Top News Stories Of 2012

December 28, 2011

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A lot of sites are highlighting the top news stories of 2011.  It’s pretty easy to do them in hindsight – how about a look forward at the top news stories of 2012.

Here are my three news stories to follow in 2012.

The presidential election

Hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars will be spent to obtain a job that pays a mere $400,000 per year.  Since I live in Iowa, I’ve been deluged with commercials for many months.  I can’t wait for the caucuses to be over, so that the politicians can focus on New Hampshire.  My prediction is that the economy will bounce back and Obama will ride the economic uptick to a re-election.  I’m not saying that he’ll cause the recovery, just that he’ll get the credit for it (which is fair, since presidents also get blamed for things they don’t cause.

In addition to the presidential election, there will also be elections for all of the seats in the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the seats in the Senate.  These don’t get as much attention, but they are just as important.  While the political writers on The Soap Boxers will cover the serious political news, I’ll handle the snarky stories (which coven will Christine O’Donnell join in 2012) on my new site, Donkey and Elephant Show.

The world will end

December 21 is just 359 days away.  If you happen to be in Australia on November 13 and fear that the end of the world has arrived early, don’t worry – you’re just seeing a total solar eclipse.  You’ve still got 38 days to live.

I’ve given some advice for the end of days.  Sadly, I do expect that quite a few people will saddle themselves with debt under the assumption that the world will end on December 21 and they won’t have to repay the money.  If the sun rises on December 22, we may see a spike in the number of bankruptcies.  (Sadly, I’m not kidding).


I’m an Olympic junkie.  During the 2012 Summer games in London, I will once again learn the nuances of many sports that I pay no attention to at any other time (kayaking?).  Of particular note to me is that fact that 2004 Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson will attempt to win another gold in 2012.

Not only are the Olympics a great showcase for sports, but it’s also a great way to learn about other countries and cultures.  Certainly we’ll learn a lot about London during the Games, but also about countries like Trinidad and Tobago.  Have kids who hate geography but love sports?  Let them watch the Olympics and they’ll pick up some geography (and maybe even learn something about world politics).

While I’ll like watch just about anything, my main focus will be on track and field, especially since baseball has been dropped as an Olympic sport (sigh).

Your thoughts

What stories will you be following in 2012?


Does Big Money Control Our Elections?

May 12, 2011

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Before I jump into this month’s article, I just want to talk about an interesting comment I heard on the radio the other day regarding President Obama ordering the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden.  In certain right-wing circles people are criticizing both the media and president himself;  the media for giving Obama too much credit and Obama himself for taking too much credit.  We all know about this, there are plenty of conservatives out there that will never, ever give a Democrat credit for anything.  Well, the radio commentator threw a little devil’s advocate out there – what if the raid was a failure, both helicopters crashed, a few dozen Americans got killed and Bin Laden got away, who would get the blame?  No doubt in my mind that every last Republican out there would be calling for impeachment for such a bad decision by Obama if that had happened.

One way or the other, people.  You can’t have it both ways.  “The buck stops here” also means that the person at the top gets some credit when things go right, not just gets the blame when things go wrong.

Ok, on to your regularly scheduled dose of liberal-leaning anti-corporatist hate…

I want to set up a little imaginary scenario for you.  Picture your child, in 4th grade.  I know not all of you have kids, but try to play along.  Well your child’s school is having elections for class representative to the student committee.  It’s a pretty big deal to the kids and each class ends up with two children who run off against each other election style for who gets voted representative.  Your child is one of the two, and part of their “campaign” is making some election posters to put up around the school.  You spend a lot of time helping your kid on the computer making up a few really nice posters and researching an issue or two that they can run on.  You go in to school to help your child put up the posters and watch the debate against the other candidate and the first thing you notice … the other candidate has some amazingly high-quality posters!  They’re glossy, full of color.  Clearly professionally done, and probably very expensive.  There’s a tiny disclaimer in one bottom corner of each poster:  “This poster was paid for by the 5th grade volleyball team.”

You’re stunned.  These posters are up all over the place, dozens of them.  You wonder just how something like this can happen, and make your way to your child’s classroom to watch the debate.  The debate is more or less a tie, but your school lets other kids speak on behalf of whoever they want.  Dozens of other children get up and spread blatant lies about your kid;  “I saw Chris kick a dog.”   “I saw Chris cheat on a test!”  Your child tries denounce these lies, but is told by the teacher that they had their time to speak.  Of course, after all that, your kid loses the election and doesn’t get to be class representative.

That sounds … wrong.  Far-fetched.  Un-American.  You try to argue, but you’re told that everything went according to the rules.

It’s also pretty close to what can happen here in the USA, thanks to the way elections work and 2 key rulings, one of them by the Supreme Court.

Back in January of 2010 the Supreme Court decided in “Citizens United v Federal Election Commission” that there can be no caps on the amount of corporate money spent on political advertising.  That means if Rupert Murdoch or Michael Moore wanted to go and spent millions against their obvious targets, they could.  Heck, if they had the money to blow they could spend billions, and none of it would be subject to campaign finance rules.  The only provision?  There has to be a disclaimer.  Of course, you could get the fast-talk guy from the Micro Machines commercials to read a paragraph of disclaimer in 2 seconds at the end of the commercial so the average Joe doesn’t even process it.

There was another, lesser-known court case in the Florida Court of Appeals back in 2003 that can directly affect the political atmosphere in this country.  News organizations don’t have to tell the truth.  In fact, in that case the Florida Court of Appeals said that, specifically, Fox News (and by extension all news organizations) has a first amendment right to lie.  Yup, that bastion of “fair and balanced” actually fought a case to appeals court saying they can lie if they want.  As the article says, I don’t know of any other news organization that has done this so matter-of-factly.

No combine those two things … you have a first amendment right to lie, even if you’re a news organization, and corporations can spend as much money as they want as long as there is a tiny disclaimer.  We’ve already seen something similar – remember the 2004 presidential campaign “swiftboating“?  Essentially a group of Viet Nam war vets, some who never even served with John Kerry, said he was a horrible commander, his military honors were vastly overstate, and a few even went as far as saying the Navy’s records didn’t tell the truth.  There was a lot of media attention on that, but the ads still ran.  Remember how close that election was?  The Supreme Court decided it, and literally a few thousand votes could have made John Kerry president.  What if it was a few thousand people who voted for Dubya who saw those ads but didn’t see any media coverage of how they were practically lies?  That’s right, a group of corporate funded people -most of whom barely knew John Kerry and some of whom lied- decided a US election.

It’s time we take our politics back.  Every citizen has a vote already, why do giant corporations making billions in profit and sometimes not paying back any in taxes get such a strong voice?  According to US law now the Russian megacorp Gazprom or some Dubai casino could spend a billion dollars on a series of political television commercials and not even tell the truth.  Do we really want the USA standing for corporate control over the individual voice?


November 5, 2010

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Today’s fiction story focuses on, of course, politics 🙂  This will likely be the last political thing I write for a while.  This isn’t intended to be anti-GOP propaganda, it’s just that the inspiration was Lisa Murkowski’s Senate bid in Alaska.

On the day after her loss in the primary, the incumbent Senator announced that she would be remaining in the race as a write-in candidate. Josephine Havlicek was a moderate Republican who had come up short in the primary against a candidate with more conservative views.

“She is defying the will of the people,” declared F. George Rinaldi as he met for coffee with a colleague later in the day.

“Indeed, she must be stopped,” agreed Chad Gronstal, another heavy hitter in the party. “The Havlicek era has come to an end, and she must move aside to make way for the ascent of Bradley Jericho. She’s simply too liberal for our party.”

“Can she pull it off?” Rinaldi wondered aloud. “Can she buck the odds and win a Senate seat as a write-in candidate?”

“Write-in campaigns are a bit tricky. A lot of people just have the tendency to fill an oval and move on – they aren’t willing to take an extra minute to write in a name.”

“But she’s the incumbent,” countered Rinaldi. “She has some momentum on her side.”

“Indeed she does,” agreed Gronstal. “But we have a few tricks up our sleeves as well.”

Throughout October, polls showed Josephine Havlicek running solidly ahead of the official Republican candidate Jericho, with Democrat Sarah Brown trailing far behind. It seemed that the incumbent’s popularity was going to allow her to cruise to an easy victory.

On the last day to register as a write-in candidate, just a week before the election, Senator Josephine Havlicek was joined on the ballot by Josephine Havlichek, a retired schoolteacher. She had registered at the request of a certain Mr. Rinaldi, who offered her a small sum of money in exchange for this patriotic act.

In the last week before the election, ads supporting Josephine Havlichek – the schoolteacher – were all over the television, and yard signs were popping up on every street corner.

“What do you think,” asked Gronstal, as he and Rinadli grabbed a beer the night before the election.

“I think we may have stolen the ball from Havlicek. Our gal should be able to siphon off enough votes to allow Jericho to surpass the Senator’s vote total.”

A funny thing happened to Bradley Jericho on the way to his coronation. He lost. The last ditch effort to cause confusion about the correct spelling of the incumbent’s name caused a surge in the number of write-in votes. When all precincts had reported in, Jericho had just 25% of the vote, the Democrat Brown a pathetic 13%, and other minor candidates 2%. 60% of the electorate had chosen to write in a candidate. Schoolteacher Havlichek would not be able to help their cause by siphoning a few votes away from the Senator – it was a lost cause. Josephine Havlicek would be returning to Washington.

A funny thing happened to Josephine Havlicek on her way back to Washington. She lost. The last minute strategy of the Republicans to thwart her bid for another term had indeed worked. She was listed on just under half the write-in ballots. Listed on more than half the ballots was Josephine Havlicheck, a little known retired schoolteacher.

A funny thing happened to F. George Rinaldi and Chad Gronstal in the aftermath of the election. Their joke candidate went a little rogue in her first press conference.

“The first thing I will do as a Senator is to work toward overturning Roe vs. Wade,” thundered the diminutive woman, to roaring applause.

“The second thing I will do as a Senator is work to repeal Brown vs. Board of Education. It is time to once again ensure that every student is educated amongst his or her peers and not intermixed into some melting pot.”

The crowd fell silent, and Chad Gronstal suddenly felt sick to his stomach. Perhaps this hadn’t been the best plan, after all.