12/31/2008

2008: A Year in the Life of Scott



2008 has offered all of us plenty of ups and downs. I have grown in so many ways. My successes have inspired me to keep going; my disappointments kept me focused on what is most important. Through it all, 2008 has offered many memories which I will cherish for years to come.

I feel that I owe you all a look back at my year, so I want to take this opportunity to discuss what 2008 has been like for me, and to wish you all peace and, yes, prosperity in 2009.

A year ago, I set out on an improbable mission. Concerned that the Michigan Federation of College Democrats was not being nearly as effective as it ought to be, I ran for President of MFCD. I knew my odds would be long, but I also knew that doing nothing would have been a major mistake on my part. I want to thank those of you who supported me in that endeavor.

"Shoot for the moon," someone once said. "Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." While I did not win the MFCD contest, I did get appointed Officer-at-Large of MFCD, where I used my online expertise to help promote MFCD events such as the 'Make It Happen' statewide bus tour and the Campaign Invasion for now-Congressman-elect Gary Peters. (Not to make you jealous, but I had Peters as a professor in the spring!) I would say that MFCD is in better shape now than it was a year ago, although I do plan on working to make it stronger in 2009 (in what capacity? I am not sure at this point).

But more than that, I was appointed to the College Democrats of America's National Council! And when applications for appointed positions in CDA came out in September, I jumped on the chance to apply to be CDA's New Media Director. While I applied to be New Media Director, instead I got to be Deputy National Communications Director! It was quite a bit of work before the election, though not as much now. Still, I do have some ideas on how to move CDA forward for the rest of my term (which lasts until August).

A year ago I intended to run for Democratic National Convention Delegate. I opted not to for various reasons (yes, the primary debacle was one reason, but there were plenty of other reasons beyond that). Still, I was active with local Dems both in GR/Kentwood and in Mt. Pleasant. I helped to coordinate the Kent County Democrats and Obama campaign's participation in the July 4 Parade here in Kentwood. Approximately thirty people showed up to walk in our contingent. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign's contingent was also packed, as they had... oh, wait, there was no McCain contingent even though West Michigan is known for being Republican! (Incidentally, Obama became the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win Kentwood since it became a city in 1967!)

The parade was followed a month later by the primary election, where, for the second straight time, I was on the ballot for Precinct Delegate. While in 2006 I was one of three candidates for three Precinct Delegate spots, this year I was one of three candidates for just two spots. As I found out the day after the election, one candidate received 34 votes, another garnered 29... and I earned 30 votes! That's right, I won by one vote! So let Al Gore, Al Franken, and myself be your proof that voting really does matter!

Anyway, like many of you, I put in my time at the my local campaign office throughout the fall - in my case, entering data and making GOTV calls. But as an intern for the Campaign for Change, I was responsible for the Michigan for Obama page on MySpace. I wrote blog posts, posted bulletins, approved friend adds, and responded to messages. It was neat to be able to reach out to so many people across our state (and country!) during such a key campaign season!

And I will not soon forget the emotions that ran through my head on October 21. That was my 21st birthday, and it was also the day I cast my first-ever vote (absentee) in a Presidential election. What an awesome feeling of power I felt when I filled in the oval next to Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's names!

And then, November 4. A day that, while bright and unseasonably warm literally in Mount Pleasant, was even more so figuratively. And the magic of that night was so profound, you'd think Houdini or Disney was involved! There was nothing quite like leading the countdown to 11PM at the Brass Cafe and then proposing my first toast - to one of the most transformational figures modern America has seen, our nation's 44th President!

In non-political news, in September I got a new job here at Central Michigan University! Instead of working at the dining commons (ugh), I now work at the Towers Computer Lounge! The TCL is a computer lab, coffee shop, and gaming center all in one room in my residence hall complex! Also, this past spring I signed a minor in leadership. CMU is the only college in the Great Lakes State to offer a minor in leadership. Elsewhere in the family, in June my cousin graduated summa cum laude from Gibraltar's Carlson High School as one of three co-valedictorians! She has since entered Wayne State, where she is majoring in biomedical physics.

So what does 2009 hold for me? Of course, none of us know for certain; after all, life takes many strange twists and turns, and great opportunities arise all the time! Overall I intend to work to build communication and cohesion in the Democratic Party to make it more effective for years to come. President-elect Obama has done so much to bring so many people into the process, many of whom had never been involved before. Making sure these people stay involved in American civic life well beyond the election will be a top priority for me. (I will discuss this further in the coming days.)

This spring I plan to go on an Alternative Spring Break related to state park preservation. Also, I am going to be captain of Team Carey/Kulhavi Combating Cancer for Relay for Life 2009 at CMU (Carey and Kulhavi being two of CMU's residence halls; I live in Kulhavi).

If there is one thing Barack Obama has reminded me, it's that every single one of us has the power to change our world and the people around it. "We are the ones we've been waiting for," implored our 44th President. "We are the change that we seek." Neither we nor Obama can do everything by ourselves, but what a wonderful thought it is to know that we each have the power to touch each other's lives and to change them for the better!

So, to all of you who read what I had to say this year, who recommended my diaries and comments, shared your own opinions, and who once again made me feel welcome here at Daily Kos, I thank you for touching my life this year and in years past. This one's for you!

12/30/2008

I Helped Banish "Maverick!"

It's that time of year again - time for an iconic tradition that is sure to be a game changer on Wall Street and Main Street! Yes, Lake Superior State University has released its annual List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness!

  • Green (in regards to something environmentally friendly)
  • Carbon footprint or carbon offsetting
  • Maverick
  • First dude
  • Bailout
  • Wall Street/Main Street
  • Monkey
  • <3 (Emoticon for 'heart')
  • Icon or Iconic
  • Game changer
  • Staycation
  • Desperate search
  • Not so much
  • Winner of five nominations
  • It's that time of year again
In 2007 I was quite the first dude when it came to nominating words for banishment, at least among progressive bloggers. This year, not so much. But, as we are all aware, quality is more important than quantity, as evidenced by this highlight from LSSU's page about the 2009 list. Here's what one person had to say about the word Maverick:
"You know it's time to banish this word when even the Maverick family, who descended from the rancher who inspired the term, says it's being mis-used." Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Mich.
Incidentally, I also nominated bailout. Maverick and bailout are my first two hits, if you will (nominations of words that did get banished).

My Heterosexual Blood

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect. Until this evening, it had been nearly three whole years since I had last given blood.

But when I did give blood today, I was reminded that my mere right to donate blood is yet another example of the blatant heterosexual privilege that continues to hinder our struggle for equality and - in a real way - endangers lives. Blood supplies are low - lower than they would be if gay men were allowed to donate. My heterosexual blood is no better than anyone's homosexual blood.

So I want to ask two favors. First, if you are eligible, please consider donating blood. This is the time of year when blood banks are in the greatest need. If you are at least 17 and weigh 110 or more pounds, you may be eligible to donate blood as long as you haven't done so in eight weeks (Tomorrow - Tuesday - will be eight weeks past Election Day). Here's more on blood-donor eligibility.

Second, please join me in urging an end to this deadly form of discrimination.

From the Harvard Crimson, December 18, 2002:

Under the current restrictions, no male is able to donate blood if he has engaged in sexual activity with any other male since 1977. At the same time, however, any heterosexual man or woman, even one who has engaged in sex with an HIV-positive partner, is able to donate only one year after the encounter. The discrimination is targeted specifically at homosexual men—homosexual women do not have the same restrictions.

This is not simply a case of an antiquated law that has been overlooked and unenforced. As recently as 2000, the FDA—with the support of the Red Cross—renewed this rule, despite the urgings of nearly half of America’s blood banks, which lobbied for a change that would set an equal standard for gay men as for any other donors.

It is easy to understand the reasoning behind the FDA’s implementation of the rules in the early 1980s when society’s understanding of HIV and AIDS was much more limited. When authorities lack the information necessary to have full control over a public health emergency, it is important that officials err on the side of caution. But 20 years later, when knowledge has advanced so rapidly, these rules stem more from reactionary prejudices than scientific reasoning.

The FDA estimates that ending this discriminatory practice would allow 112,000 new donors to give blood. In a time when the Red Cross is underscoring its urgent need for donation, it seems not only bigoted, but also dangerous to the public welfare, to turn away so many thousands of donors. The FDA should create more detailed questionnaires about potential donors’ sexual history, instead of fostering the implicit assumption that all gay men are promiscuous. Personal history is the pertinent information; blind predetermination based on orientation is not. The FDA must update both its regulation and its mindset on this issue of critical importance.

Six years after that was published, our gay brothers are still not allowed to give back to their community.

If you go to this Facebook group and scroll down to the discussion board, you'll see a link to a letter you can cut and paste and send to change.gov urging the Obama Administration to change this rule and save more lives.

12/25/2008

Good news of great joy for all the people

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:10-14

12/24/2008

Bits of Tid: December 24, 2008

"Santa, I've Been A Really Good Boy This Year" Edition

  • Guess what I did yesterday? I saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra!
  • Guess what I'm doing tonight? I'm going to Midnight Mass at the Cathedral! I like going to Midnight Mass on Christmas, but I've never been to the Cathedral for it!
  • Guess what I'm doing Friday? I'm going to the Motor City Bowl!
  • Never heard of this before.
  • Plenty of Christmas jokes here.
  • Yule Log anyone?

12/23/2008

Yes We Can Bring Hope to the Less Fortunate

I got this in an email from Michelle Obama:

This holiday season, the grassroots movement you helped build can make a big difference for those in need.

I hope you will join me in supporting your favorite charity or contributing to causes that are especially meaningful to me and my family.

While many of us will spend the holidays counting our blessings and sharing dinner with loved ones, millions of people around the country won't be so fortunate. Donating to your local food bank will help provide a holiday meal to people in your community who can't afford one.

Talking with the families of deployed troops was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during the campaign. Giving to Operation USO Care Package is a great way to send members of our military stationed around the world a reminder that someone back home is thinking of them.

This is a time to celebrate our blessings, the new year, and a new era for our country. But it's also a time to come together on behalf of those who need our help.

12/18/2008

Values

(This is a repost of a diary I wrote a few months ago on Daily Kos. It is also, in a way, Part 1 of a series about where I believe our Party should go in the near future.)

Why are you a Democrat?

What makes you vote for the Democratic ticket on Election Day? What made you decide that just voting for progressive Democrats is not enough - that you also need to volunteer for the Obama campaign or for other progressives running in your area?

To me, being a Democrat is not only about supporting this policy or opposing this action. Yes, I do hold most of the same stances as most Democrats when it comes to important issues of the day. I opposed the Iraq War before it started. I support healthcare for all. I believe in regulations for corporations. Dependence on foreign oil? Bad. Corruption? Bad. Regressive tax policy? Bad. Higher pay for teachers? Good. Diplomacy? Good. The right to form and join unions? Good.

But having these opinions hardly has anything to do with my being a progressive Democrat. It's why I hold these positions that has led me in my young life to call myself a liberal Democrat.

Each of us has our own unique set of values, molded by our own unique set of experiences. Our values are formed by the lessons we learn from parents, teachers, managers, coaches, clergy and so on. They come from our interactions with our friends, co-workers, and distant relatives we may only meet at family reunions or weddings. They also come from events of the world around us, such as a neighbor dying suddenly, a local factory closing, or September 11.

But every time I stop to think about the values that guide me, they all lead back to one word.

Respect.

What, then, are those values of which I speak - values which lead back to respect? Here is a look at the tip of the iceberg.

Why do I support access to health coverage for all citizens? Because I value compassion.

I also value responsibility. I believe that all of us - humans, corporations, the like - must act in a responsible manner to one another. Thus, I support regulating carbon emissions, making our country energy independent, and using diplomacy over militarism.

I value truth, and I understand that the best society is one where people understand the truth and seek it out when necessary. It is also why I believe in the importance of educating everyone, and that education is not merely about being able to determine the number of degrees in the corners of a polygon or the atomic number of each element on the Periodic Table, but in the ability to think for oneself. For those reasons I support strengthening our public education system, and I oppose deception and lies in all their forms.

Compassion, responsibility, truth... they all lead back to respect. As do the many other values I cherish.

I take the words "All men are created equal" to heart. Well, somewhat. All men and women are created equal.

This is especially true when you consider how fortunate you and I are. I was not born into wealth or privilege. Yet, nor was I born into poverty in Africa. I'm not in a high-rise condo, but nor do I find myself in Darfur or South Ossetia. As I said on Thanksgiving, I am not the most privileged person on the planet, but I am luckier than many.

To value respect is to understand the importance of every human being on this planet - that each human being can make our own life richer, if only we let them.

And when people deny this very respect to others, they are in effect denying it to themselves. A person is less able to show respect when they themselves are not shown respect.

Obviously there are those whom we hold closer to our hearts than most anyone else. Yet at the same time, there are countless different ways of showing our love to other people - volunteering at the local food pantry, helping out with Special Olympics, setting up care packages to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Respect. It's amazing how that one word sums up not only my personal values, but also why I am a Democrat.

With Democrats not being seen my some as a party of values, I would like to see more Democrats emphasize the importance of values. By discussing our shared values, Democrats can connect with voters in a way Republicans have been for years.

More importantly, I would like to see all of us Democrats - Party leaders, elected officials, and rank-and-file Democrats - commit or re-commit ourselves to these values.

More to come.

12/15/2008

Electoral College Tie Redux

By far, the post on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott that has received the most attention is this one I wrote a year and a half ago in which I explained that if this election were to have produced a tie in the Electoral College, the Democrat would probably win so long as no seats in Congress changed hands in this election.

I wrote that post based on the composition of the 110th Congress. What's important to keep in mind, however, is that it is the new Congress, not the outgoing Congress, that officially (and nowadays ceremonially) counts the electoral votes and, if necessary, breaks ties in the Electoral College. In other words, if there was a tie in the Electoral College in this election, members of Congress elected in 2008 (and Senators elected in 2004 and 2006) would be the ones to break the tie.

Today, members of the Electoral College are meeting in their respective state capitals to formally cast their state's electoral votes for President and Vice President of the United States. Each elector was nominated by their party to vote for their candidates in the Electoral College if said candidates had won their state (or district) in last month's election. 365 electors are pledged to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, while 173 are pledged to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

But what if the Presidential candidates had tied? What if each had received 269 electoral votes? Well, chances are even greater now that Obama still would have won.

A reminder: Whenever no Presidential candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College (nowadays most likely the result of a 269-269 tie in the electoral vote), the US House votes to elect the President, while the Senate votes on the new Vice President. The twist is that while each Senator gets one vote for Vice President, in the House each state has just one vote.

So to get a good (but not necessarily perfect) idea of who would win, we look at how each state's US House delegation is divided in terms of partisan leanings of its Representatives.

Five states went from having Republican majorities in their Congressional delegation in the 110th Congress to having Democratic majorities in the 111th. Democrats picked up three seats each in Ohio and Virginia, two each in Michigan and New Mexico, and one in Nevada.

Democrats moved from a 4-4 tie in 2006 to a 5-3 lead in Arizona thanks to Ann Kirkpatrick. Walter Minnick's upset in Idaho means that very conservative state's delegation will have one Congressman from each party.

Unlike in 2006, the Republicans did pick up a few Democratic-held seats in 2008. One such changeover - which saw Kansan Lynn Jenkins defeat Nancy Boyda in a rematch of the 2006 contest which Boyda won - gave Republicans a 3-1 lead in the Kansas delegation.

The end result? What used to be a 27-20 lead for the Democrats in congressional delegations has now expanded to 33-15, with two ties.

So had the Electoral College Tied at 269-269 in this election, Obama would have won the vote in the House 33-15 had every member voted for their party's nominee. He still would have won had enough Democrats voted for McCain to cause seven states with Democratic control to go to McCain.

12/14/2008

Bits of Tid: December 14, 2008

Bail Me Out Edition

  • Sorry I haven't been blogging much. I just got done with the semester and have a month off.
  • Mitch Albom also has a few choice words. Probably the best rant I've seen.
  • Incidentally, here's a piece I found last week essentially calling bull$#!^ on the myths surrounding the auto industry.
  • Today is Dad's birthday. I have a present for him, which will arrive January 20 at noon.
  • With less than three weeks left in the year, now is your last chance to nominate words for Lake Superior State University's 2009 Banished Words List! My latest?
    Nine times out of ten - Why just say "nine times out of ten?" I'd like to hear someone say "thirteen times out of fourteen" or "65,876 times out of 65,877."
  • Absolutely beautiful.

12/13/2008

Election 2008 By The Numbers

I posted this a couple weeks ago on Daily Kos.

  • 1,573: Barack Obama's margin of victory in Kent County, Michigan, my home county
  • 54,292: Bush's margin over Kerry in Kent County
  • 1,951: Barack Obama's margin of victory in my hometown of Kentwood
  • 3,888: Bush's margin in Kentwood in 2004
  • 30: Approximate number of people who showed up as part of the Kent County Democrats/Obama for America contingent in my hometown's July 4th parade - I helped coordinate said contingent!
  • 0: Number of people who showed up from the McCain campaign in that parade
  • 369,282: Diane Marie Hathaway's margin of victory over Republican-nominated incumbent Cliff Taylor in the Michigan Supreme Court race
  • 24: Number of years since an incumbent Supreme Court Justice has been defeated, probably since incumbent judges and justices in Michigan are designated as such on the ballot
  • 67: Number of seats the Democrats will hold in the Michigan House of Representatives starting in January
  • 43: Number of seats the Republicans will hold in the Michigan House
  • 20: Number of seats Democrats have gained in the state House in the past three elections
  • 3,006,820: Number of votes in favor of Michigan's Proposal 1, which allows the use of medical marijuana
  • 249,923: Margin by which Michigan's proposal 2 passed; thanks to its passage, embryonic stem-cell research will be legal in Michigan!
  • 5 out of the last 5: Presidential elections in which Michigan has gone blue!
  • 1: My margin of victory in my re-election bid for Democratic Precinct Delegate!