The Worship of Sports in America

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How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gun Control...No! Responsible Gun Control...Yes?


Click on map to enlarge

As I have stated on numerous occasions, I have always been a proponent of gun ownership in a society where police departments do not employ seers or psychics on their payrolls. Simply put, the police cannot be everywhere. And limiting gun ownership only hinders eligible, law-abiding gun owners from obtaining weapons; the criminals don't follow the laws anyway when it comes to securing weapons to victimize individuals, so what good would the laws do?
Outside of an outright ban by all citizens expect the military and the police (as is the law in Japan), the only way to curb gun violence like the kind we've seen lately in Colorado and Wisconsin is the application of common sense.
But this simple solution to address gun-based violence is every bit as difficult to implement as preventing the next shootings of hoodie-sporting black teenagers, Aurora movie theaters, or Sikh temple shootings? Why? Because gun ownership as an issue has become every bit as politically polarizing as any other issue in current-day America. The problem is that people would rather adhere to the dictates of their particular political ideology than to common sense. Case in point:
On July 26 of this year, the St. Petersburg City (Florida) Council passed it's "Even Zone Ordinance," outlining restrictions for what people attending the Republican National Convention could carry into the venue. Among the items prohibited from being carried into the RNC are 2 x 4 boards; Umbrellas; and Water guns. Among the items which ARE permitted to carried into the RNC? Concealed guns/weapons ("Should Guns be Allowed Inside RNC Event Zone?" July 29, 2012 ).
What's more, earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott turned down Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's request to issue an executive order allowing the city to ban concealed firearms in the zone. Is this responsible governing? What type of message does it send to ban toy guns which carry water, but allow real guns which shoot bullets into a public venue?
I see two solutions to the issue of addressing gun violence: The simple solution is to take the politics out of public policy, and create common sense laws. The more realistic solution is to ban political parties and their ideological rhetoric, which interferes with rational thinking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Is Not Your Father’s Republican Party!

I know from personal experience that debating hard-core political right- or left-wingers about inconsistencies in, and questions about the effectiveness of their respective ideologies is often an act of futility worthy of a Saturday morning knock at the door by a conversion-minded Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, one would do better trying to talk to a tree; at least when the wind blows, a tree will actually sway, resembling an actual response. For extreme and/or die-hard conservatives and liberals, their near religious adherence to their beliefs stands as a testament to why we have become so both politically and socially polarized as nation (e.g., The Tea Party & Christian Fundamentalists on the Right, and Gay Marriage & Rabid Feminists on the Left).
While doing a little research, I came upon a bit of political history from the election season of 1964, when current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney also sought the Republican nomination for the White House). At the time, George Romney was a moderate conservative, supporting call for Civil Rights, and rejecting the rigid ideology of those supporting his one-time rival for the ’64 nomination—and standard-bearing symbol of ideological conservatism—Barry Goldwater (who opposed, among other things, the cause of Civil Rights). In protest of the staunch ideologues support of their ideological champion, Goldwater, Romney walked out of the 1964 Republican Convention, and warned:


As if those prophetic words weren’t enough, Goldwater himself warned about Fundamentalist Christians’ potential influence within the party…


If you want to know whether or not the warnings of these two moderate (by today's standards) Republicans were heeded, look at the platform adopted this week during the 2012 Republican Convention from Tampa, Florida...

Subtitled “We Believe in America,” the platform keeps its focus on the party’s traditional support for low taxes, national security and social conservatism. And it delves into a number of politically charged issues. It calls state court decisions recognizing same-sex marriage “an assault on the foundations of our society,” opposes gun legislation that would limit “the capacity of clips or magazines,” supports the “public display of the Ten Commandments,” calls on the federal government to drop its lawsuits challenging state laws adopted to combat illegal immigration, and salutes the Republican governors and lawmakers who “saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions.” (Source; "Platform’s Sharp Turn to Right Has Conservatives Cheering," NYTimes, 08-28-12).

The message here is simple: (1) Not all change is good change; (2)The Republicans (as well as the Democrats) need to purge their ranks of the extremist elements, and get back to a time when the traditional family—not business—was the nucleus of policy and social influence in America; (3) Father knows best!




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Does This Familiar? Spotting Lies & Weak Logic On The Campaign Trail, Conclusion

Politicians. In America, they are the epitome of contradiction…in every sense of the word. As a group, we tend to place them in an area of social value between used car salesman and sexual predator. They make grandiose promises, stretch the truth to the level of strained credibility, and seem to remember the value of the voter around only around election time. We all know this, but for some reason, we tend to favor one politician over another, simply because he or she shares—or validates—our particular ideological perspectives.
And in the rare instance where an individual actually seeks to enter the realm of politics with the intention of “changing the system,” that person invariably becomes drawn into the culture of privilege, the cycle of perpetually seeking re-election funds (while forgetting the voting electorate), and partnering up with Big Money…all to maintain their political positions. Even rarer, when an individual actually does work to avoid becoming a part of the political culture, we are quick to sling arrows and barbs at that person, simply because he/she doesn’t make the instantaneous changes we want them to, ignoring the fact that those beholden to the political status quo (i.e., political culture) are unyielding to the prospect of substantive systemic changes in the culture of business-as-usual, and simply will not allow it.
In seeking public office, politicians “reveal” perspectives, intentions, and policies of their opponents which, to be honest, insults the intelligence of the American electorate. Actually, what politicians tend to say about their opponents and their beliefs play into the subjective and willful ignorance the average voting American; they know we will not research beyond our preexisting, preconceived notions and/or beliefs. We tend to gravitate toward those politicians who support our beliefs rather than give us something to ponder.
We all know this, but we still play into this perennial sad comedy with all the predictability of tomorrow’s sunrise. And why should politician be straight with us, when we aren’t straight with ourselves? None of us wants to even consider that we are on the wrong side of a particular debate or policy. Knowing this, politicians continue doing what they do best…appeal to our sense of willful ignorance in relying on canned statements which validate what we already believe rather than what will actually make us think.
In part 1, I began reprinting a piece previously chronicled on National Public Radio (NPR), “A Guide To Spotting Pretzel Logic On The Campaign Trail” as a means of showcasing how We The People allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by politicians who manipulate our ignorance to their benefit by focusing on the stretches of truth exemplified by the current Presidential Election of 2012.

The NPR piece continues below:
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ARGUMENTUM AD LOGICAM, aka 'Straw man argument'



What it means: Falsely creating an overly simplistic or undesirable argument because it's easier to defeat than the real argument.

Why it works: "It basically works like an inoculation," Nelson says. "Just like a vaccine uses a weakened version of a virus to stimulate an immune response, you tell the person a weakened version of an argument so that when the real thing appears, they have an idea how to answer it. You explain someone's argument in a way that doesn't give it full strength, and then you knock it down."

Examples from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney, July 18

[President Obama] said something ... which really reveals what he thinks about our country, about our people, about free enterprise, about freedom, about individual initiative, about America. ... I just want to say it exactly as he said it, speaking about small business and business of all kinds, he said this, 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen.' "
video
The Take-Away: In his speech, Romney takes Obama's remark out of context to reduce a complex argument about the collective nature of success to a simple straw man, Clayton says. He adds: "So, he is characterizing the argument that Obama did make, but he's taking the worst possible, least relatable version of what Obama was saying and defeating that."

President Obama, Aug. 9

"We're certainly not going to follow Mr. Romney's lead and go back to the days when women didn't have control of their own health care choices."


The Take-Away: Obama hyperbolizes Romney's position, "making it sound like you're going back to the 1300s and that women would have no control over their health care choices whatsoever," Clayton says. "So, he's making the most dramatic, worst-case version of the argument. Then it's easy for him to make the case that his policies are better."


ARGUMENTUM AD TERROREM — 'Appeal to fear'


What it means: This is pretty self explanatory. It plays on someone's fear of a (real or imagined) undesirable consequence.

Why it works: "Fear motivates people, especially if they're already nervous," says Nelson. "If you've just lost your job or think you are going to lose your job and someone says, 'Things are going to get worse.' That will get your attention."

Examples from the campaign trail:

President Obama, Aug. 14


"Last week, we found out that Gov. Romney expects you, middle-class families, to pick up the tab for this big tax cut. ... [Economists say] Gov. Romney's tax plan would actually raise taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of $2,000."

video

The Take-Away: "He's basically playing off the fears of the middle class and saying Romney's going to saddle you with a larger and larger tax burden," Clayton notes.

Mitt Romney, May 28

"I wish I could tell you the world is safe today. It's not. Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation. ... Pakistan is home to some 100 nuclear weapons. China's on the road to becoming a military superpower."
video

The Take-Away: "Not only are you telling your story, but you're trying to saddle your opponent with another narrative. So, the narrative you're trying to saddle Obama with is he's weak because he just wants to get along," Nelson says. "You're saying he's naive about the real threats and he's not minding the store."


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To be sure, government cannot solve every individual problem related to social and economic ills, but neither can the market. Our problems tend to be complex, begging complex solutions as well. The problem is that politics do not allow for substantive solutions of any kind as long as Americans continue to allow our own ignorance and inability to see beyond our beliefs to be manipulated by those individuals and groups seeking to secure their own political and/or economic interests.
I'm a firm believer in the power of education as a means of uplifting one's insight and perspective on the way the world works. As you ponder that thought, allow me to leave you with this:



If this offends you because you are an adherent to the thinking represented by these two individuals, then don't blame me...look inside yourself and ask if you are on the side of critical thinking!

Does This Familiar? Spotting Lies & Weak Logic On The Campaign Trail, Part 1

Some time ago, I posted what I felt to be an informative piece based on my observations explaining how and why people structure their particular political ideologies ("Our Political Ideologies Explained...").
Strictly speaking, there are two reasons why many Americans have such a difficult time trying to understand policy issues and their implications: (1) Politicians, when asked by reporters about a policies' particulars, tend to provide familiar programmed rhetoric, which amount canned answers spouting the party line; and (2) most Americans don't take the time to objectively (as opposed to subjectively--look for or at "facts" which support one's already presupposed beliefs) research issues. And as the latter reason is concerned, even when confronted with indisputable proof, people will reflexively question the "bias" of the research, or attack the bearer of the bad news.
Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece on the weak logic often employed in political campaigns, in particular the election campaign of 2012 for the office of the White House between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("A Guide To Spotting Pretzel Logic On The Campaign Trail"). More to the point, the piece focused on why such hole-ridden statements of non-thinking are absorbed as fact by Democratic- and Republican Party loyalists...without any objective (there's that nasty word again) fact-checking on the parts of would-be voters.
I thought the article was so informative that I decided to reprint it here, as a service to those rare few who would like to actually think beyond the campaign rhetoric of both sides, and let the facts--so to speak--speak for themselves.

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It's a good thing presidential campaigns aren't college debates because politicians routinely spout arguments on the stump (and in their ads) that would never pass muster on the university rostrum.

Campaigns are rife with logical fallacies aimed at whipping up voters and herding them to the polls. Some are deceptively difficult to recognize, while others are familiar but no less seductive.

"Fallacies are used all the time in campaigns," says Sam Nelson, director of forensics at Cornell University's school of Industrial and Labor Relations.

"Human beings are busy. We have all kinds of information around us all the time, we don't have time to logically think through every argument, so we're looking for short cuts," Nelson says. "The issue is whether you can recognize these short cuts that are really fallacies and avoid falling for them."


As we head into the final months before November elections — with party convention bluster, brutal ad wars and debate posturing — Americans will almost certainly be exposed to a lot more pretzel logic. So with the help of Cornell's Nelson and Storey Clayton, a debate coach for Rutgers University Debate Union, here's an election-season primer to help people at home spot the top five logical fallacies so far in this year's presidential campaign. The Latin is optional.


ARGUMENTUM AD VERECUNDIAM — 'Appeal to Authority'

What it means: There's nothing like name-dropping a Founding Father, a former U.S. president or a Nobel laureate to boost your argument. But that still doesn't change the substance of the argument.

Why it works: "It's the devil we know as opposed to something new, which we've never tried," Nelson says. "There's always risk in change. Some people are big risk takers, but most people seek safety."

Examples from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney, July 29
"Ronald Reagan was one of our great foreign policy presidents. He did not come from the Senate. He did not come from the foreign policy world. He was a governor."

The Take-Away: "As Reagan's presidency has grown more distant, his star has sort of grown. He's a very appealing authority figure," Clayton says.





President Obama, Aug. 1
"You do not have to take my word for it. Just today, an independent, nonpartisan organization ran all the numbers on Gov. Romney's plan. This wasn't my staff. This wasn't something we did. An independent group ran the numbers."
video
The Take-Away: "This is a shortcut for most citizens who aren't willing to do the hard policy analysis. Obama is saying these people did the work so you don't have to," Nelson says.

POST HOC ERGO PROPER HOC — 'After this, therefore because of this'

What it means: The argument attempts to turn simple correlation into false or questionable causation. A textbook example: Because the birds sing every morning before the sun rises, the birds' singing causes the sun to rise.

Why it works: "It's a very appealing, intuitive fallacy," Clayton says. "A lot of the arguments that people make around presidential campaigns, for example, are essentially drawing the inference that whatever happened in one's time in office is their responsibility, whether or not they were actually responsible."

Examples from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney, Aug. 1
We have fewer jobs under President Obama. Then there's unemployed and underemployed. That's gone up, that's in red, because that's a bad direction. Then we have the unemployment rate, that's bad too, that's why that's in red."

video

The Take-Away: "What you're trying to do in a presidential campaign is take relatively complex issues that there's a lot of division on and simplify it so that everyone understands what you're trying to say," Nelson says. "Everyone understands the idea of a report card. Holding it up visually even makes it better. Now, is that report card based on reliable information? We don't know."

Ex-Steel Plant Worker Joe Soptic, Speaking In Obama-Affiliated PAC Priorities USA Ad
"When Mitt Romney and
Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care. My family lost their health care. A short time after that, my wife became ill. ... She passed away in 22 days."

video

The Take-Away: "Someone responsible for a business is not necessarily responsible for every single decision or every single aspect that's made within that business," Clayton says. "But that's exactly what this ad is trying to argue. It's a classic example of giving someone responsibility over foreseeing every possible effect or every possible outcome."

ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM — 'Argument to the man'


What it means: Anyone who's ever been verbally taunted or bullied in a schoolyard is familiar with
argumentum ad hominem — basically a fancy debate term for name-calling. Its purpose, like that of all fallacies, is to divert attention away from substantive arguments.

Why it works: "It short-circuits the thinking part of your brain and makes you think, 'This guy's an idiot,' " says Rutgers University's Clayton.

Nelson of Cornell agrees, saying ad
hominems are "funny and memorable" and that the person launching one often benefits from being perceived as a fighter. "It appeals to aspects of American culture that we got on the schoolyard and we still have when we're adults," he says.

The Take-Away: "These examples basically reduce everything to name calling," Clayton says. "They cut through the logic and all the rational arguments."

Examples from the campaign trail:

President Obama, Aug. 6


video
Gov. Romney "would ask the middle class to pay more in taxes to give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood."

Mitt Romney, Aug. 7


video
"We've been watching the president say a lot of things about me and my policies, and they're just not right. And if I were to coin a term, it would be '
Obamaloney.' "

Needless to say, that in the realm of election politics, there are so many more logical fallacies, little white lies, structured inaccuracies, and outright lies, that it's easy to understand why Americans would rather spout the party line and anecdotal "proofs" than spend the major effort it would take to search out the facts.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seven Simple Questions for Republicans Abandoning Akin

Politics, that ever-fascinating spectacle which illustrates man’s (or one group’s) obsession to impose his/their will over the masses by shaping public policy has stolen the spotlight once again. In the last week, Republican Missouri Representative Todd Akin, who has been engaged in typically brutal (by contemporary standards) campaign to unseat the district’s sitting Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, has been the target of more slings and arrows than a Star Trek “redshirt” in the Hunger Games.

Since his now-infamous remarks about “legitimate rape,” calls have been coming from every nook and cranny of the political world for Akin to drop out of the race. While granted, his remark that women’s bodies have some heretofore unknown mechanism which prevents pregnancies resulting from rape smacks of the complex imaginings of a 3rd-grader who has an unparalleled insight into the nature of cooties, he has every right to speak his mind…or what passes for such. And although I do agree that the cheapening of human life exemplified by the death culture that both abortion and the death penalty should be abolished, I cannot help but bear witness and testify against how I see the Republican Party throwing one of their own under the bus to avoid losing power.

I also cannot help but wonder the obvious; whether Akin’s remarks are a reflection of similar beliefs—of some variation thereof—held by the majority of Republicans. After all, their party’s ideological anti-abortion fetish seems to take priority over other, more pressing issues relevant to the American people; one of the very first bills passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R.3.PCS). So as the Republican Party look for the perfect spot on the back of Akin to drive it’s knife, I find myself thinking about a great many things related to this issue.

In the current issue of The New Yorker (August 20, 2012), writer Amy Davidson piece, “Seven Simple Questions for Republicans Abandoning Akin” reflects many of my own questions surrounding the issue.

I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting the thought-provoking piece here.

What are Republicans renouncing when they run from Todd Akin? Akin, the G.O.P.’s candidate for Senate in Missouri—he had been leading in the polls—said in an interview yesterday that “the female body” had a mystery mechanism that prevented pregnancy in the case of a “legitimate rape.” (The full, awful details are in an earlier post.) He doesn’t seem to have expected the anger this occasioned; by the end of the night he had apologized, and, on Monday, he was roundly abandoned by Republicans from Mitt Romney to Scott Walker. (He was also, less surprisingly, denounced by Democrats, including President Obama, who said, “Rape is rape.”) John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told him that he wouldn’t be getting the five million that the Party had planned to spend on his race, the Washington Post reported, and others pushed him to drop out. Akin, though, isn’t making it easy, telling Mike Huckabee, “I’m not a quitter.”

And this shouldn’t be too easy for the G.O.P.—given that the actual policy positions, if not medical knowledge, of many in the Party are quite close to Akin’s. This is true of Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate. So here’s a test: Are you a Republican politician who would desperately like to distance yourself from Akin? Answer these seven simple questions first.

1. You’ve said that Congressman Akin’s remarks offended you. Can you explain, in your own words, what about them offended you? Was it just that he was wrong about how conception works, or do you see more problems in his statement? Please be specific; vague references to “empathy” don’t count.

2. Congressman Akin used the phrase “legitimate rape.” If you haven’t addressed that in question No. 1, can you do so now? Is it a phrase that you would use, or countenance, or one that you would object to? Also, Akin co-sponsored legislation changing a statutory reference to “rape” to “forcible rape.” Is that a bill you voted for, or would?

3. Do you support access to abortion for victims of rape? Have you ever voted on or introduced legislation, or signed a pledge, addressing that point? Would you require any qualifications—for example, would there need to be a criminal conviction first? Do you support access to abortion for anyone besides rape victims?

4. How about emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill? A University of California Study estimated that, in 1998, twenty-five thousand women became pregnant as the result of rape, and that twenty-two thousand of those could potentially have been prevented with emergency contraception. Would you classify this as abortion? Should all women, whatever their circumstances, have access to the morning-after pill? And should health insurance cover non-emergency contraception?

5. Congressman Akin is an educated man. Do you think this incident shows that there are shortcomings in sex education and scientific literacy in America? Would you support increased sex education? And could organizations like Planned Parenthood have a role to play there?

6. You and your colleagues have called on Akin to withdraw from the Senate race against Claire McCaskill. Why? Do you think that he is unfit to serve, or do you just think that he will lose?

7. Can you talk about what you’ve done in your political career to help victims of sexual violence? Have you listened to those women’s—and men’s, and children’s—stories?


Reprinted from The New Yorker (August 20, 2012)

The fact that I used Davidson's piece does in no way mean to imply that I am pro-abortion. As I stated before, I believe in the logical consistency of "pro-life;" both abortion and the death penalty should be abolished.
I am merely using this piece to illustrate how the Republicans can tree themselves by adhering to ideological beliefs rather than beliefs which reflect critical thinking...just as the Democrats do so themselves on the issue of gay marriage and "gender issues" (See: "The Politicization of Gender In America" for example)
I'm just wondering when will politicians from both parties will step away from their respective ideological stances and learn to govern based not on emotions, party allegiance, or ideology but on reason alone...?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Taxes...You Decide!

Over the last couple of years--and especially in this current election season--there's been a lot of talk about taxes: who pays the most, is the current tax structure fair, and do the rich pay their fair share?
I thought I'd let you, the voting American, decide based on the consideration of all relevant factors, including the consideration of average household expenditures (i.e., the cost of living)...

Click on graphic to enlarge

...which portion of the the federal income derive from which particular tax...

Click on graphic to enlarge


...who actually pays taxes...

Click on graphic to enlarge (The often cited Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center estimates "that 46 percent of households will owe no federal income tax for 2011" and Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that "51 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2009" are, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "anomalies that reflect the unique circumstances of the past few years, when the economic downturn greatly swelled the number of Americans with low incomes. The figures for 2009 are particularly anomalous; in that year, temporary tax cuts that the 2009 Recovery Act created — including the “Making Work Pay” tax credit and an exclusion from tax of the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits — were in effect and removed millions of Americans from the federal income tax rolls. Both of these temporary tax measures have since expired. Source: "Misconceptions and Realities About Who Pays Taxes").


...and a few facts about the link between tax cuts and economic growth, using several individual low-tax states as an illustration:

A few states—Alaska, Nevada, Florida, Wyoming, and New Hampshire—impose very low tax rates yet their residents enjoy solid mid-range incomes. Do these states blaze a trail that other states can follow?

Unfortunately these states' success is tough to copy. Both Alaska and Wyoming have abundant and valuable natural resources (energy and minerals) coupled with small populations and little need for public services. Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming benefit greatly from tourism as well. And New Hampshire gets a free ride from Massachusetts-based high tech companies without paying the corresponding taxes.

There are no guarantees when it comes to taxes and economic development. But without abundant natural resources or heavy tourism or the generosity of a neighbor, no state in the United States has been able to sustain high prosperity without a robust tax base (Source: "Do Lower Taxes Create Jobs? Let’s Look at the States?" and the Institute on Taxation and Economy Policy).


Click on graphic to enlarge


Conclusion: Outside of those who subscribe to Keynesian economics, and unless there are a certain economic conditions present, most economic experts assert that tax cuts--in and of themselves--do not directly spur economic growth (which iLinks not to say that under other conditions, they don't have their place. Personally though, I would favor an income increase rather than a tax decrease. Why, because only the working poor would even notice the change.
A February poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling showed that 66 percent of workers did not realize their paychecks were larger after the government reduced the payroll tax by 2 percentage points. Source: "Economic Illiteracy: The Candidates' Best Friend.").


OK...here is where you decide...



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or Republican! (...Or, "Who Am I?")



In the past week of expressing my opinions in and on various forums around the internet, I have come across a great deal of criticism, mostly from conservatives who accuse me of being a closet liberal (when they pick and chose postings which criticize aspects of their ideology), and of being “self-righteous” when others actually read instances where I slam both ideological branches (thus, not leaving them with a leg to stand on when then cannot accuse me of being “liberal”). And because I’m forced to deal with such narrow-mindedness from the intellectual Peanut Gallery on a daily basis, I thought this would be a great time to express my disdain for both Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans…and why.
In order to understand why project a certain amount of perceived arrogance in my observations and conclusions, you have to understand a thing or two about my background. Politics were rarely discussed on my house growing up, so there was not the direct influence of traditional political allegiances which tends to shape the thinking of many of my fellow Americans. Growing up as a black male within a fluctuating but limited range of class identities—between lower working-to lower-middle-classes—I came from a mostly single-parent structured household. Most of those around me tended to vote Democrat…with the assumption that my parents did too (although it was not really a certainty). Because of my always shifting economic and social stations, I have had the fortune—or misfortune, depending on one’s perspective—to have lived (or would that be “survive”) a myriad of experiences which helped to shape my outlook and perspectives on a great many issues.
Just to provide a frame of reference for those of you with limited life experiences, I will post a bit of chronology. The day I turned 13, my mother quietly woke me and my siblings up around 4 in the morning, and we were told to quietly bag our clothes, and stole away from the home we had known…leaving our father behind (you do the math) in Michigan, and headed to Chicago, where I was born and raised part of my life. We stayed with relatives, and needless to say, public housing in a large Northern city is nothing like life in gated suburbia (where oddly enough, some people still feel the need to carry guns in such relative tranquility). Later the next couple of years, when my mother was forced—much to her bitter resentment—to accept food stamps, I found myself working alongside my other and younger brother in the fruit and vegetable fields back in Michigan…which is how we would pay the rent, and keep the lights on (to this day, I have nothing but respect for Migrant workers, who we’d peacefully worked side-by-side with). Growing up with economic uncertainty, I’d been forced to take a series of jobs, and to be honest, I thank my lucky stars for having the fortune of learning flexibility. I ended up signing up for the U.S. Army—infantry (when you’re 18 and poor, a $2,000 signing bonus sounds like manna from heaven), working on another farm for another 3 years (enduring the weather extremes alone is enough to make me more arrogant than most people), a series of factory jobs, and then long-term unemployment, courtesy of the late 80s, early 90s recession.
I’d gotten into community volunteering and voter registration during a time when I was particularly depressed about my economic situation, which led to my enrolling in local college courses…with the intent to enter law school and practice Human Rights and Civil Rights law (I was the first and only college graduate in my family, graduating with more honors and academic distinctions than you can shake a stick at. I recall during this time, I how myself and a friend managed to con our way into a closed affair to see the first George Bush. I was also proud to have had dinner with Cornel West in Detroit later in my college tenure). My stint in law school was all-too-brief, much to my regret. But afterwards, I had had a series of other nowhere jobs, including waste hauler, long-term substitute teacher, teacher’s assistant, truck driver (yes, I possess a Commercial Driver’s License), rest area cleaner, janitor, grant writer, and a host of other experiences which life forced me to adapt to via economics. And I am totally leaving out the best, most impacting experiences (such as having been a practicing Buddhist, despite growing up Christian, brief marriage, being victimized by feminism, personal loss, working 2 years as a youth counselor in the woods of the South, temporary homelessness, etc.).
The upshot is that I have lived a rather rich—if not regrettable in some circumstances—life. And as you would expect, having lived such a life where I was not afraid to try new things, step outside my personal comfort zones, and adapt to changing fortunes, I’ve learned to see the world with so much clarity…sans the ideological rhetoric of those who adopt confined political (and social) thinking. And as someone who spends his time writing and reading (while most others are hanging in bars, on dance floors, and basking in dream vacations), who better to make objective observations about life than someone who’s managed to cram the experiences of 2, possibly 3 lifetimes in only 45 years? So, with the background having been laid, allow me to chronicle how my experiences have shaped my outlook on social and political policies—more objectively than I believe most have been.

Democrats:
There is a great bit of truth to the conservative view that the black vote has been taken for granted by Democrats. This is part and parcel of a larger issue that I have with Democrats, namely that the coalition of multiple (group) interests that comprise the Democratic Party leaves the organization politically impotent at times. Affirmative Action is often at odds with the values and beliefs of Middle-Class white voters, especially males. President Obama and the NAACP’s stance on gay marriage has divided black thinking and given support on the issue pause (yes, I am against gay marriage. The black family, as many other families in America has enough problems with dysfunction without having the notion gay marriage try to redefine the definition of a traditional family…please don’t bother posting nasty comments with this regard; it won’t change my mind). Race-baiting (while ignoring personal responsibility)? I could talk about this ad naseum, but since the Republicans do it too (and like with many things, with a great bit more subtlety and style), I will just say that Jesse Jackson can be as every bit of a racial opportunist as Newt Gingrich.
And unquestioned defense of entitlements is a bit problematic for me (entitlements should be limited to the neediest of individuals, not to anyone who shows they have a splinter which keeps them from working).
Liberal attitudes with regard to child-rearing have created a generation of monsters and defiant ne’er-do-wells. For liberal Democrats, the world tends to stop whenever an issue with a child comes up. All logic and reason goes out the window, and emotions take over (not only do I believe in the power of the hickory switch in order to help a child maintain discipline and respect, but that paddlings should be brought back into schools…and no parent should be allowed to sue unless it’s a situation where discipline crosses the line into obvious abuse).
Democrats have to perform more of a balancing act with regard to these often competing interests than Republicans. They have so many individual platforms that they have no general platform whatsoever.
Democrats have terrible selling points (Republican are far better at shaping arguments and selling BS), some I find personally antithetical to clear thinking and a sense of morality, such as the case with abortion. I believe all life to be sacred, and abortion should be outlawed every bit as much as capital punishment (yes, I believe in women's rights, but not at the expense of men' rights. In reproductive policy, men typically have no rights, and are at the mercy of the courts and women motivated purely by self-interests.
Extremist elements within the party have exemplified this by reframing domestic violence as federal hate crime against women [see: The Politicization of Gender of Gender]. Common sense dictates we cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. Placing a higher value on gender, or race, than the ability to make rational decisions is inherently biased, and potentially disastrously. However, rational adults should be allowed to end their life on their own terms in cases of unbearable incapacitation and/or terminal illness.
And despite having grown up among gunplay to the extreme, I still cannot abide by talk or discussion of gun control; I wouldn’t feel safe living in a house without a gun given what I’ve witnessed in life (obviously, lunatics, fanatics, criminals, children, and paranoid-fearful neighborhood watch volunteers should be exempt from gun ownership). Limiting gun ownership will only limit access to legal gun owners...criminals don't follow the laws anyway.
Democrats seem to want to defend to the death the failing American educational system. Our schools lack discipline, partly because irresponsibly apathetic parents are flooding our schools with undisciplined children with distorted, pop-culture-fed values who then infect other children (who actually want to learn). Every child with even a hint of a “disability” (that includes insane “diagnoses” such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder…are you kidding me?) has “rights,” while the children of responsible parents have to content themselves with getting what they can from a day’s instructions because teachers are forced to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to maintain discipline in the classrooms rather than actually teach (want to blame teachers? While granted some are not competent, you try teaching a room full of brats who’s parents think each is individually “special…”).
Liberal attitudes about political correctness go way too far at times (I want to be able to say what I want...when I want...and without censor or sanction. Don’t like what I have to say? TS!).
I’ve always been a rabid proponent of universally affordable health care and I sympathize with aspects of the Occupy movement, but Democrats have failed to sell it properly. They've also failed to seize on the discontent the Occupy movement represents and parlay it into an intra-party movement like the Republicans have the Tea Party discontent (although the extremists within the Occupy movement need to leave the destruction and aggression alone).
And let’s not go into government spending...
No, I don’t fully trust government, but I trust the unforgiving market even less. Sometimes, government has to tinker with the market in order to ensure some stability. No, I don’t buy that nonsense that if you allow the market to “correct itself,” it will all balance out in the sweet By-And-By. We tried that once. And what did we get for our laissez faire mentality? The Great Depression.

Republicans:
What can I say about Republicans that I haven’t said before? Conspiracy theories among the extreme right of the party (e.g., Birthers, One-world governments, Trilateral Commissions? And I thought liberals were supposed to be the potheads…).
I like the idea of protecting the rights of gun owners, but just because we’ve elected a black president doesn’t necessitate a run on guns and ammunition. There has been no talk of curtailing gun ownership, despite the recent mass shootings so please stop with the hair trigger rhetoric, thinking, and actions you rabid gun owners!
On that note, conservative Republicans have far better mastered the art of political language, rhetoric, and propaganda with the skill of a Joseph Goebbels. Even every day people who identify with the political conservatism which Republicans are supposed to represent have adopted their politicians' penchant for selective memories, denial of facts, and favoring ideology over reality (the Democrats as a group look woefully inept by comparison when it comes to framing a coherent argument).
Trickle-down economics wasn’t very successful under the Reagan Administration, and just because it’s a new century doesn’t mean it will work any better…despite you’re dressing the notion up in the garb of “job creators.” With the very rare exception, there are no such thing as job creators; they are profit-creators who, if it were possible to create and turn a profit without incurring the labor costs in creating employment, they would in a heartbeat. The market is not sacrosanct. It is not above reproach or questioning. It is a man-made institution, subject to the same level of maintenance requirements as that of any man-made institution.
As an agnostic, I find the way Republicans have allowed Christian fundamentalists to co-op the Christian faith to be every bit as disturbing as the way Muslim fundamentalist (i.e. radical Muslims) have co-opted Islam. The Bible states, “Judge not least ye be judged.” The same hold true for those who would paint the religion of Islam (or any other religion) with a broad stroke; some of us are just as willing to do the same with your beliefs! Your perspectives and perception of the Christian interpretation of spirituality is just that…your perceptions. And no…not every political candidate for office is “told by God” to “run for the office of president" (get real…take your meds, and stifle the sanctimony while you're at it).
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On a similar note, just because someone isn’t a conservative doesn’t automatically makes them a “liberal.” It’s one sociopolitical ideology among many. Conservatism didn’t come into being with the Big Bang. It’s not a flawless ideology, and following it’s beliefs to the letter will no more bring about a utopia than liberal Kumbaya-ism will. Stop with the dreaming and ideological delusion. Most of the current crop of Republicans have more of an allegiance to conservative ideology and the Republican Party than to reality. Sensible Republicans like the late Jack Kemp, Alan Keyes, and Colin Powell have no influence on this current brand.
Government spending…you want to stop it? Then let’s end pork barrel/pet project spending on both sides of the aisle. If local districts want another park or museum dedicated to lima beans, then let the locals fund it. If you’re going to talk about cutting spending…all spending must be on the chopping block. Also, every American must be willing to share sacrifice if the federal deficit is such an issue…that includes the 1-Percenters/”job creators.” Cutting taxes will not yield a balanced budget, nor has there ever been any proof that it will spur economic growth except under a particular series of conditions (that’s an unproven economic theory, much like that other theory conservatives can’t seem to swallow, that of evolution, which rank-and-file conservatives love to repeat without the benefit of research or context).
“Limited” government? You can’t claim to want “limited government” when it comes to matters of the market and/or economic equality, but then want to use the power of government to interfere with matters of social policy, such as gay marriage, abortion, and end-of-life determination. Either you’re for limited government or you’re not…otherwise, be as prepared to be labeled “hypocrite” as you are quick to label Democrats (for example, extremist Tea Party elements within the G.O.P. have called for privatizing entitlements, such as George Bush's 2005 proposal to tie Social Security to the stock market. Can you imagine how many people would have suffered if social security pensions were tied to, say the hot commodity of the market then, mortgage-backed securities? You say "You don't trust government?" Well, I don't trust the market!).
Climate change? If you are willing to believe in an all-seeing, all-knowing, invisible man hiding somewhere in the sky—without proof other than “faith”—then why is it hard to believe the science (which, by the way has been winning over skeptics) of man’s impact on the environment?
I could continue, but I will shorten my list of gripes with both parties due to fact that I know most of you will who are dedicated to these particular political parties will want to get started on you denials and finger-pointing towards the other camp.

The fact is that ideological views of these two parties have polarized our political system, almost beyond the prospect of repair. Government gridlock has paralyzed the legislation process. Many discontented individuals such as myself view both political parties as being, corrupt to their respective cores, and no longer capable of governing. The politicians of these entities have teamed up with corporations to place profit and the market above people and have decided that the richest 1% deserve tax breaks and preferential treatment while the rest of us pay the unbalanced tax burdens and are forced to live on less and less.
Some of us have had rich experiences in life, which have given us a unique insight and perspective on reality. because of that, some of use understand that ideology is often a smokescreen to clearer perceptions. That is why I write.

Now that that's been said, let’s not hear any more of this BS about how some of us cannot think beyond the spectrum...that's probably your hang-up!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Problem With Capitalism...

A friend sent me the email below… And it made me think this:

The problem with capitalism is that the people who know how to make money, spend their time making money. The people who don’t know how to make money become politicians. Then they overspend taxes and the country ends up in debt.

Do you agree?



Something to think about...