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Holding our politicians accountable.

In Local News on July 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

You can’t mention “presidential tapes” or recordings without thinking of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. His secret Oval Office recordings were considered a threat to the transparency and legitimacy of the executive branch.

Add to that just over 18 minutes that had been “accidentally” erased, a failed attempt to hide the tapes and controversy was bound to erupt. Of course, Nixon wasn’t the first U.S. President to record his private conversations. That tradition began in 1940 with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Today President Donald Trump is under fire for secret recordings of his own. Most in question are those that might have shed some light on the sudden, yet predictable, firing of former FBI Director James Comey.  He was let go, in this writer’s opinion, because he’s not a “yes man.” Comey may have been the last independent mind anywhere close to this bizarrely-manned administration.

But these mysterious recordings are creating more mistrust of Trump’s presidency and already being compared to Watergate, almost by design, by the unpredictable Commander-In-Chief himself. So far, no recordings have been released and no special prosecutors have been named to continue the Russian election tampering investigation.

It’s highly unlikely that no other presidents kept secret recordings of calls and personal conversations. To think so would just be ignorantly naive. So why is it such a big deal to people now, and begs the question, do Americans really care? The answer is … complex.

As with any political issue, it’s more than likely the only people who care about these issues are those in opposition to whomever the controversy is aimed at in the first place. In Trump’s case, it makes sense that the Democrats will call him on this, and every other issue.

Plus, he’s earned a great deal of criticism from his own party so those Republicans who don’t support this president will also have something to say on it; partly to hold him accountable and partly so they get a few minutes behind a microphone somewhere.

It’s logical to assume that opposing parties would want to push this issue. Most people probably believe the men and women at such a high government level are untouchable and pretty much do what they want to do, however, and whenever they feel like it. That’s probably true to a point and Trump has certainly made it clear that he will remain off of his tether for the duration.

The citizenry depends on those we send to Washington to keep the president, and each other, accountable for his or her actions. Unfortunately, to do so might also mean political and professional suicide. Crossing someone in your own party, particularly the party leader such as the president, could cost you any future support from within, regardless of your public popularity.

If Senator John Q. Public wants to be re-elected next term, he’s going to have to keep his head down, support his party leadership, and vote like they, and his contributors, tell him to vote. That’s how politics is done and if you think otherwise, once again, that’s a bit naïve.

In a way, we all figure it will work itself out and our democratic system of checks and balances will keep things moving in the right direction, but I’m not sure that’s wise. To be clear, nothing that is going on right now is new, not by any stretch of the imagination. But what has always kept the balance of power were people willing to stand up to the status quo and hold our politicians accountable.

It is pretty disappointing to accept that the average American has absolutely no interest in what’s going on and feels so out of control. But even if you don’t have a newspaper column, you can write to Congress and your party representatives.

Whatever your party affiliation or your feelings toward the Trump administration, the only way to make a difference is to get involved and that starts by speaking your mind. The only way to keep our elected officials in check is to constantly remind them that we are their employers, and they’re obligations are to us.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More online at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Trump gets nomination, I’m done with GOP

In Business, Economy, history, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology, State News, Uncategorized, World News on February 25, 2016 at 9:37 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOBecause I’ve always tried to get people to think about my subjects from more than one perspective, I’ve rarely shown my personal political leanings within the wording of my columns. In fact, I so often take opposing views in any given article, after any given Deer In Headlines column is published, I could be called, in the same day, a “bleeding heart liberal,” and a “right wing conservative.”

But, here it is, for the record and publicized for the first time anywhere – I am a registered Republican. (If there was a pool going somewhere, I’d like a cut please.) I am certainly not, however, what you might think of as a typical modern conservative. In truth, my considerations often demonstrate a far more liberal position but I’m also frequently sickened by the level of hypocrisy in both parties.

So, I should explain, “why Republican?” Well, I didn’t go with the GOP from any ideological position. Many years ago, during the first presidential election for which I was old enough to vote, I had to choose a party in order to participate in the primary election. At the time, I knew more about the Republican candidates, so I picked that one. Really scientific, wouldn’t you say?

No, it wasn’t the best way to choose, but I was 18 and had to make a fast decision. As the years went on, I always avoided just blindly voting the party line and chose whichever candidate I thought was best based on the facts at hand. So, my party affiliation really didn’t make much difference. But today I think that affiliation does matter, possibly more so than any other time during my life.

Trump rise indicates hateful path of GOP. Photo courtesy NYTimes.

Trump rise indicates hateful path of GOP. Photo courtesy NYTimes.

Donald Trump has managed to do exactly what he set out to since the day he announced his candidacy for president. However caustic and cartoonish his campaign, The Donald has ripped through the fabric of the Republican Party and scattered the conservative base.

My problem here is that any group that would allow and encourage a self-aggrandizing buffoon like Trump to climb to the top of the party has obviously lost its way. Poking around in the dark for the lesser of who cares, people have desperately searched for a non-politician. Sadly, they think Trump is that person. Still, Americans need a good leader and someone who understands the complexities of the world stage on which America is just one player.

To be an effective president, Trump would have to work on a team, listen to more knowledgeable advisors and make decisions based on the best interests of the people, not just to get his own way. I believe, as do others, that Trump is totally incapable of this behavior.

As Trump plowed through the rest of the party making his way to the top, he has repeatedly shown he is not ready or personally equipped to be that kind of leader. As a businessman, he comes across more like a dictator. In other words, it’s his way or nothing. Ironically, Republicans have repeatedly criticized President Obama for the very same behavior citing executive orders.

At this point, I need to be clear about something else regarding my political leanings. I don’t like Hillary Clinton either. She’s a proven liar from a deceptive family and a political insider. Bernie Sanders isn’t much better. His blathering on about so-called democratic socialism is idealistic nonsense lacking even the most basic economic foundation.

So why come out about my party affiliations now? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Over the years I’ve watched in disgust as this party that revels in moral values seems hypocritically more bigoted, angry and hateful than ever. A fact made more clear every time Trump opens his mouth to denigrate Muslims, minorities, women or whomever he’s attacking that day and is met with unbridled cheering from ignorant followers.

The party of Lincoln would certainly cringe if he were here today. In recent times, the GOP has argued harder for the right of someone to own an AR-15 assault weapon than for women and minorities to be treated equally. Honestly? It’s just embarrassing.

Trump’s shocking rise from joke to frontrunner proves that the Grand Old Party is nothing of the kind. It has become, instead, little more than another corporate sell-out run by rich, old white guys with followers who seem to thrive on hate, bigotry and fear.

A Trump nomination will be the last straw for me. When it happens, although I disagree with a great many liberal policies and ideals, I will march myself to the board of elections and change my party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Since, I tend to think for myself rather than be a political lemming, I’d obviously rather go “independent” but I wouldn’t, for two reasons. First, the idea of an “independent party,” is an oxymoron. You can’t be independent about something if you’re just going to follow a group. Secondly, I still want to have an effect in the primaries.

Many people are angry about the direction of the current administration and the country and I sympathize. I have many friends, family and business associates who are Trump supporters for those very reasons. And for them, I am simultaneously surprised and disappointed, but I still support them and their right to choose the candidate that best reflects their views.

So, I certainly hope these revelations have not put you off of reading my work, but I felt this was important enough to make a stand and let you, my readers, know where my head is in this election. In the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing more about what happens next in my political participation, so stay tuned to Deer In Headlines.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at deerinheadlines.com.

Public perception and the dusty GOP

In Economy, history, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on July 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

 

DIH LOGOIt seems the republican field of presidential candidacy is bursting at the seams, not to mention getting a little ridiculous. At the time of this writing, there are a dozen GOP candidates hoping to sway voters, and the RNC, before next year’s primary season, while only four democrats have officially tossed their hats into the ring.

At this point in the game, it’s anyone’s race. Until the democratic field shakes out, it’s unlikely there will be many republican endorsements. Before that can happen, supporters need to see is how their favorite conservative candidate stands up against the opposition.

Most early candidacies are a function of money – how much they have, how much is coming in and where to spend it for the best return on the investment. Media is critical to political perception, and expensive, but, at this point many of the candidates will have to spend time doing the old grip and grin just to introduce themselves to key voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa. It seems old school in a world of nonstop social media, but it’s necessary.

1280px-Republican_National_ConventionThere are too many GOP candidates with little to no name recognition and that will be an obstacle. Keep in mind, most of the country had no idea who Barack Obama was until the eleventh hour and, two terms later, he has repeatedly made history. But, can the Republican National Committee change the perception of the GOP as the tired, dusty party to something more progressive?

Dem forerunner Hillary Clinton has experience, but not in the same “boots on the ground” role as Jeb Bush or one of the other candidates who have been state governors. Still, just having been a governor isn’t enough to guarantee any sort of mileage in a presidential campaign, especially when accomplishments in office have been lackluster, to say the least.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, for example, has announced that he will officially launch his 2016 White House bid in late July. To hear Kasich describe it, he’s earned his seat at the table having been single handedly responsible for Ohio’s economic recovery following the recession. But, economists have been clear that Ohio’s recuperation is consistent with the rest of the country, resulting instead from federal stimulus packages, short term interest rate reductions and bail outs.

Assuming respectable advancement in the primaries, the candidates could experience secondary problems based on their choice of running mate. While the announcement comes much later in the game, everyone is thinking about it now and those interested in the job are quietly knocking on the door behind the scenes.

Hitching a ride on Kasich’s coat tails as a running mate would most likely be Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, an obvious choice for the short list. Although he served in congress for a time, DeWine’s name recognition is relatively useless beyond the borders of the Buckeye State.

If Kasich chooses DeWine, he would probably also have to deal with conservative backlash for the AG’s many liberal-leaning policies, the least of which is gun control, including his sponsorship of legislation against assault weapons and personal firearm ownership. Though carefully kept out of any published information, DeWine is also rumored to have been a democrat before changing sides in order to make a political name for himself in Ohio’s largely conservative Greene County. If true, that could further impede any national conservative support of a Kasich-DeWine ticket.

But even if the GOP candidacy field narrows, republicans are still stuck with the public perception as a “rich white guys club,” despite the fact there are two minorities on the list; an African American, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and a woman, former business exec Carly Fiorina. Historically, the GOP has great difficulty connecting with younger voters and minorities and, so far, nothing has happened to mitigate that problem.

Republicans are largely seen by young voters as bigoted, gun-happy, greedy and stuck in the1950s. Until one of the many conservative candidates manages to offer an alternative to that perception for a mass audience, Americans might be looking at another term under a democratic administration.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

Clinton and the lesser of “who cares.”

In Economy, history, National News, Opinion, Politics on April 14, 2015 at 7:37 am

DIH LOGONow that Hillary Clinton has finally confirmed her run at the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, there is growing concern that the next election will be all about electing a woman, rather than choosing the right candidate for the job.

America’s political landscape has changed a great deal since Clinton’s first run at the Oval Office in 2008. After eight years with a Democrat in the White House, and with Barack Obama’s job approval numbers struggling to maintain a tepid 47-percent, the country may simply be ready for a change. But is a female president too much change?

Back in 1984, the Democrats put the first woman on a presidential ticket, selecting former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as the vice presidential candidate alongside former Vice President Walter Mondale.  Despite her strong political background and experience many saw her as somewhat of a publicity stunt, designed to appeal to women and a rising number of younger voters.

Ferraro’s albatross, however, turned out to be, not the indecisive voter, but Walter Mondale, a stale, crusty relic of the 1960s who really had no chance against an incredibly popular incumbent by the name of Ronald Regan. Many experts still suggest that the democrats might well have prevailed had the ticket been reversed, with Ferraro as the presidential candidate.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin suffered a similar problem having been anchored to old-guard republican, John McCain. But Palin also lacked Ferraro’s professionalism, legal education and political clout and she was often viewed as little more than a tactic to draw votes from Hillary Clinton.

clintonWomen always seem to be held back from being in the real fight. Vice president is obviously a great job – the photo ops, the ribbon cuttings, the pacifiers. But if anything is going to be accomplished in the name of social evolution, the female candidate is going to have to be strong enough to lead the ticket; a trait Hillary has certainly demonstrated in her various roles throughout the last couple of decades.

However, if the next election turns out to be all about social popularity, breaking the glass ceiling of the Oval Office and a long campaign of “he said,” “she said,” then the smartest thing the GOP could do to increase their chances of winning in 2016 is go out and find an African American republican woman with impeccable professional and personal credentials. Actually, they already have someone in their camp that fits all of those qualifications – Condoleezza Rice.

Former Secretary of State Rice is one of the few conservatives (male or female) who could potentially give Clinton a real challenge. A republican ticket led by Rice could very well offer conservative voters something besides the lesser of “who cares.”

Unfortunately, based on her previous statements, she would be unlikely to run at all and, from a public relations standpoint, she’s been out of the limelight for some time. With such a hard-hitting campaign expected, Rice would simply not have the time to help voters get reacquainted with her and her platform.

In the opinion of objective observers, President Obama may have achieved a few things, but his current approval demonstrates that he fell short in many ways. If a well-suited opponent ever surfaces from the conservative sea, Hillary Clinton will have a tough time convincing people another democrat can improve things further.

Sadly, if the voting public is true to their tunnel-versioned pattern, they will once again miss an incredible opportunity to elect the right person for the job, rather than simply pulling the lever to motivate an agenda. Regardless of how seriously Americans want social evolution, it will never be a good idea to vote for someone – to any office – solely because of race, gender, religious background or party affiliation.

For once, if politicians would speak honestly and if voters would take just a moment to consider qualifications, character, and intent, American politics might finally be productive, compassionate and properly serve the people. But, as long as human beings still act with more emotion than good sense, any change would be nothing less than a miracle and Hillary is a sure thing.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

 

AG collecting BMV data: Who’s watching the watchers?

In Local News, Media, Opinion, Politics, sociology, Uncategorized on September 30, 2014 at 9:31 am

DIH LOGOApparently the National Security Administration (NSA) isn’t the only government agency collecting information on American citizens without oversight. According to multiple news sources, including CNN, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has just disclosed that Ohio driver license photos have been uploaded to a facial recognition database for criminal identification.

According to DeWine, the program allows police to quickly compare photographs of suspects or crime victims to an electronic pool of mug shots and driver license photos in the Ohio database. Comparisons are made of facial measurements from one image to the next in search of a match. The problem with all of this is that it’s been active since June – in secret.

With no rules or written regulations governing the use of this information, the AG can do whatever he wants with it. No official should have such wide-sweeping access to personal information on citizens.

Photo Courtesy RawStory.Com.

Ohio AG Mike DeWine    Photo Courtesy RawStory.Com.

Neither DeWine, nor any of his cronies, has any right to dig through the records of Ohio citizens without due process. Within moments of disclosing this information, the American Civil Liberties Union pounced on the situation, and, for a change, rightfully so.

ACLU Associate Director Gary Daniels issued a statement calling upon DeWine to, “Pull the plug” on the system. “This system needs to be shut down until there are meaningful, documented rules in place to keep this information secure, protect the privacy of innocent people, and prevent government abuse of this new tool,” Daniels said.

According to his statement at the press conference revealing this program, DeWine said, “Misuse of the facial recognition system is a felony offense.” But how can he make a statement like that when there are currently no written rules to govern its use?

As he told The Enquirer, it’s the AG’s opinion that he didn’t need to inform the public when the system was launched because 26 other states already have similar databases in operation. Only now, after the information was prematurely uncovered by the press, has DeWine decided to publicly form an expert advisory panel of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement representatives to create rules preventing privacy abuse.

Where is the state legislature in that list of “experts?” Our state representatives should be the ones governing the rules of operation for such a system, not those who already have control over it and the ability to exploit the information.

All this begs the question, if DeWine is uploading identification photos, what else is he collecting? Every photo is part of a larger database of names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. So who is looking at all of that and how much access do they have? Even more importantly, what can be done to control its use?

Protecting the public is what an attorney general is supposed to do. Sadly, when the person holding that office has an overwhelming sense of omnipotence, the public has to protect itself instead from him. Then, only the state legislature can take the proper action to limit DeWine’s reach with such sensitive data.

People need to call, email, fax, write to their state representative and demand they act immediately to avoid mishandling of this information and force the AG to disclose every detail of this program to the public. The idea that he felt he was not obligated to tell anyone only emphasizes the need for extensive regulation by the State House.

In the meantime, be aware that likely anyone in the AG office has access to any and all personal information collected by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles without proper due process of law, warrant or oversight. It’s not good enough that we’re supposed to simply “trust” Mike DeWine’s policies, especially knowing now that he has hidden this program for months. If he has concealed this, then what else could he be he hiding?

 

 

Hobby Lobby ruling sets religious freedom in business

In Business, Charities, history, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

DIH LOGOOn June 30th, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s suit to be exempted from the ObamaCare mandate forcing companies to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, including the controversial Plan B, or “morning after,” drugs. Many conservative business owners equate these drugs to abortion since they’re designed to terminate a pregnancy within hours of conception.

The primary argument to the court is whether the owners or management of a corporation has the same rights to freedom of religion as an individual. The Obama administration has already set exceptions for various religious non-profit organizations, which, other than their non-profit status, are structured similarly to their for-profit counterparts.

In March of this year, according to TheHill.com, the U.S. House of Representatives, “Approved the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, H.R. 1814. The bill allowed people avoid buying health insurance under ObamaCare if they could cite a religious reason. People seeking an exemption would have to include sworn statements in their tax returns explaining their objection to health insurance.” In effect, all they needed to get out of paying the federal healthcare mandate (tax) was a note from home.

A further question is whether there is a fundamental business difference between a non-profit corporation and a for-profit corporation? The practical answer is, no. Charity or not, a corporation is created to protect the individual operators from legal responsibility with regard to the business. Most non-profit filings are for tax and donation purposes, a process that seems outdated and inefficient with the advent of mega churches and multi-billion-dollar evangelical organizations.

uscourtIn America, there are countless religiously-focused, non-profit corporations worth millions more than some of the largest for-profit businesses. The Christian television network, Daystar, for example has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a “church,” according to NPR.com news. Celebrity, sometimes politician evangelist Pat Robertson and the late Billy Graham registered with the IRS as “religious organizations,” making them exempt from most taxes. All they had to do was file disclosure papers.

According to available records, NPR.com reports that the top three evangelical television broadcasters – Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — have a combined net worth of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. It is unknown whether the corporations that operate these broadcasters have filed for religious exemption under the healthcare reform laws.

The question persists, however, that if the only difference between a for-profit corporation and these mega non-profits is an earnings disclosure, why have the distinction at all? Certainly there are for-profit companies that give away millions of dollars in charitable funds each year but still have to comply with the law in every respect. Why then are religious non-profit organizations exempt from anything, much less a controversial healthcare mandate that has American small business struggling to comply or face bankrupting penalties?

The court’s latest decision with regard to religious exemption could have long-reaching implications, and not just in the healthcare arena. Giving a for-profit entity the same constitutional protections provided to non-profit religious groups could cause a flood of lawsuits ranging from tax law to equal employment regulations. Once again, major non-profits have million-dollar earners at the top, private jets, limousines and pretty much every other extravagance thought only to exist in for-profit American business.

If a church – any church – can make a case for religious freedom from legal mandates, why can’t a business owner cite his or her – or their – own religious beliefs for the same purposes? Is the constitution not written for everyone or does it exist specifically to meet the needs of religious groups so they can avoid taxes and dodge the law at their convenience?

This argument poses a great many questions and there will likely be countless more as ObamaCare reaches further corners of commerce. But, if that’s not enough to chew on, here’s another one. What happens if a Muslim, Jewish or non-Christian group requests exemption as well? Will the Christian right fight against their having the same protections?

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and contributor for WDTN-TV2’s LIVING DAYTON program. More at www.gerydeer.com.

 

Reduce spending, the deficit and congress

In Economy, Education, Jobs, National News, Opinion, Politics on October 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

DIH LOGOHow long can the national debt continue to increase before it finally collapses under its own weight? Congress seems to think it’s indefinite but when the debt is growing twice as fast as the economy, the country’s financial stability is so compromised it’s making the rest of the world nervous.

Just like having a credit card with an over-extended balance that racks up fees and penalties when defaults occur, the federal deficit grows exponentially with time. Even knocking a few billion off here and there won’t make much of a difference if the economy remains as stagnant as it has in the last several years. America cannot simply keep borrowing more money to cover debt that should have been reduced far earlier.

Photo Courtesy USA Today - www.usatoday.com

Photo Courtesy USA Today – http://www.usatoday.com

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it means to raise the debt ceiling. But continually increasing the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow will only add to the problem. Amid the congressional battles and strong-arming is a dance that averts the actual problem – the only way to reduce the deficit is to cut spending – period. That’s a tall order when all congress seems to want to do is sit by and watch the country hemorrhage money.

As the government shutdown enters a third week, congress is no closer to a solution than it was on October 1st. Government employees are still either furloughed or working without pay. Sure, they’ve been promised back pay, but how does that help when a family has mouths to feed and an upside-down mortgage to pay?

The real question is, apart from the small percentage of Americans who work for the federal government, who has really noticed the shutdown? Many experts say, very few. There are even those who say the park and memorial closures were done more as a publicity stunt to elicit public outrage towards the Republicans than to save money.

Looking at it objectively, that actually makes sense considering that government workers will receive back-pay for any and all days missed on furlough or unpaid time. If the shutdown of national parks services was really because “there was no money to pay them due to the fiscal crisis” during the shutdown, why would there be back pay to offer?

It has also been suggested that the shutdown has exposed another inherently expensive issue within the federal government – redundant or unnecessary employees. Excluding the military from the discussion for the moment, a certain level of redundancy is necessary for various reasons, but there is such a thing as overkill, even at the federal level. That overkill could be costing the taxpayers billions spent on unneeded civilian, contracted and other extraneous personnel.

After all, if you were running a small business and hired six employees when three would have sufficed, your business would soon be in financial distress. After a period of time, even large companies feel the effects of that kind of waste. It’s entirely possible that the government hires many more people than it needs (yeah – shocking, right?). This happens for a number of reasons from bad accounting to nepotism, but it does happen.

Which brings back the original point – Reduce spending and the deficit will come down. Clearly there are cuts that could be made without affecting the government’s overall operation or causing widespread layoffs. Reducing congressional salaries and perks would be a great place to start – particularly their perks. But the shutdown is proving that there are other areas of waste to be addressed. The trick is going to be finding the ones that are genuinely wasteful compared to those that need to be funded.

The difficulty exists in coming to an agreement about what needs to be cut and how much. Different sides have opposing ideas about the definition of “necessary” and required. Eventually they’ll have to come to some common ground and work it all out, but for now things still seem stalled.

The president’s approval rating, according to the Associated Press, is down to 37-percent and congress still lags behind at less than 20-percent. If people re-elect any of these people to congress they have only themselves to blame when this all happens again.

 

Voting With Conscience, Not So Easy

In Economy, Education, Home Improvement, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, State News, Uncategorized on October 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

 

 

 

 

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

In just a few days, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new president or retain the old one for another term. It’s been a heated race almost from the start but now that we’re down to the wire, the candidates are running in a dead heat.

Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are neck-in-neck in the polls and pounding the pavement in battleground states like Ohio and Virginia, Hurricane Sandy notwithstanding. But with so much negativity – some say far more than in elections past – how will the non-partisan and undecided voter make a choice come November 6? It’s probably going to end up, for most, to be a vote of conscience.

Voting your conscience may not be easy, but it’s often the only way to feel as if you made a difference and chose the candidate that best serves your values and interests. Sometimes, you have to say, “What’s in it for me?”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say how any individual might benefit from this election especially since most of the campaigning has been about one candidate saying why the other is bad, rather than telling us what he or she is going to do to once in office. Individual benefit will be based on a kind of trickle-down effect depending on which way the national election goes and how much change there is likely to be at the congressional level.

Once again, as noted previously in this column, it’s the local elections to which people should be giving more attention. It’s at the ground level that things actually get done in a way that directly affects the voter, regardless of how much we’d like to believe otherwise.

When weighing the issues of economic distress and job scarcity, the average person only has his or her experiences to call upon for reference. Discussing these problems on a national scale is almost pointless since the changes needed to affect these issues have to occur at the local level. That leaves the voter even more stymied.

Once more, we’re back to voting with our conscience. If you’re undecided, look at the following characteristics of the candidates – whether local or national.

First, is he or she right for the job? Do they give of the ‘air’ of a president or whatever position they intend to hold? Take the time to surf the internet and review video and read speeches they’ve given before and after becoming a candidate for office. Try to see around the fluff and the ‘marketing’ done to promote the candidate and look for threads of the person underneath. Do they seem genuine? Do you think they believe what they’re telling the people?

Do they share your personal values? I’ve long said that it’s simply a bad idea to choose a presidential candidate based on their religious beliefs or because of their take on subjects like abortion. But, when left with a tied score on the business issues, moral issues have to be taken into consideration, so you have little options at that point.

Does the candidate seem to flip-flop, only saying what his people are telling him to say or what he thinks the voters want to hear? Or, do you believe he holds to a set of ideals? This is probably the most important part of choosing a candidate in any election. Most politicians say what they expect the constituents want to hear. If he or she is a republican, conservative ideology comes across more prominently, and the same with being a democrat; the liberal voice will be louder.

But in order to capture a broader audience, the candidates will “pad” their ideology with sprinklings of the other side, or implied agreement with the opposition in small, virtually insignificant ways. This makes them seem more bi-partisan in an attempt to interest the other side.

Voting your conscience is much harder than voting based in facts and issue stance. Try to do your homework before you go to the polls. Choose the candidate you can feel good about supporting throughout their term and remember, no matter who you vote for, get out and vote.

Is PBS television for rich people? Ask Mitt.

In Children and Family, Education, Entertainment, Health, Media, National News, Opinion, television on October 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

Poor Big Bird; he was just walking around Sesame Street minding his own business, collecting a government paycheck – just like Mitt Romney – and the next thing he knew he was the topic of national political debate. The former Massachusetts governor has made it clear he intends to end funding to the Public Broadcasting Service. If he were old enough to vote – and human – he would go to the polls and help re-elect President Obama, if for no other reason than just to keep his job.

Sadness has gripped Hooper’s Store. No one’s buying sodas. Oscar the Grouch is even more cross than ever, and Cookie Monster is so distraught he turned down a plate full of chocolate chip raisin. If that isn’t bad enough, Charlie Rose might have to get a personality and stay on morning news television, evicted forever from his blackened studio.

If Mitt Romney has his way, hard line left wingers will have to find somewhere else to distribute their propaganda besides public television. But, aren’t the republicans the ones who are always saying that PBS is television for rich people? So, if that’s true, shouldn’t Romney be trying to preserve this refuge for every 20-year-old British television show ever produced? Nope. In Romney’s eyes, PBS is a complete and total waste of taxpayer dollars.

Seriously though, make a list of all the wasteful spending Congress will pass in a single year and the resulting torrential flood of pointless programs and pet projects funded in the billions by tax dollars would stagger the imagination. There’s nothing wasteful about PBS and it costs more to fill the presidential limousine once than public television costs the individual taxpayer for a year.

Fact: PBS accounts for only 0.00012 percent of the country’s budget. That’s about $1.35 per person, per year. That’s it. That’s what Romney is saying should be cut from the budget to reduce the deficit. He needs a calculator and some fact checking – something that’s not happening much in the current campaign.

In a country where we underfund schools and undervalue teachers, the American educational system needs all the help it can get and PBS offers that support.

Perhaps a more practical way to ensure the public is getting its money’s worth on PBS is to check over their spending. Paula Kerger, the PBS CEO earns just over $623.000. Is there a need for such a high, six-figure salaries at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? What about the the political side?

Is the overall message coming from PBS programming too liberally biased? If the tax payers are funding the programs, they should be neutral – fair and unbiased. But that’s not the generally sense.

Most conservatives believe that PBS is harshly liberal, anti-American and catering to the rich, democratic elite. Most liberals think that people who don’t watch Upstairs Downstairs, or PBS Newshour, just for example, are uninformed, unsophisticated and brain dead. Well, there’s probably some truth to both of those statements. But the value of PBS is not in the news or bad English sitcoms.

The majority of those who benefit from public television are underprivileged children. In defense of PBS, commentators and pundits are saying that PBS is one of the most valuable video resources for school teachers and students, providing a type of professionally-made educational programming that is free to the public.

No, Mr. Romney, Big Bird isn’t the problem with the deficit. Your overpaid, over privileged friends in Congress are responsible for the out of control spending. Never do they have to watch a true budget, forever dipping into the bottomless pocket of the suffering tax payer.

Additionally, with all of the economic difficulty befalling the country right now, should the focus of the candidates really be on Big Bird and PBS? It just offers more proof how out of touch both of these candidates are with the problems faced by the regular people of America.

Voters can’t handle the truth

In Business, Economy, Education, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Politicians distort the truth and exaggerate facts to elicit effect from an audience. All of them do it. The idea of any candidate being open and honest is not only unbelievable, but would likely bring the American political system to a dead stop.

No one is going to be completely honest and the determination of whether a politician is lying is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately die-hard fans of a particular candidate will insist that it’s only the opponent who lies. The hard, cold truth is, they all “lie.”

In the Star Wars film series, mentor Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that many of the truths we cling to in life depend greatly on our point of view. Nowhere is that a more appropriate statement than in the political ring.

Often, distortion of the facts is an effort to cover uncertainty or a lack of knowledge. No one could possibly provide an answer to every problem and, rather than appear weak or uninformed, a candidate has prepared a neutral response to counter his or her lack of a solution. Voters should learn to read between the lines and determine whether this behavior is a character flaw or the nature of the job.

Sometimes a candidate, in a moment of either clarity or misstep, will betray his or her thoughts. Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff remarks about the 47-percent of people who will vote for Obama because of the president’s predilection for endorsing entitlement programs is a perfect example of what can happen when a candidate’s true thoughts come to light.

Political candidates are under intense, constant scrutiny. Every word, every step, every mispronounced name can affect their overall image and subsequent performance in polling. Even misspeaking can be inferred as a lie and bring a campaign crashing down at any moment.

No matter how carefully words and phrases are chosen, however, they can still be used out of context to paint a candidate with a single brush stroke. Generally referred to as “sound bites,” the act of hacking up entire speeches into 30-second snippets has become far too common and can lead the listening public to the wrong conclusions.

Along the same concept, political advertising should be focused on informing the public about the intentions of the candidate. Instead, the point of these messages is to tear down the other guy, discrediting the opposition to the point of exclusion. Millions of dollars are poured into these ads just so each campaign can go back and forth on television, radio and on the Internet, just trying to counter the latest round of jabs from the other side.

Print or broadcast, generally the ads follow a simple pattern. One candidate takes a stab at the opponent’s position on something which is then answered from the other side with an accusation of lying about it, followed by some kind of weak rebuttal. But who is actually lying? Once again, that may depend on a point of view.

Developing and keeping on track a strong platform is tough for a political operative in today’s 2-minute news cycle. Since the American voter tends to go on hearsay and emotional preference rather than fact, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a consistent message. Much of the time is spent on damage control, like the president is doing now after his lackluster performance in the first debate.

Still, whether or not a politician lies is almost irrelevant to the modern voter. Americans seem to be more interested in trivial issues than the larger picture, proven by how easily they are distracted from more important problems by garbage issues. One man’s garbage, however, is another man’s treasure; so once again, it’s back to the pesky point of view.

One thing is for certain – all politicians lie. Voters just need to come to terms with how much of that really matters and learn how to separate the facts from the rhetoric.