor for employers and free job-training for the unemployed, or in my opinion, a win-win.

The plan carries  some risks and challenges, for instance the possibility that employers will take advantage of the program and rotate free labor in and out every eight weeks without officially hiring anyone. And since employees would still need to make minimum wage, the program would add costs to government balance sheets from having to pay some people more than their current unemployment rate.

But let’s not get too stuck on a few shortcomings, since there is no such thing as a perfect plan. In the end, companies will increase profit, reduce prices to consumers, or both. And unemployed Americans will learn new skills, increase their chances for future work, and play a role in rebuilding our economy instead of sitting on the sidelines. The point I want to make is that this is a good idea, and there is support for it on all sides. So what’s the problem?

The problem lies with leadership, specifically President Obama. Unfortunately there is a significant portion of our country who reject his proposals for the mere fact that he proposed them. And even more unfortunately, that portion has been growing.

Maybe President Obama should start soliciting ideas through well-liked, third-party sources like Betty White, Ryan Seacrest, or panda bears. Maybe then people would actually consider an without automatically rejecting it. Or perhaps Obama should try a little reverse psychology: urge people to vote the opposite way of what he wants and then witness the squirming as people struggle between listening to him or following through on ideas that were theirs in the first place.

Posted in About | 1 Comment

to Meat or not to Meat

In honor of Blog Action Day 2011, I am tailoring today’s post around food. Specifically, the debate between carnivores, vegans, and everyone in between. How can one group of people feel so strongly about never using or consuming anything from animals, while others happily partake on a daily basis?

As with most issues, it depends on what you know and what you believe. Let’s start with a popular group of non-animal eaters: PETA. PETA’s mission is to ensure the world treats animals ethically, or more simply, that they should have similar rights to life as human beings. In regards to this conversation, since we don’t eat humans we should not eat other animals. There are also studies that suggest that eating meat is physically dangerous and could lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

On the other side of the spectrum are billions of people who believe that, since we have been eating animals for thousands of years and they taste so delicious, it is okay to eat meat. Some also argue that we are omnivores, and like other omnivores in nature, part of our diet should consist of meat.

Let’s assume that everyone is right: we must treat animals ethically, eating meat can make us sick, and meat must be a part of our diet. What should we do? Is there a way to behave that would satisfy all of these requirement?

What if everyone had to hunt, fish, or raise their own animals for their supply of meat? Would there be the same risks of cancer and disease if our meat intake was significantly less and restricted only to organic/wild animals? Is it possible to treat animals ethically and receive nourishment from them at the same time? What do you think?

Posted in About, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments