Archives For Politics

2014-05-23_08-34-04  2014-05-23_08-34-36

What’s at stake, after all, is citizens’ representation in Congress. Partisan gerrymandering undermines the whole notion of a representative government. For proof, just look toward the lopsided seat distribution in the current Congress.

SOURCE:  What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like – The Washington Post.

I don’t know if gerrymandering was a foregone conclusion when our democracy was formed. Everyone wants to take advantage of all possible means in order to win. I can imagine that in the 1950s someone with a pile of voting records and a map tried to figure out how to gain an advantage. Because the chore was almost overwhelming using the existing tools not much was able to be accomplished.

Fast forward to the computer age and gerrymandering has become an art form. Computer models are able to track almost every vote by location and draw thousands of different maps to take advantage of every single vote. Thus we see voting districts morph into what is shown above.  One of the secrets to being able to accomplish this jigsaw task is that one political party must have the power to accomplish this re-districting after it is configured and to maintain that status over a number of years.

The American obsession of winning at all costs almost dictates that these sort of things happen. To the winner goes the spoils and the spoils in our political processes amount to trillions of dollars. I have a dream that some year, probably in the very distant future, saner minds will finally prevail in this and so many other areas. When we can finally concentrate the common good and get away from the extreme partisanship of today then we might be able to accomplish things that benefit us all instead of a small segment of our society. I have a dream but unfortunately that is probably all it will ever be.

2014-05-01_08-26-30Today is the primary election day in my State. I write my posts usually well in advance of them being published but I can assuredly say that I have voted already. Those of you who know me at all know that I am a self-proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal”. I am a big believer in social and economic justice issues. They are a very strong part of how I vote in each election.

Having said this it seems obvious that I generally vote the Democratic ticket in most elections so how come I voted in the Republican primary today instead of the Democrat?? I believe I can give you a very nuanced answer to that question. First of all I am in a State that allows you to declare your party at the polls. Sometimes I vote Democrat sometimes Republican but it seems for the last several years it is Republican. The primary reason for that is to try to eliminate the extreme candidates as early on in the election process as possible so that I might have a “real” choice come the November general election.

Maybe I shouldn’t be letting this secret out. Indiana is a very red State and one that has been doing everything legally possible lately to restrict the vote.  My mother, rest her soul, was not able to vote in the her last election because she did not have a valid driver’s license. I’m sure I am not the only one with this primary election strategy and if my Republican friends find out how I help them get rid of the wing nuts in their party they will likely try to prevent me from doing that in the future.

I don’t know if the State Senator candidate who has been sending me the weekly mailings of how he will do everything he can to eliminate Obamacare and protect my gun rights at any cost realize that I now know to vote for his opponent, whoever he is. I can pretty safely use the pronoun “he” as there are not many women at any level in the GOP in my State.

I can also rest assured that I was able to get in and out of the poll place pretty quickly since, as usual,  on one in five or so will join me at the polls today. If only people realized the power that they hold over their daily lives with their vote!

 

Sitting Pretty….

May 1, 2014

Corporation“This country is a thousand times bigger than any two men in it, or any two parties in it. These big politicians are so serious about themselves and their parties. This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super-nation. If by some divine act of Providence we could get rid of both parties and hired some good men, like any other big business does, why we would be sitting pretty.” – Will Rogers, 1 November 1932

Many of us tend to think that all this putrid politics is a recent thing But Will’s quote above from 80 plus years ago shows us that is simply not the case.  Our political system has stunk for years but our country continues for the most part to thrive in spite of it. At least it thrives for some of us.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided that Corporations have pretty much the same rights a people maybe we should re-think how our country is governed? Is it time that we incorporated the country? That way we could hire and fire people when we want to. Most of my Republican friends seem to think that corporations are the real leaders in this country anyway so they should be on board.  Not on the board but on board with this idea ;) .

Forget giving all the folks in those very red and very sparsely population prairie States who have much more voting power than the rest of us. In the new USA Inc. we could all be equal stockholders.  States would disappear replaced by maybe some subsidiaries but still under control of the same CEO and board. If corporations are what makes this country great then why not go all the way and make the country a corporation?

OK, enough of this silliness but we do kind of have to do something about all this gutter politics of the last hundred years or so…. sooner rather than later I hope.

Legislatures are like animals in a zoo. You can’t do anything about ‘em’. All you can do is to stand and watch ‘em’

About being a U.S. Senator, the only thing the law says you have to be is 30 years old. Not another single requirement. They just figure that a man that old got nobody to blame but himself is he gets caught there

— Will Rogers —

Politics and Karma…

January 24, 2014

Part of the reason conservatives have historically opposed the growth of the welfare state is the belief that it grants people a sort of karmic exemption, allowing those who are lazy or irresponsible to draw resources from those who are more industrious (see Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment). Hence conservatives agree that the world would be a better place if we “let unsuccessful people fail.” That also includes unsuccessful countries (like Greece) and companies (like GM).

Liberals, by contrast, would prefer to live in a world governed by compassion. They are more likely to give people second and third chances.  For example, they are more likely to endorse this statement: “It is generally better to show mercy than to take revenge.”

The law of karma is not real. In free-market societies, hard work does pay off much better than laziness, yet cancer, unemployment, and other forms of bad luck can strike anyone. And cheaters, exploiters, and law-breakers do often prosper…

SOURCE: Your Politics and Your Personality: Take the Quiz | TIME.com.

I can see some truth to the thoughts above but I think the article paints with too broad a stroke?  It basically says conservatives align with karma and Liberals with compassion. That may be generally true but other factors certainly come into play in how we react so differently under the same conditions. I think fear is an even more dominant emotion in discerning this difference.

But the purpose of this post is to talk a little about the idea of karma.  Karma is actually believed to originate in India and is an integral part of Buddhism and Hinduism beliefs but generally the phrase has a different meaning in its western interpretation. Here is what Wikipedia says about that:

Karma — The  Western interpretation

Many Western cultures have notions similar to karma, as demonstrated in the phrase what goes around comes around. Christian expressions similar to karma include reap what one sows (Galatians 6:7), violence begets violence and live by the sword, die by the sword.In Hinduism, God plays a role and is seen as a dispenser of its version of karma. The non-interventionist view is that of Jainism and Buddhism, the latter originally a non-theist religion. Generally, Western popular culture portrays karma as more of a supranatural mystical force than a perspective on causality. This is more similar to Hinduism’s concept of karma than Buddhism’s.

To state it as simply as possible I don’t put much credence in the idea of karma.  I don’t think there is some supranatural mystical force that I have little or no control over that drives me to be what I am. We are not destined to be a certain thing.  The other aspect of karma is living with the consequences of your actions. Of course we must live the with consequences but that does not mean that one mistake at some point in our lives should doom us to an eternity of grief and inhumanity.

2014-01-19_10-06-40

Poverty is systemic and government must have a role in reducing it. This is not an ideological assertion but a basic truth given the size of the problem and the complexity of modern society. The Census Bureau reports that government safety net programs cut the poverty rate last year by nearly half. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, kept 4 million people out of poverty, and most of that support went to families with children and a wage-earner with a job that didn’t pay enough to fully feed their families. Without a safety net, the poverty rate would have been 29 percent in 2012, according to an analysis of the Census report by USA Today. Government benefits protected 41 million people, including 9 million children, from poverty.

Conservatives need to stop saying that government programs don’t reduce poverty, because the facts demonstrate that is just not true. Referring to safety nets as “hammocks” simply betrays a lack of knowledge of, or relationship with, people who are struggling and need help. Government is not always the enemy, but often a valuable partner.

Yet, liberals cannot imply that government alone is enough, or that the safety net is capable of completely lifting people out of poverty. After all, the whole idea of the safety net is that it catches you after a fall. There are vital programs that protect people from poverty during hard times and keep many people from falling into further impoverishment, but they do not eliminate the root causes. The problems of family breakdown in our society need to be taken seriously and the cultural pathologies poverty creates require a response. Both social and personal responsibility are needed to end poverty. Economic opportunity must be actually available to everyone, especially lower-income people and families. This is a basic premise and goal that should be the starting point of the conversation between liberals and conservatives.

SOURCE: Want to Win the War on Poverty? For the Sake of the Most Vulnerable, Let’s Work Together – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

I just received another moving email from my friends over at Sojourners. Above is part of that message.  As usual in our political system the truth lies somewhere between the two-party extremes of wanting to eliminate all help for citizens struggling and trying to fix all the problems with government programs.

There is a medium point between blaming those who have for one reason or another gotten themselves into trouble and those who think their problems can be totally fixed with government resources without doing something to address the underlying problems, and corresponding lack of responsibility, which caused the distress.  As mentioned above BOTH social and personal responsibilities are needed to end poverty. You can’t do it with only one of these solutions.

I can only dream that someday those yahoos in Washington can put aside their petty bickering and come to an agreement on this very powerful problem.

Social scientists find many questions about values and lifestyle that have no obvious connection to politics can be used to predict a person’s ideology. Even a decision as trivial as which browser you’re using to read this article is imbued with clues about your personality. Are you on a Mac or PC? Did you use the default program that came with the computer or install a new one?

In the following interactive, we put together 12 questions that have a statistical correlation to a person’s political leanings, even if the questions themselves are seemingly apolitical. At the end of this (completely anonymous) quiz, we’ll use your responses to guess your politics.

SOURCE: Personality Quiz: Can TIME Guess Your Politics? | TIME.com.

Here is an interesting article that asks you twelve questions seemingly unrelated to politics but will attempt to guess your political leanings. You might want to try it out to see where you fit.

2014-01-09_10-40-47This article starts out a series of posts about what makes a person conservative or progressive. I know I have sworn off the vitriol politics of Washington but this is a different matter. It is widely acknowledged that our country is pretty much split down the middle by the conservative/progressive feelings.  I am currently in a study of trying to discover the different views of what it means to be in these two categories and how did each of us get into the mindset we are in.

Soon you will be seeing some more news articles about this topic here at RJsCorner. I am also reading a book entitled The Great Debate by Yuval Levin. Mr. Levin attempts to go back in history to try to discover where the sources of the conservative/progressive divide started in this country. He has decided that the debates between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine soon after our country’s founding is where the divide started.  In the forward to this book the author states up front that he is on the conservative side in the debate. I am just now starting this book and trying to keep an open mind about what he proposes but still have to be aware of the political leanings of the author. This will be an interesting study of why we might be so divided today.

2014-01-09_09-14-26Getting back to the topic about Time guessing your politics, My results of the questions are shown on the right. I came out as a moderate leaning slightly liberal. I really consider myself more liberal than conservative. My score leans that way but not as far as I imagine myself to be. But as always I suspect that this divide is more complicated than a single twelve question survey can cope with. More on this topic in coming posts.

Banner - Will Rogers

The church is in Politics more than the Politicians.  
February 17, 1929  — Will Rogers

As I have mentioned a few times already in our study of Thomas Jefferson, his principle of the separation of church and State was more to protect the State than the church.  It seems that Will understood this also. Unfortunately not much has changed since even Will’s day.  The bible says we are not of this world but you couldn’t tell it by the words of some of my conservative Christian friends. They literally hate our president, especially since he has been re-elected. I am told they even voice that hatred when they are studying the Bible together! They should take the message of Buddha from one of my recent posts to heart. The hate they have punishes them much more than anything it could possibly accomplish.  Why can’t they drive their hate out of themselves and replace it with the love of Jesus.

But then again these times are nothing compared to the post-Constantine period and far beyond that period where the church leaders were literally the politicians and that included judge, jury, and executioner for thousands they deemed as “heretics”. Church history, even including recent history, is messy…. but the messages of Jesus Christ are quite clear if only we listen and actually do what he said. I have hopes that that is actually happening today in the emergent church movement.  If you want to learn more about that see today’s post at RedLetterLiving.

But I’m just a simple guy, so what do I know…

Banner -Off The Top

CrowdsThe “Radical Right” and the “Liberal Left” are so twentieth century!  Its time we invented some new monikers for these two opposing groups and I have the perfect names. These names just seem to be more descriptive than the old one.  Who knows what “Right” and “Left” really mean anyway.  For some reason I know I am right-handed but I am also called left leaning. I know we in the U.S. read from left to right but some countries read from right to left and some read up and down.  Left and right just don’t have any solid meaning.

So, I am going to invent some new names here and I expect them to be in common use by the end of 2013. ;)

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