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Come home, America.

Now would be the time.

Al Qaeda has been decapitated. The seven dwarves of wannabe Bin Ladens are hopeless.

The Cold War is over in Europe. As over as leisure suits.

We get most of our oil from the Western Hemisphere. No real reason to import it from the psycho-political Middle East.

Libya is not our problem. The chaos in Mexico is.

Time to come home, America.

We are a New World nation.

We started dabbling in Old World politics in McKinley’s administration with the “White Man’s Burden” and the Philippines. It was a slippery slope. 110 years of adventure with a ton of heartache.

Now is the time to realize the great promise of the New World.

The founding fathers warned us against “entangling alliances” in the Old World.

We ignored them.

And we have paid.

And paid.

And paid.

In gold and blood.

We had no business in World War One. None. No one is even sure what the war was about, almost a century later. Why send our young men into that meat grinder?

And had we never messed around in the Philippines and taken over Hawaii in a sleazy way there would have been no Pearl Harbor. Russia would have eventually defeated the Nazis without us (do the math). There may not have ever been Nazis in the first place if we had not tipped the scales of WW1 so that Germany was crushed.

It is time for America to come home.

If Europe cannot defend itself without our help, then that’s their problem. Why did they need us to straighten out Kosovo?

If Korea is hopeless without us, then Asia has to band together to subdue the nut case pariah nation of North Korea.

We are obsessed with the Middle East. As Dr. Phil would say: How’s it workin’ for you now? Israel is plenty able to kick the pooey out of anyone who messes with them. And last time someone fired scuds at them it was because our soldiers were shooting up Mesopotamia. We get the Israelis in more trouble than anything else.

These fights are not our fight.

Our natural GNP level is 20% of the global total (with 4% of the population), this has held steady for a century. We had a short percentage spike in the 1950’s while the rest of the world rebuilt after the disaster of WW2. It’s time to go back to our “natural” sphere of influence of 1/5 of the globe. Right now, we are acting like we own the whole enchilada. Imperial over-reach has killed more empires than anything else.

It is time to:

  1. Pull our troops out of Europe.
  2. Pull our troops out of Korea.
  3. Leave the Eastern Hemisphere, militarily. 100% withdrawal.
  4. Help Mexico fix Mexico.
  5. Establish a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere, the New World.
  6. Stop worrying about trade with India and China. If they won’t play nice (which they will), then transfer those jobs to North and Latin America.
  7. We won’t even start with the schizophrenic nation of Pakistan, our worst ally…ever.
  8. Build a world-class freight railroad system from Alaska to the tip of Chile.
  9. Re-align the military to protect the Western Hemisphere. Seamlessly. With big oceans on both sides and no natural enemies, we are easy, and cheap, to defend.
  10. Develop a joint Western Hemisphere Navy (like NATO was) to which we would supply 3, not 12, carrier groups.
  11. Thus save trillions in military expenditures and foreign aid, all the while  enhancing our security. Oh, by the way, this would balance the budget.
  12. Be on good terms with the Old World, but stay out of their un-solvable feuds.
  13. Have every student in our hemisphere learn English and Spanish in addition to his/her native tongue. No exceptions.
  14. Create a national volunteer service throughout the hemisphere to build the infrastructure. Mandatory two years after high school. Get our young people out from in front of screens with video games and Simpsons reruns and out doing some good.
  15. Eliminate drug cartels.

To resurrect a term, it is our manifest destiny to be the leading nation (with great partners) in the New World.

Come home, America.

This vision made it into the epilogue of The Blackberry Bush, my 2011 novel.

Please pass a link to this article to everyone you know. Thanks.

PS: Just was reminded by a friend that McGovern’s acceptance speech in 1972 was entitled, “Come home, America.” 8-track, flashback! Here are the closing lines:

So join with me in this campaign. Lend me your strength and your support, and together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.

From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America

From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.

From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of  the neglected sick — come home, America.

Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.

Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land — from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters — this land was made for you and me.”

So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.

And now is the time to meet that challenge.

Good night, and Godspeed to you all.

-George McGovern, 1972, who lost to Nixon, who resigned in disgrace shortly thereafter…

Middle America celebrates spontaneously.

Much like the day we achieved victory over Japan, the revelers were overwhelmingly young.

I am struck by the negativity of the far right and the far left.

The far right:

This gang has a huge Obama allergy. Even if he does something the right wing would normally cheer, there must be something “wrong.”

This allergy clouds their thinking to the point where they parse out his speeches looking for proof of “narcissism,” and accuse him of timing the whole thing to coincide with re-election strategies.

They are even accusing him of lying about the timing of the attack, since they have proof that DNA takes longer to evaluate. Never mind all the Pakistanis in the Abbottobad neighborhood who were tweeting like crazy about helicopters overhead exactly when Obama said they were there.

Since he is a “bad man,” or so the thinking goes, everything he does, even if they agree with it, must be wrong. Thus, he deserves zero credit for leadership or calling the shot.

The far left:

This has always been the whinier voice in America. They are upset with the young celebrants in Times Square and outside the White House, because we should not be celebrating the death of any human being.

Much of this is tinged with Christian language implying we should love our enemies. This view clearly attempts to come across as more civilized than the U-S-A chanters. Martin Luther King is invoked (i.e. we should have used non-violence against Bin Laden).

I’m just glad MLK was not in Churchill’s chair during World War Two or all the European Jews would be dead and my wife and her Dutch family would be working the fields of ethnically cleansed Russia.

A sophisticated chronic embarrassment about all things American is the basic vibe underlying all far-left language.

Middle America:

Meanwhile, Middle America celebrates.

These are the people that provide the soldiers, pay the taxes, and head into the WTC fires with FDNY on their jackets.

These are the people with fragile small businesses which have been shaky in the economy which has been chronically unstable since 9-11.

These are the young people who have grown up for half of their lives with Osama bin Laden’s work forcing grandmas to take off their shoes before getting on planes and having to show up way before their flight, having their water bottles confiscated.

These are the honest people who have all of their banking tracked and their hard earned paychecks put on hold to “clear.”

America has had the jitters, economically and otherwise, since 9-11. The man who started it all has been brought to justice.

Let’s let the young people celebrate.

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My novel, The Blackberry Bush, debuts June 2011. Watch for it!

“I am tired of living among people who hate peace.”   -Psalm 120:6

Apparently, an eccentric person wants to promote Koran burning this week.

What are your thoughts on this?

Not, “Does he have a right to do this?”

But rather, “Is it a good idea?”

We seem, as a society, to have a hard time separating those questions.

I would like to suggest that it has more to do with creating and cultivating a culture of respect.

Burning flags is a bad idea. Burning books is a bad idea. Building a new $100 million Islamic center a stone’s throw from Ground Zero is a bad idea.

It has to do with respect, dignity and common sense.

So how do we cultivate a respect-based culture without losing our civil liberties and freedom of speech and expression?

It’s your voice I want to hear on this blog. Please share your thoughts.

Took a Sabbath today.

The Bible says we have to.

So I did.

Rode around on my beach cruiser bike in the sunshine. Surfed in nasty big waves this AM. Bought a Mothers’ Day card. Tried and failed to get a haircut.

Stopped in at the Huntington Beach Library and looked through their massive for-sale books offerings.

Picked up a musty, moldy volume by H.G. Wells called The Outline of History.

1925

Between the World Wars.

He sees all of history as a struggle between civilized obedience-oriented river cultures and free, nomadic will-oriented cultures. Royalists and Roundheads. Loyalists and Colonial Patriots. Unionists and Rebels. Versailles and the Barricades. US Army and Viet Cong. The Nimitz and the Taliban. M16 and Kalashnikov AK-47. Priests and Revivalists. Aristocrats and Barbarians. Churchill and Che. Sebastian Coe and Steve Prefontaine. Oxford and NASCAR. Episcopalians and Pentecostals.

Neither is purely good or bad. Both have dark sides.

“As if it were a necessary process–efficiency and energy give way to pomp, indolence and decay. They finally succumb to some fresher child-rich lineage from the desert or from the steppes.”

-HG Wells, 1925

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I have been especially aware of patterns this week.

People all have a certain way of being in the world. A pattern.

There is a Muslim way of being in the world, a Mormon way, a Right-Wing-Fox-News way, a PC-liberal way, etc.

Some of these patterns are potent (Islam). Some are not so potent (mainline Presbyterianism). Some are on the rise (Hipster-ism), and some are on the decline (the “emerging” church).

I’ve done extensive live-in stints with:

Lutheranism

Action Sports World (surf/snowboard)

Theological Academia (22nd grade and a Fulbright Scholarship)

Pentecostalism (even wrote a book on it)

Each “-ism” has abundant self-serving circular reasoning and tribal litmus tests. They have buzzwords and enemy images. Perhaps they are even necessary–but none of them correspond perfectly to naked reality and truth.

It’s a trade off; you get security and you tolerate errors and inaccuracy when you “buy in” to any “-ism.”

I am about to be voted off the Lutheran island for good. Sad, because I have nothing against it, and, on better days, I consider myself one of its more intentionally constructive, original, and helpful thinkers. I appreciate the good in Lutheranism, my family of origin, but I don’t pretend that God depends on it, or that it is the highest possible way of being in the world.

I am increasingly troubled by the American liberal/conservative polarized political thinking. The left doesn’t understand the power and creativity of the free market and globalization, and the right doesn’t understand sustainable environmentalism, and the potency of collectivism for certain public endeavors (fire, utilities, roads, etc.). We are disintegrating into TV attack ads with stupid sound bites. We need an intellectual like Lincoln to come back, who sees deeper nuances.

In any case, these political “patterns” relieve everyone of the responsibility to think.

And the much of the world is just plain out-growing the need for religious patterns. Especially the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist global young people. If you don’t believe me, you’re not spending much time with them.

Let’s just have real conversations about who God really is. Let’s pray together. Let’s talk about Jesus and how his message is so different than that of the Buddha (see E Stanley Jones and his “Egg and the Bubble” analogy). Let’s talk about God’s preferred future, and include him in on the conversation, rather than argue about the merits and errors of competing eschatological “systems.”

Does God Almighty really care about the victory of Confessional Lutheranism or TULIP Calvinism? Is he secretly pulling for a return to a stricter Reformed theology? Is he really upset about the idea of married Catholic priests? Is he hoping we finally secure the Mexican border? Is he worried that Health Care Reform will ruin the world he created? Is Oprah his worst nightmare, wrecking his weekly Sabbath rest? Hardly.

Are we willing to set aside our patterns, even ones we love, to seek the truth? Look it right in the eye?

I have this crazy idea that God is real, and that he doesn’t report to a pattern.

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Please forward the link to this essay to the leaders of your congregation: http://wp.me/pGQxY-8T    Thanks!

I have always considered myself a small-government guy.

Love going to Hong Kong where they run the whole place out of one modest building.

But let’s re-frame the question:

What endeavors do we want to tackle collectively, and what do we want to work out as individuals?

Building highways, defeating the Nazis, running an aircraft carrier, having a fire department, going to the moon, etc. are all things that we can do best collectively. The more people in the pool, the more we can do.

Education is an expensive item with much complexity. In small towns (and there are a lot of them) that are too small for competition, a collective community school seems like a good idea. In large cities, my sense is that vouchers and competition would work better. But vouchers assume that the government should have the money to hand out. What if it were totally privatized? How would we ensure that underclass children get the skills to enter mainstream society?

And public education does indeed create an English-language socialization for our bazillions of immigrants. Most Mexican kids here in Cali prefer speaking English. Only the schools have done that.

If it were totally up to the libertarians, why not extremist Muslim grade schools backed by oil money in every big city? Just one of the “options.” So unraveling the public schools’ semi-monopoly can have a dark side.

And as far as big government goes, Ronny and W did more to create that than any other president in my lifetime–it’s just that much of it was military. As I’ve said before, military spending counts as government spending and it’s one of the most expensive forms of big government. Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex (right about the day I was born, by the way).

I’d like to do a major post on “rethinking education.” Another one on “rethinking military.” I think that these two big ticket items encourage outrageous spending based on obsolete world views. The educational and military situations have changed and we still build schools and weaponry based on former challenges that no longer exist.

It’s not only expensive–it doesn’t get the job done.

Too many American kids go to college and not enough of them get real job skills. Universities are not for everyone.

And why do we really need aircraft carriers and tanks? We need better ways of removing pockets of terrorist extremism and neutralizing crazy world leaders (North Korea). A pitched tank battle is way unlikely. As is a carrier war like the one we had with Japan. We also need to figure out how we are going to engage the Muslim world–much of what we now do just makes it worse. They don’t think as we do but we operate as though they do (rewards and punishment scenarios).

And then there are entitlements. It’s choking California. Many public servants here retire on more money than most in the private sector ever will make.

So how much government should we have?

Education, military, entitlements?

What are your thoughts?

Spent some time on Wikipedia and elsewhere today.

Why? Listened to the State of the Union last night (it’s all the Republicans’ fault) and then listened to talk radio responses (mostly: Obama is an evil socialist who just might have really been born in Sweden, not Hawaii).

Wanted to find out for myself what’s really going on with the debt/deficit/spending thing.

Got surprised by a lot of things. The right/left divide has created an ideology-bound way of bending the truth about debt/deficit. Both left and right just see what they want to see. And they love to blame each other.

Facts suffer under this ideological pressure to prove one’s side as “correct.”

For instance:

Q: When (in the last 75 years) was the cumulative (real % of GNP) national debt the lowest?

A: During the Carter years. Lower than the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 80’s, 90’s or whatever we decide to call the last decade.

Q: When was federal spending the highest?

A: FDR’s reign. Nowhere in our history even comes close in federal spending as % of GNP. The Great Depression and WW2. Since then, it’s been less clear which side of the aisle is the biggest spender.

Also, the national deficit and the national debt are not the same thing.

For some of you this is 101, but apparently not for most Americans, a majority of whom are unable to distinguish correctly between the two.

The deficit is the annual gap between government income and spending; the “hole” in the annual budget, if you will.

The debt is the cumuilative total amount we owe (to whom is pretty unclear, no matter how much you look into it); the result of lots of deficits in a row.

I am a pro-family, free market, fiscal conservative (not that this matters, just want to be clear that there is no “liberal” agenda here) and was surprised to find out that the following presidents increased the total national debt, during their total time in office, by these percentage amounts:

Jimmy Carter: 45%

Ronald Reagan: 189%

Bush the Elder: 55%

Bill Clinton: 36%

Bush the Younger: 89% (not so bad over 8 years, considering the challenges he faced)

Obama: We don’t know yet, the first years for all of the above presidents were not indicative of the patterns to come for their terms.

Of course, Reagan, Clinton and “W” were 8-year presidents. The others were 4-year guys. Factor that in. Also, inflation is always a rich field for misinformation. It often gets left out or mentioned specifically in order to skew info. 1960 dollars are not the same as 2010 dollars, so sometimes “record” deficits are not really records. No president, in real GNP %, has spent as much as we did in WW2.

Same is true for population changes. America has about 300 million people (we’ll see how the 2010 nose count goes) which is almost twice as many as when I was born. Comparing the debt of a nation of 300 million to the debt of a nation with 150 million is apples vs. oranges.

It seems that, in real un-spun facts (which no one would dispute), the presidents who have most increased the National Debt of the US, in my lifetime, have been primarily–Republicans.

So how do the Democrats get the ‘tax and spend’ rep?

No matter how you cut it, no matter whose numbers you use, Bill Clinton was the most frugal of the presidents in our lifetime–and the prosperity during that era, in my opinion, may have resulted from that (my libertarian tendencies are showing). Not that I approve of him, his policies, or his views. But I like his deficit numbers. Who doesn’t?

The last recorded annual surplus (the opposite of an annual deficit) was during Clinton’s term. A Democrat.

My only explanation is that Republicans somehow don’t count defense spending as “real.”

In all fairness, Republicans aren’t ‘tax and spend,’ they just spend (and cut taxes). This opens up huge deficits.

Bush the Elder had the courage to call this “voodoo economics,” and he was right. He took it back so he could be Ronny’s VP, but it was true then and it’s true now.

Now granted, thank God that Ronald Reagan spent so much on defense–he bankrupted the Soviet Union without firing a shot; history will remember him for that. But he raised the stakes with money he didn’t have.

Glad he did it? Yes.

But it was real spending.

Granted, the social programs that the Democrats prefer are usually more or less useless in terms of real results (good intentions–lousy outcomes). But they cost way less than aircraft carriers.

And those who want to paint Democrats as socialists, ironically LOVE socialized military (obviously the most expensive form of socialism around). But somehow that doesn’t count.

Please hear me, I also, along with the Republicans, prefer a well-funded socialized military. A private military (pay the Hessians to protect us) would be a mess. And the corruption would be unbelievable. Interesting that no Republican would deny our men and women in uniform the right to socialized medicine…which they all have.

We fought a war (WW2) on two continents and destroyed massively evil regimes (Nazis, Fascists, etc.) in four years with socialized military. I am also very proud of our men and women today in the military–they are amazing.

Not that I have totally formulated how I feel about all this, but it’s important for social and market conservatives like myself to look at real numbers. We tend to want to idealize Republicans and demonize Democrats. Overspending is apparently an equal-opportunity employer!

The truth is important. In my adult lifetime, the big spenders have been the Republicans. The only difference is, they cut taxes at the same time–which piles up debt.

Military spending counts as real spending. And there is a real cost to being a warrior nation with extensive, long term, expensive deployment (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) in a hemisphere (Eastern) where our country isn’t (Western). Last I checked, with all of our valiant efforts, those four countries (where we have spent so much money and spilled so much blood) are still nut cases. Half of Korea is arguably the strangest place on planet earth.

If we are going to make real progress against big government, we have to look at real numbers. Including military spending.

How much of the world are we going to protect and how many failed states are we going to rescue from crazy dictators? Can we afford to straighten out the whole world? Where does it end?

Seems simpler to me. Agree on what % of our GNP we want to spend on the public sector (including military). Make real laws (Constitutional Amendment) against spending more that that. And then prioritizing, through democracy, how that fixed amount gets spent. Decide on how much of the globe we are going to police and stick to that. Let the Europeans worry about Kosovo, etc.

Living within our means.

My libertarian side says that our economy would flourish. And our military would focus on defending (which they do well) our homeland.

Just ideas. But since they’re my ideas, I think they’re right.

Unless you have better ones, which may well be true. Let me hear from you.

I want to hear what you have to say about our ability for civil discourse as a nation.

I am up in Canada for a week, teaching, and I am struck by the politeness of conversations on hot topics.

I think that Talk Radio, especially the “rant” hosts, have hurt our democracy.

Radio is a one-way medium. You can set up straw men and torch them. You can control who calls in and you hold the squelch button.

Over 6,000 people have read this blog in the last few weeks.

I used to let everyone post.

Lately, I have been deleting “rants” of left and right wing flavor.

If left and right just continue to rant at each other, we will become ungovernable as a nation. Then democracy fails.

Anyone else out there besides me who would like to see an unusually stubborn attempt to civilize our conversations on the difficult topics of the day?

It starts with respectful answers to statements made by those who disagree with us.

What do you think of Obama after about a year in office?

I am looking for thoughtful reflections. Nuanced. Deep.

He is not the Antichrist and he is not the Messiah.

All opinions (far left to far right) are totally welcome, as long as they are respectful of our president and of other posters; otherwise, I will edit and/or remove them. I don’t normally do this, but I am specifically looking for a higher level discussion.

In other words, this will be a rant-free “thread.”

My odd Forrest-Gump-Life led me to interact with him in the 80’s in Chicago when we were both community organizers on the South Side. I was with Grand Boulevard Community 76 (Betty Booker and Co.) and he was with a church group in Roseland. We had meetings at the Urban League to coordinate efforts with other organizers. I was in housing preservation and grant writing. We are almost exactly the same age. I’m zany. He was very serious. So there wasn’t much affinity. We weren’t close, although there is “organizer-solidarity” in these situations, and I forgot all about him until the big speech at the Democratic Convention when I tried to place him from my memory. I did visit his church (fairly often) and that’s a whole ‘nother topic for another time.

I am looking for a broad, high quality debate on his character and his effectiveness.

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As the climate conference concludes in Copenhagen (picture above is from the last day of the conference), I have a number of questions.

Perhaps you have answers.

  1. Hasn’t the Earth always warmed and cooled in big cycles? Weren’t there glaciers in places where it is warm now? Wasn’t there an ice age (very) recently?
  2. Isn’t it therefore a little “above our pay grade” to think we can regulate the temperature like a thermostat and stop those cycles?
  3. I grew up in a town with terrible air pollution (Kellogg, Idaho). It had devastating affects on the plant and animal life nearby. Huge lung problems for a small town.
  4. Do you think it’s impossible that our emissions levels have affected the climate? Why?
  5. No matter how you answered #4, and given #1, is it truly reversible? Partially?
  6. If we really can “dial the climate back” what would be the economic cost (we’d have much less transportation freedom, etc.)?
  7. Perhaps there was a good reason that the ancients built their cities upstream from the beach (Rome, London, Paris). Perhaps we shouldn’t build cities there (New Orleans, etc.)?
  8. Have you noticed that pro-business conservatives and pro-environment liberals read the data differently? Agendas pre-determine what our conclusions are. The right “wing nuts” see a global conspiracy and the left wing chaos-crazy-protestors are being their usual “attractive” selves.
  9. Wouldn’t our quality of life go up if we spent less time in cars?
  10. Is it fair to withhold family cars from Indian and Chinese families? They want them and are beginning to be able to afford them. Combined, they have 10 times the population of the US. What will that do to global air quality?
  11. What are the costs, socially, when conservative Christians appear, as a group, to be against a clean environment?
  12. No matter what the data, wouldn’t it be a good idea to clean up the air and the water? Wouldn’t that be helpful for everyone?
  13. Is a cooperative, binding, global effort to do so necessarily anti-American or apocalyptic one-world-government stuff?

Let me just say I am dubious about the data on global warming. It is way too politicized to be objective. The big picture is very complex. Too many variables.

But cleaner air and water, long term, in a fair and shared effort that counts the cost, seems like a good thing to me.

Your thoughts?

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