Friday, September 3, 2010

A New Era. GO IRISH!!!!



The pep rally was really special tonight.  It is obvious the players believe in Coach Kelly.  By always demanding their best he has earned their respect.  After three years of watching a team that played hard one or two quarters a game, I will treasure every second of tomorrow's game.  Win or lose we will work harder than the other team, and because of that my faith in our football program has returned.

GO IRISH!!!

The $ystem is Broke: Let's Fix It

Hope you all had a chance to look at the Observer today.  I have a column that will run bi-weekly on Fridays!  From now on I will publish the column on Leftys as soon as I see it on the Observer website.

I submitted my title and byline to the Observer as The $ystem is Broke; Let's Fix It...but! they removed the $ sign without informing me.  Kind of unfortunate because I thought that was important to the title.  So I will be changing the name of my column in the future to "In Pursuit of Social Justice."  I want my column to challenge the readers and open up debate on new fronts.  It will have a progressive slant at times, but it is important to me that all political views would appreciate my writing and that its not just partisan ranting (there is a place for that, but I feel my columns will have more of an effect if they aren't labeled completely).  Let me know your thoughts!!

Can someone please start a charity fund that donates money to help the unemployed get job training for every time a politician says he or she is not a part of Washington culture? My first thoughts every time a guy in a suit, excuse me pleated khakis and a working man’s collared shirt, says he wants to be sent to Washington to change the culture of D.C. is how stupid must the U.S. public be to buy this as genuine? Despite your political beliefs you are likely equally baffled as to why politicians can say with a straight face that they will “shake up Washington.” Yet, they will get away with it and win their elections (Only seven incumbents in all of Congress have lost in a primary so far this year), not because people are dumb, but because there are no real options. Pessimism is attacking the soul of the United States. We need to start finding ways to stop it.

The journey towards saving our democracy from the obsession of short-term political benefit versus long-term health for our country is a rigorous one, but it must start with challenging the two-party system. I’ve spent the last three years of my life campaigning for candidates, and then fighting issue-by-issue trying to win legislative battles to move this country forward. After two years of the Obama Administration I am far from empty-handed, but enormous issues like the environment and immigration policy are untouched and each major bill passed is defined by being sub-optimal. Thanks to the two-party monopoly on the system and a lot of money changing hands in D.C., we have bloated bills addressing national crises like health care and Wall Street reform that no one understands except the lobbyists that wrote them.

I have concluded that instead of advocating incessantly for certain issues, the roots of legislative failure must be addressed. There needs to be real political competition injected into our system. While a number of solutions need to be put forth, like public financing for elections, making it more difficult for members of Congress and their staffs to become lobbyists, and filibuster reform, I am most intrigued by the concept of ranked-choice voting.

Ranked-choice voting is when a voter has a first choice, second choice, and sometimes a third choice vote. The system is used in various countries around the world and by a selection of cities and counties in the U.S., most notably the city of San Francisco. Ranked-choice voting tallies all of the first choice votes and if a candidate has more than 50 percent of those votes he or she is victorious. In the likely event that no one gets a majority the lowest vote getter is eliminated and the second choice votes get allocated according to the voters’ selections. This process is repeated until a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the total votes.

Ranked-choice voting would bring a desperately needed breath of fresh air to the predictable and depressing back and forth that dominates U.S. politics today. Party lines would begin to blur as candidates emerged that gave voters real choices on the most important issues of our time. Third party candidates would at a very minimum inject new ideas and approaches into debates. With ranked-choice voting candidates will less frequently give in to attacking their opponents because they will not want to alienate potential second choice votes. Also, the dissolving integrity of U.S. media could be slowed as people started to regain interest in debates. Third party candidates and ideas would throw a wrench into today’s news cycle of partisan pundits spewing the daily talking points.

Having massive “big tent” parties does not serve the interests of the people effectively. During the 2008 election people demanded change, transparency, and accountability from their government. The problem was that such a large and politically diverse majority of Democrats were elected to Congress that the debates over every major piece of legislation took place almost entirely within the walls of Congress or the West Wing. The media simply chased behind reporting erroneously and selectively on polls that fit into their particular narrative.

I am not writing this article because I despise the Democratic and Republican parties. I am a Democrat and identify with the left in U.S. politics, but I believe in a real marketplace of ideas. More diversity in ideology on Election Day would improve both parties by making them more accountable to their voters. So instead of blaming President Obama or Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner for the state of politics in the U.S. start focusing on the real culprit, a flawed system of political parties and rules of governance. We need to start thinking critically about how we can reform our political system to protect the future of our democracy.

Chris Rhodenbaugh is a senior political science major and editor of www.LeftysLastCry.com, Notre Dame’s Progressive Headquarters. He can be contacted at crhodenb@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Legislating Respect


Yesterday, a federal judge overturned Nebraska’s ban on flag burning and mutilation, once again clearing the path for the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church to protest military funerals because of their belief that soldier deaths are a punishment from God for our nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Prepare your pickets signs, kids!

The law was challenged by Megan Phelps-Roper, a member of the church, on the basis that it violated her right to free speech. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf ruled the 1977 Nebraska law inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions which rule flag desecration an essential part of the constitutional promise of free speech. Judge Kopf said that as long as Westboro Baptist Church members desecrate the flag in a peaceful manner and setting, the Nebraska law cannot be applied, officially reassuring assholes across the nation.

I fully respect the decision of the court on this one, because I love free speech as much as the next liberal blog writer. However, like a proud and decent American, I hate to see the troops disrespected. It is one thing to disrespect the flag. It is another thing entirely to taint the memory of what is already a depressing day in the lives of a deceased’s loved ones.

While Nebraska cannot prevent the Westboro community from desecrating the flag, I think Nebraska, and every other state for that matter, should have a part in making sure that a funeral is not desecrated. I fail to see how protesting a funeral is peaceful, especially when the protesters espouse messages of hate and revenge while carrying signs that say “Thank God for Maimed Soldiers”.

Yes, I realize they are not throwing rocks or carrying guns, but are they hostile, disgraceful and disruptive? I would say most definitely. Their activities are not in the spirit of peace, which I guess many people would say does not meant they are not peaceful and therefore my logic is flawed, but that’s enough for me, and 48 states and the District of Columbia.

In June, a brief was submitted to the Supreme Court in support of a father who sued anti-gay protestors who picketed his son’s funeral, signed by every state except Virginia and Maine. In the brief sponsored by the Kansas attorney general, the states assert that there is a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of funerals. In the case proceedings, the presiding judge told jurors that there are limits to the First Amendment protection of free speech, including vulgar, offensive or shocking statements, and that the jurors must decide if the speech of the Westboro Baptist Church is so offensive to any reasonable person that is should not be afforded First Amendment protection.

Sure, I know we can’t stop bigots from espousing their opinions and poisoning the minds of half the nation, but why shouldn’t we have to allow them to do so in a place where their already objectionable antics are made more vile? We shouldn’t. The rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church, in my humble opinion, is the most offensive thing I have ever heard, in the most inappropriate and shocking setting. I think Fred Phelps and his followers have exhausted their free speech rights at this point.

Westboro Baptists, desecrate the flag all you want, but please, do it somewhere else. Preferably at least 500 meters from any funeral home and/or cemetery. If you cannot do that, well, I hope Lady Gaga starts protesting your funerals.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Fulfilling yet another promise, President Barack Obama has pulled out the last remaining combat troops from Iraq. Now Republicans are complaining that President Obama and the Democrats have not given enough credit to the accomplishments of George W. Bush. And they are absolutely right. So now, on behalf of all Democrats (if I may be so bold), give full credit for the Iraq War to George W. Bush and the Republicans.

I give them full credit for fabricating intelligence about doomsday weapons in order to lead us to war.

I give them full credit for creating a war without finishing the one we started originally, which stretched our military so thin that Osama Bin Laden was able to escape justice.

I give them full credit for creating a stronghold for Al-Qaeda and Iranian extremists in a country previously devoid of both these elements.

I give them full credit for Baghdad only having five hours of power a day despite being the capital of a country that sits on top of a massive amount of energy resources.

I give them full credit for spending over a trillion tax payer dollars.

Most of all, I give them full credit for the 4,403 dead American soldiers, 318 dead international coalition soldiers, and estimated 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians.



Make no mistake, this is no victory. There will be no ticker tape parades, and at this point, nobody is going to drape Mission Accomplished aboard an aircraft carrier for a cheap photo-op. It's hard to say what to do when a war ends that never should have begun, but we now have an obligation. The mental and physical toll on the soldiers that managed to return from this war is incalculable. We obviously didn't learn from Vietnam that a nation-building war against a shifting, guerrilla enemy is a futile effort. I can only hope that, despite forgetting that lesson so soon, we have not forgotten that anger about the war should not and can not be directed at our military. So many of those Americans who came back from Vietnam were forgotten by their country, as were the families of those who didn't. Let's not do that to the Americans who return from Iraq. The war itself may have been a partisan issue, but this is not. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, anybody who is reading this: Don't forget the true cost of war lies most heavily on those who fought it.

WELCOME BACK

Hello Lefties!!!

So Lefty's calmed down a little bit over the summer, but rest assured because as of midnight September 2nd 2010, we are BACK and we are ready to grow.  Last year Lefty's established itself as a progressive media force at Notre Dame and across Indiana.  With more than 70,000 hits (most of those were accumulated in 3 months) we have proven the potential for this blog.

My name is Chris Rhodenbaugh and I'm the new Senior Editor of the blog.  Returning Notre Dame students and past readers of the blog likely know me, but for those of you that don't, I am a senior Political Science major, and am minoring in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service at the University of Notre Dame (bio is on staff page).

I have experienced nothing in my life more exhilarating and rewarding than organizing people in the pursuit of social justice, this year I'm bringing that energy to Lefty's in full force.

Writing intelligently, spreading information and expressing opinions are essential to changing the priorities of the country we all love and that is why Lefty's Last Cry exists.  This is a website owned by young people and driven by our ideas about politics and the future of Notre Dame, Indiana, and the United States.  Join the team!!!


What motivates you to speak out?







First and foremost we are looking for writers and contributors (e-mail me, crhodenb@nd.edu, if you are interested!).  If you scroll through our posts from the past you will see quite a variety in content, so find your niche and start writing!  We embrace everything from well researched articles to comedy/parody, and reactions to current events to entertainment.  In the next few weeks I want to assemble a team of people ranging in time commitment and interest to be editors, writers/columnists, and casual contributors.  The ideal writer will be assigned a topic of interest, for example environmental issues, and be responsible for at least one post on that topic every two weeks.  The writer will also be encouraged to write on other topics in that time as well, but a minimum of once every two weeks is the expectation.

Even if you don't want to write, you can still help out!  Someone that can do political cartoons, or who wants to help advertise, any skill you have we will use :)

Send me an e-mail (crhodenb@nd.edu), if you have questions or want to get involved.  Also, I will be at the first ND College Dems meeting this Sunday at 5:30 in the McNeill Room so we can talk there as well.

Unleash your minds.  Let's get 2010-2011 school year off to a great start!!