Friday, March 11, 2016

Is the Pope Catholic and Is There Such A Thing As A Moderate?

I know this is a hard question for some of you to ponder, but imagine if there are more than two sides to an issue. Imagine if it's possible to understand different points of view. That, even in 2016, there are some of us that are moderate in our point of view?

Is the Pope Catholic?

A recent facebook post by one of my more conservative friends made a rather hilarious point -- it showed Hillary and Sanders in graphic form and then said, in a nutshell: How come the party that's for more diversity does not have an African American guy and Woman on the stage, like the Grand Ole' Party does?

Ah, so simple it seems. Let me explain what's going on here. Yeah, it's only my opinion, but after you read through it, I wager some of you will be nodding your heads.

The idea that's being presented here -- that the GOP is more diverse -- It's not a bad point were it not for the basic disingenuity, that the
biggest lump of supporters for the most popular GOP candidate are openly embracing racism and Muslim-o-phobia. And, while we're pointing that out, we may as well mention that the GOP is pretty much waging an open war on less advantaged women's access to health care.

Still, I'm sure my "conservative" friend felt really smug posting this idiocy. What gets under my skin here is that both parties have the tendency to simplify the discussion. Examples abound Dems: It's about race. It's about Wall Street vs Main Street. It's about the "Black Vote". Lets offer "College for everyone".

A lot of talk about making college free without addressing the simple truth that lately a lot of degrees are worthless. A lot of "politically correct" speech without addressing the obvious fact that the whole PC movement has gone way over the top. Face it, Donald Trump wouldn't be getting a lot of attention were it not for people being so tired of PC speech.

What's Wrong with Being Politically Correct?

People are tired of watching what they say. The general population wants someone who will "tell it like it is". Even if it means ignoring the basic reality that the speaker is a horrible person. More to the point, I really think Donald is speaking his mind -- and that his mind is unfortunately a maze of twisty passages that lead to racism and xenophobia.

Then, there's the so-called "other side" of the isle. The Clinton's are making outright shameful jabs at the Sanders' campaign that basically say he's trying to shame the Obama legacy. This is a great political stance -- by twisting Sanders' words on the subject, the veiled suggestion is that his complaints about the growing disparity between the poor, the shrinking middle class and the obviously glaring gap to the people in the top .1 percent -- those complaints are, like, dissing our "black" president. Without the PC movement, I suspect a lot of this would be spotted for what it is -- tripe.

The Pope as Anti-Trump

Then you have the "Anti-Trump" Pope comments.

Look, the first problem here is that for years the GOP has been courting the religious right as part of their voting strategy. This is extremely similar to the way the DNC courts the so-called minority and African-American vote. Similar, but way more dangerous as the following will lay bare.

First, if you're going to go after the religious vote, you're going to have problems running a Mormon candidate. It's going to make things sticky, is what I'm saying. It was great to get the good old church bump when it got W Bush elected -- I'm sure it felt awesome.

The problems this caused though, when Romney entered the fray were many. For one, a lot of hardcore Christians don't consider Mormons as religious peers. (Source: I'm a Christian.) By pandering in this manner the GOP had hobbled itself in unexpected (and wildly strategic) ways.

The we have the problem Pope, he's got some bad things to say about Donald Trump. Now, a lot of American Christians are not Catholic -- but that hardly matters. The Pope, he's a pretty popular guy these days. Pope Francis has been a very charismatic figure and has garnered a lot of admiration that extends beyond your everyday Christian for that matter. When he directly slammed the Donald it was a
subject of ire for a host of the GOP faithful.

"The Pope shouldn't be so damn political" was the general consensus. I have to point this out to those who identify with the GOP: Your party has been pandering to the religious right as part of its political strategy. Because of this, you need to seriously consider any negative statements regarding the holy figure for half of the Christian coalition in the US. That he should suck it up when it comes to his political views, after the GOP has spent all that time "winning" the church vote -- think about the problems this caused. To be fair, the GOP officially didn't really do this -- just a lot of their members who don't seem to "get" the general political strategy as it pertains to their favorite GOP brand.

But hey, you can kind of discount this by talking about how you're really dependent upon the "Evangelical vote". Note that they didn't say
"non-Catholic", since that sounds much more inclusive.

The GOP was playing with fire, and it got burned. They can't control the Pope (or even Trump for that matter). They're kind of in-between a rock and a hard place. This wouldn't have happened were it not for the incongruous religious strategy they pursued for years.

Time to take the lumps and think hard about simply pandering to the public good instead of loading the vote via artificial means. "God Votes with the GOP!" Is the related phrase. Does he really? "God's Own Party" Is it? If so, then probably your thoughts on how the Pope should shut up about political ideas are kinda misplaced.

Maybe take some time to read the verses in the bible about the Good Samaritan, and the parts where Jesus talks about how the meek shall inherit the earth.

Similar idiocy: "The Hispanic vote." Is there such a thing? The assumption is that the Democratic party is pandering to "The Hispanics". This lumps people from Puerto Rico with Cubans, Mexicans and a host of others that speak Spanish. Talk to a few different "Hispanics" though and you may find yourself confused a bit. Turns out that lumping everyone together like this is really not good except for when you're doing exit polling. I'd argue that it's a veiled form of racism, in an oblique way.

Full disclosure here, My Mom is 100% American -- born in Puerto Rico. Before you embarrass yourself, and ask if she's been naturalized, bear in mind that Puerto Rico is a US Territory. That means that my Mom was a US citizen from birth. She, like everyone else born in the US and Puerto Rico, or Guam and other territories for that matter, is a natural born US citizen.

So am I part of the "The Hispanic vote"? -- ask the Dems, and I am. Ask me though, and I'm likely to shrug. I never really thought about it much until lately.

What is this thing called Moderation?!?

Ask how I identify myself and I'm more likely to point out that there used to be this thing in our country called "a moderate" -- a person that has a balanced view of things. Someone who carefully weighs facts. Someone who tries to see more than "both sides" of issues. Note: There are often
many sides to an issue. Ask the right or left, though, and you will get a simplified view of just about any major issue. Often, in the act of this
simplification, the idea gets distorted till it doesn't align with anything in reality.

I'm hardly compelled to vote one way or another. I'm going to make a choice. I will say that I sincerely doubt that Trump is getting my vote, but it's not related so much to the whole "Build a Wall" thing as the fact that I just can't see him being very presidential. He certainly doesn't share my values. I've been married now for going on 3 decades to the same woman.

More to the point, I hardly see how insulting your opposition proves anything but that you make a great reality TV star, and (I hope) not a president.

These days, I'm often seen less as a moderate, but it's hardly due to any change in my political stance. Since the Democrats and Republicans have
both been taking so much PAC and special interest money -- since the Dems have slid so far to the right -- I'm now a "liberal" from most people's point of view.

I've had many discussions with my hard-core Republican friends about this. They can only see one side of a problem (oddly enough, it's often from the perspective of most Fox news pundits). If I point out the obvious logical fallacy of an argument, I get push back like "I don't
know if I agree with that." (when I'm quoting some hard statistic). Or, worse, I get a confused stare. Like "how can that be". They know their talking points -- they simply don't have any real data to back it up.

Half of Americans Are Moochers. Really?

Let's revisit an example from 2012: the whole Half of Americans are the "moocher class". Go and look about this one if you doubt me -- the biggest chunk of this so-called "moocher class" -- retired people on social security. That's my Mom and Dad who worked all their lives, in case you didn't know. The next biggest slice of "moochers" -- people serving in the US military. Seems along the way to building the whole "moocher class" lie, they left out that it was really about who was not paying net positive taxes, which is a bad way to slice things -- unless you're
doing a smoke and mirrors lie job to the public. In that case, it's great to quote stats like this over and over until no one questions it.

And, here's the kicker -- you get people saying this to you, and when you point out the most obvious fallacy about it, they always fall back to ignorance. "I don't think those numbers are right, but I'm not all that familiar with the data.", is the condensed version of what I get to hear when I start to push back on this.

Look, if you don't know the "real numbers" then please do us all a favor and don't spout the repeated lies that you don't know for bullshit as well. If you're going to go on and on about how 50% of the people are not paying taxes and are mooching off the government, and you can't refute the reality behind the lie when it's presented, have the decency to apologize for being ignorant. And do me a favor, if you're in the military and quote this stat, have the decency to "admit" you're part of the "moocher class" you were complaining about. Note: I strongly don't think this to be the case, but then again, I wasn't the one spouting this lie -- a lie that most people now recognize was behind the last big GOP defeat. I say this because of the last few people to repeat this one to me, 3 of them were either in the military at the time or retired from it.

At least go back and study the reality of the numbers and either come back and argue with renewed vigor, or apologize for being wrong. It's called logic and reason -- we got really far as a race of people relying on this stuff for a long time. Maybe continuing the tradition will be a good thing for everyone is what I'm suggesting here.

Another example-- the Iraq war. A lot of people want to talk about that war these days. How it was or was not a mistake for example. I'd like to focus on something very few people seem to care about -- how it was paid for.

The fact is that we ran up a huge debt to wage that war. We did it mostly on the Chinese credit card. This has no bearing on prior wars where the funding was often discussed along with the war. So, for example, war bonds during WW2. God forbid you point out that the Viet Nam war had a "war tax" to pay for it -- that sounds preposterous!

But it's true. Go and look if you don't believe me.

More to the point -- Tell me I'm wrong! Older people reading this will nod their heads -- they had to pay the tax, so they know. No one wants to hear this. They want magical thinking. Wars apparently are free. Building up the military -- that's also something you don't argue about. The money to do that? Must be free.

Fact: Funding the largest military in the world, hands down -- that's not free. (That's the US Military, just in case you had any doubts). It's a huge bill. One that no one seems to think about. Universal health care? Too expensive. War? Free. No one in the media challenges a statement about increased military spending being suggested by the candidates on the GOP fence.

But suggest that you want to finance college tuition (like Sanders has) -- and the questions come out. What a socialist, he wants the US to be like other countries -- I get it. But let's be serious here, the cost of education these days is tanking a lot of kids coming out of college. It's hobbling their real chances of ever building a middle class lifestyle.

By a similar token though, on the left, the idea that a public education is an end-all ticket to success is not questioned.

It should be, because obviously there's something really wrong with the focus of a lot of the institutions. Note: I strongly believe in higher education. What I don't believe: It's for everyone. Another thing I don't believe in -- Higher educational systems that don't produce people that can get a job with their degree. If the school is simply turning out people with 4 year degrees that end up working at the checkout counter at Walmart, it needs to be Shut Down. It certainly shouldn't be getting guaranteed loans for its "students" on the government/
student-indentured-servant dime.

While we're on the subject, I don't believe that politically correct speech is doing anyone any good in this country (something that a lot of Trump supporters are very happy to point out -- and they're right on that one). Also: I don't believe that a lot of the degrees people are going to school for are in alignment with the needs of the market or industry. Somehow things have gotten unhinged and there seems to be no talk of rebooting our educational system and making it functional again.

These are two very different views of the complex idea that is "higher education" -- and get this -- they reside alongside each other in my head!

What about all that Republican Diversity?

So back to the beginning here -- so why, if it's not in the name of diversity was the GOP running Fiorina and Carson? There must be some reason -- what could it be? I gotta note here, the fact that Rubio and Cruz were Cuban Hispanic didn't get mentioned, that would go against the other message of the party at this time. Spoiler alert -- the woman and the African American both drop out of the race, so regardless of how it might appear for debate consumption, the GOP is back to pretty much old white guys in the end.

Here's a thought: There are just some things that Carson can say about Obama (like he's not raised "black" so he just isn't genuine) that would sound really a lot more racist coming from the likes of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. There are things that Fiorina could say about Hillary Clinton that would sound really sexist coming from anyone else. IMHO -- There's your real reason. I don't believe for a second either of those people could make it to the top seat in the Republican lineup. Not even runner up for that matter.

I certainly don't believe anyone in the GOP establishment thought so either.

But they sure can get away with some really crappy attack material while they are on the "campaign trail" to be president. I'll bet some strategists saw this potential and said "Let's include Carson and Fiorina -- they can run interference and say lies that can't easily be spouted by anyone else.

Will we ever truly see a candidate that could change Washington from the seat of the Oval office? I seriously doubt it's going to happen in our
lifetimes. I wish otherwise. I want my grand-kids to grow up in an America where the Middle Class is not only growing -- it's something to be admired (like it used to be). A bunch of people these days are worshiping money and power, forgetting what an honor it used to be to grow up here in the Middle. The oligarchy that has emerged is dangerous, and it's not going to be a country of opportunity like it was more-so when I was growing up.

I have different views than most these days. I don't think we're in good hands and I don't see how we're going to succeed until we get the money out of politics -- anything else that talks about any other issue is just political pandering. Whether it's to the African American, Hispanic or Women "vote", or whether it's to the idea that it's all about what God wants on the GOP side, our Democracy really isn't one when at the bottom of both parties all you find is a big stack of cash.

Again, two radically different views of our political system. Again, guess what, they're alongside each other (happily) in my head.

Why? Because I'm --get this-- moderate.

My liberal friends are shaking their heads. I've said things that offend them, I'll bet. I'll also wager that my conservative friends are shouting "No, you're a damn liberal!"

Sure. And the Pope's not Catholic -- he's a member of God's Own Party.