Monday, January 19, 2009

Yet Another Reason I Am Glad I Did Not Go Back To School

A few months ago, I flirted with the idea of going back to school for a degree. After discussing the idea with my peers, I came to the conclusion that the ROI (return on investment) for a 4 year degree would not have been worth the cost in time and money. As a result of that decision, I was available to accept a very lucrative promotion that going to school part-time would have prevented me from accepting.

Now it turns out that the student grants that I would have applied for through the state might have been another reason not to go back to school.

Reporting from Sacramento -- The state will suspend tax refunds, welfare checks, student grants and other payments owed to Californians starting Feb. 1, Controller John Chiang announced Friday.

Chiang said he had no choice but to stop making some $3.7 billion in payments in the absence of action by the governor and lawmakers to close the state's nearly $42-billion budget deficit. More than half of those payments are tax refunds.
I can afford to wait for my state tax return for a few extra months, but the payments on that education would have been due and payable immediately.

I pity some state contractors that will undoubtedly be among those that do not get paid in a timely manner. Those people can look to Democrats in the State Legislature if they are seeking to place blame. Instead of seriously negotiating with the Governor and Republicans to solve the impasse, they chose a failed Hail Mary pass with an illegally derived tax increase

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How To Talk Politics & Influence People

Because of the wide variety of friends that I have made over the years, I often find myself in the company of people that do not necessarily agree with me politically. Whether it is hanging out and having beers & BBQ at a Super Bowl party or at fund raising events for elected officials, I always seem to attract people to conversation about politics. And many times these people are my political opposites.

In the early days of my involvement in politics I reacted to people who disagreed with my (far superior) opinion on the issues by picking a verbal fight. I soon began to learn that I would walk away from these conversations with the feeling that I had done more to solidify my opponents lack of faith in the politics I subscribe to than I did in informing them about them. It has been through self-introspection and trial and error that I have learned how to use common ground and fact-based reason when debating people about politics.

Since employing a few simple rules for the discussion of politics, I have had meaningful dialog about a whole host of leading issues and have actually received praise from my adversaries for my level-headed approach to conveying the facts and opinions I hold to be true. The best example of of an issue that I feel I have truly changed hearts and minds over is the issue of Iraq.

One must remember (I tell my debate opponent) that American got into the Iraq because of the United Nations failures to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for the terms of the ceasefire he signed onto when hostilities ended against him following Operation Desert Storm in 1991. 13 Security Council Resolutions warned, in increasingly dire language, that Saddam Hussein must account for ALL of his weapons programs. The final resolution, designated 1441 laid out the unmistakable threat of ending his regime should he yet again refuse to come clean. In the wake of a post-911 world (a world that we now know harbored regimes that were capable of quietly organizing dramatic attacks against us) Iraq's decision not to come clean about what materials it did and did not possess had to be construed as Saddam's intention to use the materials that he still possessed.

Now stop right there. In reminding my opponent of the facts of the case, I have thwarted any possibility that the “unnecessary” or “illegal” war rhetoric can be successfully deployed in the debate. That is not to say that my debate opponent could not still try to use this argument, but because I have laid out the facts of how we ended up in Iraq. I then go on to admit that although the initial invasion of Iraq was a brilliant piece of military ingenuity, the follow-up was not so much. The chaos and anarchy created a vacuum that was quickly filled by Al Qaeda, a fate that was determined by the Coalition's lack of a plan for how to handle Iraq after the fall of the regime.

But the situation on the ground today is much different than that of circa 2006. Because of a change in strategy and an increase in troop presence, Al Qaeda has been defeated militarily and the stage is set for Iraq to complete the business of setting up its government. By admitting that mistakes were made (as mistakes are made in all wars) but pointing out that we may yet be able to declare (this time rightfully) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, I steal away the opportunity for my opponent to rest their case on the horrific headlines of 2006. Rather, I challenge my opponent to imagine a scenario where it would be in anyone's (other than Al Qaedas') best interests to unilaterally withdrawal from Iraq at this time.

The basic premise of the example I show you is simple. Present emotionless facts about your position, admit the errors that your position may present (thus creating common ground) and then show how your position is more likely to lead to a better result than that of your opponent. Which reminds me, have you ever asked a proponent of legalizing marijuana what they think of anti-tobacco laws? Regardless of your position on marijuana, I bet you can use the fact that most liberals and Libertarians that support legalization also support laws against smoking to your advantage.

Now go forward and draw some unsuspecting person into a political debate. But remember that placing emotion into the debate (anger, frustration or even glee) will have the result of weakening your argument and will starve off your ability to inform your opponent in the course of debating them.

Originally published in the Santa Clarita Signal in 2008

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