Ken ventures 'Inside Government'

Matt Urdan, he of MTMD Blogging fame has embarked on a new and very interesting endeavour.

Inside Government is a brand-spanking-new blog which sets out, in a non-partisan way, to explain how the United States Government goes about its business.

Matt has assembled an impressive team of co-writers and contributors for this new blog and the list continues to grow. Among them are Mike Cavin, Josh Gillespie, Jeff Hagen, Zee Harrison, David Lamb, Matt M and Bob O.

There are already quite an array of interesting posts to enjoy.

I've been particularly engaged by 'The Electoral College Explained' because I was having real trouble with that stuff and also the 'Filibuster' post. There's lots more too and they really are well-written, informative and they don't take sides, which is cool.

So, I actually got asked to guest post a little over there and I'm very pleased about that.

Maybe its my in-depth knowledge of American Government ('don't think so, do you?) or my serious, scholarly, professorial tone (no... me either). I think it's really to give a little 'outsider's view' of some things - an opportunity for me to bask in my own ignorance and perhaps thus raise a pertinent question or two.

Who the hell knows? Let's see what happens.

My first post is a little look back at how the American election played out from where I was sitting, here in Ireland. I'm not trying to give some 'Overall Irish' view. Anyone who knows even one whit about the Emerald Isle knows there is no such thing... on any subject. It's just my own thoughts but if anyone feels I haven't got it right, do please try to redress some modicum of balance in the comments sections - either here or there.

Blogging sometimes gives us opportunities to step out of the box we have created for ourselves and this is one such opportunity for me.

Thanks to Matt for knocking on 'my' box, let's hope it's not 'Pandora's' as well.


Debbie said...

next thing you know, you'll be bloggin about how the mind works...hmmm. contact me, I could use the help!

Waterrose said...

Thanks for telling us about the non-partisan political workings blog. Now off to visit and read....see what I've forgotten.

Susan at Stony River said...

Thanks for sharing the link: nice to think that it's possible to understand the American government's workings, not just wonder at them! I like the fact they're looking for other voices too, not just insiders. Very Obama, that.

Anonymous said...

What I found interesting when I visited your fair isle back in 2006 was how many Americans tourists there were!

And of course the accents can be quite similar.

(a bit like for you guys how the NZ and Aussie accents are similar!)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Thanks Ken for the awesome write-up! I think you're on to something though regarding Pandora's Box...when Pandora opened the box, governments were created--right after the tax code.


Anonymous said...

I think I've heard enough about the American Government for one year. I'll give it until after Christmas. Though I'm sure your post is amazing as usual Ken :)

As I told Rudy on twitter: The world doesn't revolve around the US, much to their dismay.

Anonymous said...

I think Matt's concept is one that's been needed for awhile. I know that I personally have forgotten many of my middle school civics lessons. You tend to do that if you're not immersed in it on a daily basis.

I'm headed over there to read your synopsis of our Electoral process -- I love reading other people's point of view on things I take for granted.

It's like listening to little children ohhh and ahhhh over fireworks or pretty flowers - you refresh your own perspective in the light of their discovery of something you've grown inured to.


Matthew S. Urdan said...

Thanks Margaret! Your comments are much appreciated!

Matthew S. Urdan said...

@susan....per your comment "Very Obama, that."

I'm not sure the characterization is apt. There were millions of fair-minded individuals who sought out other perspectives in the world's history before Obama professed to do so during his political campaign. It still remains to be seen whether Obama will live up to his own hype. You might be chagrinned to realize that all of the Americans participating in Inside Government voted republican this time around and did NOT want Obama elected President.

Part of the real reason why this site now exists was an expression of our frustration that during the election process Americans couldn't get beyond the words "change" and "hope" and critically look at what Obama promised vs. what he would have the power to do as President. That's due to an overwhelming ignorance in America of how our government works. We saw a need. We're passionate about it, and we decided to act rather than just sit around feeling powerless and not trying to make a difference for the next time around.


Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Debbie: I could blog about how *my* mind works but it might not be pretty. :)

Thanks Waterrose, impressive that it's stuff that you've 'forgotten' rather than just 'never knew', like me.

Hi Susan, thanks for having a look. I like the fact that outsiders get brought into a discussion too, it can't do much harm can it?

Dear Cellobella: We do love getting our American cousins over here... and they seem to like it too. This whole 'sound-alike' thing may be a debate for another day - I think TV is pulling together *all* of our inflections, which is kind of sad.

Hi Matt: I may well be on to something with my 'Pandora's Box' reference, we'll see.

Hi Reggie, good on you! I always admire your forthrightness and large glasses. :)

It's a nice analogy, Margaret, the 'oohhhing' and 'ahhing' (did I spell it right?) In the presence of other's wonder, we occasionally can rediscover our own... or something like that.

Hi again Matt: It's an interesting comment, this, concerning "...part of the real reason why this site now exists."

It may prove to be a sizable challenge to continue to uphold your stated non-partisan viewpoint if every American contributor on the blog is equally frustrated at how Americans reacted during the recent election process.

I also want to underline the point that while all American contributors to IG voted Republican, I am *not* American and I am choosing to remain non-partisan in my limited (and thus quite naive) discussion of American political matters.

I agree with Susan that the seeking of other perspectives is quite Obama-like. That obviously doesn't mean that he's the first or only person to ever do it. :)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

For clarification, I need to apologize to anyone who might have been offended by my comment about Inside Government and that our team voted mostly republican and did not want Obama elected president as it pertains to the site and it's objectivity.

IG is non-partisan…It’s purpose is to explain how government works. Period. There is no legislative agenda, left or right, and it will not endorse any candidate ever. It’s an objective look at how government works and will always offer objective explanations.

However, I was taken aback by Susan's comment: "Very Obama, that." and fell compelled to respond. The way I interpret the comment in this context is that IG is an expression of the Obama movement. Basically, what I interpret her implication is—wow, IG is objective, it's not just insiders talking about government, it’s reaching out for opinions from different places—such as Ireland—and what an Obama thing to do that is.

And I just want to make clear that that implication is illogical and that IG is not an expression of any Obama-like thinking.

The statement is illogical because t’s not an Obama thing to do. It’s an OBJECTIVE thing to do. I was merely pointing out that the site has absolutely nothing to do with Obama and explaining that the Americans participating on this site actually voted Republican this time around. I’ve always identified myself as a democrat until this year. This year I voted for the party with ideals and candidates who better represented me. The other Americans participating on the site range from moderates who vote for individuals of both parties to really conservative republicans. But as you have read on the site, every post is objective and explanatory about how the government works without promoting any political agenda.

I was also pointing out that Obama did not invent objectivity and a desire to reach out and be inclusive for all. Millions throughout history have practiced being inclusive. Obama did not invent inclusivity or bipartisanship or coalition building—a political practice you are probably more familiar with on the other side of the pond.

Make no mistake. Inside Government is non-partisan. But making a comment like it arising as part of the Obama spirit of change and hope in Washington? That’s just not right and it gives Obama way too much credit.

Further, Ken, I think your readers know that you are Irish. I referred to those working on the site as Americans and that they voted Republican. That not only excludes you as someone who voted Republican, but also Zee Harrison who is a British citizen living in America, but who will be moving back to Britain in January. She will continue to be part of the editorial team though offering her brilliant thinking and unique perspective. If any of your readers somehow interpreted my comment to imply that you were an American, I apologize for that was certainly not the case.

Finally, I wish to draw your attention to the "ABOUT" Tab on the Inside Government site. It clearly lists three examples of how the American people couldn't distinguish or evaluate campaign issues from both sides because of a lack of understanding of how the American government works. This page clearly articulates are sincere and objective passion to explain the processes of our government in objective and non-partisan ways. If we never engage in lobbying for a certain political outcome, it is possible to be informative and objective. And up until now, the site has received over a hundred comments -- 56 on IG's site and the rest on each of our blog teams' sites all praising the endeavor, saying there's a need for this site, and that the readers have gotten a lot out of the content already on the site. There hasn't been a single accusation of any type of partisanship or a lack of objectivity from anyone who has read the site. I'm very proud of that and I don't understand how Ken can infer that the site might be tarnished now because those working objectively on the site, those that have put aside their own politics to write quality educational and informative content, did not vote for Obama in the last election.

And I will continue to disagree with you Ken. The seeking of other perspectives is NOT Obama-like. Intelligent individuals and leaders from local school clubs and theaters to world leaders have sought other perspectives for millenia. Describing this as Obama-like is just puts Obama on some kind of pedestal he has not in any way shape or form earned, and discredits intelligent leaders everywhere throughout history who have always sought the counsel of others.

Ken Armstrong said...

Matt: Re 'Obama-like:

I suppose an analogy I might use is this; If David Beckham played a big football match and scored a great goal and then I went out into my garden and scored a great goal of my own, one might say that my goal was 'Beckham Like'.

This doesn't mean that Beckham was the only one ever to score a good goal (or I the only one to emulate him) it just means that he did.

BTW I don't think I inferred that the site might be tarnished by anything but doubtless my 'tens' of comments-readers will have their own opinion about whether I did or not.

Matthew S. Urdan said...


re: Obama-like....

When a figure-skater does a Triple Lutz, it's named the Triple Lutz because a figure skater names Lutz invented the jump.

When a gymnast does a Tsukahara, it's named a Tsukahara because there's a gymnast named Tsukahara who was the first one who did it. If a gymnast does a move like a Tsukahara, they don't call it Tsukahara-like. They give it a new name to describe what it is.

When people create music, you don't often here someone saying that a symphony sounded Mozart-like or Bach-like or even ABBA-like or Beatles-like because their music is so distinctive it's usually not possible to approach the sounds or timbres they created. That's why every ABBA or Beatles cover sounds like a cover.

To say something is Obama-like, you are implying a close relationship to something that Obama did or originated.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

Susan, I have to apologize. I'm sure your statement was innocent. I had no idea it was going to get blown up like this, otherwise I would have refrained from commenting in the first place. I'm not intending to criticize you in any way. In any case, for what it's worth, I apologize.

Ken Armstrong said...

Matt said: "If a gymnast does a move like a Tsukahara, they don't call it Tsukahara-like."

See? I think they do.

Agree to differ... check!

(Knew you'd get ABBA in somewhere)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Oh, and Bear Grylls in a recent interview just professed to love Mamma Mia! and ABBA! This guy is probably the manliest man alive. Climbs Everest after breaking his back falling to the ground when his parachute doesn't open, eats live snakes, drinks water from Elephant feces....and how does he relax? Watching Mamma Mia! and listening to ABBA! Gotta love it!

Susan at Stony River said...

Good Lord. The last sentence in my comment that caused such apparent outrage only referred to the phrase immediately preceding itself: it certainly meant no offense.

Nowhere did I say that Obama was the only one "in the world's history" to reach out; but he is the President-elect and the post in question was about that election; that's all there was to it. All the paragraphs of over-analysis of it were rather a shock to me, and don't reflect how I feel, at all.

I'm sorry it caused any distress to your comments section, Ken!

Ken Armstrong said...

Withe regard to Bear Grylls - I'm tempted to say 'I can't' but just 'cos that's true doesn't make it a good pun.

No distress Susan, comments are the life-blood of my little site and I value them more than Guinness itself.

hope said...

Susan, I was going to jump to your defense but I got confused. I thought my post had been erased, then I realized I commented on the other site. I know what you meant..does that help any? :)

Um, it was reported last year that ol' Bear cheated a couple of times. Went on location, then was flown back to a 4 star hotel for the night, then dropped back into the "wilderness" to finish filming. It's the reason his show went on hiatus last year...until things cooled down. :)

And Ken, I now understand your love of this new Bond flick. I read a review today that said the only character worth caring about was a CIA agent whose first name was Felix. Hmmm. ;)

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Hope, I like the thought of you leaping to defence (...leap!) :)

Will you do it for me sometime? Nothing major, just when I make yet another bad joke or something.

I heard this about Bear - that (allegedly) when the going gets tough, he hits the en-suite(!).

And, my, you did get a tad confused, didn't you? I didn't like the new Bond movie very much at all. :)

'Quantum of So-So'

Felix *was* cool though - we Felix's invariably are.

I just watched 'Stardust' which Matt recommended - now that *was* cool! Think I'll attempt a review...

Carnation said...

dropping by your informative blog.

Anonymous said...

US politics is better than our local politics. I don't want to go into the reasons as I have enough problem for

It would be nice also to include in the blog, how democratic, parliamentary, communist, dictatorship and federal governments vary? I know some differences are obvious, but wouldn't it be nice to know the subtle ones? Perhaps when I read them, I would finally agree that democracy is indeed right for my country.

I'm sure your post would be great, as usual. In your particular niche, nobody writes like Ken. Kudos to you.

hope said...

My bad...I meant you liked this version of Bond [the man] more than I do. It's the publicity shots: always looks as if he smells something bad or his underwear is bunched.

Sure, I'll be glad to defend you. But I'm 5'1", so the leap won't be very far. ;)