Thursday, March 31, 2016

I’m Right! You’re Wrong! End of Story? – Part I

I’ve officially begun researching for my latest up-and-coming novel, Maiden America III – a.k.a. Proving America – which takes place during the War of 1812.

Last month, I ordered a whole stack of books from Amazon.com instead of buying something that could have combatted my insomnia. (In my defense, I knew the non-fiction would be a worthwhile investment. The wedge pillow was a lot less certain.) And the first one I’ve opened is Nicole Eustace’s 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism.

So far, it’s fascinating for so many reasons, some good, some not so much.

For example, it didn’t take me long to get a not-so-impressed-with-America vibe from Eustace. Which I suppose isn’t surprising since she’s an associate history professor at NYU. I mean, it is the trendy thing among academic circles to rebuke the U.S., if not the larger Western World.

Since I’m neither trendy nor part of academia, I often take the opposite view. Yet I had every intention of writing in Eustace’s favor today over what I felt was a particularly well-made point.

It was a comparison between the detached, romantic imagery of military engagements that most Americans were exposed to about the war, and the alleged idiocy at the Civil War’s Battle of Bull Run, where picnic-packing citizens were surprised when the battle ruined their appetites.

However, when I went to do the simplest of fact-checks to make sure I wasn’t messing anything up, I came across a page at at www.CivilWar.org, which shows a whole different side to that legendary story.

Overall, I’ve never been very interested in the era, but I have heard of Bull Run. And I always looked down my nose at the locals, imagining belles in hoop skirts nibbling on petit fours and chatting merrily with their neighbors before the bloodbath.

As it turns out though, I – and Eustace – might have been very wrong there, considering what Manassas National Battlefield Museum specialist Jim Burgess claims, saying that the spectators were almost all men, were situated five miles from the fighting, and had brought food with them because it was the practical thing to do, not because it was the equivalent of popcorn at a show.

Talk about an opposite view!

If that’s true, then Eustace’s allegations of over-the-top militaristic propaganda during the War of 1812 isn’t looking so strong. And I’ll admit I’m taken down a few pegs too.

Which, honestly, probably serves both of us right. It rarely pays to be so cocksure of an opinion.
P.S.
Conservatives, are you happy that a liberal got told off? Well, so am I… but don’t think you’re off the hook either, as “I’m Right! You’re Wrong! End of Story? – Part II” will show tomorrow. It’s about time we all began using our brains and our manners together.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are People Basically Good or Basically Bad?

As a creative writer and writing coach, I’m the first person to acknowledge that writers deal with deep philosophical questions every time they push a plot or grow a character. Across genres, it’s difficult to start a story and impossible to complete one without touching on issues like:
  • Does life have value?
  • What’s love got to do with it?
  • Are people basically good or basically bad?
I know one creative writer – let’s call her Kay – who has a definite stance on that last question. She firmly believes people are naturally self-focused and have to work hard at being otherwise. And her manuscripts reflect that philosophy.

Considering Kay’s life experiences, I can’t argue. Knowing what she’s gone through, I’d love to confront the people in her life and ask them a few deep philosophical questions, such as:

  • Have you heard the words that come out of your mouth?
  • Can you take five minutes to focus on someone else’s well being? And not because you want to keep them happy enough to stay with you. Just because they’re human.
  • How would you feel if someone else treated you how you’re treating others?

The people Kay interacts with aren’t axe-murderers. They’re not rapists. They’re not extortionists. They’re everyday men and women, friends and colleagues, who – if asked – would doubtlessly consider themselves decent. Yet their everyday choices indicate otherwise.

They expose that they’re in it for themselves. Which is basically bad.

Thinking about it though, it seems impossible to write a captivating novel that espouses the idea that people are basically good. At least I know my stories wouldn’t hold.

Without fail, they’re about protagonists – 1st century Jewish misses and Roman soldiers, 18th century American patriots, 21st century kidnap victims, and fantasy creatures from different Earths – struggling with not being self-focused against antagonists – fearful parents and hateful husbands, snooty British soldiers, evil government employees, and agenda-driven organizations – who are making the continuous choice to be self-focused.

My heroes and heroines are flawed. They’re human (even the non-human ones), sometimes giving in to hatred, bigotry, the urge to go with the flow and a litany of other selfish tendencies.

In other words, they’re realistic. Because human nature is flawed, always tempted toward the wrong despite knowing what’s right.

That’s precisely why big government – the kind that President  Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and too many Republicans out there espouse – can’t work.

Our flawed human nature can be tough enough to control under limited circumstances, much less situations where we have a whole lot of power over our fellow people… as our bloated political establishment does now.

No matter what promises of equality and service those legislators make – no matter how much they believe themselves when they say the words – don’t trust them to follow through. Human beings aren’t trustworthy unless they’re held accountable. And it's near-impossible to hold them accountable when they have the kind of power our politicians are asking for.

It doesn’t take a creative writer to realize that. It just takes life.

Might as Well Vote for Trump; They Hate Us Anyway

So Donald Trump won more states last night. Shocker, I know.

It looks like he’s going to win the primary and quite possibly the entire election, in which case, liberals are going to call us every mean name in the book.

Which means nothing’s going to change.

I’ve spent the primaries so far seeing my liberal Facebook friends’ comments online and hearing my liberal coworkers’ comments in the office. Judging by those alone, not to mention the news and Hollywood and politicians for the past decade, I’m 100% confident in saying that:

If you call yourself a conservative, liberals hate you.

For that matter, if you’re part of the GOP, they hate you. You can be the most liberal Republican ever, but if you have that R on your voter card – practically a swastika, really – they hate you.

Why? Because you believe women should be held responsible for the life they conceive. And that’s sexist.

Because you believe men should provide for their families instead of throwing them off on the government. And that’s racist.

Because you believe poor people need less handouts and more opportunities. And that’s classist.

And because you believe America should be safe for law-abiding Americans. And that’s nationalistic.

I mean… how dare you, you jerks!

After Chief Justice Antonin Scalia – who believed all the above – died, you may have seen some of the hateful comments that made their rounds on liberal walls, including:

·         Justice Scalia is dead. It's about time Westboro Baptist Church got to attend a funeral for real.
·         Antonin #Scalia requested cremation in his will, but millions of women will meet tomorrow to discuss if that’s really best for his body.
·         There’s a special place in HELL for people like Scalia.

A man died. A family lost a loved one. And liberals react by dancing on his not-even-dug-yet grave, making jokes and wishing him subjected to eternal horror.

So if you’re worried about them hating you if Donald Trump wins, don’t bother.


They already do.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Young Black Man Attacked by Police Officers in Baltimore City Again!

It’s happened again! A young black man was assaulted by police officers in Baltimore City!

And this time, it happened at school.

The news broke two whole days ago, yet there haven’t been any protests organized. There aren’t any riots with people demanding justice. And Black Lives Matters is nowhere in sight.

So where is the outrage?

Apparently, there’s some relegated to the Baltimore City mayor’s office, where Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is “appalled”… just not enough to give citizens permission to run amok in the streets, as she did in the case of Freddie Gray.

That’s probably because the police officers in question are black.

I mean, yes, two of them were black in the Freddie Gray case too, but nobody knew that in the beginning. And by the time that news broke, it was too late to stop the protests and the riots and Black Lives Matters from making idiots of themselves.

This time, everyone knew not to turn it into an unnecessarily national ordeal. It was black-on-black violence.

And we all know that black lives don’t matter unless a white person is hurting them.

(That's extreme sarcasm, by the way, people. It's intended to make you think. Just in case you're too liberal to figure that out.)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Rich and Powerful Always Find a Way to Keep Their Money

Ever since throwing his hat into the presidential ring, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has taken the spotlight. And, like my 24-year-old brother might say… he’s owned it.

Time and time again, the self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” has sent Hillary Clinton scrambling to stay out of his larger-than-life shadow.

Promising to make the rich pay for a whole host of to-be nationalized services, Sanders has especially captured the attention of American voters in the 18-35 age range. To some degree, that’s understandable since the demographic finds itself up against a “competitive” jobs market combined with hefty student loan debt.

Then there’s the attention on wage inequality that’s dominated the news off and on so far this decade, whether through the Occupy Wall Street movement a few years back or today’s political rhetoric. So everyone knows the rich have been growing richer and the poor just keep struggling.

Put together, it’s not hard to understand Sander’s appeal. I mean, who doesn’t want a helping hand in a difficult environment?

But as genuine as Sanders seems to be in promising that assistance, he’s destined to fail when the game is rigged the way it is.

Taxation With Representation... but No Positive Results

According to the Tax Policy Center co-run by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, Sanders’ plan would involve raising taxes on everyone, with the infamous 1% forking over about 45% of every paycheck to the government to help the 99% out.

That’s in theory, anyway. Chances are astronomically high reality wouldn’t be nearly so nice.

Consider a USA Today piece published this month titled “27 Giant Profitable Companies Paid No Tax.” The article details how big businesses like General Motors (NYSE: GM) and United Continental (NYSE: UAL) made pre-tax profits yet paid no interest tax last year.

That was all through perfectly legal means, too, whether overseas tax rates, accounting rules or other outs. The article goes on to argue those loopholes won’t last forever, but that doesn’t matter much when new loopholes will arise to take their place.

If I sound cynical, forgive me. But that doesn’t make me wrong.

According to U.S. News, the U.S. federal tax code was 400 pages in 1913 and about 70,000 by 2010. Many - if not all - of those additions were placed there with the purported purpose of decreasing income inequality.

Yet most - if not all - have failed epically.

Loopholes Galore!

In large part, that failure is because there are just too many taxes. Well-meaning or not – and I would argue most of them are not – politicians on both sides of the aisle don’t have the time, ability or inclination to keep the current who-owes-what laws straight, tacking on new ones without understanding what’s already there.

But do you know who does keep them straight? The tax experts hired by wealthy corporations and individuals. These intelligent, knowledgeable, resourceful individuals make their livelihoods off of legally working the system to their clients’ benefit.

Adding even more laws isn’t going to phase them. (After the almost 11,000-page Affordable Care Act, they’re used to that.) It’s just going to make more room for more loopholes for them to exploit.


In fact, the only way to eliminate loopholes is to simplify the tax code. Any other way guarantees that tax experts keep their jobs and the rich keep their money... while you’re left paying your full bill.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Academia Doesn’t Know How to Handle Its Own Politically Correct Monster Run Amok

For about the last year, we’ve heard stories about college students high on themselves and their liberal education – and who knows what else – taking on faculty over incidences, architecture and individuals perceived to be racists.

One such instance was when black University of Missouri football players refused to play until then-President Timothy Wolfe’s tenure was terminated. Their complaint was that Wolfe hadn’t done anything about five specific charges of racism on campus since 2010.


Moreover, the last three – at least – were questionable, happening at the perfect time to the perfect people to generate the perfect amount of pressure. I’m sorry, but there have been too many proven hoaxes over the years for me to automatically believe much of anything these days.

Now, racism and bigotry are never excusable. But neither is reverse racism and reverse bigotry, where we oppress a group because they once upon a time oppressed another group… which is one of the many harmful policies liberal academia has been force-feeding our kids for years.

It should therefore come as no surprise that our kids have become so obese on that diet of liberalism that they’re now not only unhealthy but also unmanageable.

The University of Kansas is learning that the hard way. Its Assistant Communications Professor Andrea Quenette is on administrative leave since her students are boycotting her over what they’ve labeled “uncomfortable, unhelpful, and blatantly discriminatory” discourse.

The trouble started in one of her modules when they “began discussing possible ways to bring [racial] issues up in” their classes. That’s when Quenette “abruptly interjected with deeply disturbing remarks,” first “with her admitted lack of knowledge of how to talk about racism with her students because she is white. ‘As a white woman I just never have seen the racism… It’s not like I see ‘[the full N-word]’ spray painted on walls…’ she said.”

Now, I think Quenette was an idiot for using the N-word, even in that context. But considering the other complaints her students made against her, they’re even bigger idiots.

Because they’ve also accused her of the crime of thinking that University of Kansas students who were dropping out might be doing so over bad grades, not a racist environment.

The students allege that, “This statement reinforces several negative ideas: that violence against students of color is only physical, that students of color are less academically inclined and able, and that structural and institutional cultures, policies, and support systems have no role in shaping academic outcomes.”

Ridiculous? Yes. But it’s completely explainable.

Our liberal education system – our pretentious, condescending academia – did this to itself.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We REALLY Have to Be Sick of the Political Status Quo to Vote for Donald Trump (and Apparently We Are)

Donald Trump took seven states yesterday in the Republican primaries on “Super Tuesday.”

Ted Cruz took three. Marco Rubio took one.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised Trump didn’t take more considering how widespread his appeal seems to be. The Boston Herald reported on Monday how 20,000 Massachusetts voters quit the Democrat party over the winter, “with thousands doing so to join the Republican ranks.” Probably to vote for Trump.

Again, these are Massachusetts voters! The crème de la crème of liberal constituents! Yet they want to vote for Donald Trump. (Apparently so do most of the 17 or 18 – 19 tops – Republican voters that actually exist in the state, since Trump won the primary there.)

That says nothing good about how the Democrat party has been running its show. Then again, the Trump phenomenon says nothing good about Republican leadership either.

I’m sorry if you’re a Trump fan, but Trump isn’t respectable. I’m not one of those nitwits who believes all the stories circulating about him. A lot of it is fear-mongering and juvenile levels of loathing. But it is a proven fact that Trump has made ignorant comments about various groups of people, not because he’s racist or sexist, but because he’s a bully who will seize whatever advantage he can.

He also vacillates, switching his stories and promises to suit his mood. I’m not saying he’s lying. I think he really believes himself each and every time. But he’s still wishy-washy and therefore untrustworthy.

Yet a large chunk of Republicans – and apparently Democrats too – prefer him to the polished, smooth-talking status-quo politicians we’re normally presented with. Probably because the polished, smooth-talking status-quo politicians are normally big, fat, condescending liars.

I think it’s that last adjective that’s pushing people to Trump the most. Americans are sick of being smugly disregarded. And Donald Trump, for all his billions, is acting like he’s one of us. He says what he means (at least in the moment) in regular language with regular emotions.

But he’s also not going to hold us to the standard we’re capable of achieving: one where we stand up for what’s right, not for what makes us feel better.