American Exceptionalism is About Agreeing to Disagree

It’s fair to say US politics has gone way past the point of partisan and well into the realm of zealotry. Ideas are often flatly rejected before being proposed. We talk proposals to death, but it never seems to be enough. Votes turn into mini wars of attrition or no-holds barred campaigns with scorched earth policies at their center. And, losers – well, everyone’s a loser, but you know what I mean – launch hissy fits, retribution, repeal, Constitutional amendment, or just flip off the entire nation.


USA, USA, USA! - American exceptionalism comes not from morality, economic power, God nor patriotism. It comes from an ability to respectfully agree to disagree.

And then, when all else fails, the entire Grinchly, toxic package gets topped with a smelly bow of name calling and just plain goofy lies and charges.

If you believe America needs health care, you hate America. If you believe America should have a smaller government, you hate America. If you belive rich people should pay more taxes, you’re a commie. If you believe that Obama is the anti-Christ, he doesn’t just hate America, he morphs into a Kenyan Kommunist who isn’t even legally President. And if you fail to demonize your elected government you’re an evil terrorist.

Complexity Makes Our Heads Hurt
We live in an age of sprawling complexity, certainly too much complexity for any mere mortal to fully understand.  And, we tack on all sorts of contingencies and nit picks, no matter how applicable, to set up certain failure. Then, in true homo sapien fashion we run away from the smoking hole in the ground with all the grace and moral fortitude of a car chase star on America’s Dumbest Criminals.

It’s OK to criticize your government. That is democracy’s essence and your right (although people who don’t vote, but criticize the loudest do sometimes chap my ass). It’s OK to disagree. Sometimes your view carries the day, other times not. That doesn’t mean the victor rolls out of bed each morning rubbing their hands, growing some horns, and singing, “What can I do to fuck up my country today,” to the tune of the Internationale.

People say Americans don’t believe in the concept of American exceptionalism. I’m not sure that’s as true as just ignoring the concept as though it isn’t even there.

America’s exceptionalism has never been its moral stance in the world or its defense of the weak against the oppressive. It was never endowed by anyone’s God nor rabid patriotism. What made America exceptional was our ability to somehow recognize our differences, make decisions, and then move on. Unlike many countries, we were exceptional because we could eventually unify and not devolve into a stinking swamp of eternal misery as every faction except the common citizen spent decades trying to jerk everyone to their side.

Even Morons Get Good Ideas
No matter how big a moron is they’ll occasionally have a good idea. There’s no value arguing against a good idea solely because it came from someone you think is a moron. The value is to recognize the idea for what it is and pat the moron on the back with a word of thanks for actually doing something besides prattling on about how the moron may have denigrated your ideas in the past.

If you criticize an idea with particular vitriol and your opponent reminds you of it, don’t try to defend yourself by saying, “you guys did it first”. And, don’t change the subject by parsing every little nuance in your language. People will see that for what it is…crapweaseltry.

It’s OK to answer a charge that your opinion is one-sided with a reminder that it is an opinion (whether supported by facts or not). You’re not obliged to answer every idea with a corresponding counterbalance – though it’s nice when you can acknowledge it. But, regardless of your opinion of them or their idea, always treat them personally with respect.

Sometimes the best anyone can do is to agree to disagree and let it go at that.

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Banker Bonuses: Not Such a Wonderful Life?

Naked Greed

PFT...FAT CHANCE - Banking greedheads are unclear on such a simple concept.

Astonishingly, bankers may have surpassed lawyers, journalists, and child pornographers as the country’s most reviled people. They did this through a combination of tanking the world economy; extorting money and property from customers and the government; and downright, naked and stupid greed.

Oh, and complaining they weren’t paid enough to do it.

A recent informal Vanity Fair poll indicated 56% of banking greedheads felt their bonuses weren’t large enough. Clearly, this is indicates an IQ so low or hubris so large they shouldn’t be trusted with piggy banks, much less handle your life savings and the wealth of the world.

What’s the Big Deal?
Many have made a big deal about the unfairness of this arrangement. Many have claimed the inequities of the US corporate compensation system is making us into a country of overwhelming class division. In short, many have been right. But the emphasis on class warfare and inequality is only half – maybe less than half – of the picture.

The It’s a Wonderful Life banks of yore were paragons of charity and virtue compared to the ginormous money-maws of today. Despite bankers being beholden to no one other than their hand-selected boards and compensation committees, they make business decisions based on a monthly horizon to enhance their ‘pitiful’ quarterly bonuses. A banker looking beyond a quarter would be locked up in the Insane Banker’s Asylum for the Criminally Greedy. One looking out into the vastness of time – next year – would be executed for their danger to society.

That short-sightedness explains their Nostrasdumbassian inability to have seen the economic crash coming. That blindness to the danger of their own practices screwed their customers, the public – and not least of all – their investors. And now that they’ve good and thoroughly fu*cked their investors, they’re back to the same asinine practices as before, except – like a anitbiotic-immune bacteria – they’ve strengthened and widened the gap between what is legal and what is common sense.

Exercising their much vaunted “skills”, they’ve used taxpayer money, much of which was skimmed off for last year’s bonuses, to ‘reinvest’ and reap near-record profits this year – thereby clinching this year’s bonuses too. The only people dumber than the bankers are their stockholders. They’ve cheered as bankers laundered the money into record profits, either blindlessly stupid or so greedy they don’t recognize this as what it is…a ponzi scheme.

Bernie Madoff must be so proud.

Because they need binoculars to see the ends of their noses, they don’t see that everything will happen again. Their penchant for driving resources offshore to avoid the taxes that comprised last quarter’s stunning economic ‘recovery’ make it harder and harder to extort money from a US government with less and less of it to give. Meanwhile, all those cozy offshore havens – many of which are as friendly to America as a pack of rabid wolverines – are perfectly positioned to nationalize our money to pay for their own bait and switch schemes.

And as the macro-economic robbery continues, the bankers will again be shocked at another “completely unexpected” event. All those jobs that moved or disappeared to make companies more “profitable” steadily depleted the pool of potential customers with money for the banks to steal use to continue the ruination of their Holy Grail – capitalism.

Oh, and that’ll be a $130 million bonus for the trouble.

Where Do I Sign Up?
Bankers – in fact, almost all business US Big Wigs – receive huge bonuses if profits go up or they go down. They receive bonuses from the very companies they ran into the ground to keep their “expertise” with the company. They get bonuses because they successfully lobby each banking reform attempt into a cozier and cozier government/business alliance that – guess what – awards them bigger bonuses. Investors look the other way as long as money is coming into the Ponzi triangle and most complain for show only when the dividends come due and the banks can’t pay them. Then, they angle for a big bonus to pay their wizards of financial acumen to figure out some other way to steal twice as much money – partly used for big bonuses – next quarter.

Many supporters of corporatism über alles claim the execs deserve the big bucks because they are risk takers. The only problem with that axiom is that they take those risks with other people’s money and get paid whether the risks pay off or not.

Unbridled greed is leading them to not only kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but eat the egg, dine on the goose, and steal  their neighbor’s fowl for another mighty fine meal. One paid for with unsustainable bonuses.

Ain’t it a wonderful life?

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Judson Phillips: This Means War!

Separation of Church and State

THEY MIX LIKE OIL AND HOLY WATER - George Carlin was right.

After calls to unseat MN Dem Keith Ellison at least partly for being Muslim and advancing the swell idea the Constitution be amended to restrict the vote  only to property owners, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has declared war on the Methodist Church.

He claims the Methodist Church is Marxist and “little more than the ‘religious’ arm of socialism” for preaching its support of the DREAM act, health care, joining “the Socialists, Communists and Marxists for the ‘One Nation’ March”, and a host of other unpatriotic sins. Because of these radical ideas he says he, “left the Methodist church over 35 years ago [and has] never looked back.”

His screed is nothing new. He goes off on such things regularly. However, buried deep in his blog post (which, in a display of  his commitment to his own brave words, is open to the public only via subscription) he throws out a challenge that I’m more than happy to accept – “Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state? I guess their outrage is selective.”

For the record, I’m an atheist, which in Phillips’ eyes probably makes me Joseph Stalin incarnate. More than 35 years ago I not only left the Methodists, but all religion, and have never looked back. So here’s my ‘selective outrage’ about the separation of church and state:

I agree with Phillips that religion and politics in America would be vastly better off without churches taking sides in secular political matters. I believe their preaching secular issues more often muddies the water than clarifies it and it sometimes dampens criticism of church hierarchy.  However, I don’t see how that is any different from Phillips’ support of churches that espouse his opinions about matters of state.

Keep Out

POPULAR IDEAL - Keep 'em separate.

There’s a vast difference between churches – including those Phillips agrees with – preaching political values that align with their religion and trying to co-opt official non-religious matters of state. One is the freedom to practice religion as one likes. The other moves the positions out of the pulpit and into the secular public square. This is where the tipping point where separating church and state lies.

Churches violate that separation when, for example, religious members of school boards rewrite secular history books to conform to their religious vision. The same is true of many churches’ insistence the 10 Commandments be posted on every flat surface in America. Ditto for repealing health care, preventing gay marriage, and a host of other church-promoted secular issues.

As long as churches preach and don’t co-opt secular responsibilities there is separation.  To me this isn’t a separation issue, it’s the difference between a theocracy and a democracy.

Judson, I both support your freedom to belong to a religion or not belong to a religion or to agree or disagree with a church’s position. All I expect are the same liberties for those who disagree with you. All I expect from churches is to refrain from officially forcing their beliefs onto others.

My outrage isn’t selective, it’s quite consistent.

Which is more than I can say for yours.

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