Marijuana Legalization

Posted by Dan Billings on January 6, 2014 under Either Sadness or Euphoria, Wading into the Potomac | 2 Comments to Read

I remember in high school that I was once on a run with some teammates and they were talking about marijuana. Because they knew I liked politics, they asked me if I was for legalization. I was never a popular kid and I did want people to like me. I honestly had no thoughts on the matter because I didn’t even really know what it was besides what I learned from after school specials. I had never encountered it. I had never encountered any drug outside of the time this girl would hide her cigarettes in my locker in middle school because she knew that no one would search my locker. I went through all of high school without seeing anyone with a red Solo cup or tasting a beer. I definitely never saw pot.

Marijuana Rally 2007-09-15 34So, I said, yes. I did support legalization. I believed them when they told me it was no worse than alcohol. I believed them that it was a way to relax. And if nothing else, I didn’t need to seem even more square than I already was. It didn’t mean I was going to try it. But I wanted to show that my liberal credentials were solid.

Unfortunately, I still feel I need to do that on this topic.

After Colorado and Washington legalized small amounts of pot, it has become a hot topic. And strangely enough, the only real connection to marijuana use happened in 2013. A few days ago, I wrote to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish the whole story.

I don’t know if it is worse than alcohol. And as someone who doesn’t drink, I have no frame of reference. I have never been drunk. I have never wanted to be drunk. I had only one drug in my past – antidepressants. And I never want to have that loss of control feeling again. I hated it because I lost myself. And as hard as I am on myself, I like myself. Maybe I am not supposed to be relaxed. I might be tense and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may not be very social and maybe a drink would calm my nerves but I have made the decision to not do that to myself. It isn’t good for my social life, but I am content with being the guy who reads and writes.

I understand why people want to use drugs. I understand the want to relax and basically shut your mind down. I do the same thing with reality television and superhero comics. But there is one thing that reality television and superhero comics don’t do: create addiction. Yes, alcohol is legal and creates addiction. And maybe pot should be legalized with the same thing. But to just write it off as a given and a good thing ignores one big problem. And I have not seen anyone pointing this out. I don’t know if it is a gateway drug and honestly, I don’t care. My biggest concern about marijuana legalization is that addiction is forgotten. Marijuana is addictive.

People addicted to things aren’t bad people. People are addicted to lots of things – good and bad. But addiction creates a dependency on something that seems to extend past boundaries. And that was how it affected me in 2013. I don’t know how to talk about this without going into the details and I don’t want to get into the details, but it hurt more than I can really say. I saw someone on marijuana say and do things that I couldn’t comprehend. It is why I am torn about legalization.

I understand the tax arguments. I presume the “no worse than alcohol” argument. I presume the crime statistics are true and that there are lots of individuals arrested for marijuana possession. But there are going to be people hurt by legalization, just as there are people hurt by alcohol legalization. And that will be something I will never understand. I don’t think I’m meant to.Marijuana Tax Stamps

I don’t see this as some big civil liberty win. I see this in the same category as abortion. It is something I wish never happened. I wish no one got high. There are so many beautiful things in the world to see and explore. I will never understand why it is more fun to sit in a room and get high, just like I don’t get why it is fun to get together with friends, get drunk, and then forget what happened the night before. I honestly believe I only have so many hours on this Earth and I want to be aware of as many as I can. I need my sleep but otherwise, I want to be alert and ready to go.

Lots of productive people smoke marijuana. Lots of smart people drink. Lots of amazing people do both. I will never be one of them. Just like abortion, I understand why people want it to be legal. But just like abortion, I wish that we lived in a world where it didn’t have to be. So, if it is to be legalized, I won’t celebrate it. I don’t think it will be the end of society or the beginning of some sort of US crash as the Chinese become more productive than us. But I will continue to wonder why people need something to escape.

Why I Spend Time Posting and Writing About Politics

Posted by Dan Billings on October 18, 2013 under Wading into the Potomac | Be the First to Comment

Any time I read an article about Facebook etiquette, it states never to write about politics. You hear the same thing about parties or dates. Never bring up politics. It only will divide people.

I hate that rationale. It only divides people because we allow it to divide us, and honestly, that is what our leaders prefer. It is easy to demonize an argument or a side you don’t agree with if you don’t have to interact with someone who believes it.

I spend a lot of time reading about politics, commenting about politics, and thinking about politics. I am sure many of you wish I would stop. I am sure many of you have decided not to pay attention to any more of my posts. And that is fine. You have that prerogative. But I never will.

Politics is about people. We all have different belief structures and have different images of how the world should work. We get these ideas from many places: our parents, our faith, our education process, our friends, our jobs, and a multitude of other sources. But they come together to create our belief structure. And the way that we shift our belief structures are by living and learning from other people.

For example, I will never own a gun. I will never hold a gun. I want nothing to do with a gun. I don’t believe that I should have anything in my hands that can be triggered to kill anything. I have no interest in hunting for sport or for food and if it came down to that, I would probably just die. But I understand that my opinion is not held by many people. I have read many articles about gun owners. People who have had a tradition of owning guns, hunting with their fathers, and it gives them an identity. I may never understand that – but that may not understand why I love comic books so much. When I read about people who have that emotional attachment to guns, I understand why they want one. When I read about someone who has a gun for protection, though I may not believe it is the best decision, I understand why they want it. But I also believe that a gun owner who does respect the weapon they hold should understand the need for regulation of something that they revere, because there are people who don’t have that same feeling about it. They are people who treat the gun as a toy. It is children who get a hold of it and pretend it is like something they saw in a movie or a television program. But the difference is if you shoot a zombie in a video game or if you shoot a friend in a video game, that friend can come back into the game. So, I do believe there is a discussion there that can be had if both sides take a respectful look at why the other side is concerned.

I have a similar attachment to the First Amendment as many have with the Second Amendment. The ability to say what you want and print it wherever you want is important. But I understand the limitations. You can’t slander someone. You can’t yell obscenities at three in the morning outside of your apartment building. But for example, I believe that someone should have the right to burn the American flag. I don’t want to do it myself and would never stoop to that behavior, but I don’t believe that people should not have that right if they so desire. I understand why it upsets so many people and why they might want to ban it, but just like banning guns doesn’t solve the crime problems in the United States, banning the burning of a flag does not solve the problems of discontent in a political structure.

But if two people can’t sit down and discuss this without resorting to names, then we don’t actually live in a democratic republic. We don’t have control over the issues or what matters to us. Instead, we allows groups of people dictate what we should think. We allow the parties to define themselves and we vote for them in a parliamentary-like system. We allow money handling organizations to put on commercials and force us to believe something that generally is only half true and not be concerned with it – but we love to quote them.

I recently got involved on a Daily Herald message board discussing the deficit. I put out arguments that both sides were at fault and dismissing the claims that President Obama owns all of the fiscal problems we are currently having. I was being honest with my beliefs, but most people believed I was defending the President and at one point called me a communist because I argued that we aren’t discussing the real problems with our budget: Social Security, Medicare, and the military. And I know I am not going to change minds on a message board, but I like the activity. I like having someone push back at my beliefs and I like to be challenged.

When I was a freshman in college, I worked for Illinois PIRG. I went door-to-door raising money to shut down the coal-fired power plants in Illinois. I would annoy people during dinner to tell them of the woes of plants that are still open today. I hated the job. But I didn’t hate it because people closed the door on me. The only people I hated in that regard were those that had Sierra Club stickers on their doors and told me to scram without giving me a second breath. I hated the people who pretended to care but wouldn’t even spend a second listening to my argument. I loved the people who disagreed with me. And I would argue with them why it was problematic. I would discuss the asthma levels and cancer epidemics near the plants. I would talk about other forms of energy that were better for the environment – even nuclear (even though that wasn’t in my pamphlet). I remember one man who I talked to for over ten minutes who didn’t want to hear a word I had to say when I first opened my mouth, but he saw a kid who was doing something he believed in and wanted to hear him out. He argued with me and I argued back. We didn’t raise our voices or call each other names like we were supposed to if we were on the set of a cable news program. And in the end, he looked at me and said, I’m gonna give you five dollars, but you can’t donate it to your cause. I don’t support that, but I’m impressed with you. I smiled and thanked him. And donated the money to my cause against his wishes – but I’m sure he knew I would.

I have many conservative friends. I love my conservative friends. I will listen to their arguments any day of the week. But I want to hear them. And I want to be able to discuss them.

Our political structure is only as good as we are. It is designed as a marketplace of ideas. But we are strapped for ideas because the people in charge don’t want us discussing them and figuring things out on our own. It is far easier to divide us into red and blue states and into liberals and conservatives. We are all Americans. We were given a voice by our Founding Fathers. Use it.

Mount Prospect Trustee Race – 2013

Posted by Dan Billings on February 22, 2013 under Wading into the Potomac | Be the First to Comment

In April, Mount Prospect will hold an election for village trustee. There are six candidates on the ballot. Below are samples of articles regarding the candidates, information on their personal beliefs and other political opinions, and this will be updated along the election to better serve Mount Prospect.

<updated with new Carl Ariazza video 2/26>

Almost every candidate running for Mt. Prospect village trustee and park board commissioner have agreed to participate in the Mt. Prospect Journal’s debate/forum on Wednesday, Mar. 20 beginning at 7 p.m. at Mt. Prospect Village Hall.

Incumbents:

Trustee Steven S. Polit

    • Picture with Rick Santorum on Facebook page
    • Political organizations according to Facebook page:
      • Eagle Forum of Illinois
        • A public policy organization partnering with Eagle Forum, for God and country, leading the pro-family movement since 1972.
        • Currently, lobbying to defend marriage in Illinois
        • Associated with Phyllis Schalfy
      • Patriot Voices
        • A 501(c)(4) organization started by former Sen. Rick Santorom
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “”We, as the village, need to take a leadership role there and get all the existing business and property owners on the same page,” Polit said. “I’d like to see a ‘Kensington Business Center Association’ formed to provide a single focus.”
  •  John Matuszak

John Matuszak

 

    • “What are you going to cut and how much will that save?” Matuszak asked. “When you cut those services, what will be the impact to the community?”
    • According to Matuszak, Dyslin and Arriaza continue to argue taxes are too high, but do not offer an alternative budget. “If they want my vote, they need to tell how their budget cuts will impact my life,” Matuszak emphasized.
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “The Internet has been a huge change, obviously,” he said. “Going forward, we should target businesses that can do well on the Internet. Mount Prospect is a great location for companies and retail stores, we just have to be smart and aggressive to get them.”
  • Michael Zadel

 

Michael Zadel

    • Mt. Prospect Journal
      • “I would first like to maintain a fiscally conservative approach to providing village services after identifying and prioritizing needed capital projects. Then implementing funding sources to accomplish these projects in a manner that provides minimal impact to the residents’ financial obligations<.>”
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…he’s happy the village has taken steps to annex properties on the south end of the village near O’Hare International Airport. Those could be good sites for warehouse-type developments, he said. He added that while progress in the downtown area has been slow, there are encouraging signs of life.”

Challengers:

  • John Dyslin
    • This Facebook page has many discussions between Dyslin and his opponents, specifically Polit. The main issue is regarding increases in property taxes.

John Dyslin

    •  Columnist for Examiner.com
      • “John Dyslin is a lifelong conservative and Republican. He currently is a precinct captain for the Republicans of Wheeling Township, a Liberty Leader with the Illinois Policy Institute and a volunteer for several Republican candidates in Illinois. He also is a veteran magazine editor, covering industries such as HVAC, electrical contracting and workplace safety and health.”
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…the village has to re-evaluate its business permit process to make sure it runs as quickly and smoothly as possible. He said he would make attracting businesses to the downtown area and the Kensington Business Center a priority.”

Kevin Grouwinkel

Kevin Grouwinkel

    • Mt. Prospect Journal article  - okay with three incumbents winning re-election and will ask soon-to-be mayor to fill her empty trustee spot with him. 
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…while he’s pleased with the overhaul of Randhurst, he too wishes more had happened in the downtown area. He said he would encourage more active communication with prospective businesses and existing property owners. ‘There’s been some progress downtown, but it’s been slow,” he said. “Bringing new businesses in is a huge help in keeping taxes reasonable for residents. Downtown has to be a top priority going forward.’”

 

Carl Arriaza

Carl Arriaza

  • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…’new eyes’ are needed in the area of downtown redevelopment. While retail chains and major restaurants have opened at Randhurst, he said the village must work harder to get smaller businesses.”

Welcome to the Echo Chamber

Posted by Dan Billings on February 5, 2013 under Wading into the Potomac | Be the First to Comment

I got into a discussion on Facebook today that doesn’t really end up looking like a discussion. A little background – someone posted something, I responded, my response was deleted, I responded on my own wall, a response was posted on mine, and the rest is history. Since we were not in the same physical space, this was as close as a discussion as was possible.

I love politics. I love discussion. I love hearing points of views.Arguing and yawning

But my greatest fears of our political system played out in this discussion between two people who probably agree on over 90% of issues. I call it the echo chamber. People flock to people of the same ideology and only want to hear points that verify what they already think. This is a left and right problem. Gun rights activists won’t ever hear that there may be a good reason for gun control. Universal health care proponents don’t want to hear that there may be people who don’t want health care. Conservatives listen to talk radio and watch Fox. Liberals listen to NPR and watch MSNBC.

A few years ago, I read a book by Cass Sunstein regarding extremism and noted that when people discuss anything, an extreme position is generally reached. He basically was arguing against the marketplace of ideas, but didn’t know how to relate that to how democracy works.

I do not believe that. I don’t live that. You put two people in a room and let them discuss something rationally and it will lead to understanding. Maybe both sides won’t agree to something, but something can be learned. But when you decide on your own that you know better based on things you read and things you heard and disregard anything to the contrary, you are not following a sound logic. It leads to faulty logic that it your political opponents used against you, you would decry it as heresy or just plain wrong.

And honestly, it is easier to just find similar thinkers and go with it, but I like to be challenged. I enjoy reading what Judge Richard Posner has to say on issues. I enjoy reading The National Review to get a sense of what my ideological opposites are worrying about. I will critique them and argue against them as much as anyone – look at anything I have said about Paul Ryan – but I will listen to them.

I could easily just read Ezra Klein, read The New Republic (I love the redesign and became a subscriber late last year), watch The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and discuss this with only my liberal friends. But then my positions won’t grow. I become isolated in my ideology and become no better than any other ideologue.

Life and politics is complicated. There is generally not a right or a wrong. There are scales of both of those. There are lots of grays. There are no simple answers. There are only simplistic answers. If problems could be so easily solved, you’re fooling yourself if you think our leaders wouldn’t accomplish them.

To Kill a Mockingbird 1But I ask you, next time you are thinking bout something, take the approach from To Kill A Mockingbird, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. You might come to the same conclusion, but you will at least thought about why the other person might not reach the same conclusion as you.

Straw Men to Absurdity

Posted by Dan Billings on December 11, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | 2 Comments to Read

When asked why Justice Scalia relates homosexuality with bestiality, he points to an argumentative style: reduction to absurdity, which demonstrates that a statement is true by showing that a false result follows from its denial or that a statement is false by showing that a false result follows from its acceptance. In other words, if we accept that homosexuality is okay, then bestiality or incest is okay. But bestiality and incest are not okay, therefore homosexuality is not okay.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin ScaliaFor a legal scholar, this is faulty logic, to say the least. This is a combination of a straw man and fear mongering. An absurdity can be drawn from any argument. To make a valid argument, the assertions must actually exist in the argument. In mathematics, this is a proof by contradiction. For example, when proving that the square root of two is irrational, the approach is a proof by contradiction.

Assume that the square root of 2 is rational.  Thus is can be expressed as a fraction of a/b, where a and b are integers, where at least one is odd because the fraction is expressed in lowest terms. If a/b is equal to the square root of 2, then a^2 = 2b^2. Thus a is even. Thus b must be odd. If a is even, then a^2 is a multiple of 4, so 2b^2 is a multiple of 4 and thus, b^2 would be even and so would b. So b is odd and even – which is a contradiction because b cannot be both odd and even. This is an assertion. Therefore, the initial assumption that the square root of two is rational must be false.

Irrational!

For Justice Scalia’s argument to be true, there must exist some assert in the argument between bestiality or incest and homosexuality. I wish someone would push him on this point.

His second point seems to be completely different:  “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

And I say, yes. You can have moral feelings against homosexuality, murder, or anything. You can have moral feelings for homosexuality, murder, or anything. But we live in a society where mores are discussed by cultures. If a culture decides that murder is immoral and then illegal, then if there are three people in that culture who disagree, it is up to those people if they want to shift their beliefs, leave the culture, or just accept that they are different.

I believe it is morally reprehensible that capital punishment is legal in this country. I believe our use of torture and the current use of drones are morally wrong. I can have these beliefs, just like Justice Scalia can have his beliefs. But at the end of the day, capital punishment is legal because more people believe in it than disagree with it. I live in a state with a capital punishment moratorium. I voted for a President who uses drones all the time. I made these decisions as a member of my society.

Justice Scalia is more than able to believe that homosexuality is wrong. But he is on the losing side of history. More and more people don’t agree with that morality. Morality changes – I just saw the movie Lincoln and will be writing about that soon. To think that people at the end of the civil war were still debating if slavery is a moral right or that universal suffrage was against all moral fiber does not make sense today.

Who I Voted For and Why:

Posted by Dan Billings on November 6, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | Read the First Comment

Every year, the writers of Slate Magazine post who they are voting for and why. I think it is a noble decision as they write about politics and culture the world. It gives readers a sense of where they come from. As I write often about politics and post even more about it on Facebook, I wanted to share who I will be voting for as I go to the polls tonight.The ballot-reading machine

U.S. President Obama at Intel's Fab 42

The man I voted for

President/Vice President: Barack Obama/Joe Biden (D)
When I voted for President Obama the first time, it was the only time I ever felt strongly about a candidate. I am not as liberal as I once was and have a practical side to me. I like people who believe in compromise and coming to the table with ideas. I like people who don’t always curtail to the popular will. Barack Obama is that person. He took ideas that originated on the other side of the political spectrum and adapted them. He worked on a grand compromise that was only destroyed when the other party realized it was better politics to have the President fail. Additionally, I do not trust Mitt Romney to run this country with anything besides a weather balloon. He doesn’t have a solid bone in his body.

U.S. House of Representatievs: Janice D. Schakowsky (D)
I have never voted for a winning Democrat for Congress. I am not a big Schakowsky fan, but I will vote for her.

State Senate: Matt Murphy (R)
The Democractic Party failed to run any candidates in the primary and therefore lose my vote. If you don’t compete throughout the election cycle, I don’t feel you deserve my vote. I have heard nothing from the Democrat and don’t know why I should vote for him. Matt Murphy is a relatively conservative Republican and I doubt I agree with him on any issues at the end of the day. But the Tribune believes him to be a good senator and I feel that he put in the time.

State House: David Harris(R)
See above. The reasons.

State’s Attorney: Anita Alvarez (D)
I am not a big fan. Her opponent seems like a decent candidate, but I believe Alvarez has done a competent job.

Recorder of Deeds: Karen Yarbrough (D)
Tribune liked her. Nothing else. She’s the recorder of deeds.

Clerk of Courts: Diane Shapiro (R)
The Cook County court system is disgusting. Dorothy Brown is an embarassment. I have no idea what Shapiro will do, but anything is better than the status quo.

Water Reclamation: Debra Shore (D), Kari Steele (D), Dave Ehrlich (G)
The Tribune likes the first two a lot and my friend, Louis Mercer, recommended the third on Facebook. This is one of the first times that Facebook impacted my vote. Way to go, Mark Zuckerberg.

Board of Review, First District: Dan Petlak (R)
Has done a good job. Deserves to keep his job.

Judges I voted no on:
I vote no if any bar association, newspaper, or legal group says the person in not qualified, even if it is a group I don’t agree with. If someone says that they are not qualified, they must be biased in some way and should not be on the court.


Cynthia Brim
Rodney Hughes Brooks
Christopher Donnelly
Lisa Ruble Murphy
Loretta Eadie-Daniels
Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman
Pamea E. Hill-Veal
Gloria Chevere

 

I will not disclose the rest of the judges as they don’t matter as most are unopposed or barely opposed.

A Note on My Car

Posted by Dan Billings on October 21, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | Read the First Comment

They say that there are two things that you shouldn’t talk about: religion and politics. However, these are two of the strongest things that bring us together. The reason that we are told not to talk about it is because people have high passions for both and in many instances, think that the other side’s perspective is wrong. I have always felt this is a short-sighted view of both topics.

Politics is the way we organize ourselves. Aristotle defined politics as the thing concerning the polis, or the citizenship. It is the thing that defines us as a citizen. But we treat it like a black and white decision between good and evil.

I have never been shy about my political beliefs. There is no reason in my mind to be afraid of anything in regards to my opinions. I feel that as long as you respect someone else’s beliefs that your beliefs will be given the same regard. I am friends with Republicans, Democrats, and Green party members. No libertarians…just kidding.

I know this isn’t a given for everyone. Yesterday afternoon, John and I went to see Hotel Transylvania with our friends Karl and Loryl. The movie was fun and it is always great to spend time with friends. But then we got to our car and there was a slip of paper on my windshield. I was not happy. The last time this happened a kid busted up my front headlight and bumper such that one light sometimes still dangles off of the car. I didn’t know where this new person hit my car and why they had a small scrap of paper.

20121021-092641.jpg

Hi Friend,
I just wanted you to know some knucklehead vandalized your car by slapping an Obama sticker on it. I didn’t want to drive around all day looking like an idiot and a complete fool.
Take care,
A Good Samaritan

I suppose this is funny in Brookfield, WI. I am sure the person who thought it was funny to put it on my car just giggled and walked away. But what is the state of our polis if this is something that a person carries around with them? How does this affect the marketplace of ideas?

I would be curious to know what this person thought my response would be. Would I read this, see the error in my ways, and repent and get a Romney/Ryan sticker? There was a reason I donated money to the Obama campaign. I paid attention to the issues important to me and saw where the candidates fell. So, I gave him money. I voted for him in 2008 and have not lot any faith. Honestly, I trust him more today than I did four years ago.

So the knucklehead who vandalized my car was me and I am proud to have the sticker. I don’t think I look like an idiot or a complete fool, just like I don’t think that of anyone with a Romney sticker. But I do think that someone who has printed out pieces of paper to put on Obama supporters’s cars might want to look in the mirror and find a better way to spend their time than by touching my car.

I Love My Government

Posted by Dan Billings on August 29, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | 3 Comments to Read

The America I know…in the four hours that I listened to the Republican National Convention, I heard this phrase at least five times an hour. I have hated this two America storyline whether it is from Democrats or Republicans. We are only two or three or four Americas because they put us into such camps. And I hate it.

The America I know is what I see when I ride the train. People helping people they don’t know get to where they want to go.

The America I know is what I see everyday at work. People coming together for a common good.

The America I know is what my family shows me. That no matter who I am or what I do, I have a group of people who will support and love me.

The America I know wants everyone to succeed. They will buy a CD that their uncles produce; a dessert at a farmer’s market to try something new. They will give money to charity and friends in need.

Every four minutes, the RNC is playing the tape of President Obama saying the famous line that you didn’t build your business alone as if this is some sort of attack of business people. Why is collaboration bad? Whether you get help from the government, a friend, or your family, it is help. If you child gets health care paid for by the state, you need their help and you get it. If you are getting rid of an old chair and your nephew takes it, he is helping you out. If a friend needs a loan, you provide it. That is America. We work together for a better tomorrow.

We look back at the Greatest Generation where basically everyone worked for the government. As a soldier, as a factory worker, or jut providing whatever aluminum necessary, Americans came together. There were opponents as there always were, but does anyone talk of them as true heroes?

I love this country. I love my community. I love my friends. I love my family. And I love my government. We live in the greatest country in the world with a government like no other. Whether you agree with the Democrats or the Republicans, our system is fantastic. We provide the elderly with a retirement that isn’t utter poverty. We have a military that does a lot of good across the world. We have bureaucrats who keep our food from poisoning us and who work hard to ensure that everyday all of the things we take for granted happen.

So many of us depend on the government and it is a shame that we ignore that. Here are just a few examples:
Teachers – are your kids going to school? Are you glad you don’t have to teach them yourself or find a tutor?
Police, fire, EMTs – yes, it is annoying to pull over when they speed by, but they keep us safe. Then service us in an emergency. If you ever need them, you don’t want to have to wait.
Doctors and nurses – there are lots of public hospitals. And if not, they get a lot of their resources from Medicare and Medicaid. If they were fully paid, think of all the people who would want to be doctors and nurses.
Businesses – my company sells the IRS tax research materials. It is a bit deal. I have friends who work for companies that have defense contracts. If that money disappears, those jobs disappear. And that’s the private sector. To assume the private sector doesn’t rely on the public sector is silly. They get tax breaks. TIF deals. Roads to their companies. Lights and power.

The main reason I cannot vote Republican is because they hate government. Yet, they want to control it. There is so much power that they hate but want to control. It is upsetting. Just once, I would love to hear a Republican talk about the good that government can do.

It isn’t a black and white issue: private versus public. Private companies and private charities do so much good. They create jobs and help lots of individuals. But so does the government. It doesn’t have to be an either/or dilemma.

Together, things can change and get better. Apart, it will descend into chaos. We are close to the precipice.

Bipartisanship – It’s easy to place blame. Much harder to do something

Posted by Dan Billings on June 26, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | Be the First to Comment

When elected officials decide to retire, they usually participate in exit interviews. It’s basically their time to bitch about the things they don’t like about their job, just like an exit interview when you leave any job. But the difference is that Congress is full of elected officials who have one job: represent their constituents. This is not a time for them to complain about the long hours. This is not the time to complain about the bad benefits. This is a time for them to blame everyone but themselves for the problem. Congressman Gary Ackerman complained about the same things that the last few retirees complained about: lack of honest discourse. “It used to be you had real friends on the other side of the aisle. It’s not like that anymore. Society has changed. The public is to blame as well. I think the people have gotten dumber. I don’t know that I would’ve said that out loud pre-my announcement that I was going to be leaving. [Laughter] But I think that’s true. I mean everything has changed. The media has changed. We now give broadcast licenses to philosophies instead of people. People get confused and think there is no difference between news and entertainment. People who project themselves as journalists on television don’t know the first thing about journalism. They are just there stirring up a hockey game,” – retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman20120625-211632.jpg

This is easily true. But to blame the people is dishonest. The discourse has gotten dumber. Politicians and the media have decided there are two sides that lead to winners and losers, like they are watching a baseball game. But this game matters. They let these “philosophies” take over.

I work with Republicans, I have friends who are Republicans. I am not a Republican. I bet that if you put normal people together in a room, we couldn’t solve all the problems, but we’d at least have the honest discussion. We would be willing to compromise because there wasn’t big fundraising dollars at the end of the rainbow. There weren’t lobbying jobs or seats on some sort of board. There would just be a solution.

Americans have always wanted only one thing. A solution. If there is a problem, we want an answer. We don’t want steadfastness. We don’t want philosophy. We want a job. We want less taxes. We want a system that actually works. We want less corruption. We want…

But we don’t get anything outside of promises. So, if congress honesty thinks that we are dumber than before or that they can pass the buck, they are wrong. I have lots of friends who would be “sitting across the aisle” because we don’t see it as an aisle. They are my neighbors, my friends, my family, and the people I trust. I don’t trust Congress.

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Romney’s Bullying Past

Posted by Dan Billings on May 11, 2012 under Wading into the Potomac | 3 Comments to Read

Is it surprising that Mitt Romney bullied kids in high school? No. Kids are cruel. Especially male kids.

I was bullied. A lot. Junior high was probably the worst three years of my life. I was “sick” a lot, so I didn’t have to go to school. I didn’t talk about it because it didn’t matter. But it hurt. And it still hurts. I remember all of the people who bullied me. I remember all of the things they said. I remember the people who would stand up for me. And I remember the day I decided to not let them or their statements control my life anymore (even if that was when I was in my mid-twenties).

I wouldn’t withhold my vote from Romney due to his actions in high school, even though I wouldn’t vote for him ever, like other people have written. I understand their points and think that it is a noble stand to say no to any bully.

The problem I have with Romney’s account is that he doesn’t remember it. He said on the radio that “Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that.” He also said, according to the Washington Post, “‘I don’t remember that incident,’ Romney said, laughing.”

I will give him the first point. Lots of people, including myself, probably have moments of cruelty and moments of dumbness in high school. Though I never cut someone else’s hair, I know I said mean things to people. We all do. But it’s that he laughs off the memory of that incident.

When I was in junior high, I would have lunch with a few friends and one kid came and sat next to me. And he proceeded to punch me in the shoulder for the entire period. My shoulder was all black and blue and there were a lot of broken blood vessels. No one stopped him, including myself. I always believed it was better to not fight back. That was my choice. This kid’s choice was to punch me. I remember it as clear as day. He probably doesn’t.

In high school, my freshman year was not a lot of fun. I was a bit on my own. And gym class was the worst. I got picked on every day. I remember a childhood friend asking them to just leave me alone, even though we had grown apart. But it didn’t really change things. During a line dancing class, the guys around me began a mosh pit to basically just hit me and we were all thrown in the hall as punishment for disrupting the class, where they continued to make fun or me and push me around. The same year, during a fitness day that included jump ropes, I was hog-tied in the corner and laughed at by students and teachers a like, until someone came over to untie me.

I will never forget those moments. But, again, the bullies probably did. And that is the underlying difference. When you do something mean, you most likely forget it. But when someone does something horrible to you, you never forget it.

Gov. Romney should not have laughed off the incident. He should have had more courage to apologize directly to the individual and note that although he may not remember this incident, he is incredibly regretful for conducting himself in a manner that lead this man to never forget what happened to him. He should stand up and say that what he did was wrong and recognize that there are many individuals out in the world that have been affected by similar incidents and try to make amends.

Each morning, I have to fight to believe in myself because of what people did to me for many years. I have to tell myself that I am a good person and that all of those tears in school created someone great. I have had almost a a decade’s worth of therapy to get past something that I am sure that my bullies don’t even remember. To just write it off as youthful indiscretions is unfair and not something I want in a leader. And any of his supporters who just write it off obviously don’t understand the pain that can be caused by such incidents.