Opinion

Weighing the Different Levels of Stupidity

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I was unfortunate enough to see this disturbing billboard in my Facebook newsfeed recently:

DEMOCRAT: a person too stupid to know that they are a communist

The billboard then went on to further its attack:

DUMB DEMOCRATS NEED TO WAKE UP!!! What part of Communism don’t you understand? There’s nothing more closed than a liberal mind…

I’m guessing the part of “communism” that Democrats don’t understand is much different than the part that the poor intellectuals who thought this gem up don’t understand since all the Democrats I know believe in free enterprise and are not very prone to totalitarianism like most actual communists all too often are.

What is most irritating about this distasteful message is the circumstance under which I had to witness it.   It was not too long after I posted a brief comment to Facebook indicating how condescending attitudes need to change if we expect our political process to work again. Obviously, some of my Facebook friends seem to think not less but more condescending (and more excessively obnoxious) attitudes are required.

Sentiments like the ones found in the billboard described above may galvanize their target audience but they also alienate people like me, moderates who have had in the past voted for Republicans. The amount of disgust generated in me by that posting is hard to describe in words but it is enough to make me never, ever want to consider voting for another Republican ever again. Why would I ever vote for another Republican if there is a chance they all suffer from such small minded ideas like the ones articulated in that billboard? Also, why would any rational, respectable, responsible person ever think this is an acceptable message to propagate let alone to legitimately think?

While the ideas expressed in the statements of this billboard are riddled with foolishness if not just for the amount of irony they contain, the more important point is that this is exactly the type of thing we can do without in a country that has prided and built itself on compromise. These statements are not only absurd but they apparently demonstrate the limited thinking capacity of the “Right Wing” (assuming the “Right Wing News”, the group sponsoring this billboard, is representative of the “Right Wing” of the Republican Party). Resorting to name calling is quite a simpleminded thing to do but, undoubtedly, juvenile.

The people responsible for the sentiments in this billboard and anybody who has a propensity to find them even remotely appealing are beyond hope. They really have no conceptual understanding that if you insult and offend people with absurd comments lacking in intelligence but plentiful in the amounts of disdain and innuendo they can carry, you are not very likely to achieve any type of productive resolution to anything. In a country built on compromise to finding workable solutions to political problems, such a failure is unforgivable but extremely dangerous to our country’s very existence as a nation.

There are people who really do need to “wake-up.” They are the people who think that the other guy must be the dumbest person around because he doesn’t think like the orthodox men like themselves. And when you really start to think about it: just how smart is it to think that you have all the answers while everybody else who disagrees with you has none of the answers? How many times in history have we seen people who have correctly evaluated the natural order of their environment only to be ridiculed by those who were so sure that their own erroneous view of the world was so much better?

For example, how about we consider the people who advocated that the earth was round or that the earth revolved around the sun? How about we consider how much they were ridiculed by the “Right Wing” of their day? While I am not really proposing that the Democrats have anything in their platform that is as illuminating as some great scientific discovery, the point is that you tend to miss things when you are so clouded by your own orthodox notions of how things are. These unbending absolutes being assumed can and often do prevent you from considering the merits of the other argument being made.

The bottom line is these billboards do nothing to help the dialog that needs to happen between the political parties but, in fact, they only serve to widen the divide making it almost impossible to have any type of discussion at all. This particular instance is the most offensive I have ever encountered. It doesn’t just attack leaders of the opposition party, it attacks the multitude of American citizenry who are the members of the Democratic Party–a party that has a long proven history of promoting the interest of the common man, standing up against tyranny, totalitarianism, including communism, and those who would seek to end our freedom, liberty and religious tolerance.

It really is time to “wake-up” to the notion that we need to promote a more courteous, respectful, less condescending and less confrontational approach to politics if we really expect to get anything done in this country. Doing anything else; now, that really would be “stupid.”

A New Edict of Milan in America

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Tolerance needs to begin with us and we need to start by recognizing that baseless, absurd conclusions with the intent to invoke emotional responses from its target audience is the reason why intolerance begins to take shape in the first place.  I recently ran across an article entitled, “Repealing the Edict of Milan: Obama as the Anti-Constantine,” written by either Ralph H. Sidway or Raymond Ibrahim (it’s not entirely clear which), that indicates Obama is the Anti-Constantine because he, supposedly, refuses to help the Syrian Christians against the horrific persecution they are suffering at the hands of ISIS. The argument made is weak containing unconvincing evidence that is irrelevant or inconclusive, full of emotion, yet; still, it will have no problem appealing to a conservative audience anyway.

This idea that Obama is the Anti-Constantine only adds to the intolerance (the intolerance and disdain Republicans have towards Democrats). It does nothing in the way of offering a real compromising solution so that, perhaps, we really can make a change in the Middle East forward towards a fully realized state of religious tolerance. Secondly, the “Edict of Milan,” while an important concept in the formation of our own country’s ideas towards religious tolerance, did not really exist as a historical event.

There was no real edict made in Milan. What is often referred to as being the “Edict of Milan”, instead, was a letter by the Emperor Licinius distributed to the eastern provinces in 313. Although, Constantine’s name may have been referenced in the letter, it was not written by Constantine. Dr. Timothy Barnes states in his book, “Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire:

“The surviving document often falsely called the ‘Edict of Milan’ is in fact a letter which Licinius sent successively in 313 to the governor of each province of Aisia Minor, the Syrian region and Egypt as they came under his control after he defeated Maximinus.”

In fact, Barnes makes the case that intolerance was nurtured by Constantine in his later reigning years as he consolidated power, as he began to embrace Christianity more fully and as he steered the empire towards a more totalitarianism solution to the problem of governing. So, the premise that Obama is the Anti-Constantine doesn’t make much sense if the intent of “Repealing the Edict of Milan: Obama as the Anti-Constantine” is to prove Obama approves of totalitarianism and intolerance.

How about we make real inroads towards tolerance? For example, let’s respect each other’s politics, quit making inflammatory remarks about the opposition and then sit down at the table and talk about how we can make this world a better place that includes more tolerance (much more tolerance, including the concept that the parties begin to tolerate each other more respectfully than has recently been the case).

What Congress Needs Now is Another Folk Singer

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A President who demonstrates a good understanding of International Relations and Foreign Policy has always been an important consideration for me when I judge Presidential performance. Familiarization with Gunboat Diplomacy, the Marshal Plan, the Japanese surrender at Pearl Harbor along with the role America played in Japan’s and Europe’s reconstruction efforts, world history and, specifically as it relates to today, the history of the Middle East (both ancient and current), I feel is an absolute requirement for any office holder of the Presidency. A comprehensive grasp of the importance of the idea that order and security cannot be accomplished without the threat of calculated and effective enforcement also needs to be a demonstrable attribute of any President.

But, I also think it is important that all our leaders, notably congressional leaders, have a good understanding of the history of Foreign Relations. They should have a good understanding of the protocol used in our own form of government as it pertains to International Relations. So, whatever I might think of the President’s foreign policies, how I might question them, I would not, for one instance, assume that, if I were a ranking member of congress, say for instance, the Speaker of the House, it would be OK for me to invite a head of state from another country to speak in front of congress without informing the President nor would I do so without first seeking his approval. That is just not the message we want to send to other countries and it is certainly not a wise precedent we would or should ever want to set.

While America is a free country where free speech is an honored, sacredly held component, we should also use a certain amount of common sense. But, instead, what I see in congress today: a whole lot of people running around without a whole lot of common sense or good judgment rattling around in their heads. Apparently, this observation of mine now extends to the Speaker of the House who, until this most recent event, I considered one of the few members of congress possessing some measure of this most needed commodity.

I’m an American First

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Politics in America really does need an attitude adjustment. I stumbled upon this somewhat humorous Facebook page the other day: “Republicans for Obama.” Is that an oxymoron if you ever saw one? At first, I thought this was a promising, hopeful page until I started to read some of the postings.

The page turned out to be just another polarized forum for dissing the other party. I suppose I was expecting something a little more tongue-in-cheek, something a little less condescending; something that would spotlight the nonsense of our current American political climate. But, I was wrong. It was just adding to the nonsense.

I tend to doubt there really are any Republicans for Obama but, I suppose, it is not out of the realm of possibilities when I consider my own disposition towards politics and the importance of respecting any office holder who has been duly elected to a governing public position such as the Presidency and no matter whether that officeholder is Republican or Democrat. It is only common sense that after an election period is over; highlighting what is common between the two parties will serve to produce more functional and effective government.

Focusing on what is common between the parties will make us a stronger nation and afford us the ability to facedown foreign and domestic enemies efficiently and effectively. But, unfortunately, that’s not what we have today. What we have today are two parties at each other’s throats and a media machine doing everything in its power to make sure that never changes. The result: unending government stagnation. So, this extreme unproductive hostility one party has towards the other caused me to start thinking about how is it that American politics has steered so far off course from the vision our forefathers had originally intended?

President Washington, in his Farewell Address, warned: “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.” Washington then proceeds to outline, convincingly, the points explaining why political parties in America are his major concern. Washington was a brilliant general, a brilliant President, a brilliant leader and a brilliant man. I think, sometimes, this brilliance is often overlooked by most people except for maybe a few historians. Washington’s warning goes to the core of my own belief that no matter what party you belong to, you cannot let the sword of partisan beliefs destroy the unity of our common belief in American liberty, justice, freedom and democracy. But, as far as I can tell, that is exactly what has been happening in today’s version of American politics.

We really need to steer away from focusing on the negative. We need to steer towards refocusing our efforts on the positive. As Americans, we need to resist being manipulated by emotional tactics based upon distorted facts and innuendo. There are many more attributes the two parties have in common with each other than they don’t. Highlighting the disagreements does nothing positive when considering how to effectively govern our country.

As seen with today’s congress, the constant negative back-and-forth accusations one party puts forth against the other party does not allow us to move forward and, furthermore, it really is unacceptable in a nation that expects to exist as the protector of democratic and republican ideals; ideals that both parties claim to value so much. In fact, this divided state we find ourselves in is threating our very existence. It is making it easy for our enemies by allowing them to take advantage of this puzzling vulnerability we have decided to own.

For example, consider what has happened with the Ukraine and the Middle East. Blaming the other party or individuals in the other party is unacceptable in a time of crisis. Forgetting about blame and concentrating on an effective response by working together is the only acceptable way to behave. Anything else is a selfish, self-destructive and juvenile response in my mind just short of treason.

You cannot value your party so much that it prevents you from paying attention to the greater concerns of our nation. Party politics is not more important than the United States of America. We need to take President Washington’s warning more seriously. I am an American first. My party affiliation always comes second. If you are an American and value being an American citizen, what I am advocating is that you embrace the idea that we all need to become Americans first.

Impeach Mickey Mouse!

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So, I am from a family of staunch conservatives. I’m surrounded by conservatives at work. I am from a hometown where conservatism is its middle name and where the Presidential Library of the greatest conservative that has ever lived resides. So, I have to say, impeachment fever is catching. And I’ve got it bad! It’s worse than cowbell.

That’s why I am advocating the impeachment of Mickey Mouse! Just consider the way Mickey has been acting all these years: with all his upstaging of Donald Duck, his bumbling attempts at apprenticeship, nearly flooding the whole world with his ill-conceived sorcerer type antics, and his outrageous efforts to render Mini-Mouse to little more than domestic status, oppressed, preventing her from being the total mouse she wants to be.

I’m certain all this bad behavior from this little rodent is the cause of all of the mistakes President Clinton has made, all the mistakes that President Bush has made and, lately, all the mistakes that President Obama is making. After all, how many of them can deny watching and being influenced by Mickey’s bad behavior when they were wee little folks? No remark about not inhaling will do here. So, let’s get to the source of this problem and impeach the one really responsible for all this chaos in the world in the first place!

Impeach Mickey Mouse now! I plan to be at the First Street overpass next Saturday, with my Freeway Banner in tow calling for Mickey’s impeachment. I’ll also be passing out several protest signs to those of you who are just as fed up as I am with the little happy cheese eater. Don’t let this mouse push us around any longer. So, how many of you will join me? Let’s impeach Mickey before it’s too late!!!!

How Much of One Are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Other?

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A “Billboard” posting that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed from something called the “Heartland Institute” contained a picture of Barack Obama together with Ben Franklin. Below each picture was a quote from each man but not before observing the caption that reads: “It’s embarrassing how low our leaders have sunk.”

The following are the quotations that appeared in the posting:

 

I think it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.

–Barack Obama

 

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

–Benjamin Franklin

 

The intent of this message, obviously, is to insinuate how badly Obama has abandoned liberty and justice for all–that Obama is the leader that has sunk so low when compared to the values held by Franklin. However, I think the institute has conveniently forgotten that it was not Barack Obama who initiated the programs that critics claim our most whittling away at our privacy and liberties but, in fact, it was a conservative president, George W. Bush who initiated those programs when he signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001. Ironic, isn’t it? And how things change?

I imagine the Heartland Institute had, at one time, championed President Bush and his policies as being good for the nation. I wonder why the Heartland Institute was not so concerned about this topic regarding the limits placed on liberty when George Bush was President. Has the Heartland Institute had a change of heart? What’s up next for the Heartland Institute? Before you know it, they’ll be championing Edward Snowden as a patriot (if they haven’t already).

The Heartland Institute’s posting seems a bit foolish in that the institute fails to recognize that both quotations are really saying the same thing: American society needs to make choices. One of the most obvious side effects of achieving increased liberty is that it has a tendency to produce a general reduction in the security that can be provided by government. Finding an acceptable balance between liberty and security becomes one of those choices American society needs to make.

The quotations are not contradictory, but, in fact, are complementary. Nor is there a measured degradation of value between the two quotes as is implied. But, the Heartland Institute is betting their spin regarding something so obvious won’t be recognized by their target audience. Sadly, given that their target audience already has a disposition to being so polarized, they are probably right about that assumption.

Ben Franklin made a good point but it doesn’t really make President Obama’s point any less worthy. Both statements have implied questions in them: “America, what do you want: more liberty or more security and how much of one are you willing to sacrifice for the other?”

 

Benghazi: And So, I am Not Very Smart, I am Told

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The definition of Hogwash, according to TheFreeDictionary.com, is: “Worthless, false, or ridiculous speech or writing; nonsense. Garbage fed to hogs; swill.” That definition pretty much describes what Republicans have been doing since September 11, 2012. I was told a few months ago that I am “not very smart” because I choose to ignore the Republican propaganda about Benghazi, their petty political crusade against Obama and their ongoing attempt to paint him as the chief architect of a dastardly scheme to cover-up the identity of the Benghazi attackers for political gain.

This Benghazi thing has been going on for a little more than a year and a half now. It has wasted too much taxpayer’s money we can ill afford to accommodate given the current state of our economy. And, it has gotten so completely out of hand to the point where I have been told that I am “not very smart” for holding an opinion much different from the one the Republicans want to propagate.

A year and a half ago when this story first broke, I tried to take an extreme viewpoint to make a point. There was more of a cover up by President Bush over Iraq than there was a cover-up by the Obama Administration over Benghazi. President Bush has more responsibility in allowing 911 than Obama has in allowing the Benghazi incident. On 911, thousands of innocent American lives who had no official appointment whatsoever were lost, not in some distant foreign land, but, here on American soil.

How could Bush have let that happened? What kind of a competent President could have let such a disaster as 911 happen? How could Bush lie to the United Nations by concocting and fabricating a story that Iraq housed weapons of mass destruction? Thousands of American soldiers, an additional number of American lives, 4,488 of them, were lost because of that lie. Where was the Republican outrage during this obvious conspiracy while their Big Business cronies sought to secure their oil interests in Iraq? Does this mean the Republicans place more value on the lives of diplomats than they do on the lives of the thousands of ordinary Americans that, apparently, are expendable and less important in their eyes?

Of course, the implications of those previous statements are absurd, a little sickening and probably more than a little misdirected. American lives were lost on 911 for one single reason and one single reason alone: because a group of deranged, horribly twisted human beings thought it was their mission to kill thousands of innocent lives. The only people to blame for the attack are the perpetrators of the attack and nobody else. I don’t blame President Bush for 911 nor do I believe there was some great conspiracy that President Bush was somehow behind nor do I think Bush intentionally “lied” to the United Nations to get us involved in Iraq. But, you cannot convince some of my ultra-liberal Democratic friends of anything different.

Similarly, you cannot convince some of my ultra-conservative, rank and file Republican friends that there isn’t some grand conspiracy on the part of the Obama administration, politically motivated so that Obama could make himself look good right before the 2012 Presidential election. Just as nutty, in my mind, as any JFK conspiracy theory that you can pick out of a hat, crazy, ridiculous sounding, unsubstantiated rhetoric continues to flow from the Republican media machine, unrestrained and followed up by a seemingly unending stream of evidence offered that is ambiguous at best and only conjecture and innuendo regarding anything else.

When I try to point out to my Republican friends that it wouldn’t matter whether the attack was by an unorganized mob or whether it was by an organized group of conspirators, the story would still be bad for the President regardless and one version not really any worse than the other, it just falls on deaf ears. Think about it: an unorganized mob of people should be a little easier to outsmart than a group of sophisticated, highly trained al-Qaeda operatives–don’t you think? The President can still be accused of not providing adequate protection for our diplomats in both scenarios (and maybe that accusation becomes a little stronger in the case where responsibility was assigned to a mob).

In either case, the attack is no less an act of terror–which is exactly what President Obama called it in a speech a day after the tragedy happened (on September 12, 2012). Other factual accounts seem to go over their heads too, such as: the CIA’s talking points did contain a statement indicating that the “attack began ‘spontaneously’ in response to the Cairo protest.” Both of these are easily discoverable facts (see factcheck.com, www.intelligence.senate.gov, etc.). Additionally, according to CNN, the “The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Benghazi” released on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, had this to say: “It also blasted U.S. intelligence for inaccurately reporting — without ‘sufficient intelligence to corroborate it’ — that a protest might have led to the attack.” Lastly, any political gain the President could hope to accomplish would be so insignificantly small, meaningless; especially when you consider the capture of Bin Laden a year earlier, it is inconceivable that anybody in the White House would have thought up such a harebrained idea let alone attempt to implement it.

More plausible, the choice by the President to not immediately refer to the attack specifically as “terrorism” would seem to have had more to do with the diplomatic scene at the time, the reference to “spontaneous attack” in the initial CIA report and the confusion caused by the unrest still ongoing in Cairo. If the Benghazi attackers were protesters angry over the video, similar to the protesters in Cairo, a different response but no less committed might be required to avoid increasing the already high tensions in that volatile region of the world. Bottom line, I think the President’s motives for not explicitly acknowledging the incident as “a terrorist attack” were much different than the nefarious motives the Republicans want to present. Although, it has crossed my mind, more than once, that the Republicans would think the worst of somebody because, if the roles were reversed, that’s exactly how they might behave.

The President may not have explicitly labeled the Benghazi incident as “terrorism” but it is hard to argue against the statement “acts of terror” meaning anything else other than terrorism. Anybody who employs terror is, by definition, a terrorist. So, it doesn’t really matter who was responsible for the attack nor should we quibble about whether the President stated “terrorism” or “terror.” Given the speech the President made the day following the attack, this is absolutely made clear: people who commit murder are murderers. People who commit acts of terror are terrorists.

That seemed obvious to me from the start and it seems even more obvious to me now. Benghazi should have been a tragedy that would remind all of us that we need to stand together against terrorism and against unprovoked violent attacks by anyone who has chosen to make America their enemy. Instead, the Republicans have used this incident to divide the country, purposely, using deflection to obliterate any unity that might have normally resulted (a unity, obviously, that might have also endangered Romney’s election chances at the same time).

The fact that Republicans chose to exploit Benghazi for their own political gains is quite troubling. Republicans certainly seem to have abandoned any fondness they may have ever had for the old adage “United we stand, divided we fall” that was once their mantra. What a dismal state the Republican Party seems to have sunk into since the days of the “House Divided” speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1858. I wonder what President Lincoln would think of his party today?

Being told that I am “not very smart” because I choose to be more pragmatic in my thoughts is very sobering but disturbing at the same time. There needs to be a little more objectivity, a little more presumption of innocence and a little more benefit of the doubt. It is really what our country is all about:   fairness and justice for all.

Even with this latest nonsense served-up by the Republicans over these past few weeks, the so called “smoking gun” that Republicans claim was found in an e-mail, it is painfully obvious that the sender of the e-mail was still under the impression that the Benghazi incident was a “spontaneous attack” by a group of protesters. In the e-mail, instructions outlined an included goal “to show that these protests were rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” This is the “smoking gun?” Hardly, to me it just confirms that the Republicans will stop at nothing to continue to sow the seeds of division wherever possible. The last thing we should do as a society is allow or encourage this pretentious witch hunt that truly is reminiscent of some McCarthy style Fifties mindless crusade.

There are several problems with this e-mail being the “smoking gun.” First and foremost, the statement the Republicans cite does not specifically reference the alleged Benghazi protest. In fact, a good argument could be made that it is referring to all the protests against the video that were in progress at the time. But, even if the statement was intended to reference the Benghazi protest, so what? White House advisors were still under the impression, based upon the initial CIA reports, that the incident was the result of a spontaneous attack inspired by the Cairo protests.

Second, the e-mail is not just specific to Benghazi but covers a wide range of different topics regarding current events in the Middle East. Lastly, Susan Rice is nowhere to be found in the list of recipients. I’m not sure if this really makes any difference but I thought I would note it anyway given that stories in the press seem to make it appear that it was an e-mail sent to Susan Rice. You can read the e-mail for yourself, here (page 14 of the “Judicial Watch” delivered document): declassified email. This so called “smoking gun” is more like a broken, dripping water pistol.

What I have seen over this Benghazi incident is an embarrassment; a demonstration of dirty politics at its worst, causing me to lose almost all respect for a Republican leader that I had once supported and, I am embarrassed to admit, had voted for in 2008. What these Republican leaders did and are still doing is reprehensible. Most of all, it is unfair. It’s not fair to be so condemning of the President for an intention that is pretty clear, never existed. My opinion is not limited to just President Obama in this regard but applies to any other President who has ever been unfairly judged, including President Bush, President Reagan, President Carter, President Hoover, etc.

Regardless, if it turns out, even after everything is said and done, that I am “not very smart” for giving the President the benefit of the doubt, then I am consoled by the fact that, at least, I am in the majority who do think pragmatism and levelheadedness less prone to political saber rattling are worthwhile investments that still have a certain degree of value in America. I wish the Republicans leadership would get on board with that type of thinking. In fact, I wish both parties would get on board with that type of thinking. If they did, we might actually be able to accomplish something positive for our country again. It might even result in bringing people together rather than tearing them apart. And for that last achievement, there is a hope, even a propensity for all of us to be just a little bit smarter.