Complete Whimsy, Individual v. Collective, Liberty, Live and Learn, Uncategorized

Liberalism is Kinda Boring

Bored Cat

Liberalism has been called a lot of things. Some seem to think that the term is synonymous with good, others think it’s naive, Michael Savage called it a mental disorder, etc.

But the one thing I don’t hear it called very often is boring. And it many ways, it is just kinda boring.

There seems to be a formula with modern liberalism and whatever event comes up, just plug in the formula and, wala, you have the ‘correct’ way to think about it hand delivered with the utmost convenience, like they use to do with milk. And it seems that whoever is in the bigger victim category becomes the one who’s in the right. So for example, an employee sues the company, and the company might as well be named Enron.

Let’s take the George Zimmerman case. George was white and Trayvon was black, so obviously George was at fault. OK, George was actually Hispanic, but that isn’t as high as black on the victim list, which I think goes something like this:

1. Black

2. Jew

3. Middle Eastern

4. Hispanic

5. Asian

6. Pupppies

7. White

And so the headlines go, “White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman” and “Open Season on Unarmed Black Kids” and so on. Since when are ‘unarmed’ and ‘harmless’ synonyms for each other? And since when is a 17 year old teenager with a  history of fighting considered a ‘kid’?

It is certainly difficult to make out exactly what happened, and George Zimmerman is obviously not completely innocent. But it’s also quite apparent that Trayvon Martin assaulted Zimmerman. After all, Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose and two lacerations on the back of his head. Other than the bullet wound the only injury Trayvon Martin had was to his knuckles.

The whole Zimmerman thing is a distraction of course. After all, there were 532 people murdered in Chicago alone in 2012! And some 93% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Yet, one Hispanic who killed one black teenager who was assaulting him after said Hispanic followed him represents white supremacy because it was ruled self-defense?

I’m not even saying that everyone on the left thinks the same or even that George Zimmerman wasn’t guilty of something (although it certainly wasn’t first degree murder). But the left appears to be like a line. You may be liberal, or you may be really liberal, but with a few exceptions such as Glenn Greenwald and Thaddeus Russell, you’re pretty much just some shade of liberal. Something like this:

So a liberal will be against the war. A hardcore liberal will want to dismantle most of the American military and send reparations to Iraq and Afghanistan. A liberal will be for regulation, a hardcore liberal will be for nationalization, etc. Even leftwing communists and anarchists tend to blur.

Yes, the right can be similarly annoying. I’m a libertarian, more or less, and even roll my eyes a bit when everyone and everything is called a statist. But on the right, not only do you have different variations from moderate to extreme, but you have libertarians and neoconservatives and the religious right and white nationalists and survivalists and paleoconservatives and on and on and on. And from what I gather, the religious right has no problem throwing corporations under the bus, and neither do libertarians for that matter, as long as the corporation is somehow tied to the federal government. To paleoconservatives, free trade is bad, to libertarians it’s good. Drug legalization is good for libertarians, but bad for the religious right. White nationalists obviously oppose to civil rights legislation, neoconservatives (“liberals who were mugged by reality”) usually support at least most of what is currently on the books and libertarians split it on the private vs public grounds. All of these groups are on the ‘right.’ I see almost nothing like this kind of disagreement on the left.* So it looks something like this:

Left - Right Political Scale

This is likely why according to at least one study (and my experience), liberals don’t understand conservative beliefs as well as conservatives understand liberal beliefs. And that leads to such inane name calling as Matt Yglesias, who opened his recent column on Detroit as follows:

Detroit is everything that conservatives hate—labor unions, black people, pensions—so in some quarters there’s almost a kind of glee around this idea that Detroit is a preview of the American future.

Well, it came off to me as an olive branch of sorts.

Anyways, perhaps the ‘right’ became every political philosophy opposed to liberalism. And perhaps that’s to liberals benefit as they can accuse the right of being racist because of the white nationalists and theocratic because of the religious right and anti-labor because of libertarian views on unions. And perhaps that drives everyone but the white men (and the white women those white men enslave) into the Democratic party.

But that does come with some contradictions. After all, when it comes to gender, the victim chart looks like this I think:

1. Transsexuals

2. Hermaphrodites

3. Women

4. Kittens

5. Men

But the liberal reports on Trayvon Martin talked about how black males are stereotyped as being dangerous and thereby could be shot for “the crime of being black.” As President Obama said:

There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

But don’t black women come with the “double oppression” of being black and female?

How can men’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on male power (even while often overstated) and African American’s disproportionate crime rates be blamed on white power (when not being distracted by things like the Martin/Zimmerman affair)? Then add in that male violence usually comes from the least powerful men and is usually directed at other men of their own race and the simple liberal dichotomy falls apart.

The one obvious exception to this is the government, which the left appears to view ambivalently. Namely, while the left pushes for the government to grow, the government can certainly be wrong if say, they launch a war on Iraq (but maybe not if they launch a war on Libya… it depends how far left on the line you are).  But if someone in one wing of the ‘right’ says maybe those high black crime rates have something to do with the welfare state and the incentives it creates, meh, they’re just racist or something.

While I’d like this to be taken as a warning for everyone (including libertarians and their rush to call people statists), the left is by far the worst offender here. The world is far too complicated to be boiled down to such simplicity. People, especially liberal people, please do not use a formula to figure out which side to be on on whatever issue! Otherwise, it’s just so… boring.


*I should note the one odd exception, which is prostitution. This is one where some hardcore liberals of the feminist variety tend to oppose it (and ironically lock hands with the religious right) and some of the more libertine liberals support its legalization.

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Individual v. Collective, Live and Learn

John Stossel Rundown

Here are some of my favorite, mostly recent, discussions on some very relevant topics by the man with mustache himself:


John Stossel with Chuck Devore and Matt Welch comparing why Texas’s smaller government model is better than California’s big government model

John Stossel with Nick Gillespie debate Thoedore Dalyrymple on the Drug War and Obama’s Hypocrisy

John Stossel with Radley Balko on the troubling development of police becoming more militarized

And then John Stossel’s special, which I highly recommend, Illegal Everything. Nothing better sums up out of control bureaucrats than this:


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Liberty, Live and Learn, Obama Says, Trust

Obama vs Obama on Wiretapping

While it’s nothing new that politicians over promise and lie their way into office only to do a 180 (we all remember George Bush’s “humble foreign policy” right). But it’s always helpful to have it illustrated after the fact. Here’s candidate Barack Obama debating president Barack Obama on all the NSA wiretapping revelations that have come out:

And while these revelations should surprise no one, it does surprise me, at least a little that Democrats still defend this guy. Hey I guess, Republicans defended Bush up until the end. This Pew poll comparison from 2006 and 2013 should say it all.

Pew Survey Wiretapping




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Complete Whimsy, Live and Learn, Trust

Jon Stewart on the IRS scandal

While Jon Stewart and The Daily Show certainly lean left, I do appreciate his willingness to make fun of the left when the time calls. With the cornucopia of recent government scandals, this would be the perfect oppurtunity, and he doesn’t disappoint:



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Game Theory, Individual v. Collective, Trust

Republicans use Political Correctness Too

In my series of “mommy he did it too” articles, I now turn to the dreaded political correctness. Political correctness apparently came to us from the Frankfurt School and critical theory which, as Herbert Mercuse posited, the oppressed should have the rights to free expression, but the oppressors should be bound by censorship. Or at least something to that effect. Thereby, Django can kill a bunch of white people but just imagine trying to make that movie the other way around. And if you say the word “macaca” you can lose your Senate race. You can have different prices for different people if your bake sale is protesting the mythical wage gap, but not if you’re protesting affirmative action. It can get so out of hand that a student employee reading Notre Dame vs the Klan (where the Klan is portrayed as the bad guy) can be found guilty of racial harassment. Or if you say there is a possibility that the reason there are more men than women in the top levels of science is maybe because while women and men have the same average IQ, men possibly have a higher variance putting more men at the bottom and the top, then well, you get fired from being the Dean of Harvard. On the other hand, if you say that men can benefit from being falsely accused of rape, like Catherine Commins of Vassar College, well oh well, ho hum.

And thus conservatives complain ad infinitum, often with good cause.

But wait,  wasn’t Helen Thomas forced to resign for saying negative things about the Republicans favorite ally, Israel?

Ward Churhill may have been a plagarist, but even before that came to light, conservatives were calling for his job solely for his anti-American rhetoric.

Indeed, much of John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign centered around anti-American comments made by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Or how about how some anti-war people were treated, especially by the likes of Fox News, prior to the Iraq War. It wasn’t so easy to be anti-war then like it is now. Here’s one example with Janeane Garofalo, who I should note, I’m not much a fan of.

It may be easier to make fun of Christianity these days then say Islam, but then again, the only open atheist in Congress lost his bid for re-election. Just try running for office as an atheist or even an agnostic and then let me know how that goes. Some Jews and Mormons have been elected. But how about running as a Muslim. Best of luck to you.

While being in favor or women’s issues or talking about a mostly imaginary “war on women” can get some votes, being a radical feminist, or even labeling yourself a feminist isn’t particularly popular these days in anything other than the coffee shop, urban yuppie, oh-sure-I’m-a-feminist-because-I-believe-in-equality-although-I’ve-never-really-thought-about-it sort of way. Same goes for race. Being against racism is good, being in favor of liberation theology or black nationalism or anything like that, is bad. And while our government grows and grows, openly supporting socialism is certainly a no-no.

And some of this backlash isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bad ideas and merely unpopular ideas are more likely to get shot down. But while the left may jump on anyone for making an even slightly racist (against non-whites), sexist (against women), homophobic, or anti-religion (other than Christianity) comment, the right is little better. Make an anti-American, anti-Christian or pro-socialist comment and see how well you fare. You may be able to get by like Barack Obama did after Reverend Wright’s speeches came out. Or you may go the way of Helen Thomas. And I should note, even anti-white comments can get you fired from time to time. Think of what happened to poor Shirley Sherrod.

Indeed, some on the right (or on the left, but victims of liberal political correctness none the less) endure. Patrick Buchanan may have gotten fired from MSNBC for his book, but while Charles Murray got blasted over and over again when he released the highly controversial Bell Curve with Dick Hernstein, the book was a bestseller. Sometimes the outrage from political correctness run amok works in the ‘any press is good press’ sort of way. And it obviously didn’t destroy Murray’s career or make him untouchable. After all, he just recently had another best seller.

Still, just because political correctness can backfire on those who wield it, does not make it a good thing. And while some may say that political correctness is just politeness, it is of course, not. After all, it isn’t particularly polite to boycott, slander and fire people for having an opinion you dislike. No, political correctness is an attempt to control speech and thereby thought. Indeed, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out against hateful speech or even mere bad ideas. But the firings, intimidation, threats, boycotts and slandering often go too far. Often way too far. Remember, political correctness adheres to no particular ideology. In Nazi Germany, antisemitism was politically correct. In the Soviet Union, expropriating people’s homes and property was politically correct. Under the Khmer Rouge killing off intellectuals and merchants was politically correct. Political correctness is a means to shut up the opposition to whatever policy those enforcing said political correctness want. The policy could be good (although it usually isn’t), but the method used to enforce it, i.e. political correctness, is not. And the means don’t justify the ends.

Just don’t think that liberals have a monopoly on this particular means.


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Individual v. Collective, Live and Learn, Obama Says, Trust

My Thoughts on the Presidential Election or How Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Cured My Interest in Politics

I must be the most ill-informed political blogger there is out there right now, at least when it comes to current events. Oh how things change… where I once had my finger on the pulse of the political zeitgeist, here on the eve of the Presidential election, I admit I have hardly paid attention. My intellectual pursuits of late have been on work-related material (real estate investment) and more historical matters that don’t relate to today’s happenings in any way other than the abstract. One might think this would put me at a bit of a disadvantage in making some insightful comment on our current pick the ruler you least dislike escapade. I think otherwise.

Indeed, I have caught enough to make a few observations. 1) This is obviously the most important election in our lifetimes. 2) The Republicans have never been more conservative than today. 3) The Democrats have never been more liberal than today. 4) If Bill Clinton were eligible for a third term, he would garner some 70% of the vote… and the Democrats are well aware of that.

From the little bit of political chatter I’ve heard from the inevitable campaign ads I’ve seen and occasional talking head bloviation I’ve encountered, we have two diametrically-opposite choices.

The first is our current president: Barack Hussein Obama. He was very possibly born in Keyna, best friends with a terrorist, went to a church lead by leftist revolutionaries while simultaneously being a Muslim and mentored by a communist atheist. He leads a party that is slightly left of Che Guevara and would like to legalize fourth term abortions. They also intend to take your guns, but have decided, for no reason whatsoever, to wait until Obama’s second term to do it. Same goes for his plan to surrender the United States to the third world. If he’s re-elected, Christianity will be abolished, freedom of speech redefined to nothing but support of the state and ultra-correct PC platitudes (purges/Gulags will take care of any thought-offenders), Agenda 21 will eliminate private property, The Bolshevik party will become the only political party in the country and somehow we will have a Godless, European-like dystopian socialist nightmare mixed with Theocratic (the bad kind, i.e. Islamic) Sharia-Law state.

If Mitt Romney-a man who made his fortune by firing people from highly profitable companies for no reason-wins and the Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, things will be even worse, however. The poor will be taxed to build gold-plated yachts for the mega-rich who’s taxes will be slashed by the way (from 35% to, umm, well 35%). All immigrants, legal and illegal will be deported (a bridge over the Bering Straight will be built to send those Native Americans back to Asia from whence they came). The House of Representatives and Senate will be replaced with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley respectively. BP will buy out the EPA, slavery will be reinstated, homosexuals will be burned at the stake and rape will become mandatory. (Consensual sex will, of course, be outlawed.)

The hyperbole behind all of this simply amazes me, although not as much as the Facebook updates my friends make from time to time. One posted an open letter that read as follows:

Here’s the thing: if Romney wins, it validates a strategy that, if adopted by my team too, will make America pretty much ungovernable. From the day Obama was inaugurated, the Republican strategy has been to refuse to cooperate on virtually every issue, to fight every piece of legislation, to block every nomination, and even to threaten to kill clearly needed legislation in the style of a hostage taker.

Oh yeah, the Democrats were real sweet to George Bush and they’ve just been lovely to Mitt Romney. I’m sure they would work with him just dandy if he were elected.

Another opined “Just did the most American thing a person can, I filled in my ballot!” I think I died a little inside when I read that. I mean, yes, it’s nice not to live in a totalitarian dictatorship, but what we have right now is not anything I would be proud to participate in. It’s not the choice between one extremely evil and one not-quite as evil to perhaps even good candidate that pundits and partisans make it out to be. The system is broken and I might even go so far as to say voting for one of the major candidates validates it.

No matter what the government grows (Democrats please, just because Obama didnt grow the government AFTER the massive increase in his first term doesn’t mean he didn’t grow the government massively), the police-state measures keep increasing, the executive branch keeps getting more power and the foreign wars keep on going. Bush promised to stop the foreign adventurism and he expanded it. He promised to shrink government and grew it. Obama promised peace and has the military in umpteen Arab nations fighting pointless proxy wars and “kinetic military actions” or whatever. He’s also got a lot of Predator Drones and can now assassinate U.S. citizens if he wants to… lovely. Does any honest person really think Mitt Romney is going to cut spending like he says? Has he even given a specific plan? And does any one really think Obama’s going to all-of-a-sudden become a peacenik? I mean, he’s had four good years to do it, so why hasn’t he?

So why has the campaign been so nasty? Why so many personal attacks? Why so much identity politics and scaremongering. Simple; because Obama has nothing to run on… and neither does Romney.

On the key issues, Obama and Bush were quite similar and Obama and Romney are quite similar. Yes, their rhetoric is different as well as some of the special interests they intend to doll out our money to. But voting for either is not voting for “the lesser of two evils.” It’s giving consent to a broken system.

But I guess in the end, voting isn’t particularly difficult. So I guess I’ll just vote for Gary Johnson or something.


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Individual v. Collective, Live and Learn, Obama Says, Taxes

Presidential Debate from a European Perspective

The letter from the German authorities caught my attention. Mostly because it was asking for a bunch of money, but also because of what was going on back home in the U.S.

The letter was to inform me that, because I now live in Germany and because I have a television connection, I am liable to pay a monthly fee to support the nation’s public broadcasting system.

Owing to the socialist bent of Germany policies – not to mention the country’s pressing need to raise a few bucks – I wasn’t all that surprised to get hit up for money. I figured the fee would be €50 per year – something like $65.

Wrong. The fee is €17, or about $22, per month. Per year, that’s more than $250 from each TV-owning household in the country, all to fund television and radio programs that a lot of German residents surely don’t use (and that this particular German resident can’t understand anyway).

The arrival of that fateful letter happened to coincide with the public broadcast debate going on in the States. A few days earlier, Mitt Romney had made his now-famous quip about how he would cut funding to PBS and, as a result, boot Big Bird off the air. Romney later doubled down on those comments, while Barack Obama later poked fun at those comments:

After that, people continued to analyze Romney’s statements, and even profiled the Barack Obama campaign manager who devised a pro-Big Bird, anti-Romney ad.

But as much play as it got in the U.S., this topic simply doesn’t translate to European politics – at least European politics in this left-leaning neck of the woods. After all, the 2012 budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports not only Big Bird and PBS but also National Public Radio, is $445 million, which, accounting for America’s 132 million or so housing units, works out to less to about $3.40 per house, per year.

And here in Germany? You’re hit up for more than $22 per month. (The same “if you own a TV you have to pay” ethos exists in other countries, including the U.K., where public funding pays for things like live radio coverage of the NFL Draft.) Europeans don’t like paying these public broadcasting fees, but it’s par for the course. A couple bucks a year wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

And this is just one of the many topics of the presidential and vice-presidential debates that are entirely non-issues here. Some others:

Energy policy: Energy came up in each of the first two debates. In the presidential debate, these were the notable nuggets:

Obama: On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments…..

Romney: Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the – the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada.

And, by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs….

So the heart of the issue, for both candidates, is oil and natural gas, and Romney tosses in the bit about coal. Obama does give a passing, almost apologetic nod to “energy sources of the future,” but Romney pretty well swats that away:

Romney: And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world….

But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into – into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this – this is not – this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.

The next week, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, also set out to vilify the Obama Administration’s green energy policies in the vice-presidential debate:

Ryan: Look at just the $90 billion in stimulus. The vice president was in charge of overseeing this. $90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups. There are just at the Department of Energy over 100 criminal investigations that have been launched into just how stimulus….Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from countries like China and spend it on all these various different interest groups?

Biden did a better job deflecting this criticism than Obama did – not saying much – but the point is simple enough: The Obama Administration spent an unprecedented sum of money, $90 billion, on green energy, and it’s now being used against them.

This is particularly noteworthy in Germany: Energy prices are going to spike in 2013 – and they’re going to spike on purpose. From Germany’s Der Spiegel:

The price hike is the result of an assessment under the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), a sort of green-energy solidarity surcharge that is automatically added to every consumer’s electricity bill. Under the agreement reached in the last round of negotiations, the assessment will increase from 3.6 cents to 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.
With the new rates, German citizens will be paying a total of more than €20 billion ($25.7 billion) next year to promote renewable energy. This is more than €175 for an average three-person household, a 50 percent increase over current figures. And then there are the additional charges a consumer pays for the electricity tax, the cogeneration assessment, the concession fee and value-added tax.

Maybe this price increase isn’t technically a tax, but when citizens are forced to pay for government plans, it’s immaterial whether you call it a “tax” or a “charge” or a “new rate.” The bottom line is that Germany’s politicians wittingly negotiated a deal that will cost taxpayers billions. Obama also spent billions of taxpayer dollars on green energy, sure. But the big difference is that he appears unwilling to defend it, and even more unwilling to say the U.S. should keep doing it.

Taxes: There of course isn’t room to quote all the debate discussion about taxes – what happens to the middle class, what does (or doesn’t) happen to the upper class, corporate tax rates, mortgage subsidies and so on. This is the eminent topic of the election, for better or worse, and it has dominated the discourse.

Taxes, to be sure, do not occupy the same gargantuan mind-share in Western Europe. A couple years ago, I had a job at a university newspaper in Denmark, where I went to school. It was basically the Danish version of a work study gig.

Taxes ate something like 40 percent of my checks, and while I did get paid a relatively hefty sum of money considering the job – depending on the exchange rate, I got about $18 an hour – I certainly wasn’t a “high earner.” I paid a three times higher rate than Mitt Romney, even though Mitt Romney earned 1.5 kajillion more than I did.

Here in Germany, a cool one-third of my paychecks are nixed by taxes, including some fun ones. There is, for instance, a “reunification tax,” which for the last two-plus decades has been devoted to helping Eastern Germany erase the residue of Communist rule. There is also a “church tax,” meaning if you belong to a church, you might not need to drop anything in the collection basket each Sunday. The government plucks the donation out of your paycheck before you ever have a chance to consider how much you want to give.

Abortion: Even if it wasn’t mentioned in the first presidential debate, abortion is an omnipresent issue of this presidential race. After not getting a chance to explain his (current) stance on abortion at the debate, Romney took to the press to assure moderates that he doesn’t really care that much about abortion:

Mitt Romney said on Tuesday that he has no plans for abortion legislation if elected president, a statement that is more moderate than ones he’s made on the issue in the past.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney told the Des Moines Register editorial board….
Asked to clarify the Republican nominee’s position, Romney spokesman Andrea Saul sent an email saying that Romney “is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president.” She also said that Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

Whatever that means.

The vice presidents waxed poetic about their differing abortion positions when they were explicitly asked about it. Paul Ryan of course said he was pro-life, Biden said that he was pro-choice.

That this topic keeps coming up shows its import, as does the gratuitous coverage it receives in the press. The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson, for one, wrote two abortion articles in the span of a few days – and that’s in addition to this abortion article from fellow New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik.

And at the New York Times website, this article was the “Most Read” piece on Saturday.

In other words, it’s a big topic with big interest – in the States, that is. In Germany and elsewhere – including Denmark, which is among the European nations that include abortion in government-provided healthcare plans – this is a non-issue.

There are other campaign topics that will come up between now and November 6 that people here couldn’t care less about. Like, say, the inevitable guns-rights questions that’ll be asked at Tuesday’s town hall debate.

That doesn’t make them unworthy issues, nor does it make Europe’s political discourse sophisticated. That discourse, make no mistake, is often anything but sophisticated. It’s just interesting to think about how incompatible these topics are with European politics, and how so much of this stuff would sound perfectly odd over here.

Like, for instance, Romney’s stump claim, made again last week, that, “The 21st century can and must be an American century.”

That statement would probably raise some eyebrows, and stir some uncomfortable imagery, if it came from a German politician.


David Vranicar is the author of the ebook The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. Visit the book’s website or check it out on Amazon.


Photo Credit: YanniKouts

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