Communitas

Blabbings about family, community, sustainability and life from Frederick, MD.

Let’s Choose The Courageous Guy July 11, 2007

Filed under: education,obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 4:29 pm

Article in the Post today about Obama and the National Education Association (the teacher’s lobby).  The NEA is having their convention, and all of the presidential candidates are filing through, and they’re all telling the attendees, of course, just what they want to hear.

Except Obama. He’s supporting merit pay for teachers. And all of the union members are denouncing him for it.

Our politics are paralyzed. No big ideas are realized. Not even desperately needed changes occur. Instead, cowardly politicians who pander to fears instead of inspiring hopes wrestle for points in opinion polls. And nothing happens.

Merit pay is a great idea. I’m all for it. But the point is that I’m all for the candidate who will be courageous, advocate what is really needed instead of what is popular. Next year, let’s be sure to choose the courageous guy.

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Obama The Inevitable April 4, 2007

Filed under: obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 6:52 pm

I’m trying to figure out which one of these images best captures Hillary’s expression when she learned the news today that Barack has raised $25M in Q107, almost equal to her record-setting $26M. Why would she be so shocked? The Fix on Washingtonpost.com explains:

One of Clinton’s keys to the nomination all along has been the idea that no candidate will be able to compete with her financially. That perception is now debunked . . .  the reality is that Obama’s number has knocked out one of the main pillars of the Clinton “inevitability” argument.

Another great step forward for the Obama campaign. Hillary should give up. Here we go!

 

It Takes Respect March 14, 2007

Filed under: globalization,obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 11:33 pm

Mayan leaders in Guatemala are going to cleanse the spirit of one of their temples following Presdient Bush’s recent visit there. Great. Yet another example of great feeling toward the U.S.

Is this deserved? Is this a fair gesture toward not just the President but our country? It doesn’t really matter. The fact is, it is the attitude of more and more people around the world.

There’s resentment towards our political and economic preeminence in the world. And there is legitimate resentment towards our heavy-handed, arrogant approach to world affairs.

So what’s the solution? The right set of policies? Certain alliances? Proper diplomatic strategy?

David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post today about “Second Chance,” a book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under Carter. In it, he says that it really isn’t about policies or strategies. Rather so much can be done just through the behavior of our presidency and how we present ourselves to the rest of the world.

More than anything, he argues, the rest of the world is striving for dignity, for respect. If our materially-crazed nation continues to run around the globe running over economies and the environment, invading sovereign nations with no respect for other countries, we will continue to be more and more despised. But if we can more display our own humanity, our humility, our own similarity to all the other people’s of the world, we can earn their respect and their friendship. And the chief exporter of this image of who we are sits with the presidency.

It is all about how the presidency provides an opportunity for much more than just politics and policy, but a platform for moral leadership. And Ignatius concludes that of course my man, Barack Obama, is the person best suited to take up Brzezinski’s call and restore our standing in the world. Let’s hope it happens!

 

Who Leads Like This? No one. March 6, 2007

Filed under: leaders,obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 6:33 pm

On Sunday Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both appeared in Selma, AL to mark the anniversary of the famed civil rights march there. Most of the press was around the hype of the simeltaneous apperance, and not about the substance of their visits.

The substance, however, revealed how Obama is truly a remarkable leader, none like I’ve ever seen before. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

One of the signature aspects of the civil rights movement was the degree of discipline and fortitude that was instilled in all the people who participated. Imagine young people, 16, 17, 20, 21, backs straight, eyes clear, suit and tie, sitting down at a lunch counter knowing somebody is going to spill milk on you but you have the discipline to understand that you are not going to retaliate because in showing the world how disciplined we were as a people, we were able to win over the conscience of the nation. I can’t say for certain that we have instilled that same sense of moral clarity and purpose in this generation. Bishop, sometimes I feel like we’ve lost it a little bit.

I’m fighting to make sure that our schools are adequately funded all across the country. With the inequities of relying on property taxes and people who are born in wealthy districts getting better schools than folks born in poor districts and that’s now how it’s supposed to be. That’s not the American way. but I’ll tell you what — even as I fight on behalf of more education funding, more equity, I have to also say that , if parents don’t turn off the television set when the child comes home from school and make sure they sit down and do their homework and go talk to the teachers and find out how they’re doing, and if we don’t start instilling a sense in our young children that there is nothing to be ashamed about in educational achievement, I don’t know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white.

Who leads like this? Who actually tells people like it is? Who actually points out voters shortcomings, and then challenges them about how they (and not government) can make things better? (The example here is specific to the black community but this is his approach across the board).

Really no one. No one that I’m aware of on either party. And policies aside, I’d support Obama on this simple courage and sincerity alone. (Plus I like his  policies).

Why does our federal government have to be just about making promises to voters and then wrestling in DC to bring back the most loot? It does not, but that’s what it has evolved to. In the presidency there is more potential impact in moral leadership than there is legislative or executive actions. But it takes a courageous, principled, and inspired person to make it happen. And I think we’ve found one!

 

Beginning of a Great New Day for America February 10, 2007

Filed under: obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 7:58 pm

Barack Obama announced his campaign for Presidency today from Springfield, IL.

I watched the speech with Kita at the gym. Man, was it inspiring in the way no other Presidential candidate or political leader of any sort has ever been! He has Reagan or Clinton’s gift for oratory, but that is further coupled with deep credibility, which makes you want to march forward with and for him.

In particular, I liked this about his speech:

All of us know what those challenges are today – a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren’t learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We’ve heard them. We’ve talked about them for years.

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

The issue with government is far beyond just policy today, though most politicians really only ever talk about policy. The issue is less about what government does, but how it does it. Obama is one of the first to really address that. He would be the first to say that many leaders on both sides of the aisle are smart and reasonable. But it is because of how we go about our process of governing that citizens are so dissatisfied and our country remains so far below its potential.

I’m eager to participate. His candidacy could really change America for the better.

 

Federal Government Making Local Decisions January 31, 2007

Filed under: devolution,politics,Sprawl — tobymurdock @ 2:05 pm

More bad news in the Washington Post today about efforts to put the new Metro line in Tyson’s Corner through a tunnel instead of above ground.

It is so proven, time and time again, what the results are of keeping transit above ground: it does nothing to change the urban fabric. Northern Virginia, in fact, is a widely-cited case study in the difference the Orange Line has had in its below-ground (Arlington) and above ground (Fairfax) portions.

Local leaders know this and are trying desperately to make the change. But because the bulk of the funding is coming from the federal government, and because certain federal govenernment regulations make this change somehow impossible, it is not going to happen.

Which raises the question: why is this a federal decision? Transit in Virginia has nothing to do with the rest of the country, but the intrusion of national authority into the process is going to result in a tragic outcome.

Devolution used to be a concept with more public support than it has now. Excessive central authority makes for inefficiency and poor decision-making, as shown in this example. It also detaches citizens from government, making for much of the apathy and disillusionment we have towards civic life in our country. Some day we must change this.

Update: there is new hope for the tunnel. We’ll see if anything happens. This still doesn’t change how the federal involement makes the whole process ineffective.

 

Barack & Buffet January 28, 2007

Filed under: Economy,education,globalization,leaders,politics,taxes — tobymurdock @ 8:15 pm

A few weeks ago I finished Barack Obama’s Audactiy of Hope. It was great.

A particularly interesting point was his describing his time spent with Warren Buffet. Buffet, the second richest man in the U.S., spoke about how he thinks that he and the richest 1% of Americans should pay greater taxes. He says:

 [Those wealthy against higher taxes] have this idea that it’s ‘their money’ and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don’t factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society that I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.

But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society views values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing–and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.

The free market’s the best mechanism ever devised to put resources to their most efficient and productive use. The government isnt’ particularly good at that. But the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy. And it just makes sense that those of use who’ve benefited from the market should pay a bigger share.

It is a very interesting perspective from the most successful financier ever. As our country succumbs more and more to the pressures of globalization and the need for citizens to attain “creative class” status for their prosperity, something has to give. The only solution in my mind is an unheard of investment in education–a dedication to it like no country has ever provided. And that will cost money. Mr. Buffett suggests an interesting logic and justification for where that money might come from. It will in fact be the right thing for all Americans.