Most Claims of “Radical!” Are Empty Words

In this highly politicized world, the term “radical” seems to be applied to more and more people, which is, by the day, shrinking the “sane, non-radical” middle.

But that really isn’t the case at all. The term radical is being mis-applied is so many circumstances that it has become a commonplace label in order to further one political agenda and minimize the other.

So what would be a true definition of a political radical. Well, it can vary, but I believe the vast majority of people in the world would call the ISIS terrorists “radical.”  Chopping off heads isn’t a political norm, at least not since the French Revolution. Radical in a political sense must be understood as far, far out of the norm – not believed by the vast majority of people, or at least not seen as a viable political alternative.

This is where the term is abused today – liberals calling conservatives radical and conservatives calling liberals radical.

They aren’t radical. They are coming from different ideological orientations and both of those orientations have been used successfully to one degree or another to run modern democracies. That should prove in itself that the liberal-conservative divide is not about radicalism.

The reason I bring up this topic is that there’s a video making its rounds, produced by former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich where he is making the case where he claims Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is a radical, more dangerous than Donald Trump. With all due respect, Secretary Reich, you are wrong, and your video is a cheap ploy to marginalize an ideology you disagree with.

Some of the examples in the video which Reich uses to prove his radicalism claim of Cruz was doesn’t believe in gay marriage (a position President Obama held publicly for the first two years of his presidency – did that make Obama a radical). Cruz believes that the second amendment guarantees an individual’s right to have a gun (the same as the Supreme Court ruled in 2008), takes an originalist view of the constitution (believing that the Founding Father’s meant what they wrote). The video goes on, but hopefully you see my point.

What is my point? Reich has a problem with what Cruz believes because Reich has a different political orientation. If Reich calls Cruz a radical, then Cruz could also certainly call Reich a radical. When in fact neither of them are. They are ideologues, standard bearers of their party, their side of the political spectrum. They are two of the same thing – just opposite each other. Both sides could comfortably rule America (not together, of course) and each side would have large swaths of support.

The radicalism charge is overblown. Why don’t we just acknowledge we respectfully disagree and talk over those issues using logic, facts, and common sense.

But hey, I know I’m asking a lot. It is, after all, an election year.

Like Politics? Try RealClearPolitics!

I am, for better or worse – mostly worse, a political junkie. For whatever reason, I like to bang myself in the head with various political points of view which typically evaporate and mean nothing by the end of the week anyways. Oh well, I’m ephemeral that way.

So if you’re like me and like to get down and dirty in the political game, I suggest you check out RealClearPolitics.com.

RealClearPolitics

The genius behind RealClearPolitics is that they don’t have a philosophical bent. They are a train station for every single political train that leaves the station. They all end up at RealClearPolitics. It’s a great way to see what the “other side” is thinking, and also a great way to break free from the tribalism of places like OccupyDemocrats or ChicksontheRight. You’ll run across points of view from every major newspaper and media outlet which will, hopefully, broaden your mind. We need that in America, don’t we?

It’s also THE place to go for polling because they will collate the many different polling averages and give you an overall RealClearPolitics average of all of the polling data.

So if you like politics, I highly recommend you check it out. And do read some articles which disagree with your natural presuppositions. It’s a good way to understand different points of view, and it’s also a great way to put to the test your own points of view.

RealClearPolitics. I use it. I encourage you to use it as well.

Iowa: It’s Finally Here. Let’s Get This Thing Over With!

As the Iowa caucus kicks off the primary season for the US 2016 presidential election, it is, perhaps, a good time for the people to breathe and realize that the end is in sight – even if ten grueling months into the future!

Hasn’t this already felt like the longest presidential campaign in history, even before one vote is cast?

Wow! Enough of Trump and Sanders already! Enough of John Kasich and, is anyone even paying any attention to Hillary Clinton other than the FBI?

I live 12,000 miles away from all the fun, so luckily I’m spared all of the presidential TV ads, radio spots, and cold calling. I don’t know if I could handle it all.

So the caucus will be the first step in determining which direction the fields will finally be taking. Do you think Martin O’Malley will finally drop out? And Rick Santorum? He was complaining the other day that Fox News hasn’t paid any attention to him. Well, has anyone? (Except the restaurant where my sister works that catered his launch party back in ’15.)

I feel like I should be talking to grandpa on the front porch somewhere:

Me: Grandpa, what was it like back in ’15 when all sixteen Republican candidates launched their campaigns.

Grandpa: Well, Sonny. Back in those days anybody could declare their candidacy as long as they were born in America, or Canada, or as long as they had at least three supporters.

That’s how long this thing feels!

Maybe it’s just me.

But in case I’ve given you the wrong impression, I live for this stuff. I love the debates and the jabs. I love the out of nowhere candidacies. I love seeing the Democratic party squirm at the thought of a Sanders campaign. I love seeing the Republican party squirm at the thought of a Trump campaign.

I love seeing the media …

No, actually, I don’t.

But when it comes to politics, I am the proverbial glutton for punishment.

So here’s to one of the most painful years ever!

I Need a Break From …

I need a break from Donald Trump’s pontificating with his talented, obnoxious big mouth.

I need a break from the Donald Trump haters, who add nothing helpful to the mix of ideas.

I need a break from Democrats and their pie in the sky charity wheel.

I need a break from Republicans and their 15 candidates who start to sound alike.

I need a break from the gun-haters, who complain about something that will never be changed.

I need a break from the NRA worshipers, who won’t accept even the most common sense approaches.

I need a break from Facebook meme’s which distort every point of view but their own.

I need a break from partisanship and frightening way we avoid the word “compromise.”

I need a break from an administration which doesn’t embrace every citizen’s opinion’s and concerns.

I need a break from a populace, that is critical of everything the administration does.

I need a break from the call of tolerance that belittles other people’s beliefs.

I need a break from vapid statements which ignore well-thought-out counterpoints.

I need a break from religious folk who criticize other religious folk.

I need a break from …

Life on the Internet …

so I can go and write.

 

Our Culture in a Headline: “Beyoncé convinced Jay Z is hiding things from her”

I saw this headline on a news site the other day. I simply have one question: do people really care? I’m serious. Are there people out there who will gladly click on that link to find the latest gossip?

I know the answer to that. I’ve come across Justin Beiber groupies and Miley Cyrus fans who certainly wouldn’t know who the vice president is. We really are entertaining ourselves to death, aren’t we?

I have nothing against entertainment. I’m a writer, after all, and I hope to entertain people with my stories. But when entertainment becomes elevated into the realm of obsession – to the detriment of having well-rounded citizens, then I start to fear for the future of the USA (as my home country) or any other country which follows suite.

The amount of entertainment that we consume is staggering. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons that the quality of the mainstream news has steadily declined – they have to compete with so much superfluous culture. They have to grab attention from a myriad of consumers who have their brains loosely connected to a thousand things at once. Therefore, stories become sensationalized and, perhaps, even embellished. (Brian Williams anyone?)

The frightening part about all of this for me is that there are many who really don’t care what’s going on in the world. They really don’t care about ISIS, or politics, or healthcare, or race issues, or Ukrainian conflicts. Many people are so consumed about their own business that many of us have lost touch with the outside world.

I’ve been recently re-watching Ken Burns’ “The War” and what strikes me the most about the Greatest Generation who watched the war from the home-front is how engaged everyone was in the process of war. It was an entire society that was completely committed, completely enthralled, completely wanting to know every detail. That didn’t make it a homogeneous society – far from it. America was then and is today extremely diverse, but there was a sense of unity, a sense of understanding, a sense of duty, a sense of collectiveness that is lacking in today’s society. There many be many reasons for this – one simply being our pluralistic society (which if you go back a few days and look at my post about pluralism you’ll understand how necessary it is), but one of the main reasons that many in our country don’t care what is going on is because they are wrapped up in the lives of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I hope we can wake up  before it’s too late.

In Support of Pluralism

I was reminded again this weekend the wide range of views that people, even in my circle of friends, tend to have on various topics.

The hot topic this past weekend was President Obama’s remarks about the Crusades and Inquisition at the a prayer breakfast. The views from the right wanted to crucify him for making “unnecessary comparisons” while the left quickly came to his defense by reminding the world of the terrible actions committed by Christians throughout history.

While I do have particular views on this topic, they are extraordinarily not important in the light of the beautiful concept of pluralism – a great mix of diverse views being espoused.

Yes, pluralism can be maddening at times. It can bring “progress” to a halt. (I have to put that word in quotes because of the dizzying array of connotations that it drags along with it.) The U.S. Congress has pluralism through the roof – even without parties there is diverse ideas and disagreements.

Let’s face it, we all would love to live in a non-pluralistic society ONLY if we, ourselves, got to be the dictator. If we could live out our “rightness” then what a great place it would be (for us, that is). But the reality is that if we are able to have discussions and freely disagree with our friends and enemies, then we life in a pretty great country.

Democracy necessitates pluralism. And the amount of pluralism that a country has indicates how free of a democracy it really is. Sometimes, a high degree of pluralism seems to be showing the weakness of the society, but being able to see the weakness is exactly one of the reasons why a country is strong.

Think about it. When a country goes out of the way to put on its best face possible to show how strong it really is, you can be sure it is a country that has an authoritarian central government. Look how wonderful life is in North Korea! The North Korean government will prove it by telling you so!

Embrace disagreement and dialogue. Encourage discussion and debate. Do so respectfully and civilly. Pluralism is a wonderful tool where we can challenge our own biases and perhaps even grow in our beliefs and convictions. This will in turn give us more opportunity to debate some more.

Go ahead and lament the slowness of pluralistic bureaucracy, but never wish for anything else.

The problem with politically charged labels. An example from my father.

This is not a post about either side of the Global Warming mud-throwing match which goes on in politics and academia.

This is a simple post to dispel a certain narrative that exists about “right-wing, conservative, Christian fundamentalists” who dismiss global warming and who don’t care about the environment.

I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of talking points in my day. I contend that such a narrative is misguided. My father is the proof.

Upon first glance, he would seem to fit the mold of a person that certain left-wing environmentalists would heap scorn upon. They would certainly be wrong to do so.

Not because of ideology or politics. Not at all. They would have plenty to disagree with my father concerning politics and religion. My father has always been a Republican. He is certainly conservative, and he is a Bible-believing Christian.

Has he already been pigeon-holed? Would left-wingers quickly cast him aside into a certain box? Regardless of how some people might label him, he is the most environmentally conscious person I know. Consider this:

  • He gardens. He’s one of the best gardeners I’ve ever seen. Mulch and compost. The whole works.
  • All that gardening is used for canning. Lots of canning, especially when all the kids were still at home. Re-usable Mason jars. I wonder how many decades they have been used.
  • He’s the most diligent recycler I’ve ever seen. Obsessive in sorting out the containers, throwing organic matter on his compost pile, of course.
  • He is obsessive about keeping unnecessary lights off. When I was putting in a router for the house’s computer, he was quite concerned when I told him that it had to be kept on at all times. It seemed to him like such a waste of electricity. And when I was growing up, how many lectures did I have about turning off the lights when I left a room?
  • His car tires are always pumped to optimum level. (unlike me. oops!)
  • In the winter, the furnace (an extremely efficient one) is kept at about 68 degrees. We freeze when we visit, but the savings is tangible. He has a wood-burning stove in the basement that further helps to keep the electricity usage down. The trees are from his own property.
  • He has been upset and complaining for years about the corrupt oil companies who have been gorging the pockets of American citizens while rolling in record profits. He tells me how all those oil companies are in cahoots with the government, which has done nothing to curtail their power.
  • He has been tracking his gas mileage for years, trying to figure out ways to increase it. He is always eager to investigate new devices which claim to raise mileage significantly. He has said time and again that the big three auto makers have purposely put  many innovations out of business by buying them out just so they can hold onto to their monopoly. And so they can continue their cozy relationship with big oil.
  • He collects rain water off the roof in order to water the garden when the weather is dry. Or he uses it to flush the toilets in times when rain has been few and far between.
  • In the summer months, especially, their water usage from their well is very strict. It is never wasted.
  • When at all possible, laundry is dried outside in the sunshine.
  • He is keenly interested in wind and solar power.
  • He never buys anything he doesn’t need. He always uses everything he already has.

I know I’m missing some stuff here, but perhaps this gives you the proper picture of what I’m talking about.

Don’t actions speak much louder than words? Isn’t my father the perfect example of someone who cares deeply about our environment and lives it out in his everyday life?

Isn’t this exactly the behavior that the so-called left-wing environmentalists are trying to encourage? If people act like this, who cares what they think about global warming because they are doing more than their share to take care of the environment.

This shows me just how silly labels really are, and I’m sure there’s another example out there which could be written coming from the opposite ideology and perspective.

I’m thankful for my dad and the great example he gave me about taking care of the earth. I hope I can do the same with one caveat. The next time I live in North America, I’m not sure that a 68-degree thermostat in the winter is going to work for me. Just saying.

Election Field Trip -12,000 Miles Away

I teach American government. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. There are so many wonderfully villainous things to talk about, especially in an election year.

It’s not accident that elections take place directly after Halloween. It’s only after the evil spirits are allowed to roam and the werewolves have had their say to the moon, and the witches have brewed up a delicious divisive concoction that we, in America, should partake in our national elections.

Allegations of ballot tampering, ballot harvesting, voting machines which register votes for the opposite party – it’s fun and games at a new level – a contact sport of the mind which is oftentimes run by the mindless.

In other words, elections in America are a blast!

So even though my class is 12,000 miles away from all the fun, we’ll take part in the mid-term super bowl for politics and will be tallying the results all morning while finger food and skipping class.

We may be far away in person, but we are with you America in spirit. We’ll be running down the elections to see if the Republicans have what it takes to overtake the Senate, or if the Democrats, playing defense, will be able to stop the electorate from jumping from the Obama ship. We’ll track the House to see if the Republicans will increase their majority. We’ll run down the state gubernatorial elections to see if there is any major shifts on the landscape.

And of course, based upon the results, we’ll make wildly inaccurate predictions about what all this means for the 2016 presidential election which will officially kick off on November 5. One good thing about being 12,000 miles away is that I won’t be seeing the political ads for the next two years which become more and more frequent.

Pull up a chair and some popcorn. Enjoy the big game that is America’s to win or lose. But don’t worry, if you lose, you can always spin it back so you actually have won!

Gotta love politics!

20 Years of Losing – in Political Terms

As you may have gathered, I’m a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan. I don’t typically write about sports on my blog, but I couldn’t let the momentous passing of the worst losing streak in the history of North American sports pass without some sort of commemoration. On Monday night, the Pirates beat the Rangers and clinched their 82 victory of the year, ensuring themselves their first winning season since 1992. So not to bore you non-baseball fans out there, I thought I’d put it in political perspective to see just how long their losing streak was. (Come to think of it, I might bore more people talking about politics. Oh, well.)

Their losing streak started in October of 1992 when they lost the National League Championship Series in a heart-breaking fashion in game seven.

At that time, billionaire Ross Perot was campaigning to be president.

A month later, Bill Clinton was elected, but Monica Lewinsky wouldn’t become a household name for another six years.

The World Trade Center in NYC would be attacked for the first time about a year later.

1994 – The Republicans took over Congress in overwhelming fashion.

1996 – Clinton was re-elected for his second term.

By the end of the 1990s, the Federal Government was running a yearly budget SURPLUS! Now doesn’t that seem like forever ago!

2000 – We all broadened our vocabulary by learning what a “hanging chad” was. Thanks Florida. And the presidency was decided by the Supreme Court. And why not? CNN couldn’t make up its mind on its own about who won.

2001 – 9/11

Then came Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Iraq some more, then Bush’s re-election in 2004. Then the surge two years later.

The bubble burst. Housing foreclosures and economic downturn. Don’t forget stimulus. I was in Malaysia and got a check from the government. ??? I thought that was bizarre.

2008 brought our first African-American president.

Record deficits. More record deficits.

Obamacare.

Iraq withdrawal. More with Afghanistan.

John Roberts ticks off conservatives.

The never-ending election of 2012.

Then 2013. The end of 20 losing seasons. Politics can once again be pushed aside, allowing American’s bloodiest sport (politics) to finally once again (for me) take second fiddle to America’s purest sport.

Their losing streak lasted 6 election cycles – 4 presidents – two censuses – the deaths of three presidents (Ford, Nixon, Reagan). (And don’t forget the Internet explosion – Thanks, Al Gore.)

Finally put to rest. 2013.

What a year!