Quantcast
Header Main

Jack Jacobs gets Village Square quote of the day (could be year)



“I’m not a fan of single fact analysis.”
— Col. Jack Jacobs on MSNBC’s Morning Joe



I believe we need to call in the professionals.



Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water. –Anonymous

(Photo credit.)



We don’t even want to share a green room.



Bob Schieffer’s commentary on yesterday’s Face the Nation:

(CBS) The smart, powerful, sometimes cranky Democratic Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee David Obey has announced he is quitting Congress after four decades because he is “bone tired.”

We came to Washington the same year, 1969, and his announcement reminded me what a different world it was back then when Members didn’t go home every weekend to raise money and actually stayed in Washington and got to know one another.

I can remember social occasions back then when Democrats and Republicans who fought by day, actually enjoyed each other’s company after hours.

No more. They say such awful things about each other today, they’re uneasy socializing and generally don’t.

Not long ago, for example, a staffer for a Congressional leader actually asked if we could provide a private waiting room for his boss who was appearing on “Face the Nation” because the boss didn’t want to share a room with someone from the other party.

In the old days when an old warhorse like Obey retired, members of the other party frequently said something nice (if innocuous). But in Obey’s case, the Republican National Committee spokesman took a final shot, saying it was “understandable that the architect of the President’s failed stimulus package has decided to call it quits.”

And Obey managed a parting shot as well & not at Republicans but at his own party, at the Senate his own party controls.

He said one reason he was leaving was he decided there was more to life “than explaining the ridiculous rules of the Senate to angry, frustrated constituents.”

In 1969, a House Member wouldn’t have said that, either – but he might have thought it!



Donald Miller: Five Principles of Civil Dialogue



This is just so good, I can’t think of a single thing to edit out of it. Donald Miller writes on faith issues and he could possibly be a one-person Village Square all by himself: Donald Miller “has appeared at such diverse events as The Democratic National Convention and the Veritas Forum at Harvard.” (For those of you keeping track, this must be credited to (who else but) Internet Surf Queen Lea.)

Back when I was hanging out at Reed College, I was pleased to be in an environment where truth mattered more than ego, or rather where people didn’t associate their identity with their ideas. What I mean is, finding truth was more important than being right. And because finding truth was more important than being right, students were able to learn.

At Reed, discussing a philosophical or even scientific idea around a conference table did not look like a debate. Rather, it looked like a group of students attempting to put together a jig-saw puzzle. If a piece didn’t happen to fit, that was par for the course. You simply set it aside and worked together to make progress.

When we begin to associate our ideas with our identities (I am good because I am right) we lose the ability to be objective. And rather than learning to learn, we simply learn to defend.

To be certain, there are basic truths we must defend, but we don’t defend these ideas from our egos. Dr. Henry Cloud says that truth must go hand in hand with grace in order to be effective. There must be truth, but there must also be acceptance, regardless of whether somebody disagrees. This methodology frees the person to make an objective decision. When we become angry or condescending we take the truth and wrap it in a toxic-candy shell and get frustrated when people don’t like it. Truth wrapped in grace is more easily digested.

So my question is, do you take it personally when somebody disagrees with you? Here are some things I try to remember when engaging in a conversation in which there are differing opinions:

1. Truth is not My Truth, it’s Just Truth: My ideas were not really my invention. Even if I was the first person to consider an idea, it’s still something I stumbled upon. I shouldn’t take it personally when somebody doesn’t agree. They aren’t rejecting me, they are rejecting an idea.

2. Methodology is Part of the Message: When I get defensive and then condescending, what I associate my ideas with an offensive subtext, and that association is very strong to the hearer. Imagine having a conversation with somebody who has terrible breath, standing there and smelling their putrid hot air as they talk. It’s the same with your attitude toward somebody when you’re discussing an idea.

3. Without a Loving Heart, I am Like a Clanging Cymbal: If I don’t genuinely care about the people I’m talking to, I’ll be received like a guy standing there clanging cymbals together. The Bible makes a strong connection between a persons heart and their tongue. We tend to think we talk with our tongues alone, but the Bible says we talk with our tongues and our hearts. Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

4. The Other Person has Sovereignty: Even if I think the other person is completely wrong, they have a right to their beliefs. I can simply state what I believe and do so in kindness and that’s really it. If I’m trying to bully somebody into my way of seeing things, I’m not respecting the sovereignty of the person I am talking with.

5. I Could be Wrong: What we most want from the person we are talking to is for them to see things from our perspective and agree. That being said, though, are you willing to see things from their perspective? If not, try listening to their perspective then repeating it back to them. Ask them if you got it right, and if you did, say you will think about it. Then present your idea, too, and ask them if they understand your position. To be honest, they may not be as open as you, but once the conversation is over, I assure you they will have a new respect for you, and believe me, they will consider your ideas more respectfully. And besides, the truth is they could be right.



Obama does Village Square



President Obama’s commencement speech at the University of Michigan:

… the second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate. These arguments we’re having over government and health care and war and taxes – these are serious arguments. They should arouse people’s passions, and it’s important for everybody to join in the debate, with all the vigor that the maintenance of a free people requires.

But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. (Applause.) You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. (Applause.) Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” – that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.

Now, we’ve seen this kind of politics in the past. It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth. But it’s starting to creep into the center of our discourse. And the problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized. Remember, they signed up for it. Michelle always reminds me of that. (Laughter.) The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning – since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a “left-wing nut”?

It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

So what do we do? As I found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of politics is not easy. And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: Treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect. (Applause.) But civility in this age also requires something more than just asking if we can’t just all get along.

Today’s 24/7 echo-chamber amplifies the most inflammatory soundbites louder and faster than ever before. And it’s also, however, given us unprecedented choice. Whereas most Americans used to get their news from the same three networks over dinner, or a few influential papers on Sunday morning, we now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows. And this can have both a good and bad development for democracy. For if we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we become more polarized, more set in our ways. That will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country.

But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.

Now, this requires us to agree on a certain set of facts to debate from. That’s why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. That’s why we need an educated citizenry that values hard evidence and not just assertion. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said, ‘Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy.

And so, too, is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people. I look out at this class and I realize for four years at Michigan you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars, professors and students. Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you’re leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and in the process, you will help to make this democracy work.



AP: “We’re a national people who increasingly get their information from people who already agree with us.”




… “Facts become fungible. Compromise becomes cowardice.”

Ron Fournier writes:

Charlie Crist’s departure from the Republican Party is not just a Florida story; it’s an American story – a tale of two parties driven by their ideologues, squeezing out moderate candidates, alienating independent voters and isolating the place in U.S. politics where most things get done: the middle…

No matter who wins a three-way race in Florida, the factors that drove Crist from the GOP are a microcosm of broader political and social changes contributing to polarization.

“We have a deadlocked democracy,” said Pat Buchanan, a conservative commentator and three-time presidential candidate. “Both parties, held hostage by their extremes, are incapable of tackling the issues that threaten this country.”



Bill Moyers: Advice for the tea party movement



Bill Moyers on yesterday’s Bill Moyers Journal offers up some advice (you can watch a video clip of the same content here):

With all due respect, we can only wish those tea party activists who gathered this week were not so single-minded about just who’s responsible for their troubles, real and imagined. They’re up in arms, so to speak, against big government, especially the Obama administration.

But if they thought this through, they’d be joining forces with other grassroots Americans who will soon be demonstrating in Washington and elsewhere against high finance, taking on Wall Street and the country’s biggest banks.

The original Tea Party, remember, wasn’t directed just against the British redcoats. Colonial patriots also took aim at the East India Company. That was the joint-stock enterprise originally chartered by the first Queen Elizabeth. Over the years, the government granted them special rights and privileges, which the owners turned into a monopoly over trade, including tea.

It may seem a stretch from tea to credit default swaps, but the principle is the same: when enormous private wealth goes unchecked, regular folks get hurt – badly. That’s what happened in 2008 when the monied interests led us up the garden path to the great collapse.

Suppose the Tea Party folk had dropped by those Senate hearings this week looking into the failure of Washington Mutual. That’s the bank that went belly up during the meltdown in September 2008. It was the largest such failure in American history.

(Photo credit.)



My Purple Post: A tale of two tea parties, the dangers of two Americas



tea party 4_15_2010Patriotic, salt-of-the-earth. Or misinformed and angry?

On tax day we took our politically diverse Teen Square meeting on a road trip – a few city blocks down the road anyway – to the Tallahassee tea party “We the People” event. We asked this group of every flavor of political orientation and demographic to take a Rorschach test of sorts: What did they see when they looked at the tea party and how might they have seen something different had they brought with them a different set of political opinions to see it through?

We looked for the wholesome family-oriented tea party. We looked for the kooky, angry tea party.

Of course, as you would with any large group of people, we found them both.

Pre-Village-Square, the chance that I would attend a tea party was near zero. I am offended by the characterizations of President Obama. While I relate to fiscal conservatism, I think too many tea partiers have long ago left planet earth in their assessment of our president’s bio and motivations.

But texture disappears in looking at anything from afar while it is immediately apparent when you take a closer look. Had I gone to the event to confirm my bias, it would have been a stretch. This tea party on this day seemed conscious of how they looked to the outside observer, the mood was more picnic than fury, the signs communicated a perspective far more than they offended and even the opinion was more diverse than you’d expect.

Agree or disagree with the politics of the tea party, you have to give it to them on at least one point: It’s hard to argue that we don’t have a national fiscal crisis.

I was approached with literature for a city commission candidate running against a friend of mine. He told me his candidate was giving the liars on the commission hell. I told him that he wasn’t correct that his candidate was running against someone I personally know is honest and honorable. The man sincerely apologized. I hope he at least considered our conversation as he approached the next group of voters. These are the conversations that never happen when we spin entirely in our own ideological circles.

I caught Fox News discussions touting new polling indicating that tea party supporters are, on the average wealthier and more well-educated than the average American.

Then I flipped the channel to MSNBC to hear Lawrence O’Donnell (Keith Olbermann’s stand-in) describe the very same poll:

“A remarkable poll gives us a solid picture of just who the tea party movement is. They are older, they are whiter than America. They earned more money and are better educated. That’s right, they’re the elite, well-off intellectuals of sorts who are out of step with the real America and they are very deeply confused.”

So the national food fight continues, the twisting and contorting of complexity to fit this or that predetermined black and white version of reality. I have a hard time envisioning how this will end in a way that doesn’t truly damage the country we all claim to love. If “We the People” continue to lap it up, maybe we deserve what we get.

As for me, I’m going to keep taking road trips.



Village Square co-founder Bill Law named to head St. Petersburg College



Village Square Co-Chair, Tallahassee Community College President Bill Law, named St. Petersburg College president:

The post-Carl Kuttler era began Tuesday when the St. Petersburg College board of trustees chose William D. Law Jr. as the school’s next president. The selection of Law, the 61-year-old president of Tallahassee Community College, was touted as a safe choice in a climate of tightening financial times that could propel the school past months of negative publicity that followed Kuttler’s surprise resignation last year. “(Law) is tried and true,” said trustee W. Richard Johnston. “He’s geared in his career to handle an institution like this.”



Seth Godin: There is no tribe of normal



From Seth Godin’s blog: People don’t coalesce into active and committed tribes around the status quo.

“The only vibrant tribes in our communities are the ones closer the edges, or those trying to make change. The center is large, but it’s not connected.

If you’re trying to build a tribe, a community or a movement, and you want it to be safe and beyond reproach at the same time, you will fail.

Heretical thoughts, delivered in a way that capture the attention of the minority–that’s the path that works.”

(Photo credit: David Spinks And thanks again to Lea who really needs to just start writing this blog since she finds all the good quotes.)



Tea parties, God & government all in one blog post. Oh my.



Having personally met the first person sent to prison for the crimes surrounding the Watergate break-in – the delightful, humble and wise Bud Krogh – I know that you can’t paint people with too broad a brush. So here are some words you might find meaningful whichever side of the aisle you find yourself on? Or maybe these are words you might find challenging, no matter what side of the aisle? Well, either way, here goes: Chuck Colson, of Watergate infamy and now a widely read Christian writer, on the rising populist anger as expressed in the tea party:

… The inevitable consequence of all of this should deeply trouble Christians, who, of any segment of our society, understand the necessity of a strong government. The Bible teaches that God ordains government, appoints leaders, and requires obedience so that we might live peaceable lives. Why is this? God recognizes that even a bad government is better than no government. No government leads to chaos and mob rule. When order breaks down, justice is inevitably undermined. As Augustine of Hippo argued, peace flows from order, and both are necessary preconditions to the preservation of liberty and some measure of human dignity and flourishing.

This is why great leaders of the faith throughout history have held government in such high esteem. Some, such as John Calvin, considered the magistrate the highest of vocations…

“The tea party movement may have a lot of traction in America today, but it makes no attempt to present a governing philosophy. It simply seeks an outlet – an understandable one – for the brooding frustrations of many Americans. But anti-government attitudes are not the substitute for good government.We should be instructing people enraged at the excesses of Washington and the growing ethical malaise in the Capitol to focus their rage at fixing government, not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

We Christians are to be the best citizens, praying for our leaders and holding them in high regard, even as we push for the reforms desperately needed to keep representative government flourishing. Only when we funnel frustrations into constructive reformation can we expect a government that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

(Photo credit and – as is often the case when we find a good article – thanks to Lea, Queen of All Things Internet.)



Florence Snyder: Shoeleather in the Age of Twitter



BY FLORENCE SNYDER

The year is 2020, and all that remains of print journalism is the New York Times, USATODAY, and the National Enquirer. Google has been broken up into twelve competing companies. 97.9% of all news websites have installed pay walls. All state and local public records are available on-line…for a fee. Vice President Marco Rubio has inherited the Oval Office from President Sarah Palin, who resigned to resume her career as a journalist.

That’s the way it was in a world conceived by Miami First Amendment lawyer Tom Julin for The Florida Bar’s annual Media Law Conference. The Conference dates back to the 1970s when Wall Street was beginning to see journalism as a cash cow, rather than the watchdog the Founding Fathers intended. In the 1980s, as media companies profit margins climbed past 30%,  hundreds of lawyers, judges and journalists crowded into hotel ballrooms to hear media A-listers opine on the future of journalism. Times and travel budgets being what they are, the 2010 Conference was a far less lavish affair.  At times, the speakers outnumbered the paying audience.

One can only wonder how 20th century Conference speakers like Katharine Graham, Abe Rosenthal and Fred Friendly would have responded as Julin prodded veteran reporters, academics and fellow media lawyers to answer questions which have, for decades, vexed journalism think-tanks in 140 characters or less. Julin lightened the mood with James Cameron-level audio visual references to narcissistic presidential hopefuls and their tango-dancing soulmates. Still, it was a sobering picture he painted of a not-too-distant future where the body politic has the attention span of a goldfish.

Some think that day has already arrived, but Conference-goers found reason to be hopeful that real news and well-reasoned commentary will adapt to the new and much leaner environment.

Some of the 21st century’s best explanatory journalism is happening on Comedy Central; Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the Peabody awards to prove it. These modern-day Mark Twains provide a national audience the kind of fact-based, impossible-to-ignore editorial voices that Florida used to take for granted.

Howard Troxler and Carl Hiaasen are, thank God, still with us.  But Florida’s increasingly anemic editorial pages are no match for state government’s standing army of flacks and flunkies who pay lip-service to transparency while actively obstructing reporters in pursuit of stories their bosses don’t want told.

It’s always cause for celebration when front-page news slips past the government’s spinmeisters and makes it to the front page, and Conference-goers were spellbound as Gina Smith of the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. described the combination of luck, instinct and shoeleather involved in her pursuit of Gov. Mark Sanford down the “Appalachian Trail” to the Atlanta airport.

To a roomful of reporters who are expected to do impactful investigations while blogging at 20 minute intervals, it was a cheering reminder that one reporter can change the course of history.

A reminder of another kind was delivered by the Miami Herald’s former general counsel Richard Ovelmen. In a moving tribute to his friend and mentor, legendary First Amendment lawyer Dan Paul, who died this year at age 85, Ovelmen recalled how Paul leveraged his bulging Rolodex in the service of all of Florida’s journalists—not just the ones who worked for Knight Newspapers and the New York Times Company in the decades when they could afford Paul’s eye-popping hourly rates.

Under Paul’s direction, Ovelmen recalled, Florida’s media lawyers took up the cause of reporters in places they could barely pronounce.

If a city clerk in Opa Locka withheld public records, or a judge in Palatka threw a reporter out of a courtroom, publishers of mom-and-pop newspapers could count on Paul to declare a constitutional crisis and dispatch an army of lawyers bearing briefs that argued, “News delayed is news denied.”

With 20th century media on life support, displaced journalists are bringing their craft to cyberspace.  The lonely pamphleteer is on-line at places like Broward Bulldog, Health News Florida, and FloridaThinks, looking for a business model that will support the never-ending mission of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

There’s a lot at stake, and The Florida Bar deserves thanks for reminding us that failure is not an option.

——

Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com.

Parody photo courtesy of Random Pixels. Tom Julin’s “Journalism and Other Financial Disasters” was presented at The Florida Bar’s Media Law Conference, March 26, 2010.



Republican Senator Tom Coburn does Village Square



Senator Tom Coburn (R- OK) made comments in a town hall last week with a little bit of something for everyone. For The Village Square, Republican Coburn stuck up for rival Democrat Nancy Pelosi, calling her “a nice lady” to a crowd that didn’t want to hear that.

But what was most interesting was to watch the coverage of different aspects of Coburn’s town hall depending on which network covered it.

At The Village Square we have observed an attendance pattern at events: People tend to come to the forum that interests them, therefore we get more conservatives when we talk taxes and and more liberals when we talk environment. We’d like to reverse the trend, for the sake of improving the civic dialogue. So… in that spirit, please note the reading instructions for this blog post:

For Republicans, please read this:

“What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what’s going on and make a determination yourself,” the Oklahoma senator said in remarks to a home-state town hall meeting… “So don’t catch yourself being biased by FOX News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”

“I want to tell you, I do a lot of reading every day and I’m disturbed that we get things… that are so disconnected from what I know to be the facts. And that comes from somebody that has an agenda that’s other than the best interest of our country. And so please balance and be careful.”

And here is the reading assignment for Democrats:

“The motivation is not to fix health care,” Coburn told about 40 people at the Miami Civic Center. “The motivation is to put the federal government in charge of health care.

“This sounds somewhat paranoid, but I think they know this is going to fail,” he said. “Then they can say, ‘See, the government needs to be in charge of all prices doctors (charge) at all levels.’ ”

Rigging the system to fail will pave the way for “single-payer, government-run, rationed health care,” he said.

(Photo credit.)