In recent months, I’ve taken to quietly deleting comments that I find to be ad hominem, off-topic, and belligerent. If you can’t be bothered to argue an opinion or position, then it’s gone. Repeat or exceptionally egregious offenders are sometimes blacklisted from the site altogether. In any event, it’s wholly within my – ahem – executive discretion what stays and what goes.
Recent posts about Hobby Lobby (here and here) and the “12th Man” trademark (here) have generated some lively and unusually on-topic discussions, and I’ve only gone back and deleted one or two comments.
But sometimes, a comment is so thought-provoking – or stupid – that it merits a post of its own. I used to do this quite frequently, but as blogging as a medium has been replaced with newer, terser platforms, it’s been rare lately.
But today, we’ll play “snappy answers to stupid questions”, with apologies to Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee.
Tony, aka “wnyresident” is the showrunner of the longstanding cult comedy hit, “SpeakupWNY”. It’s a ragtag collection of Obama haters and other low-information voters who parrot a distinctly right wing weltanschauung. Think Breitbart without the spelling and grammar, or Ann Coulter without the wit.
Now, it’s not a secret that I’m a partisan Democrat, and a proud one at that. I’m a registered Democrat and town committeeman because I believe that the platform and values of the Democratic Party match my own, as compared with the other major political party – the Republican Party. I finally made the switch from the GOP to the Democrats in order to help Wesley Clark run for President in 2003-2004, but I had felt that the party had abandoned voters like me in 2000. That year, I volunteered and phone banked for John McCain as he battled George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.
McCain energized me on two occasions – the first was at a Republican candidates’ debate somewhere in the midwest in late 1999. The candidates were asked to name their most influential political philosopher. George W. Bush replied first with an astonishingly unresponsive, “Jesus Christ, because he changed my heart,” whatever that means. Jesus might be a lot of things, but I don’t think he was a political philosopher. (Not that I would necessarily quibble with a candidate who was arguing that, say, Jesus was the most influential figure in his life in general – that would be a valid response. But political philosopher?)
Then one by one, every other candidate parroted – oh yeah, Jesus for me, too. Except for one.
John McCain said, “Teddy Roosevelt” and explained how this earlier “maverick” had been a Republican who broke up the trusts and believed in conservation. It was a valid response to tendered question, and one that was well-reasoned and insightful. I was impressed, mostly because here was a Republican presidential candidate who was unafraid to not do the easy thing and just say, “Jesus”.
It showed that McCain was willing to stick his neck out, but more importantly that he had taken the time and brainpower to actually listen to the question – a sign of intelligence and respect.
The second time? I traveled up to Peterborough, New Hampshire and caught the tail end of a town hall speech he gave. He was saying all the right things – all the things that a young, sane, Northeastern Republican wanted to hear.
As we know, John McCain went on to verbally assail the right-wing theocrats Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell shortly before dropping out of the race. It was a last gasp to attract the sane, secular, Bill Weld Republicans to his team. It failed, and McCain later went on to run a shambolic campaign in 2008 with an unvetted embarrassment of a running mate, whose moronic pronouncements poison our political discourse to this day. In the last 14 years, the GOP has become only more reactionary, theocratic, and unreasonable.
So, as the Republicans continued to lurch right – especially after the country elected, and re-elected, Barack Obama – its values and platform has gone farther and farther away from my own personal and political values and beliefs.
I default to Democrat, just like Tony from Speakup, WBEN listeners, and many of you default to Republican. There are exceptions, and I have backed Republicans whom I believe to be exceptional in some way, or somehow better than the Democratic alternative.
In the case of my own New York State Senate District 61, I am represented by Mike Ranzenhofer. Mike’s a nice guy, but I think he’s been wholly ineffective in his two decades in public service. So much so that I ran against him unsuccessfully in 2007. He’s now just another Republican footsoldier in the feckless state Senate, and it would be good for SD-61 and New York for his tenure in public office to end. You can’t name anything Ranzenhofer has ever stood for in 20 years, except maybe for his push to make Chobani yogurt the state snack.
One big statewide issue is the implementation of the Common Core education standards, and the extent to which kids are overtested in New York schools. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the Common Core because I think that tougher standards are needed to get kids learning at a 21st century level. I agree, however, that the tests have been poorly implemented and administered, and that teacher autonomy should be respected. We can strike a good balance here if we retreat from our bunkers and listen to each other, as McCain did at that 1999 debate.
Elaine Altman is running against Ranz, and she’s a teacher. The Common Core is one of her biggest platform planks because she is uniquely qualified to address it and come up with ways to make it better. Admittedly, the race hasn’t begun in earnest, and we still have about three months to find out more about Altman and her positions. Nevertheless, as a Democrat, I default to Altman over her Republican opponent. As someone who thinks that Ranz has been an ineffective seat-moistener as a legislator, I choose Altman. As a Democratic committeeman in SD-61, I choose Altman over the career politician who’s done little to earn his fat state pension.
That’s a fascinating insight, isn’t it? Sure, Altman would probably be a great teacher – is a great teacher – but she’s now taking her experience as a citizen and a teacher and looking to take that to an insular, corrupt Albany that has no clue how the world works outside of its own decrepit bubble.
For as much bleating as the right makes about “career politicians”, put a professional teacher up against a career politician, and they beat a partisan retreat. By Tony’s own logic, professional gun fetishist David DiPietro would “really make a better dry cleaner” than Assemblyman.
But this one popped up just the other day – a solid two weeks after the original post went up.
There are no “open borders”, and anyone who suggests that is being willfully ignorant. There aren’t any candidates who want “open borders”, either – at least, not from the mainstream parties. The United States has, in effect, an army of agents along the southern border and anyone who’s actually tried to cross it knows that the process makes crossing into Canada from WNY seem as easy as a drive into Pennsylvania.
But even more critically, immigration, the border, customs, and international affairs are wholly within the province of the federal government. The states have little, if any, power or control over policymaking or enforcement of federal immigration statutes and regulations.
To ask what a candidate for the New York State Senate thinks about “illegal immigration” is as pointless as asking Ms. Altman her position on Burmese ethnic strife or Taiwanese independence. It would be like asking a member of the Amherst Town Board their considered opinion on fishing rights in the Georges Bank.
Now, as to my “view” on “illegal immigration”, I believe that the federal government should overhaul the entire immigration system to simplify the process for people wanting to live here, and to enable businesses here in the US that depend on migrant labor to hire the people they need under a modernized guest worker scheme.
But the current headlines are due in large part to right wing propaganda and misinformation.
I don’t know what Ms. Altman’s position is on “illegal immigration”, nor is it in any way relevant to the duties and responsibilities of a New York State Senator.