Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 20, 2012

Moving on

More than a decade ago, I was the city editor for the Gilroy Dispatch. One of my responsibilities was laying out page A2, the main component of which was a column called Take 2. At the time, the Dispatch published five papers each week, and Take 2 rotated among five local writers.

Scavenger Hunt3 – Newspaper from the Flckr photostream of LuluP

In January of 2002, one of the A2 columnists ended his column and I faced a hole to fill with very little notice. I decided that the fastest solution was to fill it myself, so that evening I wrote a column and submitted it to editor Mark Derry; thus, my stint as a regular newspaper columnist began.

Take 2 consisted of personal, non-political commentary. My first columns focused on non-controversial topics ranging from the anniversary of my daughter’s leukemia diagnosis (the subject of my first column), to travel travails and DIY dilemmas, for example.

The number of printed issues per week isn’t the only change that’s occurred at the local newspapers over the last 11 years. In 2002, classified ads were still a big part of the newspaper business model. The classified ad reps sat not far from the Dispatch newsroom, and I could hear them on the phone with customers, quoting prices and confirming ad copy. Craig’s List had not yet decimated newspapers’ classified ad revenue.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 6, 2012

The politics of grasping reality

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” ~ Carl Sagan

One thing that writing opinion columns and serving on editorial boards for nearly a decade has taught me is the importance of agreeing on a common set of facts. I’ve learned that it’s the key to taking the venom out of political debates. The failure of so many to grasp the universe as it really is, to borrow Sagan’s phrase, is the reason that our political disagreements are so intractable.

If both sides of a debate stipulate the facts that are relevant to an issue, but still disagree on the best course of action, the disagreement is due to differing priorities. Acknowledging this makes understanding the other side’s position much easier, thus reducing the likelihood of demonizing the opposition.

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Anti-Obama display on Foothill Avenue

Anti-Obama display on Foothill Avenue

No sooner did South County finally get out of the news as a hotbed of bigotry — after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ approval of a much-protested proposal for a Muslim worship center in San Martin moved that story out of the spotlight — than we landed right back in the same predicament, thanks to Blake Lebeck.

Lebeck decorated the yard of his home on Foothill Avenue in unincorporated Santa Clara County near Morgan Hill with a display that includes a noose, watermelon, and an effigy of President Barack Obama.

Incredibly, Lebeck denied that he’s racist, according to reporter Michael Moore’s story. Instead, Lebeck claimed, “I’m trying to get a response.”

Here’s my response: Mr. Lebeck, I think that you’re full of B.S. Or, to borrow a phrase from Vice President Joe Biden, malarkey. Because your display criticizing this nation’s first African-American president includes watermelon and a noose, your denial doesn’t pass a laugh test.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 9, 2012

Why I’m voting to re-elect President Obama

My sample ballot arrived in the mail last week, signaling that it’s time to write my once-every-four-years presidential endorsement column. Here’s why I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama.

Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign from the Flickr photostream of Barack Obama

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | September 25, 2012

Cost-benefit analyses: Vote YES on Prop 34 and Prop 36

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

San Quentin from the Flickr photostream of terriem

Two high-profile law-and-order propositions are on the November general election ballot. Those of us who lean left of center have lots of reasons to vote yes on Proposition 34, which would end California’s death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole, and Proposition 36, which would amend California’s three-strikes law.

But you should find a cost-benefit analysis persuasive no matter where you land on the political spectrum. We simply cannot afford the current systems, which are outrageously expensive, and which do not work as intended.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | September 11, 2012

Vote NO on deceptive, disingenuous, unfair, Orwellian Prop 32

This November’s general election ballots aren’t even printed, and I’m already hearing ads about Proposition 32. It’s clear that Prop 32 will be a heated issue in the upcoming election.

Prop 32 asks, “Should unions, corporations, government contractors and state and local government employers be prohibited from using payroll-deducted funds, or in some instances their own funds, for political expenditures?”

Sounds like a fair idea at first blush, doesn’t it? But think about it: Other than unions, what group uses revenue from payroll deductions for political donations? As the League of Women Voters said, “few, if any.” Under Prop 32, unions, whose major source of income is payroll deductions of membership dues, would have new restrictions on political spending of the vast majority of their funds, while other groups, which have many other sources of revenue, would have no political spending restrictions on the vast majority — or any — of their funds.

By restricting political spending based on the revenue source, Prop 32 effectively restricts unions and almost no other groups. That’s simply unfair.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 28, 2012

Tolerance: Such a simple idea, so difficult for so many

“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” ~ American statesman and orator Robert Green Ingersoll

Tolerance is such a simple idea, but one that’s incredibly difficult for some people to grasp, as evidenced by the bigoted opposition to the construction of a mosque in San Martin. With opponents appealing the Santa Clara County Planning Commission’s recent approval of the mosque proposal, we’ll have more opportunities to witness intolerance rooted in bigotry.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a bigot as “A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

I’m not saying that all opposition to the mosque is bigoted. In most cases, I can only take opponents’ word if they claim that they’d be citing similar concerns about traffic, noise, local-serving uses or groundwater contamination if a worship center and cemetery proposal came from a Catholic, Protestant Christian, Jewish, or Mormon group as they’re raising about this proposal from Muslims.

However, much of the opposition to the San Martin mosque proposal has included statements like these:

  • “This is a Christian country. This is an American valley. I’m just suspicious that they’re sneaking in to contaminate our country.” ~ Diane Dawson, Morgan Hill, 2012
  • “What will it take to wake Americans up to the threat of Islam? How many more concessions will we make in the name of liberal political correctness?” ~ Dawson, 2007
  • “… The representatives of the so-called “religion of peace” want to add insult to injury and build a mosque in our idyllic community. … Maybe you [Muslims] should return from where you came from. Maybe it’s time for another Crusades.” ~ Jim Becker, San Martin
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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 14, 2012

In defense of politics junkies

With the once-every-four-years summer Olympics behind us, it’s time for the once-every-four-years political Olympics to move into full swing: The US presidential election.

Obama vs. Romney 2012 from the Flickr photostream of DonkeyHotey

As an American politics junkie, the next few months are my Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, and Stanley Cup all rolled into one. Sports fans chat about how their favorite teams are faring. Social media addicts talk (and tweet) incessantly about techniques for using the latest tool. Grandparents share photos and stories about their grandkids at the drop of the hat. Chefs share recipes. Gardeners swap tips and seeds. Me? I talk politics. While I’ve got lots of interests, once every four years, the closer we get to the US presidential election, the narrower my focus becomes.

And I think that’s a good thing. It’s hard to find a more important topic in general than politics, and it’s hard to find a more important race — to the entire world, not just Americans — than the competition to become the President of the United States.

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The 2012 Summer Olympics are under way in London, and in just a few days, they’ve offered a wide variety of food for thought, much of which has little to do with sports competitions.

• Just before the Olympics began, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney traveled to London to show off his diplomatic and foreign relations skills — or not. As Romney headed across the pond, an anonymous Romney advisor dog-whistled to racists that President Barack Obama doesn’t appreciate the UK and US’s shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” That’s not all: Romney also managed to insult his British hosts by doubting their readiness to host the games and willingness to embrace them. Romney then broke protocol by talking about his meeting with the head of MI6. These are just a few the gaffes that caused the British press to dub Romney “Mitt the Twit” and to judge him “worse than [Sarah] Palin.”

The Sun, Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney’s foibles inspired Brits to coin a new term for his performance, “RomneyShambles.” It’s a play on the slang term “omnishambles” that’s largely unknown in the US because it comes from a British sitcom. “Omnishambles” means “a complete screw-up in all areas,” according to Macmillan Dictionary. RomneyShambles provided me — and many folks who’ve been distressed by the stunningly dishonest campaign that Romney’s been running — with a heck of a lot of schadenfreude.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 16, 2012

Unopposed races are bad for democracy

“It’s really important who’s mayor and who’s on the city council, county commissioners, sheriffs, district attorney, and of course the school board.” ~Musician and politician Jello Biafra

Have you ever heard about a city council or school board decision and wondered, “What were they thinking?!”

Why not try to find out for yourself? Run for office. Opportunities to serve in an elected office abound right here in South County, and the time to throw your hat into the ring is right now.

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