Month: July 2015

The American Flag: The Sacredness of the Right

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of fireandreamitchell.com

In his book The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathn Haidt argues that sacredness – along with tradition, purity, and authority – is a morality that is often and highly practiced by Americans on the political right. This does not mean that Americans on the political left do not practice sacredness. They do; for example, they embrace and practice righteous indignation in conservation and environmental consciousness. However, sacredness in the form of patriotism, and sometimes righteous indignation of that patriotism, is emphasized in the practice and respect of the American flag by mostly the political right. Hence, banning or burning the American flag are examples of this disrespect, this desecration.

In recent news, Angie Hildebrandt, a property owner (of a condominium) and resident of Edina, Minnesota, was told by the Minnesota Condominium Association “to take her American flag down.” A mother of two young men, one serving in the United States Marine Corps. and the other in the United States Army, she refused to take down Old Glory by invoking the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which was signed into law on July 24, 2006 by President George W. Bush. In an interview with ABC 5 news in Minneapolis, she stated

It’s everyone’s right to fly this flag, including me.

But how is this event indicative of sacredness and conservatism? As Jonathan Haidt explains in his book

Sanctity…makes it easy for us to regard some things as ‘untouchable’…Why do people so readily treat objects (flags, crosses), places (Mecca, a battlefield related to the birth of your nation), people (saints, heroes), and principles (liberty, fraternity, equality) as though they were of infinite value? [T]he pyschology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities. When someone in a moral community desecrates one of the sacred pillars supporting the community, the reaction is sure to be swift, emotional, collective, and punitive.

As Haidt illustrates, the Minnesota Condominium Association’s attempt to remove Angie Hildebrandt’s American flag, even in a subtle and unprovocative manner, provoked adversarial rhetoric and condemnation and accusations of non patriotism. It even evoked support in the community. Morality binds the community and the MCA threatens to break these bonds. In the case of Mrs. Hildebrandt, the community responded to the threat with moral binding by support and organized action. Hence, the community hosted a supportive event on July 18th in Edina, Minnesota for Mrs. Hildebrandt. And that is not all.

Photo Courtesy of KSTP/Tyler
Photo Courtesy of KSTP/Tyler Berg – Angie Hilderbrandt’s American Flag

The story gained legs and support through local conservative blog outlets such as Mad World News and Liberty First News a couple of weeks ago. In addition, Jack Tomczak, the co-host of the morning show Up and At’ Em, which airs on TwinCities Talk AM 1130, a conservative talk format, has been promoting the GoFundMe campaign; and also this morning, Angie Hildebrandt was invited on Fox & Friends to share her story.

But banning the flag, or the perception of banning the flag, is only but one part of the sacredness of this issue. This morality also helps to explain why conservatives become distraught at the sight, not to mention the possibility of, walking on the American flag or worse, the burning of Old Glory.

No doubt the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by that of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson provoked understandable outrage by local residents. To those Ferguson residents, it was just another example of the perceived continuation of systemic oppression by the system itself that predated the dawn of the Republic. To them, It was just another example of a young black man being murdered by a white man in a position of authority. To those residents, it was just another example of the continuation of policies that continue to disenfranchise one group of Americans for the benefit of another group of Americans. After the death of Brown, the residents of Ferguson took to the streets.

In their righteous indignation, they practiced their first amendment right in the ceremony of ultimate civil discourse – they desecrated the American flag. They burnt the flag in protest of a perceived system of oppression. And because of such perceived systemic oppressions based off of their own observations and experiences, they took the symbol of American exceptionalism, deemed it defunct as a symbol of freedom, and burnt it to a crisp.

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of nowtheendbeings.com

As Austin Cline, an educator in agnosticism, atheism, and secular humanism and Regional Director for the Council for Secular Humanism and a former Publicity Coordinator for the Campus Freethought Alliance states,

Desecration is defined as violating the “sacredness” of something. Something is “sacred” when it is “holy” or worthy of worship, religious veneration.

To those protesters in the streets, the United States flag was no longer worthy of sacredness or respect. It was viewed a symbol of oppression. Needless to say, this desecration of the national ensign was met with righteous indignation of those of the conservative right. Recalling Haidt, the protesters in the eyes of conservatives were committing a great sin. The protesters were committing an act of immorality, which was perpetuating the destruction of the community. Was this concern connected to the current policies of policing in black neighborhoods? Probably not. But it was a concern for how Americans were supposed to act during civil discourse and the desecration of the flag was not one of them. Not only was the act met with condemnation from conservatives and those in the conservative media outlets, but the “communist” association was evoked. As Top Right News reported on November 30, 2014,

[The protesters] displayed Marxist flags, and shouted ‘the only solution is a Communist revolution!’…And then they did a truly vial act: they burned an American flag and taunted the troops while doing it.

Although the addition of the “Red Scare” is nothing new in the United States, which derives from the middle part of the 20th century and has been used to devalue other prominent civil rights movements, it adds another level of desecration and disgust in the eyes of those who perceive the national ensign to be a symbol of sanctity, sacredness, and morality, and those Americans are mostly conservative. If a person, or group of people, burns the American flag, he is a communist. Communism is antithetical to the perceived view of American sacredness and the American flag is its symbol, and it is the symbol of freedom and liberty. This is why the conservative news feeds ignite when an organization is attempting to ban a flag by direct or indirect means, or when a group of Americans are practicing their first amendment rights in the act of desecrating the American flag. Chances are liberal news feeds will not light up in the case of a flag banning or in the case of a flag burning. A quick Google search will illustrate this fact.

It should be recognized that some Americans on the political left can also be patriotic. They can also emphazise and practice sacredness beyond environmental issues. They can value and respect the American flag and what it stands for in the traditional view of American exceptionalism. To state otherwise would be incorrect and inaccurate. It would be a blanket statement, an absolute position. This recognition of the national ensign would be an example of liberals and progressives practicing a conservative morality. But it should also be recognized that just as “liberals” can value the sacredness of the flag, conservatives can devalue and disrespect the flag; for example, veteran Michelle Manhart and her desecration of the flag during her spread in Playboy.

Photo Courtesy of Playboy - Veteran Michelle Manhart
Photo Courtesy of Playboy – Veteran Michelle Manhart

In April of 2015, Mrs. Manhart interupted a flag desecration protest at Valdosta State Univeristy, in Georgia, by students protesting police brutality against American men, women, and children of African descent. During the course of the altercation, she attempted to take the flag away. But after the scuffle and as soon as the event went viral, it was quickly discovered that she posed for Playboy in 2007 (See photo).

In the aftermath, many conservative media outlets neglected to point out the hypocrisy in Mrs. Manhart’s actions. That was left to the liberal media outlets. They took full advantage of the mishap and hypocrisy.

Sacredness is not always perfect and neither is morality. The Playboy spread (which includes a video of the altercation) by Michelle Manhart is a perfect example of conservative hypocrisy. Although the photo is visually appealing (Who am I kidding! Wow!) it breaks conservative morality across the board: sacredness, tradition, authority, and purity. There is nothing pure about that pose. The flag is desecrated by the very fact that it touches the ground (deck for you marines and sailors) and the act is devoid of respect of tradition and authority. This is indeed not an act of porn. It is an attempt to illustrate art. But in its attempt to respect combined with artistic intent, it desecrates and sacredness is lost.

Make no mistake, the very recognition and respect of the national ensign is a conservative moral and they practice this morality in greater percentages and at higher rates than liberals. But it should be noted that liberals do practice this morality but at lesser statistical values.

For good or for bad, this is the reality of the moralities; this is the reality of the current environment of American politics and those who participate in the political process. Yes, it seems black and white, but that is the reality of modern American civil discourse.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

 

 

Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Book Review: Race Matters by Cornel West

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com
Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

By Matt Johnson

It is important to understand that the construct of race in the United States is special. It is special because it has been dynamically constructed through economic, political, and social means since the first African slaves arrived in the colonies in the early 17th century. Race is not static. Racism

…the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

did not all of sudden end with the civil rights acts of the 1960’s after more than 300 years of practice. Race is a dynamical process and its nefarious and subtle effects compound and ripple through time and space and into the future.

Race emerged in the American context and has evolved by slave laws in the 17th century; the Constitution of the United States in the 18th century by way of the Three-Fifths Compromise; the black codes of the northern states in the early 19th century; Jim Crow and legalized segregation throughout the latter part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century; redlining policies in cities like Detroit and Atlanta; and the continued psychological effects from generation to generation throughout these previously stated examples of practiced partitioning here in the United States. Yes indeed, race is real in the sense that many Americans do experience it and race does matter.

In the book Race Matters, professor of philosophy Cornel West argues that race is real; that is, it is not biological, rather it is a sociopolitical construct. He also argues that race has and still does play an intricate role in the lives of blacks, whites, and United States citizens in general and what prevents Americans from viewing the effects of racism in totality are the narrow political views of liberals and conservatives. Hence, this theme of lack of breadth and width by both liberals and conservatives is intertwined throughout the eight chapters in the book, explicitely and implicitely.

This narrowness is important because Professor West utilizes this rhetorical tool to critique both sides. In fact, he not only critiques liberals and conservatives, but he also critiques the smothering rhetoric between the two sides. He critiques the lack of leadership for those Americans partitioned into black communities by way of Jim Crow and redlining laws; he critiques conservatives such as Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele; he critiques American sexuality (he believes American sexuality is immature and dogmatic); and he critiques Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. He also discusses the very meaning of what it means to be black in the United States and the experiences that come with this visual label. Ultimately, he argues that “blackness is a political and ethical construct.”

Indeed this constructive criticism is a welcome change compared to the usual political rhetoric of isolated bubbles of today’s political discourse. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find intellectuals and leaders from either side of the political spectrum who will critique their own respective positions and teams. Nowadays it is a lot of “us versus them” language mixed with and highlighted by hyperbole followed by a lot more patting on the back for a job well done.

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of JPupdates.com

Professor West codifies the two sides. Thus, there are two distinguishing arguments for a repair of the plight of black Americans. First, there are the “liberal structuralists.” They argue for

…full employment, health, education, and childcare programs, and broad affirmative action practices.

This is still true today. And second, there are the “conservative behaviorists.” They argue for

…self-help programs, black business expansion, and non-preferential job practices. They [also] support vigorous ‘free market’ strategies that depend on fundamental changes in how black people act and live…a cultural revival of the Protestant ethic in black America.

Although Dr. West is not making a systems argument; that is, a recognition of whites and blacks as the elements in the system, the interactions between the two groups, and the purpose of the system, he is definitely making the argument that one perspective cannot exist without the other, which is, even if unintentionally, a way of thinking about a system. As Professor West explains

…structures and behavior are inseparable, that institutions and values go hand in hand. How people act and live are shaped – though in no way dictated or determined – by the larger circumstances in which they find themselves. These circumstances can be changed, their limits attenuated, by positive actions to elevate living conditions.

Professor West seems to have a strong intuition for systems thinking. He understands that their is legitimacy to the structural argument and perceptions from the left but that there is also legitimacy to the behavioral argument and perceptions from the right. But what is unfortunate is the fact that he does not expand on the interactions and relationships between these two often perceived as dichotomous propositions. And this is a shame because he is a trained philosopher and he has the chops to present such a model. But challenging Professor West on this point is not a wasted practice.

Photo Courtesy of thegrio.com - Dr Cornel West being arrested in Ferguson, Missouri
Photo Courtesy of thegrio.com – Dr Cornel West arrested in Ferguson, Missouri

For example, if these two concepts are to coexist, what would that existence look like to Dr. West? In other words, what does his philosophical model look like? He argues that his nihilistic approach is not meant to be philosophical, but if it is not philosophical, then what is the starting point? Scientific arguments derive from philosophical arguments. This is true in the history of science and philosophy.

No doubt, as he states, people experience “horrifying meaningless, hopelessness, and…lovelessness” but in order to create and test possible systems hypotheses for the dichotomous experiences between black and white Americans in this country, a potential model must be explored. Only then would credible and productive policies be able to address the experiential dichotomy between the groups and only then would the credible and productive policies be attainable and applicable. This is the greatest failure of this book.

The always fascinating thing about reviewing a book is, first, reading the authors words, absorbing them, and then agreeing or disagreeing on the philosophies and positions. Hence, if a book is well written and presents plenty of new, interesting, and provocative ideas, a reviewer can write more than one review. This is certainly the case for this book.

Second, and to reiterate, this writer appreciates the critique of the positions of those on the left from a self proclaimed “leftist.” This is definitely the strength of this book. However, the author and reader must remember that it is easy for a Fox or Newsmax commentator to criticize the left and their positions; it is easy for the National Review and Townhall to criticize the left and their positions; it is easy for Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, and other conservative writers to criticize the left and their positions; but it is quite another for someone on the left to criticize the left. Introspection takes courage and leadership. The question now becomes how the left will take that criticism.

 

Matt Johnson is an economics and science writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

 

 

Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Urban Dynamics and the Planet Earth

Photo Courtesy of Bloomberg.com - Portland, Oregon
Photo Courtesy of Bloomberg.com – Portland, Oregon

How will the Earth “look in 2030 and beyond?” How will urbanization “change the face of the planet and the biodiversity that is an essential part of it?”

As the narrator, Edward Norton, will explain, urban environments are “hubs” of creativity and innovation. But more than that, they are centers of inginuity and productivity. They are also where great philosophical and scientific discoveries emerge over coffee and cake, or beer in the case of the great physicist Richard Feynman. But this is not just hopeful rhetoric. Edward Glaeser, the premier urban economist in the United States, illustrates this very point in his book Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. As Glaeser explains, cities are centers of intellectual growth and intellectual exchange.

Intellectual growth increases due to the sheer number of interactions between academics and thinkers, industry professionals and workers, merchants and traders, and government officials and participatory citizens. Because of the interactions between the respective practitioners, intellectual capital increases, creativity and innovation emerges, and thus more interested and willing participants are attracted to the urban environment over time, which perpetuates a productive feedback loop for the system. In the long run, this in turn has a positive impact on the economy, health, and happiness of the residents; that is, the stability of the urban environment and the upward mobility of its citizens. But this is not the only benefit. There are many more.

There is an environmental argument to be made; that is, an argument about sustainability, and as the narrator exclaims, cities can lead the way. There is an educational argument to be made. Cities with great universities are richer in both intellectual and market capital. And there is a moral argument to be made – a morality for the common good and nature and its inhabitants rather than the few or the one. However, do United States citizens have the moral fortitude to take responsibility for their actions along with the vision and leadership to create a safe and healthy world for their children and their children’s children? Cities are the future of humanity if level heads prevail and systems scientists have the courage to push the necessary policies. But the question remains, how do leaders make them work for the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of the species?

 

 

2016 Presidential Race: Rand Paul with Chris Matthews

Prelude

Photo courtesy of the United States Senate
Photo courtesy of the United States Senate – Senator Rand Paul, Republican Party Candidate

How would Rand Paul, as president of the United States, deal with the hawks in Washington, D.C.? How would he deal with ISIS and American interests such as diplomatic outposts abroad? Is Benghazi still worth discussing? Are there important lessons to be learned? What about a comparison between 911 and Benghazi? As Chris Matthews proposes,

You know we lost four people, good people, over there in Benghazi, ah, so somebody left the door open you could say and yet we lost 3,000 Americans in 2001…but you don’t hear the democrats spending the last, ah, fourteen years talking about it, do ya? What’s the difference?

Dr. Paul has a different take than the usual run of the mill republican. What about American intervention in the middle east? The United States, according to Dr. Paul, ought to think about American intervention in a different way. For example, what should and should not be the responsibilities of the United States and what should be the responsibilities of a country in the middle east like that of Turkey? Should the Kurds be involved?  Should there be a Kurdish state? How should the Sunnis be involved in middle east diplomacy and policy? Should the Sunnis take the lead in western and northwestern Iraq, and Syria, while the United States and the Shiites take a back seat? Where does Senator Paul reside on biological evolution? The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, correct? Where does Senator Paul reside on social justice? You may be surprised by Dr. Paul’s answers on evolution and other subjects.

Rand Paul

Photo Courtesy of Alexander Bolton of The Hill
Photo Courtesy of Alexander Bolton of The Hill – Senator Paul engaging voters in Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Rand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky. He is also the son of former congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Born out of the 2010 Tea Party movement, Dr. Paul has become an active and outspoken member in the political arena. He considers himself a constitutional conservative and libertarian. And unlike other republican candidates running for the republican nomination, he is considered, by some political observers, to be thoughtful and considerate of other people and their plight. He is considered by some on both the right and left to be an intellectual. As a medical doctor of ophthalmology, he has a background in math and science. He is also a man of faith.

Introducing, Dr. Rand Paul.

The Interview

 

Final Thoughts

Photo Courtesy of randpaul.com - Rand and Kelley Paul
Photo Courtesy of randpaul.com – Rand and Kelley Paul

Agree or disagree with Dr. Rand Paul, he is willing to reach out to and engage with people and locations that many republicans are just not interested in reaching out to or engaging. Of course, Senator Paul argues that Democrats are not willing to reach out to or engage disenfranchised groups as well. Recall his words from the interview,

I was in the south side of Chicago yesterday, campaigning…saying that I’ve got something to offer for poverty; I’ve got something to offer for your crummy schools; and I’ve got something to offer for the fact that both republicans and democrats have taken a generation of young black men and put them in jail. And I think it’s wrong and we’ve gone way to far.

Dr. Paul continues,

…people are taking notice of me coming there..not only do republicans not go there, typically, democrats don’t either…[those people] still live in poverty and nothing gets better.

It is difficult for some people to see or admit to, especially those of a liberal persuasion, that Senator Rand Paul is being honest and truthful in his words and actions. Perhaps he is not just spewing rhetoric, but in fact he does care. Perhaps he is the real deal. He is as Daniel Goleman argues illustrating emotional intelligence; that is, empathizing and considering the situation of others.

He is indeed being honest about doing something about lifting people up and increasing upward mobility. His actions illustrate as much. Besides visiting Chicago, he has engaged voters in Atlanta, Ferguson, and Detroit. He talks the talk and walks the walk. In 2014, Senator Cory Booker, democrat from New Jersey, co-sponsored a bill with Senator Paul called the Redeem Act that was introduced to the 113th Congress. In 2015, Senator Paul and Senator Booker re-introduced the legislation to the 114th Congress. The bill currently resides in the Committee on the Judiciary for further review.

One final thought, Dr. Paul acknowledges human evolution. Not only that, he acknowledges and recognizes the age of the Earth, and the universe, with no problems; hence, he did not hesitate when confronted with the subject in his interview with Chris Matthews. As a policy concern for science education and research and development, this is an important component to consider. One counter argument would be his libertarian position on reducing spending and non-governmental intervention, which may include scientific research and development. But that question would need to be proposed to the senator. Would Senator Paul consider increasing spending in science education and research and development? As a follow up question, would Senator Paul consider science to be a public good? Would he consider science to be a benefit for the public good? As president, would he be willing to invest in science education? As president, would he be willing to invest in scientific research and development?

 

The Enlightenment Dichotomy: African Stereotypes Courtesy of Hollywood

Hollywood is just the most recent example of cultural ignorance in how many United States citizens view the African continent and its people. This perspective goes back more than 400 years to before enlightenment in Europe. Enlightenment perpetuated and expanded this ignorance. This is called the Enlightenment Dichotomy. This term is related to the term “Dark Continent.” That is, Africa is a primitive land with primitive people who have no perceivable civilization. Therefore, the African land and its people deserve no dignity or respect because they are savages and thus can be exploited at will. Of course, the first part of this definition is not true. Africans are not savages. They are no more savages than Americans or Europeans. However, the second part is true; that is, the African people were exploited for their bodies, land, and resources.

It is important to recognize that Africa was civilized before the emergence of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the subsequent colonial imperialism by the European empires. Darlene Clark Hine Et al. discuss this in their book The African-American Odyssey, Volume 1 (6th Edition) and Olaudah Equiano discusses this through his boyhood experiences as the son of a local statesman before his abduction and sale into slavery (See the Readings page for the links). This fact is not salient in today’s general consciousness of contemporary America, nor was it salient in America’s past consciousness. As Jonathan Zimmerman explains and compares the aptitude of American perceptions of Africa through animated movies like The Lion King and Madagascar in his article Americans Think Africa Is One Big Wild Animal Reserve,

For Americans, the Africa-as-animals idea goes back to Theodore Roosevelt’s reports on his safari in 1909-1910, shortly after Roosevelt left the White House. In serialized magazine articles, Roosevelt thrilled American readers with tales of pursuing big game in a vast, “uncivilized” land.

It goes back further than Theodore Roosevelt. The Enlightenment Dichotomy helped perpetuate the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the United States was a part of that trade for almost 50 years until British parliament abolished the industry and the British Navy enforced the policy. The cognition of savagery helped solidify slavery in the United States for nearly 90 years. Cultural continuity does not just disappear over night because of policies like the 13th and 14th amendments, nor does cultural perception of slaves end with the Union victory over the Confederacy. No doubt, Zimmerman is correct. President Roosevelt’s tales helped maintain the African stereotypes through the early part of the 20th century. But incorrect perceptions of Africa have existed in some form or another for a very long time.

What will be viewed in this video are not animals from The Lion King or Madagascar, but rather how African men are portrayed in American cinema. The “Dark Continent” still exists in the minds of many Americans. The budgets allocated to make these movies and the ticket sales accumulated from these movies are a testament to this very idea.

 

2016 Presidential Race: Bernie Sanders with Katie Couric

Prelude

Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate
Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate

Mr. Bernie Sanders is the junior senator from Vermont. He assumed his current senator position in January of 2007 and before that he represented Vermont as a U.S. representative for 16 years. But well before he took office, his political and social positions and values were being influenced and molded by the American civil rights movement. At the young age of 22, Mr. Sanders was one of the 200,000 participants in the March on Washington more than 50 years ago. He was there for the “I have a Dream” speech by the great American leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And since then, Mr. Sanders has been an advocate for the social well being of Americans, especially those under represented and disenfranchised Americans. And yes, it is true. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. More on this later. But it should be recognized that he follows in the foot steps of some of the greatest and most influential American leaders in this respect. As Peter Dreier states in his Huffington Post blog,

Sanders’s views are in sync with a longstanding American socialist tradition. Throughout our history, some of the nation’s most influential activists and thinkers, such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, and Gloria Steinem, embraced socialism.

Bernie Sanders

No doubt Bernie Sanders has been making some waves in the political arena, recently. As Yahoo Global News Anchor, and veteran journalist, Katie Couric pointed out to Bernie Sanders at the beginning of the interview,

You were polling at 8 percent, I think, in April and now you’re up to 15 percent. Which is pretty, you know, a big jump. And I think a lot of people are pretty surprised about it.

Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate
Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate – Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party Candidate

That is not far from the truth. In a recent CNN publication, Mr. Sanders back in February stood at 6 percent among “likely Democratic primary voters.” His support has more than doubled to 13 percent of “likely Democratic voters” over the course of the past couple of months. Of course, he still has a ways to go. Mrs. Clinton is the heavy favorite and front runner by quite a bit. However, Mr. Sanders is not to be taken lightly and his rhetoric resonates with many voters. In his usual forthright and respectable manner, he responds to Katie Couric’s statement,

Well, they may be [surprised], I am not. Because people understand, Katie, that there is something fundamentally wrong when for the last 40 years [the] middle class in this country has been disappearing…We’re working longer hours for lower wages. In my state of Vermont, honestly it is not uncommon for people to be working two or three jobs to cobble together some income and some health care. Young people can’t afford to go to college anymore…

A loyal supporter of Mr. Sanders should not be surprised by this statement. They are well aware of his positions, and he is consistent on those positions. But if one is not familiar with Mr. Sanders, know this, he is a socialist. He does not hide that fact. In terms of politics, he is closer to the Social Democrats of the Swedish Riksdag than he is to the democratic party of the United States; thus, he resides as an independent in the books. Because of his political positions, he has no choice but to caucus with the democratic party. This is because he sits very far left of the democratic party and there are only two parties that caucus in the United States congress – the republicans and the democrats. Of course his European style of socialism makes this follow up quote all the more salient and relevant in American democratic politics,

…you want to run for president for the United States, well you better get some billionaires behind you. And if you don’t have billionaires, it’s pretty hard to run.

So where does Senator Sanders reside on some of the current and relevant domestic and foreign policy issues? Is he against the re-authorization of the Patriot Act? Perhaps he aligns closer to Rand Paul than Hillary Clinton on this issue? Does he want to break up the “too big to fail” banks? Where does Senator Sanders stand on Super PACs or campaign finance? Where does he stand on income inequality? What about ISIS? What about the recent tragedies in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore (Note, this interview took place before Charleston)? What does Senator Sanders think about the dynamics between the police and the community and what does he think should be done about it?

Introducing, Mr. Bernie Sanders.

The Interview

 

Final Thoughts

Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate
Photo Courtesy of the United States Senate – Senator Sanders with wife Jane and U.S. Representative John Lewis – Selma March 50th Anniversary

Bernie Sanders offers something a bit different than the norm for American political discourse and agenda setting. He admits that he and Rand Paul have the same concerns when it comes to privacy issues

…I worry, really worry, that we are moving toward an Orwellian form of society.

Another thing to consider is what Mr. Dreier proposes in his blog, Is Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialism as American as American pie? Socialism tends to be viewed as a dirty word in the United States. Senator Lindsey Graham calls Senator Sanders crazy. He likes Sanders, but he still thinks he is crazy nonetheless. Maybe this is true?

Consider this, Bernie Sanders unapologetically explains to Katie Couric that he is indeed a “Democratic Socialist.” He looks to the Scandinavian countries as examples of economic stability and vitality. In his point of view, those governments do a lot better job of taking care of their citizens. Is a government taking care of its people crazy? Perhaps. Is Bernie Sanders crazy? Perhaps. He does tell Katie he is a bit. But most importantly, are Americans crazy? Definitely.

 

 

 

 

2016 Presidential Race: Interview Series

Over the next few months, the personality of the 2016 presidential campaign will emerge and come into focus as the various sides solidify their respective candidates and positions. And as usual, most of the conversation will center around the republican and democratic candidates and their opposing narratives in regards to the future direction of the United States.

However, it should be noted that there are other candidates running for president of the United States from other parties as well. Right now, there are more than two dozen declared candidates for the coveted title of “Leader of the free world” and that list is increasing by a couple candidates each week. Urban Dynamics will not post interviews for each and every candidate running for the executive office, but rather will focus on breadth; that is, width and diversity. A good mix of democrats, republicans, independents, libertarians, and other potential candidates ought to provide the reader with a deep class of prospects and their respective positions to help facilitate a well thought out and critical analysis of who may be the best candidate to vote for in the respective party primaries and the eventual national election. Or perhaps the reader is just curious?

Photo Courtesy of gettyimages.com
Photo Courtesy of gettyimages.com – Jill Stein, Green Party Candidate

Candidates like Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham of the republican party, and Martin O’Malley of the democratic party will be a few of the candidates that will be provided an opportunity to present their respective arguments and vision for the future of the United States on this site. Recall that Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested for attempting to enter the presidential debate at Hofstra University back in 2012. They were protesting the exclusion of third party candidates from major presidential debates between the national parties, which is decided and enforced by the Commission on Presidential Debates. There will be no exclusion of third party candidates here on this site.

Bernie Sanders, an independent who is running as a democrat and one of the two major socialists running for the presidency of the United States, will also be given an outlet. His positions, as it will be explained in future postings, are closer to the socialism of Scandinavia than it is to the average democrat. To be sure, his arguments and vision of America’s future are not in line with the vast majority of American politicians. He is not in the mainstream of American political rhetoric but he is attracting party, and national, attention from many “likely Democratic primary voters” nonetheless. This will be further explored in his first interview with Katie Couric, Yahoo Global News Anchor.

Photo Courtesy of Brian Snyder/Reuters
Photo Courtesy of Brian Snyder/Reuters – Mike Huckabee, Republican Party Candidate

Finally, borderline dominionists, i.e., Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson will also be given an opportunity to share their respective political perspectives and potential visions for America’s future. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, is a staunched conservative republican. No doubt about that. Faith is a big part of who he is and how he sees the world. And for good or for bad, this influences his policies greatly. But agree or disagree with him, he is consistent in his positions. Before the recent Supreme Court 5 to 4 decision to legalize same-sex marriage nation wide, Mr. Huckabee believed that traditional marriage was between one man and one woman. After the decision, Mr. Huckabee still believes traditional marriage is still between one man and one woman. However, former Governor Huckabee civil rights positions are neither simple nor straight forward. As Van Jones, progressive activist, illustrated while complimenting and criticizing Mike Huckabee during a recent discussion about the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper,

My heart was broken, frankly, to hear Huckabee, who I admire, I’m a southerner. People forget Mike Huckabee put more African-Americans in high position in office as governor than Bill Clinton did. Mike Huckabee is someone who is a revered person, but when he comes out and makes the kinds of statements [against same-sex marriage] that he sometimes is making, it makes him look like someone who doesn’t care. I know that he cares.

Photo Courtesy of United States Senate
Photo Courtesy of United States Senate – Senator Ted Cruz, Republican Party Candidate

No doubt it is going to be a long and arduous campaign. More candidates will be jumping into the race over the next couple of months and many candidates will be dropping out of the race over the next year. As an example, same-sex marriage will be “front and center” for Ted Cruz and his campaign even though the majority of Americans agree with same-sex marriage and even though, and most importantly, the Supreme Court just handed the republicans a political gift in its decision to approve same-sex marriage nation wide. This is because republicans do not need to answer if they are for or against same-sex marriage. It is a done deal. The policy is now a part of American law.

Despite Ted Cruz’s Moby Dick strategy for same-sex marriage, the vast majority of the candidates, along with most of the republican candidates, will be looking to engage and inspire as many primary voters as possible and as many national voters as possible. They will be presenting their ideas, positions, and vision for the future of the United States in hopes of connecting with the voters. All of this will give the reader, potential voters and curious observers, a lot to chew on and digest.