On Shoes

Shoes. They’re a favorite topic of conversation — even a favorite pastime — for many.  They’re not just apparel or accessory; they’re a statement, an expression, a source of bonding.

Funny aside from long ago: Riley was turning 3, and I took her to the Sears Portrait Studio to have some pictures taken because that was when I was still a good mom and did those sorts of things. While we waited in line, another little girl, who appeared even younger, came in holding her mother’s hand.  She and Riley eyed one another up and down, as girls so often do, and then she cooed to Riley, “I like your shoes!” It was such a quintessentially girl thing to do, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even by early toddlerhood, we’ve learned to relate to one another over…shoes! 

Though I’ve never been all that big on shopping (unless we’re talking hardware or office supplies — or Target!), shoe shopping with my sisters or friends has most always been a fun occasion.  And what mom doesn’t smile (and maybe feel a slight bittersweet twinge) the first time her daughter borrows a pair of her shoes because they fit — both size and looks-wise? 

It isn’t just women who love their shoes — men get in on the act, too.  I’ve certainly spent some time in the Cole Haan store in Chicago with my beau while he’s ogled their stylish selection.  (Note to self: Leave some time for Cole Haan while in Chicago next month!) 

And when we wish to encourage empathy, we remind one another to “walk a mile in so-and-so’s shoes.” It sounds a bit trite, but really, there’s both wisdom and compassion packed into just those few words.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I watched my diverse group of friends express an exceedingly polarized array of opinions on social media, that we seem to have forgotten how to do that anymore.  Instead, we all too often seem primed and poised to hurl our Franco Sarto’s at one another rather than stopping to consider what a stroll in that guy or gal’s loafers might be like.  

And when this troubling development is raised, the instinctive response is to point a finger at someone else as the primary cause.  “They started it!” “It’s his fault!” “Welcome to fill-in-the-blank’s America!” I think there’s plenty of blame to go around, including a heaping spoonful compliments of our 24/7 news cycle and social media, which have formed a somewhat sick-and-twisted co-dependent feedback loop in an increasingly frenzied effort to garner the most clicks, likes or views.  Viral, indeed.  

Mostly, though, I blame us. That’s right — you and me.  Because ultimately, we are the ones who decide to click that mouse or flip that channel.  We are the ones who choose to hastily type and post that snarky response designed to verbally slap the smile off other’s faces while eliciting backpats from our like-minded posse.  We are the ones who, like Eddie Murphy’s mother in Delirious (WARNING: Language), whip our pumps boomerang-like through our monitors (and occasionally face-to-face) at one another — only it’s neither funny nor effective — unless your aim is discord.  And if, as you’re reading this, you’re thinking of a certain newly-inaugurated and questionably coiffed Twitter hound, stop and ask yourself this: Are you guilty of doing the very thing you condemn him for doing?  (Note: If your answer to this is, “He’s way worse,” your reflector might not be functioning properly. Poor form isn’t subject to the theory of relativity.) 

That’s just it, though — we don’t stop, think, reflect anymore.  We react.  Faster and faster with each technological “advancement”.  And we sure as hell don’t contemplate 5,280 feet in someone else’s footwear.  (That’s feet, as in distance, not appendages, by the way.)  Shoot, at this point, we’re loathe to acknowledge others’ right to march to their own drummer. If they’re not in sync with us, then they’re enemies, evil, worthy of our scorn, not our friendship, our compassion, or even common courtesy.

So, for instance, today, I have many friends who are marching in D.C. and other cities across the country — including my own.  Their stated reasons vary, but politically align primarily on the leftward side of the spectrum.  And I have other friends clucking at this, sneering, expressing their disgust with these marchers because of their beliefs.  Next Friday, I’ll have many friends marching in D.C. and other cities across the country — including my own.  Their reasons will vary a bit less, as it’s a singularly focused event, but politically align primarily on the rightward side of the spectrum.  And I’ll have some of the very friends who are marching today, clucking, sneering and expressing disgust at these “others.”  

These are women (and some men, but primarily women) who, in recent times, might have happily gotten together for a night of wine Bunco; who’d have shared over the phone their concerns about their significant others, their parents, their children; who’d have kvetched about their jobs; who’d have gladly spent an afternoon traipsing through DSW, Macy’s and Dillard’s trying on shoes; who’d have stood in line or at a party and broken the ice by exclaiming, “Ooh, I love those shoes!”  But now?  No.  She’s either on board with your point of view, or she’s dead to you. We may have laced up our tennies to march with purpose and pride, but we’ve apparently lost our way.

And, no, I don’t believe it’s always been like this.  While my immediate family was on the same page politically as I was growing up, my parents’ best friends (and my godparents) were in different books. My beloved Grandmother was a staunch Republican, while my parents were diehard Democrats, and there was never so much as a thrown fork or slammed door.  One of my best friends in law school was as conservative as the day is long and we fought all the time over politics and such — but in friendly fashion. It was the Euchre matches among our group that got truly heated — but even those didn’t touch what now passes for “discourse”.  And most importantly, my views have evolved over the years from quite liberal to moderately conservative/libertarianish while the same people appear to have liked and loved me just the same.  Recently, though, I’ve felt increasingly as if some of those relationships were on rather thin ice — like the wrong comment or shared article on social media might suffice to sever a years-long bond.  

Ironically, it was the words of our previous President  — someone with whom I’ve rarely agreed — which were then called to mind: 

If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Okay – so that referenced skin, not shoes, but the point is the same.  We’re so afraid to do that anymore — or worse, it doesn’t even occur to us, like it’s beneath us to extend that sort of consideration to one another.  As someone who’s spent much of my life being “wrongheaded” in the eyes of many people I know, respect and love, I call hogwash.  Your ears aren’t going to fall off and you’re not going to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West if you hear or read a viewpoint that doesn’t match your own.  You may not ever agree with it.  You may even find it uncomfortable or even repugnant. But you will live. And maybe, just maybe, gain a smidge of understanding as to where that other person is coming from.  Which isn’t a horrible thing. In fact, when you realize that, viewpoints aside, they lace their shoes up just like you, the world starts to look a little less angry and bleak.  

I took a moment yesterday afternoon to remark on Facebook on the fact that the presence in my timeline of vastly different takes on the transition from Obama to Trump assured me that I have a diverse group of friends. I love them all, and wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’d gladly walk a mile in their shoes — or, at least, with them in their shoes.  Or better yet, go shoe shopping.    

shoes

50 Shades of Ferguson

“Where were you when….?”  The special we’re preparing to air on FTRRadio starts out with that question. Four-and-a-half months ago, when news of the Michael Brown shooting broke, I was returning from a typical Saturday afternoon at the soccer park, with zero realization that this would become one of those moments. It’s always disturbing to hear of a young person’s death, but sadly, not so uncommon as to seem like one of those time-standing-still moments that become fixed in one’s memory like an historical north star. Even the fact that Brown’s death came at the hands of police didn’t immediately signal to me that we’d still be talking about it as 2014 draws to a close. Nor did I foresee then that the north county neighborhood I’d always thought of as simply an older, blue-collar, racially diverse suburb would soon become a sociological Rorschach with a different meaning to each, and a hashtag with a life of its own.

When a vigil the following day gave way to a protest, and later to looting and rioting, I watched and shook my head in disbelief at the destructive forces I was witnessing. I recognized the tire store whose windows were smashed out; the parking lots from which several local newscasters were reporting. Ferguson isn’t my home town, but it’s an integral part of the St. Louis fabric, and near enough to home that seeing violence and chaos erupt on its streets rattled me in a way most news stories don’t — not in fear for my own safety, but in sadness for my community.

As the days wore on and competing narratives unfurled, it was tempting to choose a “side.” Sometimes, as new evidence came to light, and emotionally persuasive arguments were hashed out, it was hard not to, but I kept reminding myself — I wasn’t there, and I don’t know exactly what happened. Just as people who’ve never been to St. Louis or Ferguson don’t know our community. Early on, I bristled when I saw Ferguson referred to as “Selma.”  But then, I also had to acknowledge that there were problems and tensions present from which I’d previously remained somewhat shielded.  I started looking a little closer, listening a little longer.  

When I heard a rapper named Daywalker call into the Allman in the Morning Show and relate to the host, Jamie Allman, not only his experience as a protestor, but also his hope and vision that somehow Ferguson could become an opportunity for rebuilding, rather than just a tragedy, I was intrigued. On a whim, I contacted Jamie and asked if he’d be willing to put me in touch with Daywalker — I thought it might be interesting to have him on my show as a guest.  Jamie very graciously did so, and soon, what began as a one time interview turned into a regular segment on my show, featuring Daywalker as our “Northside Correspondent.” 

I quickly learned that Daywalker was bursting not only with energy, but also with ideas. When he suggested that we sit down with his Rabbi, Susan Talve, to interview her regarding her role as a clergy member who’d been part of the protests, I was unsure. I knew it would be interesting to speak with her, but I was uncertain as to how we might incorporate that into the show — doubly so when what I’d expected to be a 15 or 20 minute interview turned into 45 minutes. The thought occurred to me that we might want to go a slightly different direction.  

When Daywalker followed that up with the suggestion we speak with St. Louis County Police Department Spokesman Sergeant Brian Schellman, the idea for a stand-alone special on Ferguson began to take shape.  Ultimately, we spoke with Sgt. Schellman and another officer from one of the North County municipal police departments. We also met with Jamie Allman to get his take on the media coverage regarding Ferguson.  Then, too, I took the opportunity to interview Daywalker — after all, he lives in the community, and it was his passion that set us on this journey.  I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of all of our guests to speak with us, and so openly. I felt like we ended up with some very frank and fascinating discussions, rather than canned, cautious responses.  

What my co-host, Jason Dibler, then did to piece them all together and incorporate some of Daywalker’s music, is nothing short of amazing, in my view. In the end, I believe we’ve managed to put together a very honest and compelling look at Ferguson, and what it’s meant to protestors, police, members of the media, and the community.

For my own part, it’s taught me that each one of us has a story, and that if you give them a chance, most people will share theirs with you. Sometimes, all it takes is asking a question or two. Sometimes, all it takes is really looking another in the eye and acknowledging them as an individual, as someone who matters.  

Since we completed our interviews, the story of Ferguson — and the larger stories of police and the communities they serve and of race relations as a whole — have continued to unfold.  From the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case, to demonstrations turned into riots, to the assassination of Officers Ramos and Liu, it seems like Ferguson has become the pulled thread in an ever unraveling societal fabric. Which is why the question, “Where do we go from here?” seems such a fitting way to close out the special. 

Where do we go, indeed? I can’t say that I know for certain, but I feel like I have an idea: It starts, I believe, with remembering our humanity. 

I hope you’ll join us on FTRRadio.com this Tuesday, December 30th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, for our special: Ferguson. 

DW&JA

A Narrow Stretch of Common Ground

I don’t read Sally Kohn’s work much. She and I are diametrical opposites, ideologically speaking, and usually when I do see something she’s written, it’s eyeroll-inducing.  (I’m sure she’d say the same about me if I had a recognizable byline.)  Nonetheless, she posted a piece today which caught my attention not for its objectionability, but for its recognition that conservatives are people, too.

I talked about it on our show tonight, noting that, while I’m not ready to break out the peace pipe and start singing Kumbaya, I found her realization (and her acknowledgment of it) pleasantly surprising.  Getting ideological opponents to see you as human and decent and…likable is no small thing. It opens up the possibility of constructive dialogue. Though it doesn’t guarantee it, it’s a damn sight more likely to lead to it than rhetorical bomb-throwing. There’s a flip side to that, as well. When you see another as an individual, rather than a label — when you recognize they’re more than just their team logo — you’re far more likely to approach them with decency, too. And, in turn, far more likely to be heard. 

“Who cares?” some will think. Well, I care. Because, to put it in the simplest of terms, it comes down to hearts and minds. You can’t implement the ideals you believe are most effective/helpful/beneficial without winning elections. You can’t win elections without garnering votes. You can’t garner votes without persuading voters. You can’t persuade voters by calling them ignorant morons or hateful bigots.  If your ideas derive from common sense and promote universally appealing concepts like liberty — they’ll resonate. But not if you’ve already been tuned out.  

So, I applaud Ms. Kohn for her commentary today. It may just a narrow stretch of common ground we found. But it’s a start. 

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You’re a Bad Parent

Well, no, honestly, you probably aren’t.  And even if you are, I’m likely not in a position to be able to assess that from here.  But saying so got your attention, didn’t it?  I can only assume that was the primary goal of Slate writer Allison Benadikt when she published “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person” earlier today.  

I note with some interest she referred to it as “a manifesto” — a designation which, for me, always conjures the image of Karl Marx. Or Ted Kaczynski.   Aside from her reference, I’m not exactly certain just what’s so manifesto-y about the piece.  Admittedly, though, it is provocative.  In just a few paragraphs, she manages to throw out judgments sure to piss off:  Parents of kids who attend(ed) private school; parents of kids who attend(ed) public school; private school attendees and educators; public school attendees and educators; and just about anyone who’s ever entertained the notion of putting one’s family first, and/or who recoils at the notion of sacrificing same “for the common good.”  

She also demonstrates that one of the (many) things she apparently failed to glean from her mediocre (which I think might be generous here) public school education was how to employ logic or persuasive rhetoric.  For instance, Benadikt asserts: “Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.”  As I noted immediately upon reading her missive, “If I were trying to sell people on public school, I don’t think I’d use getting drunk in a trailer park before a game as a selling point.”  (Find me the parent who’d rather their child’s worldview be altered by alcohol than classic literature.)  Yet it’s one of the reasons she feels “so strongly about public schools.”  (Presumably, Benadikt not only considers underage drinking in suspect environs an essential life experience, but believes kids who attend private schools somehow insulated from such activities.)  

I find it puzzling that she simultaneously maintains that, though she went “to a terrible public school” — one without AP classes, reading requirements or soccer — she’s doing fine (and your kids will, too), and that we all face some sort of moral imperative to send our kids to public school and “endure” it “so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.”  Well…wait…which is it?  Kids are just fine without AP classes?  Or all kids should have AP classes?  Public schools are crappy and can only improve if everyone attends them?  Or public schools are crappy, but crappy is just fine?  

While I do think she’s on the right track with her notion that those with skin in the game have more incentive to improve it, her whole argument rests on the premise that those who currently send their kids to private school somehow care more and will magically improve public schools with their presence and those who currently send their kids to public school are incapable of improving them or not invested in their kids’ education.   In my observation, the common denominator is parental involvement.  Though Benedikt almost seems to grasp this, it somehow escapes her that parents’ interest in their kids’ education and motivation to see them do well doesn’t hinge on their pocketbooks.  

She also fails to take into account that there are great public schools (and cruddy private schools.)  I happen to be the product of a great school district (one that offered AP classes, a great reading program and soccer), and am beyond happy that I’ve been able to send my daughter to school in that very same district.  I also have friends that attended not-so-great private schools and received a not-so-great education.  Interestingly enough, in comparing notes, I’ve found that our K-12 “life” experiences were nevertheless quite similar.   Funny how growing up in the same geographical area at around the same time works.

As Benedikt admits, she’s no education policy wonk.  One thing I absolutely do have to give her credit for, though: She sure knows how to drive traffic to a website.  

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I to I – The Idea Takes Shape

I’ve had this idea kicking around my head for awhile now.  Ever since the election, really, although I suspect the seeds of it took root long before that.  One of the clear take-aways from this past November and all the subsequent navel-gazing and handwringing was that there is a significant problem on the right with “messaging.”  Whatever the root causes — and no matter how complicit the “Mainstream Media” may be in ignoring or, in some cases, outright distorting, the message — it’s a serious issue which must be addressed if one holds out any hope for conservative ideology’s embrace by more than just a core group of steadfast right-thinkers.
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As someone whose life revolves, in large part, around communication, I find this an especially frustrating issue.  Frustrating to see so many opportunities for productive dialogue missed; frustrating to see so much get lost in translation.  I suspect this is further amplified for me because of having spent roughly 75% of my life on “the other side” of The Great Divide. I am walking, breathing, living and — on good days — coherent proof that messaging, when handled properly, can be extraordinarily effective.  I suppose that is why this idea has been alternately tugging at my sleeve and kicking me in the pants.  I am hardly unique, but it is possible that, given my history and given the modest platform I’ve been permitted to perch upon, I might just have something to offer the cause here.  Might.
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In order to set the stage for this, I think a brief account of how I came to be where I am might be in order.  I’ve alluded to my “conversion” here and in various radio appearances.  I was raised in a liberal Democrat family, where FDR and JFK were venerated and Walter Cronkite regularly assured us “that’s the way it is.”  I was a product of public (albeit, quality) schooling and obtained a liberal arts education and degree from college.  It wasn’t until I reached law school that I truly faced much challenge to my worldview.  And even then, it was only on occasion, from a conservative friend or acquaintance.   My standard response to any such challenge was to become increasingly agitated and combative until ultimately declaring the conversation over, and taking some measure of comfort in the challenger not having gotten the better of me.  Or so I told myself.
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Still, there were times when, despite my smug self-(re)assurances, a small voice deep down inside me whispered, “What if?” and “Have you considered?” and, worst of all, “But is that really logically consistent?”  Oh, do I loathe logical inconsistencies.  I have a great love for things — and ideas — which are orderly, efficient and logically sound.
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There is no one thing or moment to which I can point as being IT — THE dividing line between left and right for me.  It was an evolutionary process.  Some of it, I have to attribute to Rush Limbaugh.  And my laziness.  His show followed the morning show I used to listen to on my office radio and, my radio being across the office from my desk, I was frequently too lazy to get up and turn it off or change the station when his broadcast began.  He’d hold forth and I’d half tune him out/half listen and hiss back at him and his right wing idiocy.  But every once in awhile, he struck a chord.
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Eventually, I decided to engage in a little thought experiment which involved me reading a book Rush had authored, but then cleansing my intellectual palate by following it with a book written by a well-known liberal.  I engaged in this process for some time, with several different books, and, perhaps had I chosen different authors, it would not have had the same effect.  But I wound up reading a Noam Chomsky book “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” — which was, without question, the most tedious endeavor I have ever undertaken — followed by Bernie Goldberg’s “Bias.” While Noam’s incessant droning (it was an audio book) turned me violently against him, Bernie’s frank acknowledgment of the pervasive bias in most mainstream media shook me to my core.  For the first time in…ever…it dawned on me that every piece of information I consume is being fed to me through someone else’s filter.   And not all filters are equal.  Or agendaless.
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I have to back up a bit and add that 9/11 had an undeniable impact on my worldview.  Traumatic and horrifying in an immediate fashion.  But it had a long-lasting and more subtle effect on the way I viewed our geo-political realities.  Additionally, a good friend and co-worker with whom I frequently lunched (and argued about politics, he being one of those obnoxious conservative sorts), pointed me to a conservative political website late in the fall of 2003.  I began frequenting it with an eye toward trolling (in light-hearted fashion) and schooling those silly wingnuts on an issue or two.  What I found, over time, though, was that some of the folks I encountered there were actually interested in thoughtful, civil dialogue.  And the more I allowed for that, the more I allowed for ideas I’d previously dismissed outright, to creep in and rattle about my brain.  That same friend once stunned me over lunch while we argued about abortion.  I tried to take the “reasonable” stance — noting that it wasn’t a choice I’d personally make and that I didn’t consider it a good thing, but I objected to restrictions being placed on the practice because an entire generation had grown up with it being legal and had relied on that expectation and….He stopped me in my tracks with one very short, pointed comment: “Slavery was legal in America for over 100 years.”  Wow.  Ow.
 
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There were other points along the way — moments that further ushered me rightward — but suffice it to say I now find myself in a place I fondly refer to as “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Moderate with Libertarian Leanings.”  Not to mention extraordinarily disenchanted with the current state of affairs.  And, no, that isn’t limited to just the past four years.  I have plenty of beefs with the previous President, and with Congress Critters of all stripe, past and present.  Basically, I’m at a point where I’m fed up with any and all who, instead of leading and focusing on rational, workable solutions designed to improving our lot as a nation, direct all or most of their energies toward gaining and retaining political advantage — power for power’s sake.  Paying not the slightest heed to the fact that they work for us.
 
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Then again, why should they pay that minor detail any heed?  We certainly seem to have forgotten it.  Sure, many of us show up to perform our civic duty and vote.  But then we tuck our heads back down and get on about our daily lives without giving much thought to the fact that our responsibility as citizens doesn’t end when we exit the polling place.  We “hired” these people.  We have a duty to hold them accountable.  And the only way to do that is to pay attention to what they’re doing, and bark at them when they’re doing it wrong.  And then vote their sorry butts out if they don’t fix that.  The tricky part of that is it requires us to actually pay attention — to do the work required to be informed, to ponder the issues, to weigh the merits of proposed legislation, and to let our various elected representatives know where we stand.  That’s hard work.  And there are days when I can barely find the time to brush my hair, much less monitor what this elected official is doing or that one is proposing.
 
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Point being, I get it.  I get why so many people are disinterested in politics.  Or worse — turned off by them because it seems all those who do take an interest in them ever do is bicker with one another about this politician or that idea.  It’s become a never-ending grudge match between left and right, with a win-at-all-costs mentality.  The problem is, no one’s actually “winning” much of anything.  And…to butcher a metaphor…Rome continues to burn.
 
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So…to the point of all of this:  One year ago, the conservative movement lost a hero, a leader, a friend in Andrew Breitbart.  He was fearless in his willingness to engage “the other side,” to challenge the standard narrative, and to mix things up with his opponents and detractors in an oddly loving way.  He’s been referred to countless times as a “Happy Warrior.”  Many have focused on the “warrior” part of that description and taken it upon themselves to “do battle” in the name of conservatism.  That’s fine.  But it’s not really me.  I’m opting to focus on the “happy” part of that description, and take inspiration from that, and from the beautiful tribute my friend, Rick Hornsby, put together in the wake of Andrew’s death.  It showed the power of One Voice.  I have one of those.  And here’s how I propose to use it…(God, I hope this works….)
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We’ve all seen those political compass-type quizzes.  The surveys you take which plot out where you fall on the political axis.  They cover a whole host of issues.  I’m going to use one of the better known ones as my starting point, and roll down the list of issues, one by one, one blog entry per week.  For each issue, I’ll present the liberal or left-leaning argument on it, followed by the conservative or right-leaning argument of it.  In a sense, it will be me arguing against myself — I to I, though not eye to eye.  Now, even though I still recall my left-leaning views well, and am well-versed enough at playing devil’s advocate that I can present them in suitable fashion, I will readily acknowledge that because of where I stand now, the right-leaning counter-argument will have a weighted advantage on any given issue.  So, to take a more balanced approach, after posting each blog entry, I’ll invite any of my more liberal-minded friends or acquaintances to guest blog a rebuttal.  My only rules: Keep it civil and under 800 words.  I don’t aim to be writing novels here, and am not inviting others to, either.  The point is to present a given issue through the lens of both left and right, and then let the reader(s) — I so hope there’s more than one — decide what position he finds most persuasive.
 
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No, I’m not trying to be cute here.  Of course I believe the rightward view will be moreso.  I wouldn’t be standing over here if I didn’t find it so.  And it’s entirely possible, though my goal in doing this is to persuade (that’s persuade, not clobber), it will be an exercise in utter futility.  But the way I look at it is if I manage to give even one person pause, and prompt them to look at an issue from a slightly different perspective, then maybe, maybe my one voice can make a difference of the positive sort.  I aim to try, anyway.
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My Latest Adventures in Radio-Land

I’ve been so busy talking of late, I’ve been neglecting my writing.  I’ll get back to it soon, I promise (because I know it’s sorely missed.  Or, at least, I miss doing it!)  But for now, here are two more podcasts to share:

Season 2, Episode 25 of Gillespie:  Josh, Mark and I spoke with Mike Pence (next Governor of Indiana), Richard Mourdock (next Senator from Indiana) and Pete Seat of the Indiana State GOP.  Even though I’m not a hoosier, I really enjoyed our interviews with each of these fine gentlemen.  Indiana has every right to be proud!  Don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST on FTRRadio.com for the latest episodes!

He Said, She Said: I was honored to be a guest on “He Said, She Said” with Stacy Washington and Demetrius Minor.  Their show description: “Have you ever wondered what Black Conservatives think about the political issues of today?  Well wonder no more, “He Said, She Said” with Demetrius and Stacy. brings you an inner peek into the mind of the conservative, bold, full strength, and unfiltered.  Prepare to enjoy yourself.”  I followed the inimitable Larry O’Connor on this episode, where we discussed the Priorities USA Action ad attempting to link Mitt Romney to a woman’s death from cancer, Harry Reid’s tax return accusations, Romney’s likely VP selection, and whether liberals’ minds can ever be changed.  (Hint: I’m living proof, the answer is  “Yes!”)

“The Bureau Breaks into Spontaneous Cheers”

It’s been 10 days since the Supreme Court decision in NFIB v. Sebelius was handed down. Countless articles and blogs have been written about it since.  Me? I’m still slowly slogging my way through the dang thing.  At least I’m finally into the Dissent — the good one.  (Anyone following my tweets yesterday has a pretty good sense of my distaste for the one penned by Justice Ginsburg.)  

I knew I would eventually want to write about the decision, but questioned what I could possibly add to the discussion, especially a week-and-a-half later.  After recovering from my initial shock, I went into Spockean Analytical mode — coming to an understanding of how the ultimate decision could be technically and jurisprudentially sound, even if it galled me.  I felt the need to defend against the cries of “judicial activism,” first and foremost because the phrase gets bandied about so frequently that it seems to have become the catch-all descriptor for “decisions I don’t like,” rather than retaining any objective meaning.  Second, I truly don’t believe Roberts’ decision is an example of judicial activism. I see it as rather the opposite — judicial restraint in the extreme.  Perhaps so extreme that it circled back around and began gnawing on its own tail.  

Much will be made in the coming months and years of this decision — what it means for the ACA, for the Court, for the coming election and for our own role in fumbling this political football.  At some point, I hope to wander back through my notes on the decision and compose a thorough, thoughtful piece on it, which 2 or 3 people might be charitable enough to read.  

For now, however, I wanted to share something I read this morning.  As some of my readers may be aware, I have become a bit of a SCOTUSblog junkie.  So much so that I ventured out onto a limb last week and requested an interview with SCOTUSblog contributor and 50+ year veteran of SCOTUS reporting Lyle Denniston.  Mr. Denniston graciously assented to my request, and I hope to have a piece up on that by this time next week.  

In the meantime, I’ve been gobbling up most of the new content the blog has been posting — it truly is a fantastic resource for those with more than a passing interest in the SCOTUS. So anyway, this morning I read this piece by Tom Goldstein, detailing a second-by-second account of the decision’s release and the media’s reporting of it. It’s a lengthy read, but I found it fascinating and sincerely encourage you to sit down and spend some time with it.  Ultimately, it provides a thorough analysis of the media coverage, including a very frank look at mistakes made by two major networks in their haste to report on this momentous decision. 

About half-way through the piece, I stumbled across this little nugget which really caught my attention: 

“Unfortunately, neither network is paying attention to the wire services.  In addition to Bloomberg’s early report that the mandate had been upheld, the other three principal wires that cover the Court – Reuters, AP, and Dow Jones – have issued similar alerts in rapid succession.  When AP’s Mark Sherman reports by phone that the mandate is constitutional, his editors look up and see the first CNN banner reporting the opposite.  But they trust their reporter, and move the story.  The bureau breaks into spontaneous cheers.” (bold mine)

Now…why would a wire service be cheering over a Supreme Court decision? Clearly, the folks at the bureau were happy the mandate was upheld.  I highly doubt it was because they were part of the uninsured masses who now purportedly would have fantastic coverage at affordable prices.  Could it be because the mandate’s being upheld counts as a “win” for the Obama Administration?  Surely not.  This is a wire service.  They’re objective reporters.  They simply report the news sans bias.  Right? Riiiiiiggghhhttt….

Not long ago, my 10 year old, aware of my obsession keen interest in politics and media began asking me questions about them.  She wanted to know how she could learn more about them, what news services and websites she could read to better educate herself.  We discussed it at length, and in the course of doing so, I felt compelled to share with her something it took me almost 33 years to realize: Every piece of information you will ever consume comes from a biased source.  There is no such thing as an objective source.  Sources are human.  Humans have biases.  The ones who squawk the loudest about their objectivity tend to be the most biased.  Over time, you will come to find some sources more reliable than others.  But never take anything you read or hear simply at face value.  Always — trust, but verify.  

I think she got it.  She seemed to, anyway.  I suppose it’s a little too early to hand her a copy of Bernie Goldberg’s Bias, but for all the times I feel like a giant parental failure, it was nice to realize I may have given her the gift of discernment.