Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Return (for now)

Okay folks (all two of you) I'm back. I thought that in order to balance school work and a return to the blog, I'd ease myself back into this by posting my work in school. The following is the first research paper I've had to write in almost 20 years! The assignment was to find an excerpt from our text, Power and Choice, An Introduction to Political Science by W. Phillips Shively, and take a position on it. The difficulty for me was finding something Shively wrote that I could find an arguement against. It is, after all, a basic introduction to politics and government. It is a text comprised mostly of indisputable facts. Then, I stumbled across the following quote:

"One striking, and sometimes disturbing, reality about the modern state is the way it has been able to enlist its people in its cause. Citizens of a state generally identify themselves strongly with it and will defend it with passion. This passionate identification with a nation, or a state riding on the coattails of a nation, is called nationalism, and like any passion, it can make people noble or base. An alternative word is patriotism, which is actually more directly associated with the state. Some have performed great acts of courage and self-sacrifice under the influence of this sentiment, and others have carried out cowardly assassinations and brutal massacres under the same influence. Whether it makes people noble or ignoble, nationalism is undeniably convenient for governments." (W. Phillips Shively, Power and Choice, page 59)

Mr. Shively’s definition of nationalism and patriotism, while accurate and descriptive, is incomplete in his implication that the two terms are synonymous. “Great acts of courage and self-sacrifice” and “cowardly assassinations and brutal massacres” have been committed in the name of both nationalism and patriotism alike, and each can “make people noble or ignoble”, but there is enough of a difference in their definitions that they merit further distinction. While it can be said that “nationalism is undeniably convenient for governments”, patriotism, with its own definition, can be quite the opposite.

I remember the patriotic atmosphere in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in the weeks and months immediately following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. American flags were proudly flown from highway bridges, in front of suburban townhouses and adorned by nearly every car navigating the Capital Beltway. There was talk of justice, talk of vengeance. Paper targets with Osama Bin Laden’s image on them became popular items at gun ranges. It felt good to be an American. According to an Associated Press article published just five weeks after 9/11, Michigan State University conducted a survey in which ninety percent of respondents claimed to be “proud to be an American” ("Surge of Patriotism In Schools Leads To Questions About Right To Dissent," 2001). I was right there with that ninety percent and accordingly, I stickered my car, flew my flag and cried, “We must do whatever it takes to find those responsible and bring them to justice!” Like many of us, I supported our government's efforts to accomplish that task, even though I did not fully understand its methods. I felt like a patriot, but what I was actually participating in was nationalism.

Nationalism is a blind devotion to one's nation, and the state that accompanies it, without regard for how it conducts its affairs. Qiong Li and Marilynn Brewer from Ohio State University take the definition a step further, describing nationalism as “chauvinistic arrogance and desire for dominance in international relations” (Li & Brewer 2004). Essentially, it is everything a government could want in a soldier, or a civilian for that matter. What better, more efficient way to give orders or create policy than with little or no opposition? This is the “convenience” outlined by Shively, and it is necessary for a government to be successful. It should be no surprise then that governments will make a concerted effort to foster nationalism. Shortly after 9/11, the Nebraska State Board of Education voted unanimously to endorse 1949 law requiring students to learn patriotic songs. In the same time period, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution encouraging the words “God Bless America” be proudly displayed in public schools. Both were designed to inflate the bubble of nationalism that was naturally occurring as a result of 9/11. They were also presented to the public under the guise of patriotism, a far more palatable term than nationalism, further blurring the distinction that Shively failed to note.

Patriotism is also based on a devotion to one’s nation and its government, but with an educated, deeper understanding of how it operates, and protesting what one believes to be wrong with it. It is the desire to better one's nation through debate, dissent and the democratic process. The Founders of the United States were true patriots in this sense. Americans were dissatisfied with the ruling regime in England, and protest led to revolution, independence and the creation of a new, improved government. Whistle-blowers in government offices who expose mismanagement and wrongdoers are acting in the spirit of true patriotism. It is this element of dissent that leads to criticism of patriots by nationalists. Terms like un-American and unpatriotic are thrown about by nationalists when true patriots protest in a democratic, non-violent way about the policies of their state. Barack Obama, while still a Senator campaigning for the Presidency in late 2007, was sharply criticized by opponents when he stopped wearing his nationalist American flag lapel pin. His response, as reported by the Chicago Sun Times, "The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security." (Golab &Pallasch 2007)

If dissent is a core component of true patriotism, then it cannot be considered "convenient" for the ruling regime. In fact, it can be downright harmful. Consider the extreme case of domestic terrorism, most notably Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 168 of his countrymen, most of them employees of the United States government, with a truck bomb in Oklahoma in 1995. Not exactly "convenient" for anyone, particularly the government. It was McVeigh's twisted form of patriotic protest to an incident he believed was mishandled by the government. He never expressed any remorse for his crime, and until his execution, he believed he had done the right thing for his country. While many American patriots might agree with McVeigh philosophically or ideologically, and that dissent is indeed called for, it is safe to say the vast majority of them disagree with his methods.

Clearly then, patriotism is not an alternative term for nationalism. It is true that both are founded on a love of one's country, but with dissent as the primary dividing line, the similarities end there. We can see that nationalism, as well as its wrongly perceived interchangeability with patriotism, is indeed convenient for governments, while true patriotism, with the element of dissent, is not. Like a parent who supports a son or daughter no matter who they are or who they become, all the while teaching them right from wrong, a good American is one who can find an appropriate balance of both nationalism and patriotism.


Surge of Patriotism In Schools Leads To Questions About Right To Dissent (2001 October 18) Associated Press. Retrieved June 15, 2009, from

Li, Q. & Brewer, M. (2004) What Does It Mean to Be an American? Patriotism, Nationalism, and American Identity After 9/11. Political Psychology, 25(5), 727-739.

Golab, A. & Pallasch, M. (2007, October 5) Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved June 21, 2009, from,CST-NWS-obama05.article

Friday, March 6, 2009

How To Drive

Today, I'm gonna steer clear of politics and the economy and the like, as I want to carefully structure my future posts to increase the clarity and effectiveness of my argument..

I declared my relative political naivete in my opening post, and I'm trying (I really really am!) to pour myself into it. I'm studying many different perspectives, and I encourage all to do the same. A good place for that would be my friend Eric Stein's blog. America was built on diversity of political perspective. We have many viewpoints, and most of us have the same desired end result. A prosperous America. (definitions of which certainly vary). No one I know, however, wants to live in a disastrous, failure of a country.

How To Drive a Car.

Look- I'm going to take it for granted that you know how to open the door, start the car, and actually make it move. Changing gears, braking, accelerating.. this is not what I will address. If you don't know those things.. well- this isn't for you.

I don't own a car. I walk and take public transportation most of the time, and I drive. I borrow my sister's car when necessary, or my girlfriend's truck, and I belong to Zipcar's car-sharing service. I drive much less than this time last year, but- I'm still on the roads enough to know what I'm talkin' about. These 'helpful tips' you'll read were once taught in public and private driver's education classes, but either are ignored, forgotten, or possibly, just plain aren't taught anymore. Many of these will be dismissed by the reader with a simple, "I know this stuff. Common sense!"

If you practice these, maybe you could help enlighten some other folks?

  • Your turn signal indicates to other drivers that you wish to move your car in a specific direction. NOT that you actually are moving in that direction. They can see that without your turn signal. I see many people trying to change lanes, looking for the opening in the mirror, turning their head, even muttering, 'C'monnnn, lemme in.. lemme in..' All the while, their hand is hovering on the turn signal lever. THEN, when the opening is there, they turn the signal on and move over. WTF? How does this make sense? Logically, the turn signal will create the opening. Don't expect the other drivers to read your mind, or see you strain and swerve to get in. Indicate your desire to move with your indicator. Used 'after the fact' when you're already moving to the space is gratuitous. If they can't see your entire vehicle moving into the lane in front of you, well then- a blinker won't fix that.
  • If you are not the fastest driver on the road, or are moving slower than the rest of traffic flow, stay out of the left lane. It is not for you. Drive in the right lanes, and when you come upon a driver slower than you, signal, then pass on the left. Once you've overcome the slower driver, return to the right lane in front of him and continue. Repeat. Don't be one of the sticklers in the left lane hollering, "the speed limit is 60, buddy!". Let the faster guy behind you pass. Don't force him to pass on the right. It's less safe to do so in left hand drive vehicles. If a driver comes up behind you in the left (fast) lane, don't be offended if he flashes his lights, as this is understood road etiquette to ask for you to move right. If they flash you, he or she is communicating. They understand there's no mind reading...
  • I see drivers get angry when merging drivers drive all the way up the merging lane to the very end, and then 'barge' their way in. Why is this? Probably the offended driver who is being 'intruded' upon merged into that lane far sooner than their offending counterpart, and has waited much longer to reach that merge area. (Thinking this is the right thing to do.) Usually, the reaction is to make it difficult for the driver who waited less time and drove to the end of the merging lane. This is just stupid. Why would traffic engineers design and construct a merging lane that wasn't intended to be used to the fullest? Do they allow an extra 500 feet that only assholes are supposed to use? People who block the merging lane trying to get in early and wait longer makes no sense at all, and it impedes traffic flow further. Use the whole merge lane. That's why it is there. Don't punish others for your stupidity.

Anyone have more 'tips' to add? I'd love to hear your 2 cents..

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I want to continue some of my thoughts from my last installment before I move on to new topics.

I am a libertarian. Any of my facebook friends would know this, as I am often wont to scream it from my soapbox. I am also a Libertarian. That capital letter distinguishes the political philosophy, which is very broad in it's definition, from the organized political party, which is much more narrowly defined. All Libertarians are libertarian, but not the other way around. For more info on the party, visit, or explore the Cato Institute, which is very much aligned with the party. The Libertarian Party fits me closer than any other of the non-major parties philosophically. I am, at least for now, encouraging you to explore your options to the donkeys and the elephants, be it us Libertarians, or any other. I may, and most likely will, encourage you to 'go to the light' and get behind the LP. For now- anyone but the 2 biggies!

I mentioned the 'throwing away your vote' argument posed by the keepers of the status quo. I've found a nice little analogy for this in one of my online groups-

Suppose for a moment you are a death row prisoner facing execution. It is known that you have a 46% chance of dying by lethal injection, a 49% chance of frying in the electric chair, and a 5% chance that you will escape unharmed. Would you choose one of the first two options, simply because one of those is the more likely outcome?

Also in my last post- I was a bit vague about the Republicans (especially concerning the W administration) and why people hate them enough to vote whatever Democrat the donkeys put in the race. Well, all I can tell you is what bothers ME about them..

First- and I'll just touch on this until I learn more, and as always opposing viewpoints are welcome and encouraged.
Bush gave $350,000,000,000 to the banks with the 'promise' that they'd lend it to the American people, American businesses, and each other. The Bush 'Stimulus'. Well, they didn't loan it, and we said, "Dang!". No oversight, no plan in place to ensure they acted as promised. The money's now gone, and WE are on the hook for it. The banks need more money now to survive, and they're gonna get it in the form of the newly created TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Similar to the Bush setup, but with much more oversight, restriction, and enforcement. If a bank takes the TARP money, well, essentially the federal government is now a business partner, and they'll 'make sure' the money flows into the economy. This is the 'Nationalization' of our banks (read: Socialism). I am against this whole thing, but, If powerless to stop it, I'm certainly glad it's being carefully watched. (How careful? Watched by whom? I'll give my thoughts on that either later in this post, or an upcoming one.)

Second- the whole foreign war/big 'defense' budget scenario typical of elephant regimes. $.30 of every tax dollar goes to our nation's defense budget. I am a proponent of a small peace-time military, and calling upon every able-bodied person to help defend America in times of war, when we are threatened, or attacked. This is how it was during the World Wars. World War II was already being waged without us. We didn't 'jump-in' to save anyone, we were attacked before we entered the 'Big One'. We had a small voluntary military in peacetime, and, as when we were attacked on 9/11, the patriots came out and we were united as a nation to fend off the scourge that picked the fight. This is the 'militia' the Founding Fathers described in the 2nd amendment to our constitution. Every citizen is a member of the militia. We ALL have an obligation to defend ourselves, and our non able-bodied fellow citizens; our country. I am pro-draft in wartime, because the American people are more apt to fight for a genuine cause, i.e. our own safety; the preservation of our freedoms, than any BS war the federal government wishes to engage in, if ALL of OUR sons and daughters were called up to fight. The Viet Nam War protests, the largest wartime protest in this country's history, abruptly ended when the draft did, not when the war ended. If all of us or someone close to us is called up to go fight a war, you can bet the protest will be much larger, unless Americans are comfortable with the cause we are fighting for. WWII- we were attacked. Americans decided we needed to do something about it. Not just Congress. All Americans. Viet Nam- different story. Americans were right to decide this war wasn't a cause worth fighting for, more specifically sending OUR sons and daughters to fight for. It's easier to send someone else to fight. But 'not ME!' Everyone was affected. Not just our 'troops'. Stopping the spread of Communism. As if Ho Chi Minh's next target for consumption was US, the U.S.A. No organized military in the world would DARE attempt an invasion of the U.S. Americans know this. Cowardly attack us, yes, but invasion, attempted takeover, no. Vietnam was a Bullshit war, and when they drafted Americans to fight it, widespread protest occurred, because "it might be me that goes next and I'm perfectly safe here at home. No one is attacking us here". Viet Nam War protests were much larger than the protests of the Iraqi War. That's because it's easier to send 'troops' overseas, than it is the rest of our sons and daughters. We do not need to interfere with other nations, friendly, rogue, or in-between. (Militarily that is- I'm a proponent of free world trade) Our meddling in foreign nations' own affairs is a big part of why we were attacked on 9/11. I believe that third of our tax dollars is better spent here at home, NOT keeping a military presence in 150 countries in the world, with bases numbering more than 1000.This only sounds radical in the sense that the feds have manufactured consent in America. How often is Switzerland threatened by terrorism? Are they under 'Orange Alert'? They have the same 'western' freedoms we do. I will expand on why and how we became a country in a constant state of war since WWII soon. Of course, it's mostly economic. A large, full time military was once a boon to the economy, and now we must keep it up for fear of real (and yes, painful) change. Anyone got a war that needs fighting? If not, we'll find one. Someone needs protecting, somewhere..
What do YOU think? I am interested in all viewpoints. That being said, let's get Bin Laden, try him, and get the f*** out of foreign countries.

Something I heard on the Dave Ramsey show on Fox Business channel (the first and only time I've seen his show) that I agree with wholeheartedly- What, other than our military, which is chock full of brave, dedicated great men and women, does the federal government run efficiently? I can't think of anything. This is who we want running our banks and major corporations? This is who we want to provide our health care? Oversee spending? Gimme a break.

In future posts: the IRS's extortion, endless expensive government regulation, and our President's timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq (excluding the 50000 that are staying.)

See y'all next time. Thanks for reading, commenting, and rollin' with me.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Lesser of Two Evils


Okay folks, here it is, my first blog. Sounds like a children's toy. My First Blog. But I digress. Something I imagine I will do often as this journal evolves.

This blog -MY blog- is intended from the outset (as in now) to be political in nature, but It will undoubtedly include discussions concerning any of my eclectic pile of interests. It will be full of MY opinion, MY rhetoric, and will fully conform to MY standards! It is, after all, MY blog. That being said, I welcome, or better still encourage your comments, corrections (on the non-subjective stuff like grammar, spelling and cold, hard facts) support, and arguments. I want this to be a learning experience for anyone reading- as well as myself. My opinion is subject to, and most likely will change as I become educated on all things political, economical, or otherwise. I consider myself at this moment relatively politically naive. Not as ignorant as some, and not as informed as the rest. As I grow through informal and 'paid' education, this will be a forum for me (and you) to share what I've (we've) learned, and how my opinion might have changed as a result. I will do my best to make this a daily blog, but it won't start out that way. Stay tuned for more 'episodes' as I post them. If you enjoy what you've read, please spread the word. With that- here we go!
Article I

Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Liberal or Conservative? A donkey? or an elephant? It's one or the other right? Isn't that how this great nation works? We're set apart by dictatorships and single ruler monarchies by that ONE SINGLE additional option right? We, as Americans, have the option of choosing 'the lesser of two evils'. We saw it in the last Presidential election. A record turnout of voters chose the Democratic candidate, Barack Hussein Obama, instead of John McCain, the Republican candidate. (In case you hadn't heard). This was caused, in no small part, by the previous administration's performance. America was in an 'anti-Republican' fervor like no other time in our history. Bush couldn't be voted out, but those pesky, rich, white, war-mongering Republicans could be! And they were. In both houses of Congress, and the Presidency. (no doubt in countless local level elections as well- don't know the stats). The Republicans were the greater of two evils. We, as a nation, didn't vote for the Democrats as much as we voted against the other guys. I'm pretty sure ANY democratic nominee could have won the Presidency. Pure speculation, yes, but that's the vibe I felt in the air when last November rolled around. So- now, the Democratic party has control of our government, and doesn't require bipartisanship to get bills passed. Hence, the WHOLLY UNREAD stimulus bill passed in days, and without support from the other major political party. In fact, it passed despite serious objections from the Republicans. Ours is a ONE PARTY GOVERNMENT. It's what the people of this country wanted. It's what they (we) chose. Does anyone think this is a good thing? I'd love to hear from you if you do! It will continue to happen- over and over. A vicious cycle. The lesser of TWO evils at any given point in time will be in the White House.

We all know the Bush 'disaster' of a Presidency. Corrupt, money-hungry, evil. Just some of the adjectives tossed around.

What about Democratic (former) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? Impeached unanimously by his state legislature. Same words could describe him. Or (soon-to-be-former) Senator Burriss, appointed by Blago? He stood up in front of the Senate (the Democrat controlled Senate, remember) and the nation, and said basically, (and under oath I might add) that he had not had any discussions with Blagojevich or his people concerning money. An Important question to answer considering what Blago was, in part, accused of. I'm a CLEAN guy appointed by a DIRTY one! Give me a chance! And the Democratic Senate leadership confirmed him. Welcome to the party, Sen. Burriss (D Ill.). That's a big seat to fill, Obama's. Especially for a guy who had lost his previous four election bids, as voted on by the people of Illinois. (clearly- the greater of the evils!) Oh- but WAIT! I did discuss 'fundraising' with his (Blago's) brother, and four or five staff members while petitioning for that coveted Senate seat. Does that count? My bad, I forgot to mention that. How about Tom Daschle's tax mess? Why hasn't Obama found enough people to fill his cabinet? The Democrats he has selected that haven't panned out, didn't make the cut due to some type of impropriety, (improper or unpaid tax filings) and the Republicans he has chosen in an effort to diversify his cabinet, aren't interested in supporting his policies that are anything BUT bipartisan.

These Democrats are members of the party that America chose as (say it with me) the lesser of two evils! How nice. We have choices that amount to 'Corrupt' and 'Somewhat Corrupt'. So when the Democrats screw things up for us, which WILL happen; maybe not in these four years or four months or 10 years or whatever, but according to history, inevitable, we'll hand the reins back over to the elephants, who, in good time, will again become the 'lesser'. Slowly we turn- the vicious cycle continues...

What can we, as Americans who love our country do to end this cycle of a back-and-forth struggle between two 'evils'?

We can vote independent of the two major parties! Yes we can! We can research, and embrace a 'third-party' that falls in line with what we, personally and individually, believe in. The term 'third-party' is a general term used to describe any party that is not symbolized by a donkey or an elephant. Just like the term 'third-world' is (was) used to describe any non-power country in the world. (Which, with the death of the U.S.S.R., no longer holds water as a descriptive, literal term) There are many third-parties to choose from, and like the ideologies they stand for, the ones that make the most sense to the most people survive and grow. (Like a true free market economy, but that's for another episode!) Sure, you'll hear from folks that you're throwing your vote away when you vote independent, but you won't hear it from those who actually vote for a third party candidate. It's the people happy with the status-quo who will attempt to discourage you from doing so. Our 'trusted' Republicans and Democrats. They'll tell you that voting independent saps votes from one of the two major parties, and will help the 'other guy' (their greater of the two evils) to win. Well, for now, they're right. Don't let that stop you. The more of us that vote independent, the quicker the status-quo will change. (REAL change, not a Democratic campaign slogan). If a party receives enough votes, enough of a percentage of the people, well then the 'Big Guys' take notice. Policy change will be implemented in an effort to win back your vote. The Federal Government provides matching funds needed in order to compete promotionally, and thus, survive and grow. How about choosing from the lesser of THREE evils? or TEN? Or better still, voting for who you believe to be the BEST person for the post? Throw out ALL the evils, and choose the right man or woman for the job? Sound good? at least better?

Some of the larger third parties are: the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Reform party, and many, many others. (more than you probably think- there's a party for just about any political combination of ideologies!)

You can begin your research with this:

Now- are you a Republican, Democrat, or an Individual who thinks for yourself?

I'll expand on these points and more in my next post.

Thanks for rollin with me-