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An Essentially Contested Concept

The idea of freedom is a long one. It has been subject to multiple interpretations, and its meaning has changed over time. It is one of what political scientists call “essentially contested concepts”: words with strong values and emotion attached, but without a common definition in practice. Essentially contested concepts are one of the reasons why so many of our political arguments go on and on, with people talking past one another.

Starting with the Greeks, the idea of personal freedom — to not be a slave to another man — was transformed into political freedom…


Inside the Democratic Party’s Civil War

Human societies — at least, in the forms we’ve known — require a basic shared understanding of reality to function. Called “mores” in sociology, “shared myths” in the study of nationalism, and “Li” in Confucianism, the idea that people ought to share some concept of what it means to live together permeates social philosophies. Whether they take the form of church on Sundays or even just a respect for science and scientists, shared understandings seem unavoidable if your goal is to organize and participate in a functioning society.

It’s a shame, then, that the Democratic Party has so few left.


Politics

It is spelled K-A-M-A-L-A.

Photo by Gage Skidmore at Flickr

Kamala Harris’ immigration debacle must have at first seemed like sound political advice coming from the Vice President’s advisers, as they plan for her looming presidential run. …


How I almost became a victim of post-Covid violence

Photo by St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office

In “Star Trek” culture, the Klingons are a fictitious warrior race. A central part of their belief system is that all Klingons live to die a glorious death. This means going down in battle surrounded by the bodies of their fallen enemies. It’s similar to Viking culture.

I thought about that a few days ago after I had a nasty brush with violence. I was out at Misty’s, a supper club in the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. I’ve been going to this joint for the last 20-odd years and never had any trouble. It’s the kind of place that…


Even with Democrats in unilateral control, the Senate Minority Leader manages to maintain his influence.

Photo via WJCT

With Joe Manchin declaring that he will not vote for the For the People Act or to reform the filibuster, and Republicans continuing to shred Biden’s infrastructure bill because Democrats allow them to do so, it’s safe to say this legislative session feels all but effectively over a mere six months in. It’s incredible that after two years of nothing getting done outside of the Covid relief bill, Democrats are going to have the temerity to ask for money and another vote from the people who elected them into power. …


Capitol attack, Greenwood destruction have eerie similarities

False reporting led to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. (Chad Davis/Flickr)

The news was recently saturated with stories of the city of Tulsa as it marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. Reading stories about this event, I was surprised to learn that many Americans were unaware of the attack. I knew of the Tulsa race massacre because, as a former resident of Oklahoma, it’s a big issue over there. I’ve even been to the Greenwood area and seen the plaque that marks the event.

However, many Americans didn’t know about this event that has been buried in history. Sirius radio show…


Political debate on the Planet of the Apes

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The political narrative is always important. People live and die in accord with their myths, and the struggle to define political reality is a fundamental element of American life.

Let’s drop the pretense that people are “rational.” Many try to be, and most think they are, but one incontrovertible fact from psychology, sociology, and anthropology is that we aren’t entirely rational — we’re rationalizing.

That said, there are some who argue better and some who do it worse. There are some who try to stick to logic and verifiable facts, and some…


Laugh Until It Hurts

Government, as George Washington once observed, is like fire: dangerous, difficult to control, and too useful to live without. The only difference between the state and organized crime is that the state is perceived to have legitimacy. People obey laws not because they will be punished if they don’t, but because they don’t question the right of the government to make those laws. If you are paying protection money to an extortionist, it’s not because you want to. It’s because you fear what he will do to you if you don’t. If you pay taxes, it’s probably because you believe…


Donald Trump, loser of the 2020 Presidential election.

Donald Trump is running his mouth again, and this time he has that idiot pillow salesman to thank for the insanity.

Mike Lindell, the pillow guy turned key adviser to the former President, has stated that is was his idea that got Trump believing the notion about being “reinstated” to the office of President.

“If Trump is saying August, that is probably because he heard me say it publicly,” Lindell recently told The Daily Beast.

What Lindell failed to mention to Trump, perhaps due to his own unvenerable ignorance, is that Presidents are not “reinstated.” …


Of all the “-isms,” political affiliation tends to fall through the cracks

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Privilege has become a dirty word in today’s climate. The most common attributes we associate with the concept of unearned advantages tend to be race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, class (socioeconomics), and skin tone. Increased awareness of other characteristics — such as religion, age, disability, citizenship status, and geographic residence — has also been slowly finding its way into the mix.

But within this highly-polarized society, there is one variable noticeably absent from the popular debates over privilege. This variable deserves its own reckoning: political affiliation. …

Politics: Fast and Slow

Cutting through the headlines. Demystifying the future. Creating sensible policy.

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