Tag Archives: politics

politics-pizza

Stale Bread vs. Burned Pizza

Have you ever opened the refrigerator, pulled out everything you need to make a great sandwich, only to discover the last two slices of bread are stale and dry and old? You make the sandwich anyway. It’s still reasonably edible, but only because you’re desperate and hungry.

And have you ever popped a frozen pizza in the oven, then got distracted by a phone call or something on TV, only to catch your oversight right before it turns into a flaming platter of charcoal? The pizza is a mess but not a total loss. You were soooo looking forward to it that you salvage what’s left and try to convince yourself that it really isn’t that bad.

Well wow, the election is over. The far right is gloating, the far left is crying, and the rest are just glad that the drama of a high-tension election has passed. That’s not to say there isn’t more drama coming; it just means the big banana question of who will be our next President has been answered. Buried in the mind numbing details is what will happen to the two major parties, and who will be steering the ship? We have drifted into a world of bizarro politics  where the only items on the menu are stale bread and burned pizza.

It will take historians of politics many years to determine how Hillary Clinton came to be so out of touch that she lost the working middle class vote –badly– to an old money billionaire who craps in gold plated toilets. I’ll offer a hint: Middle class America can’t relate to a pathologically dishonest stale bread candidate who, after thirty years in government, could not come up with any solutions more original than tax the rich and solar panels. I’m also willing to bet that trotting out all those pleading celebrities, smug university academics, and even a sitting President who possibly had more to lose than the candidate he was endorsing did not score even one single new vote for Clinton.

Proving that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the Democrats are about to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as their congressional minority leader. As someone who is more stale bread-ish than Hillary, Pelosi would be the de facto new-old face of the party and the highest ranking Democrat in the land. They inexplicably think that the San Francisco liberal who brought us transgender bathrooms and condoms for twelve year olds is the missing link needed to connect with farmer’s wives in Iowa and laid off steelworkers in Pennsylvania.

The same historians of politics who can’t figure out Clinton’s loss are likewise baffled over Donald Trump’s win. Admittedly, it’s hard to see how conservatives managed to elect a guy who spent his entire life as one of the east coast liberal elites Republicans love to deride, then at the age of 70 had a great epiphany that inspired his newfound love for Ronald Reagan and the Second Amendment.

Donald Trump’s penchant for choosing unnecessarily coarse words both in his past and in his politics came to a rolling boil just in time for the Republicans to come down with a case of moral amnesia. Suddenly, “locker room talk” was a catch-all excuse for every crude reference to female anatomy. Politics does odd things to people. I’m sure Bill Clinton was relieved that at last the conservatives were talking about someone else’s indiscretions.

No matter what Donald Trump may have done (real or perceived) to disqualify himself from politics, it didn’t seem to matter because he did after all win the election. One cannot argue with success. Republicans accept him as the the burned pizza candidate: Messy and imperfect, but lacking any better options, it will have to be acceptable.

It’s baffling that in the most powerful, most skilled, most promising nation that has ever existed, a land of so many brilliant minds, the best we could come up with is stale bread and burned pizza. My fellow Americans, can we order out next time?

sandwich-race-relations

The Sandwich Solution.

By Chris Warren.

Recent events in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as other instances of black citizens being shot dead by the police have kept alive the ongoing and seemingly endless charges of institutional racism in the United States. I’m not here to make a lengthy commentary on the validity of the collective accusations, except to say that I believe neither side is totally right nor totally wrong.

What I am going to suggest is that race relations would improve if we followed the example of a sandwich. No, this is is not a gag or satire piece, and I am absolutely not trying to trivialize the immense emotional pain these deaths cause others. Twenty First Summer  is a serious blog and this is a serious discourse.

The individual contents of a sandwich are not particularly inviting. No one eats just a raw onion or a spoonful of mustard or a leaf of plain lettuce. And while a solo slice of cheese or meat is completely palatable, it’s not very exciting. But put it all together between two slices of bread and the end result is a symphony of delicious that no one refuses.

Go anywhere in the world, in any culture, and they have some version of a sandwich. It’s the universal food for an entire planet, possibly the only food that everyone eats.

Now compare all of humanity to the ingredients of a sandwich. Each ingredient has its own special qualities and is inherently valuable, but by itself can only be so much. When combined together they are something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The point is that people are better as a group than we are when wrapped up inside ourselves. We don’t have to always agree. We don’t have to hold hands and sing. Heck, we don’t even have to like each other! We simply have to live and let live respectfully.

That’s why we could learn a lot about race relations by looking at the example of the humble sandwich. Together, the ingredients of a sandwich accomplish something that they cannot achieve individually.

And so it is with people. We can stand alone and be just average, which is not horrible, but why settle for average? Or we can join together and be something stellar. It’s not lost on me that race relations are a complex topic with a high emotional payload and a lineage going back hundreds of years, but what the hell. Nothing else has worked; a “sandwich solution” is not any more a nutty idea than all the failures that came before it.

gun control

Gun Control: So Shallow, A Flea Couldn’t Drown In It (Best Of TFS)

by: Chris Warren

The validity of statements made in the past can and should be measured by how well they hold up against the test of the future. Unless and until the big guesses evolve into tangible reality, gun control is at the same level as overdramatic hucksters on late night infomercials telling us they have the secret to all our heart’s desires.

The apparent death of the Second Amendment as we know it and the subsequent rise of the gun control movement over the vanquished National Rifle Association was glowingly foretold by liberals since well before 2008 when Barack Obama won the Presidential election. In his first term he bailed on his promise to come down on the “bitter clingers,” but that was not enough of a buzzkill to keep his patsies from reelecting him.

My rearview mirror wisdom now confirms what I presumed in the first place: The gun control movement is indeed a collection of overdramatic hucksters, with Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg getting top billing. Note: I refuse to use the term gun control in the context it is employed by the political left because those claiming to want “common sense gun laws” are either liars or fools (see also, useful idiot). Their newest hero, Hillary Clinton, claims that she does not want to abolish the Second Amendment. Technically, this is true. She has never openly made any such statement. But we all know her end game: The complete and total abolition of all private civilian firearm ownership. Of course she’s not going to admit it blatantly. Yet everyone, including her hired buffoons, know that if given the opportunity, that’s exactly what she would do. I will not take the bait and be a party to their overt bullshit, even if it is rhetorical hair splitting.

The “gun lobby” is not as much a lobby as it is a genuine, people-centric movement. The NRA has around five million members, each paying (give or take) about thirty-five bucks a year. Many if not most of those members donate over and above the yearly dues and are also members of other pro-gun organizations. Then factor in sales of NRA-branded clothes and gear, raffles, cash donations collected at gun shows, and yes, the occasional corporate sponsorship. But there is more to it than just a big pile of money. Gun enthusiasts are active participants every single day. They know it’s not enough to “like” a Facebook meme or slap a sticker on the back of their car or write a $35 check once a year.

“The left are accomplished experts at getting people to sign an online petition or answer a poll question, but their ‘point and click’ activism is miles wide and a millimeter deep.”

Most of the time, being engaged is not very exciting. It’s a daily grind of staying informed and reacting when needed. As one NRA member put it, “Thanks for emailing your U.S. Senator, but you have to also write a letter or send a hand written postcard. No one ever tripped on a bag of email.” Even buying a gun or a box of ammo is a statement.

A common taking point dragged around by the gun control hopefuls is that firearms ownership is on the decline; the recent dazzling increase in gun sales is due to the same core group of “gun nuts” panic buying multiple firearms. The theory only works if you ignore the thousands of new gun carry permits issued every year and that very few gun owners will respond to a survey by admitting they own guns. I know I would not. And I personally know dozens of gun owners who would not.

Even my own family does not know exactly how many and what type of guns I have. Liberals in general and Obama/Hillary in particular are in a tizzy because their claim that fewer and fewer Americans want to keep guns cannot be validated against gun sales, carry permit figures, and registration in training classes, all of which are easily quantifiable facts. Gun owners are sophisticated enough to know that any data collected on firearms ownership will ultimately be used to support gun control. As a result, Second Amendment supporters’ default setting is to be recalcitrant towards the media and the pollsters who work for them. To put it more simply, many if not most gun owners deliberately lie on polls and surveys.

Pro-gun citizens have the advantage of a common thing (guns) that serves as a base for organizing. They gather at gun shops, ranges, gun shows and shooting competitions, all of which serve a secondary purpose as a friendly venue where ideas are exchanged and information is passed along. As amazing as the internet may be, there is no substitute for a face to face discussion where everyone can shake hands and look each other in the eye.

The gun control folks have no such common platform. They organize marches and rallies which are are limited in duration and headlined by professional victims along the lines of Jesse Jackson or Micheal Pflager. There is no natural interaction, no opportunity for small random meetings. Everyone stands around and cheers for a speech, lights a few candles, then goes home.

The left are accomplished experts at getting people to sign an online petition or answer a poll question, but their “point and click” activism is miles wide and a millimeter deep. When it really counts, the claimed support is mere gentle vapor drifting to invisibility, at least on the gun control issue. This is why Obama got elected, and re-elected, with vigor only to see his fan base go back to playing Xbox. They are thinking, “Hey, we voted. What else do you want?”

Progressives then turn up the spin and gooey sentimentality because they can’t make a case with facts and and follow through, nor do they have genuine long-haul support for their gun control goals. It’s not too hard to figure out why many progressive causes never seem to materialize into active policy even when the polls say it should be an easy win.

The goodwill and kinship felt among gun people transcends anything the left can put up. When gun banners gather, it’s to share their disgust for those of us who disagree. When gun enthusiasts gather, it’s to express appreciation for Constitutional freedom. There is no acrimony. Celebrating freedom does not require hating anyone. But gun banners have to hate guns and gun owners, otherwise their cause has no reason to exist.

My analysis should not be taken to mean that firearms freedom supporters and the NRA have nothing to fear from Hillary Clinton and her army of useful idiots, led by Michael Bloomberg. On the contrary, as soon as one Second Amendment abuse is beaten back, it’s not long before another pops up.

The gun control clowns, knowing nothing will get done at the national level, have recently shifted focus to state and local efforts. To their credit, this tactic will probably be more successful than trying to get any big federal rules through Congress. They have indeed managed to get some very heavy-handed gun control legislation passed in a few states and cities. The gun enthusiasts have likewise benefitted from several laws expanding Second Amendment freedom. Which side is ahead is a matter of semantics, but it’s generally accepted that the pro-gun side has the upper hand. For the purpose of fundraising and stirring up their respective bases, each side will claim the other is winning.

In my relatively short career as a firearms owner, I’ve discovered that “gun people” are some of the most harmless folks you’ll ever find. They would prefer not to involve themselves with controversy, and they would rather spend their time pursuing their Second Amendment freedoms instead of defending them in the courts and at the ballot box.

Gun people do not see themselves as the reason for criminal gun violence (they are correct). As long as the left demonizes us, blows off the true cause of the problem to pursue a power trip, and pushes to take away not just a Constitutional freedom but a natural, God-given right, Second Amendment supporters will have no choice but to jump reluctantly off the diving board into the cesspool of politics. Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg don’t care enough to understand that all gun people really want is to live in their freedom and be left alone.

Author’s Note: I’m away from the keyboard this week, so I’m re-releasing this Twenty First Summer article originally posted on February 8, 2014. The article has a few edits and updates. 

block party

Vote For The Block Party!

By: Chris Warren

The news media is like air pollution: It’s never good and no one likes it, but no one can really avoid it, either. The election being just three months away makes things especially dicey. There are lot of high energy disagreements, and the media is happy to feed the fire. Getting away from from the stank is an invigorating breath of fresh air. I found that escape in the most unlikely of places: A big city block party.

I was invited to a gathering in Chicago and it happened to be on one of the few weekends I was not already overbooked. I’m not a city boy, so it sounded like a fun excuse to take a road trip and do something different. I didn’t know it was going to be a block party. I was expecting the average backyard BBQ sort of deal.

A block party is the ultimate community participation event. The whole deal can fall apart if even one homeowner objects. The fact that block parties exist at all offers hope that people can still get along. In a time when there is acrimony everywhere we go, amplified by the media, a group of people getting along and talking about pretty much everything except politics made me think I accidentally landed on another planet.

The weather was stunning. Little kids played in a bouncy house placed in the street while the bigger kids threw buckets of water at each other. The adults sipped beer and talked about our jobs, our kids, our lives, our retirement plans. It was surprising how much we had in common. Music and the smell of sausage and burgers on the grill whiffed through the air. These people really felt like my neighbors even though I didn’t live on that block and had not known any of them until that day.

For three hours I did not hear any political candidate’s name even mentioned, which is quite remarkable in a city where politics famously, or perhaps infamously, creeps into every aspect of daily life. The closest thing to an argument I heard was a tit-for-tat about the Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox. There is something about setting up beer coolers and BBQ grills in the middle of the street that makes everyone more civil. It was as if the the block party was relaxing force floating over the neighborhood. Hardly anyone even looked at their phones, including the teenagers.

I am proposing that a National Block Party Day be declared. It will be a regular guy’s version of a political convention, without the politics. On NBPD, everyone from coast to coast shuts down their neighborhood and turns their street into an open air party room. The only rule is that you have to talk to people you do not know very well and keep it light. No major issues facing society will be solved and no grand policies will be presented, but it will put a human face on those issues and allow us to see there are more similarities than differences between us.

People hate on others in part because the media encourages it, and also because no one hangs out in person anymore. The disagreements will still be there when people put down the keyboards and the cellphones and meet up face to face, but a conversation about what we have in common is more productive than sniping on each other over what we do not. For a few hours on a beautiful weekend we were not Democrats, and we were not Republicans. All of us were members of the Block Party.

patriot card

Playing The Patriot Card.

By: Chris Warren.

We have survived two political conventions. No matter what side one is on, it’s universally agreed that two weeks every four years is pushing the limits of tolerance. One conclusion I made from watching portions of both spectacles is that playing the patriot card is often an effective campaign tactic, but it can devalue honorable service and become very unpatriotic and ugly.

For those who don’t know, in political vernacular “playing the patriot card” means to wrap an issue in a theme of loyalty to country, and if you don’t agree, you’re not a good American. The message is almost always delivered by someone with a connection to the military. Because the military is so highly regarded in the United States, people are less inclined to publicly disagree with the message because it implies disrespect to the messenger.

The hustle works like this: A veteran or the family of a veteran who has made a significant sacrifice in service to their country appears at a political rally and publicly endorses a candidate, or speaks against the opposing candidate. Their status presumably gives them a high level of insulation against criticism from the other side. Nobody wants to tell a military hero or their relative that he or she is full of crap (even if they actually are). Anyone who does is loudly called out as insensitive and anti-American. That is how a successful play of the patriot card goes down, and it’s very effective.

Here’s where I have a problem: When someone uses a deep personal sacrifice as a premise to promote a political candidate or cause, to a great extent they forfeit their right to be treated gently because of that sacrifice. They knew or should have known that transforming into an activist means being given much less deference. Their immunity is further eroded if they continue to make media appearances and repeat the same rants. At that point their story no longer belongs to them. They donated it to a political cause.

The first question that comes to mind is, is it disrespectful to trash talk a sympathetic figure who plays the patriot card when you disagree with their political statements? But there is a second question no one ever asks: Isn’t is also disrespectful to offer up the honor of a military hero to score votes for a candidate?

To me the only sensible answer is either “yes” to both questions or “no” to both. One cannot logically have it both ways and say it’s disrespectful to criticize a veteran or their relatives while totally ignoring the fact that it was the veteran or relative themselves who willfully allowed their patriotic contribution to be used as a shill for a political campaign in the first place. Of course even in politics there is such a thing as “too low,” but it’s not my place to figure out that mess. I’ll leave it to others to decide where legitimate criticism ends and ad hominem attacks begin.

In a perfect world, political views would be supported with polite, reasoned arguments and facts. Because American politics seldom operates within any realm of reason or civility, the rules are different than in real life. Those who have sacrificed for their country absolutely, positively deserve the respect they’ve earned. But when they play the patriot card and deal themselves in to the chaotic game of politics, they should understand that the moral armor of distinguished military service becomes much thinner when it is used as a prop for a candidate.

refugees

Refugees Are Unwitting Economics Teachers For A Self Indulgent Europe.

By: Chris Warren

A little less than a year ago I wrote an article about African and middle eastern war refugees escaping to Europe and the difficult and often deadly journey they risked. At the time, I knew a positive outcome would be difficult; I also knew that the Europeans have a hard time accepting that there is a practical limit to generosity, even for refugees in life and death situations. I did not predict that it would become so obvious so soon.

To truly understand this issue one first has to rewind back three generations. That’s roughly how long Europe has overindulged itself in a cradle-to-grave nanny state where nearly everything is a government entitlement. For most of this time it was all paid for, sort of. By “sort of” I mean that the system was financially solvent on paper but only because of massive taxation, fuzzy accounting protocols, and constant debt deferment and restructuring. Financial doomsday has already hit Greece and is seeping out across the continent like The Plague of the 1340s-1350s. It’s the macroeconomic equivalent of transferring balances between maxed out credit cards.

When hundreds of thousands of middle eastern war refugees started arriving at the borders of Europe, Europe’s initial reaction was to accommodate them. There were grand pronouncements of generosity from government officials and a wave of social media love. Everyone, it seems, was gushing with refugee support.

Europeans will be all about doing whatever it takes to help the refugees until a collective epiphany (which has already begun here and here) makes them see that “it” is going to impact them individually. I wonder how many British or German or Greek citizens will still be Tweeting #refugeeswelcome when their kids’ school class sizes increase or the wait times for their rationed state healthcare systems becomes longer because of all the middle eastern castaways they so altruistically took in.

In what could be Europe’s very first ever introduction to economic reality, entire nations that less then a month ago were preaching humanitarianism across the internet are suddenly reconsidering after realizing that they will have to give up a sizable chunk of their money and standard of living to provide for the glut of hundreds of thousands of people who will take far more out of the government entitlement systems than they put into them. Wow, what a difference a few weeks makes.

The liberal left here in the United States, who think moral obligation never has a spending limit and all problems would be solved if only everyone gave more money to the government, has long envied European socialism. Yet, no one on the American left is speaking in support of their European cousins’ sudden change of heart. To do so would be to imply that their cherished entitlement system isn’t working.

The subtext of the very real and very sad plight of the refugees is the failure of big government liberalism and its two-faced supporters who embrace the the idea of helping refugees, but only if at the expense and inconvenience of others. As Twenty First Summer has discussed before, the political left was, is, and always will be grounded in two related basic tenets: Appearances and feelings are just as good as actual results, and a good cause is made better when the expense can be pushed off on others.

That is why Europeans continue to embrace collectivism. That is why they think they can hashtag their way to a better world. That is why after three generations of lavishing themselves in an egalitarian culture of “free” stuff, there are, as former US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney once famously quipped, too many people riding the cart and not enough people pulling it. And that was before the refugees showed up at the gate. The refugees have unwittingly exposed European socialism for the crock of sanctimonious shit that it is: Everything is free, until the bill comes due.

 

truth

Fencing In The Truth.

By: Chris Warren.

After a week of partisan screeching from both ends over two huge Supreme Court cases, a foreign trade deal, and a 150 year-plus cyclic hostility towards a flag, I’m ready to wish I was in a coma for the last few days. The headache is not from the nature of the issues, but from each faction insisting they are on the side of truth and the other is pulling off a great deception. I do believe there is a line where truth ends and lies begin, with a caveat that the specific boundaries are not easily determined by us mortals. Of course, mortals will always try anyway and fail. The failure comes out of the theory that for “my” side to be right, “your” side has to be wrong.

Although I do not consider myself a neutral bystander to any of these issues, I’m not so hardened to a view that I can’t admit those with whom I disagree have a point worth taking seriously. My boundary of truth is like one of those temporary fences used around constructions sites: Sturdy enough to maintain separation, flexible enough to be moved when needed, and is easily repaired when it gets plowed down.

There are absolutists who will shudder at my movable fence theory and accuse me of moral relativism. Naturally, their morals are the correct ones and everyone else, including me, is venturing down an evil path. It’s funny how easily they can identify everyone else’s inconsistencies while being completely if not willfully ignorant of their own. Whether it’s preaching about family values while hoping no one finds out about their own genetically-related dirt, or globe trotting aboard a carbon-puking private jet to get paid six figures giving speeches about how all the rest of us are earth killing slobs and puppets of the rich, they never fail to show us how problematic moral absolutes can be when one epically collides with a thick concrete wall of their own making.

Simply ignoring the self-appointed truth police is not enough of a defense. The pablum is too thick to plug one’s ears and hope for the best. The most effective and perhaps only defense is one’s own truth. That means clearly thinking through your beliefs and knowing how you arrived at them. It means admitting when an idea is wrong and discarding it instead of clinging to contorted rationalizations for keeping it.

More than all else it means not lifting yourself up by putting others down. It seems we live in a time when it’s not enough to be “right”. We must also beat down all who don’t go along. Almost everyone has at least one acquaintance who is on social media numerous times a day posting provocative articles and memes about controversial topics. Notice how nearly all of these nuggets of what they consider “truth” do not directly support their cause…they instead take cheap shots at the opposing cause. They are miniature versions of the larger media world. I find myself quickly clicking away from web pages and changing channels. I don’t necessarily disagree with what they are saying; I just don’t like the way they are saying it.

The default is to blame the internet and electronic media for the truth wars, but I’m not willing to go there. It’s too easy. The media as a communications mode is amoral, without  any inherent bias. People will be who they are; the internet just gives them a greater opportunity to make fools of themselves. Neither side of any issue should have to be the only one expected to move his fence to accommodate the other. For too many, the boundaries of truth are hopelessly cemented in the ground.

 

2016 election

Let The Games Begin (Did They Ever End?)

One would have to be living far off the grid not to know the 2016 election for President is less than a year and a half away. Along with it numerous house and senate seats and thousands of local offices will be on the ballot. Term limited President Barack Obama will not be running; by time it’s is over he may end up feeling like a winner again for not having to put himself through the campaign meat grinder. I feel blessed to be living under the world’s oldest working Constitution, but the 2016 election makes me wish all this freedom & democracy would be more meaningful and less in-your-face.

To say election season has begun is either naive or disingenuous. It may have peaks and valleys of activity, but there is no beginning because there never was an end. The cycle of gamesmanship and spin-doctoring resets to zero the day after the last election. It starts faintly in the form of small on line banner ads asking me to participate in a political “survey,” as if anyone believes these surveys are real. Other ads are conveniently promoting political causes I am in favor of myself. They aren’t reading my mind, I just need to clear my computer’s cache and cookies more often.

The closer it gets to 2016 Election Day, the harder it will be to avoid the gathering campaign storm. Quiet banner ads will turn into television commercials six or eight times per hour. “Vote for me!” and “Don’t vote for them!” junk mail will arrive daily. Yard signs and bumper stickers will pop up. Social media will be clogged with memes and links posted by people who honestly believe their cause or candidate will prevail if only it gets enough “likes” and “shares.”

The 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens’ United v. Federal Election Commission ruled that “corporations are people” for the purpose of free speech. Corporations and special interest groups that were previously limited on how much they can spend promoting their views may now blow as much money as they want praising their candidate, or trashing on their candidate’s opponent. This court case was and still is very controversial. Democrats dislike it the most, a position I do not understand because the the ruling applies equally to both sides. Liberal and conservative groups have each complained about Citizens’ United while at the same time taking full advantage of the unlimited big spending it allows. The real victims are the ordinary voters who must endure the flood of propaganda.

My problem with the election process is not the process itself, but that the amount of money needed to get elected dilutes the meaning of individual votes. The other day I heard a political analyst on a radio show state that, while everyone has the unfettered right to cast a vote and have it included in the total, the meaning of the vote is not validated because once a candidate wins they are most favorable to whoever wrote the biggest checks. It’s a profound statement that I had not thought of before and the most powerful argument against the Citizens’ United case ruling. There is a big difference between votes being numerically counted and votes having real influence over the person it was cast for.

It’s not very encouraging to hear that the vote I am being nagged to death for won’t have any pull once the 2016 election is over. I understand how the concept of free speech can and probably should include groups having the right to spend their collective money as they please. I’ve donated to assorted causes myself; my dollar is not more important than anyone else’s. Still, it’s not less important either, and I have a problem with other people’s (or corporations’) free speech stepping on mine solely because their check had more zeroes on it. The resolution to the big money in politics problem, if it even is a problem, would not need to involve regulating donations  if elected leaders lived up to the oath of their office and served those who do the actual voting.

An Old Yankee Fades Away.

By : Chris Warren.

Energy policy is the strange convergence of politics, science, and business. It’s deep and wonkish and is the kind of topic very few people understand or follow even though it effects every moment of their life. Most of these effects blend into the background. When it does come home, it hits hard. Suddenly, everyone is paying attention. It can even get a little emotional.

After over forty years of providing New England with electricity, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon, Vermont was disconnected from public electric grid on Monday, December 29, 2014. Yankee’s closure means 300 of the approximately 600 plant employees will be immediately laid off or retire. Most of the leftover staff will be cut in 2016. From there, a small support crew will remain to oversee a lengthy and expensive decommissioning process. The physical structure is going to be around almost long enough to become a historic landmark: It will need to sit fallow for a minimum of thirty years before the radiation in the reactor decays to a level safe enough to tear it down. It will not be completely dismantled until at least 2045, possibly longer. The price tag for the full shut down and removal is estimated at $1.25 billion, and that’s in 2014 dollars.

Vermont Yankee nuclear power station.
Vermont Yankee nuclear power station.

The Yankee closure means different things to different people. For anti-nuclear activists, it’s a sense of accomplishment after a decades-long fight even though the closure was caused by economics & policy, not protests. For the plant owner, it’s the symbol of a horribly bad investment. For the residents of Vernon, Vermont, it’s the end of an era that for better or worse permanently altered the community. Seldom heard mixed into the discussion is the story of ordinary Americans whose upended lives were powered by the economic engine that was Yankee. Employee spending at local businesses will stop, contractors who serviced the facility will have to find other revenue sources, and the primary tax base for Vernon has been, literally, unplugged.

Losing a major employer and many hundreds of jobs is devastating to a town of only a few thousand people. Beyond tangible dollars and cents is the unquantifiable loss of relationships that will be broken as people move on with their new lives. It’s hard to say goodbye to your gang of lunchroom buddies. Or the family across the street you traded favors with for years. Or the waitress at the corner diner who always knew what your order was without asking. When a town fixture fades away, so too do many routines and habits that made the place comfortable and familiar. Many of these deeply meaningful personal interactions revolved around one constant: The nuclear generating plant. And now it’s over.

I understand difficult business decisions need to be made, and I doubt even the residents of Vernon expect the plant owners should keep the place open just for nostalgia’s sake. Barely noticed in the mix of the larger energy policy universe are everyday folks who have to live with the judgements of those who don’t concern themselves with the sentiments of one small town. Going strictly on the facts, it’s not difficult to see why it was time for Vermont Yankee to go, but respect and sympathy is owed both to those who must go with it and the small town that lost its most prolific citizen.

Let Go Of Gays And Guns.

By: Chris Warren.

National mid term elections are less than ninety days away, and along with them thousands of local offices and issues will also be on the ballot. Polls claim most Americans are in the middle with only a small vocal minority on each fringe, but I’m not seeing it. The definition of an independent/moderate in American politics seems to be anyone who hates both sides equally. Does that count?

Each side is trying to come up with a scheme that picks off votes from the middle, assuming there actually are any. There might be some persuadable citizens on local issues, but for the national elections, there’s very few votes to harvest. To clarify for my readers outside the United States: Americans don’t vote for the best candidate. We identify the candidate we dislike the most and vote for whoever he or she is running against, even if under any other circumstances we would not hire that person to run a popcorn stand. Crazy Americans!

My disrespect for big government liberalism should not be interpreted as approval for what the Republicans are up to. The best thing I can say about Republicans is that they are not nearly as incompetent as Democrats, but that’s not a compliment; it’s more like congratulating the valedictorian from the worst school in the country.

Keeping in mind the mission of Twenty First Summer as the “thoughtful, positive, relevant” blog, I’m not going to spend the next several hundred words lighting up in a whiney screed about how the country is going to hell, even if it actually is (cough-Obama-cough). There is an old trope in American politics that says a policy neither side likes is probably the best. That is exactly the path I intend on taking here.

I’m not a political scientist. I’m not a lobbyist, consultant, or analyst. I’ve never held public office nor worked for a candidate, or even slapped a campaign sticker on my truck. I have come up with two plans, one for liberals and one for conservatives. Whichever group most effectively embraces their respective plan will win over voters who would normally not even consider supporting them, and more importantly, make them loyal backers for life:

Conservatives should abandon their opposition to gay marriage.
There are a lot of gays who like much of what conservatism offers, especially regarding economic and tax issues. As a demographic, they have higher incomes and pay more into the system than they receive from it. They’re getting pretty sick and tired of being the cash machine for the schools, lazy public employee unions, and every feel good handout program on the liberal wish list. Many states and municipalities have already established their own recognition of same-sex marriage, so in these places making it the law of the land would not be a culture shock. Only in a weird, ironic world of bizarro do so-called small government conservatives use the kludge of big government to deny others that which hurts no one.

As right wing hero Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” He was speaking in context of religion but the idea can and does apply to same sex marriage. Here is my challenge to conservatives: How does your gay neighbor getting married “injure” you and “pick your pocket or break your leg” in a way that traditional marriage does not?

Conservatives will often cite morality as a reason they are against gay marriage. The problem with this angle is that morality is about one’s own personal beliefs and not about pushing them on others. The Jeffersonian standard still applies. Parents who don’t want their kids exposed to the gay lifestyle can explain it the same way they would any other objectionable behavior. The world is a big huge place. Not everyone is like you.

If the Republicans change their platform to support gay marriage, or at least stop fighting against it, I am certain they will win more elections. There are a lot of gays who really, really want to vote Republican, but the same sex marriage issue is a deal breaker.

Liberals should give up on gun control.
There is something inherently flawed about a position that punishes honest citizens who didn’t do anything wrong while violent criminals go about their business. That is the absurd corner liberals have painted themselves into by joining the cult of gun control. Like a gambler who thinks if he rolls the dice just one more time Lady Luck will deliver a jackpot, Democrats can’t leave the table out of superstition that the next one will be a big win.

After twenty-plus years of beating this topic to death and a “grassroots movement” funded almost exclusively by a single neurotic billionaire sugar daddy, liberals today have less gun control than what they started with: Conceal carry is allowed in all fifty states and interest is growing, especially among women and minorities. Many firearms training classes have weeks-long wait lists. Even well known leftist cheerleaders have conceded that the gun rights movement has enjoyed a surplus of legislation.

Liberals will commonly cite polls that indicate Americans support gun control and use the data as a rationale for more restrictions. Here’s where their conclusion goes wrong: Because someone has an opinion on an issue it does not automatically follow that they care enough to vote or actively fight for the issue. I bet I could take a poll and “prove” that  95% of adult Americans are against letting five year olds eat cake and ice cream for breakfast everyday. But how many of those adults are willing to call or write their congressman and demand that there be a law about it, or make it a voting point? And so it goes with gun control.

For their part, gun rights activists absolutely will turn out in large numbers to call, write, protest, and vote. There have been high-profile elections to prove it, and the pro-gun people have shown over and over how serious they are about taking it far beyond responding to a poll question.

So, a reality check for liberals: What are you trying to prove with your recalcitrance? Your own data shows support for gun control is a mile wide but an inch deep and the issue is loser for you over the long haul. If you stop trying to marginalize law-abiding gun owners, a big pile of them will even vote for you!

Both Republican and Democrat heads may explode to find out that the Pink Pistols is a little-known but very headstrong group of gay, gun rights supporters who are just dying to throw their vote behind someone. And oh, by the way, they have a lot of friends and family too. The first political party to cast off their ridiculous devotion to a cause they can never, ever win will gain a huge, lasting advantage.

Those who are both pleased and pissed off with my propositions are the exact people I hope to reach. I am an unapologetic Libertarian, gun nut, and sympathetic to gays. It will be a great moment when I can step into a voting booth and not have to shun one belief in order to support the other, or better still, when gay marriage and gun rights are so commonly accepted that they don’t need to be campaign issues in the first place.