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One Person’s Extremist is Another’s Moderate

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the political divide that exists in America today. It is a topic I have thought about a lot over the years. It is a thing that keeps getting worse. It is a thing that I see every single day because I read a couple of liberal blogs and a couple of conservative blogs every single day. What I see are two sides of the same coin of clueless, mind-numbing hypocrisy and closed-mindedness.

The latest evidence of this … An op-ed from Leonard Pitts. I don’t necessarily disagree with Pitts’ primary thesis which is that the Republican Party has achieved maximum meltdown. The thing is that it really started when Bill Clinton was elected President. The accusations that the Clintons participated in drug smuggling, killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown among others, and so many other ridiculous conspiracies. All of which still make regular appearances in the right-wing blogosphere. The meltdown continued with the Swift Boaters and other similar conspiracies that failed the basic test of reality and honesty.

Obama’s election sent the Republican Party even deeper into what appears to be a brain freeze like the kind you get when you eat something cold too fast. And Trump’s election has only accelerated the thing.

Do any of you remember this?

This was from the White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few years back. Obama took no small pleasure in poking fun at Trump and watch the video for Trump’s reaction. I’m convinced that we are seeing the most successful act of petty revenge the world has ever seen. Trump ran to destroy the Obama legacy. You see it in his petty tweets attacking anybody who attacks him. He does not let any slight go. He holds a grudge and he seeks to destroy. You see it in all of the things he has done to take whatever action he can to reverse any and every success Obama achieved as President.

And the Republicans are ignoring all of his immaturity, damaging actions and words, and evidence of his incompetence to further their extremist objective of rolling this country backwards about 70 or 80 years.

So, yes Mr. Pitts, the Republican Party has descended into a realm of unimaginable extremism, but for a portion of this country, the Democrats aren’t far behind.

In your op-ed you state the following:

We are not, after all, divided because Americans pulled back from the center and retreated into extremism.

No, we are divided because one party did. And it wasn’t the Democrats.

I say this as a lifelong Democrat, a liberal, somewhat of a progressive. I say this as somebody who hasn’t voted for a Republican since the 1980s. Your center-based policies, isolated by your liberal ivory tower views, are viewed as extremist by millions of Americans. Having the federal government force states and local governments to allow transgender or gender-confused individuals to use the bathroom of their choice is an act of extremism. No matter how much you may believe that is a necessary policy. Providing a free public college education for all may just be viewed as an act of extremism by many Americans. No matter how much you may believe it is a wise idea.

The problem in America these days is that both sides have descended into their own echo chambers and are incapable of seeing their ideas and policies through the eyes of others. They are unwilling to consider that anybody but their chambermates have legitimate ideas. The right believes every liberal lies and hates America. The left believes the right is racist and prone to violence. Each side believes that the other is the extremist.

Mr. Pitts’ op-ed is a perfect example of the problem from the left. Look at all the horrible things the Republican Party is now engaged in! They are juvenile and unhinged and horrible!! Whew, it’s a good thing us Democrats are so reasonable and level-headed.

It’s really just kind of ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Neither side is entirely right, but they both think they are. Neither side is entirely wrong, but they both think the other is.

Barry Goldwater once famously said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He’s right, I think. What the right-wing and left-wing have become, however, are extremists in the battle for every little thing. The result is a frozen democracy incapable of moving forward as any common ground disappears in the endless war they fight with each other.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it November 2016 Yet?

Yeah, I’m addicted to the stupid thing.  Yet another of my addictions that I can’t seem to kick.  As I’ve written before, a few months ago I swore off the Presidential election, but then the debates started, the stupidity level rose, the tos and fros rose to a fever pitch, and I’m right back in there.  I’ve watched every debate and posted about them here and on Facebook.  I’m reading my political blogs almost hourly to see what’s new out there and it’s all just really quite stunning to me.

Last night, MSNBC hosted a Democrats Presidential Forum that I didn’t know about until I saw something about their replay of it.  So, like a moth to a flame, I watched.  Turns out the Democratic Party controls the number of debates the candidates will be allowed to expose themselves to.  And MSNBC’s event last night was outside of that controlled environment.  So, they called it a forum and had Rachel Maddow interview each candidate separately.

Two sidetracks to go down here.  First, political debates these days are far from what I think a debate actually is.  I would love to see these candidates actually debate each other through a discussion and challenging of their views and ideas for where to take this country.  Instead, the moderators feed them questions that are either meant to hurt or help them.  And there’s very little actual debating going on.  What I wouldn’t give for a real debate in which the candidates control the flow and direction of the discussion and are able to pose real challenges to each other.

Second, I rarely watch Rachel Maddow, but when I do, I always come away from the experience impressed by her.  She’s one of the smartest, wittiest, most down-to-earth news commentators out there.

So, they had this candidates forum last night and it was, as far as I was concerned, much better than what passes for a debate these days.  There was at least some give and take, some back and forth, some dialogue between Maddow and each candidate and the questions and answers were far more substantive than anything we’ll see in any of the debates.  I came away from it more impressed by Martin O’Malley than I had been before.  I would be comfortable with him as President of the United States.  I continue to be a fan of Bernie Sanders — I believe he is America’s most popular curmudgeon these days.  The reality is that he is speaking to a fundamental reality in this country — the rules of the game have changed over the last few decades from rules that were directed at creating a system that lifted all of us up, that built up the middle class, and helped create this massive, consumer driven society that provided benefits and opportunities to all … to a system where the rules have been re-written to benefit the few, most of whom have blinders on and have lost sight of the basic concept that we will fail as a society unless we take care of each other as brothers and sisters.  The golden rule has been lost on far too many these days.  I have little hope that Sanders could win a general election, but it would be truly fascinating watching him take this to the end of the line and see what might happen.

As for Hillary … she wasn’t bad, but I simply will never be a fan of hers.  There is something unreal and inauthentic about her and I just would prefer somebody else.

Which leads to the fun part of this post.  At least for me, anyway.

Could the Republican primary get any more loony than it already is?  I mean seriously.  The frontrunner now is Ben Carson.  Who believes the pyramids were build by Joseph as gigantic granaries, regardless of the archaeological evidence that suggests otherwise.  Who seems to feel the need to create his own personal mythology that has little basis in fact.  Who claims to have been offered a full scholarship to West Point, even though West Point doesn’t give out scholarships, he never applied to West Point, and, therefore, was never accepted to West Point.  Who claims to have been a violent child who apparently was violent in a vacuum because nobody who knew him then has come forward to confirm that yes, in fact, he was a violent child.  Who claimed he had no connections with Mannatech, a company for whom he gave a number of paid speeches to and which helped fund his endowed chair at a medical school.  Who has admitted that he basically doesn’t know anything about foreign policy.  Who buys into some of the looniest theories and conspiracies of the right-wing.

For instance … He equates Obamacare with slavery and the United States under Obama as comparable to Nazi Germany.  He believes being gay is a choice and that people choose to be gay when they go to prison.  He believes the climate debate is distracting and irrelevant.  Who believes that political correctness, particularly on college campuses has gone overboard, but believes it is appropriate to suggest controlling or limiting the speech with which he disagrees.  He believes the President can ignore the Supreme Court.  And, of course, the best one out there … Obama is a communist who is trying to destroy the country.

Let’s talk about this last one because I think it goes to the core of the right’s inability to deal with facts and reality.  When Obama took over as President in January 2009, the country was in a free fall.  If he really wanted to destroy America, he could have sat back and did exactly what the Republican Party wanted him to do … nothing.  Instead, he didn’t.  President Obama did everything he could to rescue the country and now, seven years later, the national unemployment rate is at 5%, it’s lowest level since before he took office, the federal budget deficit is at its lowest since before he took office.  All sorts of good things are going on in this country and all we hear from Republicans is how he hates America and wants to destroy the country.  All we hear from Republicans is doom and gloom and how horrible things are.

And Ben Carson is the somnambulent, happy-go-lucky, brain surgeon who believes in all of those whacko theories while also refusing to acknowledge the fundamental dishonesty of the life story he has spun for himself.  And he’s the leader in the polls for the Republican nomination.

This is just far too fun for me to avoid.

What’s Wrong With The System

From today’s Sacramento Bee.  Candidates running for President raised $144 million in direct contributions in the third quarter of 2015.  Federal law caps individual donations at $2,700 per donor.  But there is no such limit for donations to political action committees and most of the candidates have what are called super PACs.  During the first six months of 2015, $211 million was donated to those super PACs.  Only 158 people accounted for $176 million of that $211 million.  Only 47 people have accounted for $103 million raised for Jeb Bush’s super PAC.  5 people accounted for $37 million donated to a super PAC for Ted Cruz.  And 16 people accounted for $17 million donated to Hillary Clinton’s super PAC.  There is more data in the editorial, but I don’t think anymore is needed.  We know who controls our elections and our candidates.  Except when they don’t.  Bernie Sanders refuses the help of a super PAC.  84% of the money he has raised this year has come from people donating $200 or less.

Thoughts on the Debate

At the suggestion of a follower, here are the thoughts I shared on Facebook during tonight’s Republican Presidential debate:

Thought #1: Why am I drawn to presidential debates like a moth to a flame, like a child to a candy bar … because it may be the only place where an evangelical Christian running for President can claim that the reason we must defeat Iran is because their faith is one that believes the end times will occur in their life time and that is a problem. Because you know, evangelicals certainly don’t believe that, right.

Well maybe not … I guess when it comes to a believe in the end times, it matters whether it is our belief or theirs.

“While only 36 percent of all Americans believe that the Bible is God’s Word and should be taken literally, 59 percent say they believe that events predicted in the Book of Revelation will come to pass. Almost one out of four Americans believes that 9/11 was predicted in the Bible, and nearly one in five believes that he or she will live long enough to see the end of the world. Even more significant for this study, over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return.”

Thought #2 — women are lucky. If you’re a man at an important event like a Presidential debate, you have to wear a suit — either black or extremely dark gray. But a woman? She gets to wear power blue!!!!

It’s gonna be a fun night. I’m settling in for the show.

Bush claims Trump wanted an Indian casino in Florida and Bush shut it down. Trump claims it’s not true. You decide … {and the post linked to this … http://www.indianz.com/IndianGaming/2015/09/02/donald-trump-tried-open-casino.asp%5D

Thought #4 (yeah, I know, I forgot to label Thought #3) … why are there no Democrat debates?

Thought #5 … damn, I keep forgetting what this thought is, so I’ll skip ahead to Thought #6 … no amount of beer can help me get through this thing. Oh wait, I remember thought #5 … there are far too many questions that revolve around things Trump has said. He may be the “front-runner” but I’d much rather see a debate involving the issues rather than seeing CNN try to turn this into a firing squad directed at Trump. As much as he offends me.

Thought #7 … given the state of the polls, why is it that the questioners and the candidates all frame their answers assuming that Hillary is the opponent?

Thought #8 … Christie just said “who will prosecute Hillary Clinton?” Isn’t the more appropriate question who will prosecute GWB and his cheerleader-in-chief, Dick Cheney, for the war crimes committed during their reign. My God, where’s the beer????

Thought #9 … Trump wants to be elected President and then he’ll educate himself about the issues?!?!?!?! Sounds good to me. I think I’ll go interview for a new job and tell the interviewer that I’ll educate myself about the position after they hire me.

Thought # 10 … this has been going on for almost two hours now. Isn’t there a time limit on this thing?!?!?!

Thought #11 … it’s raining, it’s pouring. Just thought I’d share that in drought stricken California … IT’s RAINING!!!!!!!!!!

Thought #12 … Jeb! says we shouldn’t have pulled out of Iraq. And now Carson piles on and says that the vacuum caused by our withdrawal created the environment for ISIS to flourish. Here’s the problem with both of them. It was GWB, Jeb!’s brother, who negotiated the agreement to withdraw American forces. And the deadline for that withdrawal could only be extended with an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. And what Obama insisted on for any extension was immunity for U.S. troops operating in Iraq — a concept I’m sure Republicans would insist on themselves — but the Iraqi government refused to agree to such a term. So, no extension, no U.S. troops. So, who was responsible for that? The President who negotiated the initial agreement? Or the President who asked for reasonable terms and without them decided to abide by the initial agreement.

Thought #13 … which of the candidates do you think follow-up the debate with a little pot-smoking? I’m thinking Carson and Walker are at the top of the list.

Thought #14 … Irene Marks Paxson just said “chocolate enema” to Jacob Paxson and claims that what she really said was “hot chocolate in a mug.”   [OK, that was a distraction going on in the house that took me away from the debate.]

Thought #15 … Irene Marks Paxson says I’m going to blow up Facebook. If I succeed, would any of you object?

Thought #16 … from Talking Points Memo: “9:06 PM: Good lord. Staffers just told me that this debate goes on for three hours.”

So, I’m not the only one.

Thought #17 … oh wait, a question about marijuana legalization. Asked to Paul. Why not ask Carson?????? Now, back to my original thought #17 … Christie claims he was appointed U.S. Attorney on September 10. This is the second debate in which he has made this claim. Only problem is that he wasn’t nominated for the position until December 2001 and didn’t take the position until January 2002. Why do they find it necessary to repeat these lies?

Thought #18 … the odd thing about libertarians like Rand Paul is how much they can sound like Democrats at times. There are far too many times when I hear Paul speak that I find myself agreeing with him.

Thought #19 … Fiorina, her personal story notwithstanding, makes no sense on drugs. The pot kids smoke today isn’t the same as pot people smoked 40 years ago? Really? And if unfortunate deaths caused by drug addiction are a problem, why aren’t we outlawing alcohol?

Thought #20 … Rubio says why have stronger gun laws since the criminals will just ignore them. So, why bother having any laws, because the criminals will just ignore them. That’s kind of what the definition of a criminal is. The reason we have laws is because of what they say about us as a society and as a people. Why have laws against murder and rape and fraud and burglary … the criminals just ignore them.

Thought #21 … Carson on vaccines … they are one of the consequences of big government. Sure. Trump on autism and vaccines … 25 years ago, there wasn’t autism (OK, I’m paraphrasing). Only problem is the biggest reason it wasn’t diagnosed as much back then is that the disorder wasn’t understood and far too many autistic children were misdiagnosed as mentally retarded or suffering from something else.

Thought #22 … ten minutes to go. I can do this.

Oh wait, there’s the post-debate spin where I find out who “won.” I don’t think I’ll be getting any sleep tonight. And, if I … oh wait a sec, the absolute best moment of this debate just occurred and it was a commercial. Against Michael Bloomberg. Who isn’t even an announced candidate for President and, as far as I know, hasn’t shown any interest in running (except that there are some who have suggested he should run to be a counter to Trump). But, we need a commercial during the debate telling us how horrible he would be as a candidate because he wants to take your soft drinks away from you and … drum roll, please … take your guns away from you. Yes, you guessed it, paid for by the National Rifle Association, which apparently has enough money to pay for an opposition ad for somebody who isn’t even running. Wow.

Thought #23 … Jeb! just said his Secret Service nickname should be Everready because it’s high energy. Only problem is I think he was thinking of Energizer … you know the Energizer bunny.

Thought #24 … in response to a question that requires them to compare themselves to Reagan’s legacy, Carson attacks “free phones.” Only problem is that the “free phone” program he attacked was initiated under … Ronald Reagan.

Thought #25 … with few exceptions, foreign policy to the Republican candidates means only one thing … military might, force, weapons, dominance and power. It is one of the fundamental reasons why I will always struggle with voting for the current Republican crop. Diplomacy, negotiation and partnership has achieved far more in this world than the use of force.

* * * * * *

There is so much more I could say, but I’ll leave it at that for now.  After all, there are still almost 14 months left until the election that actually matters.

Why Politicians are Failing Us

Here’s what Mike Huckabee, one of the 83 people running for the Republican nomination for President, has to say about the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

Now, why does that statement fail us?  Because it demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of both the right and left.  Could you imagine what would happen if a Democrat had said that about a Republican.  The right wing blogosphere and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh would have their panties in a bunch — well, more so than they already do.  And because it was a Republican saying it about a Democrat, the left wing will be outraged as well.  And politicians will harumph and point fingers and then they’ll just continue doing what they always do.  Showing an utter lack of respect for each other, demonstrating hypocrisy left and right, and seeking to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  And that’s why politicians are failing us.  Rather than lifting us up with the power of their ideas, they are allowing the worst fears and ideas that circulate power their statements and their campaigns.

I’m really just kind of sick of the whole thing.  On both sides.

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