Sunday, July 25, 2010

Abe the Tyrant: The Lost Constitution and Moral Values

I recently spoke to a family member about why I don't believe that religious and political views should mix to the point that public policy comes from our religious beliefs. She quoted Ezra Taft Benson about how Joseph Smith said that the US constitution would hang by a thread and that members of the LDS Church will help make possible the continuation of constitutional institutions. Then she quotes a message from the LDS Church Presidency which encourages that all members participate in political affairs. Then she says:

"I don't understand what the issue is with trying to withstand the erosion of values. I'm not talking about enacting new laws that restrict freedoms. I'm talking about the preservation, the jealous guarding of the freedoms we currently have. I'm talking about restricting the intrusion of the government into everyday life, as much as possible. What is wrong with that?"

I like what she says here and would like to share my response:

You raise some good points. Its true that righteous members of the church may need to be the righteous voting citizens necessary to preserve some freedoms. But you see the paradox that exists between your statement and President Benson's? The Constitution itself is designed to keep federal laws from restricting personal freedoms. And when righteous, god-fearing societies exist, that is completely possible.

An example of the problem: Pornography was originally against the law because of its lewd and perverse nature. This was based off of society's Judeo-Christian traditions. However, that same Constitution that we Mormons are destined to protect is what arguably* allowed for pornography to become legal. How do you "stop" same sex marriages? How do you stop abortions? How do you stop society in general from morally going off the deep end?

I fear that as much as we would like to say otherwise, there is no way to stem the "erosion of values" without laws enforcing those values. So instead of people being righteous on their own, we must compel them to be righteous. But is that the point of the Constitution? To force people to behave the way you believe they should?

So what then want was the point of the Constitution? The Constitution merely provides the framework upon which the structure of law-making government rests. Most of the Constitution therefore isn't really under attack, as many people say, because the Constitution doesn't stipulate any laws that people disagree with. No one disagrees with three branches of government or the powers of those branches. In fact, the Constitution doesn't even go so far as to stipulate what roles government in general should have, only what the Federal government should have. The only real contention that people have is what the limits of the federal governments should be, though most of that argument is conjecture, since Abraham Lincoln's power grab in 1860. If you really think about it, Abraham Lincoln destroyed the Constitution as it was originally designed by overstepping federal bounds set forth in the Constitution, by making a logical assumption that any one state of the union does not have the right to secede by themselves. That assumption, and the subsequent war that ensued ensured that no matter what, the Federal Government was the boss (that, and the 14th Amendment). That pretty much ended the discussion on federal limits on power.

What does all of this have to do with our conversation?

People often view the Constitution as being under attack by people who are trying to destroy societal values. The truth is, however, that there is not much morality on the Bill of Rights (the only guarantor of personal freedoms from the federal government). The only real moral clause is the eighth one banning cruel punishment. Everything else has to do with procedural issues on the role and limitation of government power in personal life. Therefore, as society becomes more wicked, the Constitution through the Bill of Rights is what is allowing these people to be wicked. Suddenly, what people never would have done before in their personal life cannot be legislated against without violating the Constitution and the personal freedoms it guarantees (like pornography).

You might have a problem with the federal government interfering with personal rights, as long as they cause no ostensible harm to others. The government does this all of the time though, and we think nothing of it. Prostitution, at-home drug use, and euthanasia are just a few examples of the government telling us what we can or can't do in our personal lives, and most people don't say a word in protest. Our objections to these behaviors are rooted almost exclusively in religious traditions. Most of our objections to government power have to do with money, not values.

Basically, using law to enforce moral values is not necessarily in step with upholding the values and freedoms established by the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. They can and often do conflict. Now I absolutely believe in being politically active as the Church suggests. But notice the Church never specifies that how your personal political beliefs should integrate with your spiritual ones. The fact of the matter is that most people's political beliefs contradict their religious ones, and they would rather not face that ambivalence, so they ignore the discrepancies.

I look forward to your response.

A Note: In quoting Ezra Benson, we must remember the context in which he speaks. Benson was an outspoken anticommunist, a fact which had many members of the Church worried that he would say something politically stupid from the pulpit. He didn't ever really have too much of a problem, but his personal political beliefs came through on many occasions. It doesn't mean he was wrong, but his opinions on politics have just as much bias as Joseph Smith's, who at the time suggested we dump all the black slaves into Mexico, since they were of similar skin color.

*The First amendment allows for the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and it does not take a far jump to say that words, images, and graphics, granted they do not ostensible harm or present any clear and present danger, are protected by that clause. As repulsive as they may be, without injecting moral opinion into the Constitution, there is little way for it to say otherwise.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Taking a Break: Rambo's Exploding Arrowheads and Iran

I want to take a break today from the Letter and talk about a nuclear Iran. I have noticed that in recent discussions about Iran, there is something that almost nobody talks about: the acceptance of a nuclear Iran. Right now it seems that nobody is talking about whether or not we should let Iran have nuclear weapons capability, they just seem to skip to what to do to prevent it, and that is where the opinions divide.

Why? Nobody had this conversation about us during the Manhattan project, besides, like Iran is doing now, we would have ignored them anyway. Developing nuclear weapons for us was a matter of national security, a super weapon to be used against the Germans during WWII once it was deployable. Fortunately for the Germans, we beat them before it was ready (I guess that’s what the Japanese get for being persistent?). So, before we talk about how to stop this evil empire, please, let’s talk about why a nuclear Iran is seen to be such a terrible potential threat. There are three main problems that people present with a nuclear-armed Iran, first, that Iran is dangerous and will use them, two, that Iran is dangerous and will sell them, and three, that Israel will attack with a nuclear strike against Iran to prevent them from having nukes, and start a nuclear holocaust.

The biggest and most important point to remember about nuclear weapons is that nobody ever ever ever ever wants to actually use a nuclear weapon. In order to better explain this discussion, let’s use a simple analogy. Imagine yourself living in a really terrible neighborhood, where all your neighbors are dirty, thieving killers, and all are armed with only knives. The neighborhood is so bad that even the cops won’t go down there for a 911 call; the cold reality is that you are alone. You have to fend for yourself or you’re toast. So, one day, your neighbors all get a revolver, with a few bullets. What do you do? Most likely, you’ll get one yourself, because if you don’t, then the advantage for any conflict instantly goes to anyone with a handgun, which includes your evil neighbors. Once you have one, you’ll have an advantage against neighbors without guns, but not against those with guns, so you’ll probably not go out looking for a fight, because all you have done is leveled the playing field. We all know that gunfights are infinitely more dangerous than knife fights, and since you are back to square one (and only have a few bullets), it would be a bad idea to look for trouble.

Now, let’s say that before you have a gun, while you are in the process of making one in your basement, your homeless friend comes to you and asks for your gun once its ready, so he can fight someone that he dislikes. Chances are, you will not give him your gun, because you know that it’s that only way that you can keep your neighbors out of your house. If everyone knows you have a gun, then nobody wants to risk dying for your junky possessions, and you will deter any attack on your house. Once that gun goes away, then its open season on you.

The analogy might have its flaws, but it does well enough to see why nuclear weapons have an inherent stabilizing factor: they ensure security. To make the analogy a bit more accurate, imagine that each bullet will detonate like Rambo’s exploding arrowheads from First Blood II. One shot, and you blow up like fifty gallons of diesel fuel. If you are hit, it will destroy you, but not before you can shoot them, and destroy them too. This is the principle behind MAD (mutual assured destruction). This is why Iran wants a nuke, but will never use it. If they feel pressure from a security concern, it is because they feel threatened by the US and Israel. We have invaded two of their neighbors, and have overthrown their regime once already. Of course they feel threatened, they should! But once they have a nuke, to use it would mean absolute and merciless retaliation. Nobody wants to die, especially not powerful leaders of countries. They want power, not mushroom clouds over their cities. This is the same reason why Israel will not use them against Iran. If you think about it, Israel’s bombing run against Iran only has to miss one tiny little warhead in some secret place, and Tel Aviv will go up in smoke. That’s a big gamble. Moreover, like you and the homeless guy, Iran will never give these keys of their national security to terrorists, for the same reasons. Not only do you lose your only real defensive power when you give a nuke away, you guarantee that whomever it is used against will come after you.

The stark reality is that Iran having nukes will not hurt us as long as we have a nuclear arsenal (which we always will). It does not hurt Israel or anyone else. It will force Iran to be a far more responsible state, because fighting with anyone with nukes is just a bad idea in general. India and Pakistan have been far more reluctant to fight one they both had nukes, and the one fight they had toned down before nuclear escalation occurred, for exactly the reasons I mentioned. We should let Iran do its thing, get its nukes, for rest assured, they won’t be able to afford to cause any trouble.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Part Two of "the Letter"- I'm not a Racist, because I obviously love Recessions

Now we get to the first of the qualms of this true american patriot lady (who sounds more and more like Glenn Beck himself). Anyway, demand number one:

One, illegal immigration. I want you to stop coddling illegal immigrants and secure our borders. Close the underground tunnels. Stop the violence and the trafficking in drugs and people. No amnesty, not again. Been there, done that, no resolution. P.S., I'm not a racist. This isn't to be confused with legal immigration.

Okay, serious, what the hell do these people do to you to deserve this undying hatred? Coddling? Lots of people break the law, i.e. by speeding and you don't march and advocate they be jailed and overly fined. If you are caught speeding, you try to get the officer to let you off, do you not? How dare you, you broke the law! Even still, you don't march on city hall because the DA's office where you live plea bargains down thousands of offenses every year to lesser charges to save the taxpayers a bit of money. Even murders get deals of minimal jail time if the circumstances necessitate it. Where's the outrage? Where is the protest?

Well, you might say, these people are guilty of serious offenses. Let's take the paltry crime of speeding. Speeding is not the same in terms of severity as is enetering a sovereign country without permission. Why? Because we attach greater value to it? Why should it be worse? One could argue that the harms caused by speeding are greater than those caused by illegal immigration, and it therefore more serious. So, if we look closely at speeding we see that in 2007 it led to 13,040 deaths, and it on average costs us around $40 billion a year (NHTSA 2007 Fact Sheet). One could hardly call that unimportant. In fact, that beats the number of illegal immigrants who are killed in the desert every year by their coyotes getting them across the border (around 500 a year) and the estimated number of people murdered in the US by illegal immigrants, which, according to the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp website, is around 4,000 homicides a year. In California, the estimated cost to the state government incurred by illegals is around 5 billion. However, since many illegals have social security cards (which are faked of course), they still pay taxes, including an estimated $12 billion to the SSA in 2007, not to mention the billions paid in federal income, and states sales, property, and gas taxes they also pay.

So before we even consider the reason behind our ridiculously overcomplicated immigration law and system, it seems that there must be something more behind this frenzied dislike of illegal immigrants. Notice how the author attaches the complaint of illegal immigrants to drug trafficking and violence. If this lady is not a racist, then why does she hate this so much? What harm does it do to her to allow poor people come to her country, make her burgers and fries and landscape her yard? Who suffers to let them have children and send them to our schools to grow up and become productive members of society? And if they don't, they are really no different than the white, black, Hispanic and Asian children already in this country who do not become productive members of society. I have heard it said by a friend in Arizona that they bring a socialist slant to politics, because many are from more leftist states in the south like Venezuela and Honduras. Even if that were true, they don't participate in politics because they can't (and illegals tend to stay away from places where they could get caught), and even if they could, there is a national trend toward more socially progressive politics in this country anyway, love it or hate it. The fact of the matter is, there are issues that leave a far more lasting impression on our country, including but not limited to speeding, that many in this country for the most part ignore in favor of demonizing poor people who come into the US to become less poor.

So please forgive me if I question our motives.

Determining racial motivations is tricky. I am not going to hash out whether or not I suspect that motivation, suffice it to say that there must be some more to the issue than legality. People are naturally xenophobic, and I don't condemn people for a slight nervousness when people all around them are speaking a different language they can't understand. Its natural to become suspicious. What is unfair is the assumption that they are criminals, and that they are some sort of pest that we must rise up against. They just want to make a living, no different from you. Leave them alone.

What is unfair, and what I think we should be protesting, is the laughable system and laws that we have in place to facilitate legal immigration. Every step of the immigration process requires upwards of $400, all of which are completely non-refundable. First, you must apply to apply. Yeah. This requires as well knowing someone who can sponsor you in case you have no money, basically stripping you of the possibility of using government welfare anytime down the road. Then, up to a year later, once you are determined eligible to apply, you must then apply, which costs around $600 plus $90 for them to take your fingerprints and take your picture. A year later (maybe less if you are white - I am not kidding either), they interview you, force you to prove all over again that you are who you say you are (by bringing in in pictures and credit card and insurance statements), an then you can be accepted as a conditional permanent resident. Remember that you can legally be denied at any one of these steps for no reason at all (too many applicants, not qualified, whatever they want). Now, only 55,000 green cards are issued a year to people with no relatives in the US and with no job in the US. So the real question is, why have we let our system turn into the application process from hell? If someone south of our border wants to not live in abject poverty, then we are practically begging people to sneak into our country to do so.

You may disagree with me on this, and that's fine, leave your comments and I will respond to them, but I do not believe that we should put so much blame on these people. It is not their fault they they are poor. People in Mexico, I know from personal experience, do not see coming into the US as some sort of moral wrong, or as any wrong. To them, it is survival, like hunting in the king's personal forest to stay alive. Right or wrong, we need to stop dehumanizing illegal immigrants and figure out how to help them, not demonize and persecute them. Of course, I am not ignoring the fact that many are actual criminals, but, contrary to many ignorant people's views, that is the small minority, and we have laws to take care of criminals that are far just that those that deal with well-meaning, but poor, immigrants.

To finish up, here's a fun fact: illegal immigration this year dropped to record lows. Why? Because it was a recession. So, if you really want to stop illegal immigration, the answer is not to build a wall, or more border patrol troops. What really works, and works better than anything else, is a recession, and an unemployment rate of 10.2%. Now there are no jobs for illegals, but then, they are also no jobs for us either. Oh well, whatever it takes to protect our borders, right?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"The Letter" - Challenging the views of a Brash Conservative masquerading as Simple American

I have recently received an email from a family member that I though I should address. Unbeknownst to her or undoubtedly the many others that have passed this letter around, it originates from the Glenn Beck radio show. He supposedly received this letter from a supporter which outlines several principles that she argues that our government should uphold. After having read this letter, I feel it necessary to review what it says and show why this is not the type of political discourse that this country needs. I understand that many of the concerns in this letter come from a level of ignorance about how politics work, and how we should use politics. This ignorance is then gleefully exploited by polemical commentators for their popular benefit. I do not pretend to know everything or have the answers to all our questions, but creating this fa├žade of the common person to stir such people into a revolutionizing frenzy is not legitimate political discourse. You'll see what I mean. The following is taken from Glenn Beck's site:

GLENN: I got a letter from a woman in Arizona. She writes an open letter to our nation's leadership: I'm a home grown American citizen, 53, registered Democrat all my life. Before the last presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone. Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you're willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now. You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties. What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me?

Well, these are briefly my views and issues for which I seek representation:

One, illegal immigration. I want you to stop coddling illegal immigrants and secure our borders. Close the underground tunnels. Stop the violence and the trafficking in drugs and people. No amnesty, not again. Been there, done that, no resolution. P.S., I'm not a racist. This isn't to be confused with legal immigration.

Two, the TARP bill, I want it repealed and I want no further funding supplied to it. We told you no, but you did it anyway. I want the remaining unfunded 95% repealed. Freeze, repeal.

Three: Czars, I want the circumvention of our checks and balances stopped immediately. Fire the czars. No more czars. Government officials answer to the process, not to the president. Stop trampling on our Constitution and honor it.

Four, cap and trade. The debate on global warming is not over. There is more to say.

Five, universal healthcare. I will not be rushed into another expensive decision. Don't you dare try to pass this in the middle of the night and then go on break. Slow down!

Six, growing government control. I want states rights and sovereignty fully restored. I want less government in my life, not more. Shrink it down. Mind your own business. You have enough to take care of with your real obligations. Why don't you start there.

Seven, ACORN. I do not want ACORN and its affiliates in charge of our 2010 census. I want them investigated. I also do not want mandatory escrow fees contributed to them every time on every real estate deal that closes. Stop the funding to ACORN and its affiliates pending impartial audits and investigations. I do not trust them with taking the census over with our taxpayer money. I don't trust them with our taxpayer money. Face up to the allegations against them and get it resolved before taxpayers get any more involved with them. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, hello. Stop protecting your political buddies. You work for us, the people. Investigate.

Eight, redistribution of wealth. No, no, no. I work for my money. It is mine. I have always worked for people with more money than I have because they gave me jobs. That is the only redistribution of wealth that I will support. I never got a job from a poor person. Why do you want me to hate my employers? Why ‑‑ what do you have against shareholders making a profit?

Nine, charitable contributions. Although I never got a job from a poor person, I have helped many in need. Charity belongs in our local communities, where we know our needs best and can use our local talent and our local resources. Butt out, please. We want to do it ourselves.

Ten, corporate bailouts. Knock it off. Sink or swim like the rest of us. If there are hard times ahead, we'll be better off just getting into it and letting the strong survive. Quick and painful. Have you ever ripped off a Band‑Aid? We will pull together. Great things happen in America under great hardship. Give us the chance to innovate. We cannot disappoint you more than you have disappointed us.

Eleven, transparency and accountability. How about it? No, really, how about it? Let's have it. Let's say we give the buzzwords a rest and have some straight honest talk. Please try ‑‑ please stop manipulating and trying to appease me with clever wording. I am not the idiot you obviously take me for. Stop sneaking around and meeting in back rooms making deals with your friends. It will only be a prelude to your criminal investigation. Stop hiding things from me.

Twelve, unprecedented quick spending. Stop it now.

Take a breath. Listen to the people. Let's just slow down and get some input from some nonpoliticians on the subject. Stop making everything an emergency. Stop speed reading our bills into law. I am not an activist. I am not a community organizer. Nor am I a terrorist, a militant or a violent person. I am a parent and a grandparent. I work. I'm busy. I'm busy. I am busy, and I am tired. I thought we elected competent people to take care of the business of government so that we could work, raise our families, pay our bills, have a little recreation, complain about taxes, endure our hardships, pursue our personal goals, cut our lawn, wash our cars on the weekends and be responsible contributing members of society and teach our children to be the same all while living in the home of the free and land of the brave.

I entrusted you with upholding the Constitution. I believed in the checks and balances to keep from getting far off course. What happened? You are very far off course. Do you really think I find humor in the hiring of a speed reader to unintelligently ramble all through a bill that you signed into law without knowing what it contained? I do not. It is a mockery of the responsibility I have entrusted to you. It is a slap in the face. I am not laughing at your arrogance. Why is it that I feel as if you would not trust me to make a single decision about my own life and how I would live it but you should expect that I should trust you with the debt that you have laid on all of us and our children. We did not want the TARP bill. We said no. We would repeal it if we could. I am sure that we still cannot. There is such urgency and recklessness in all of the recent spending.

From my perspective, it seems that all of you have gone insane. I also know that I am far from alone in these feelings. Do you honestly feel that your current pursuits have merit to patriotic Americans? We want it to stop. We want to put the brakes on everything that is being rushed by us and forced upon us. We want our voice back. You have forced us to put our lives on hold to straighten out the mess that you are making. We will have to give up our vacations, our time spent with our children, any relaxation time we may have had and money we cannot afford to spend on you to bring our concerns to Washington. Our president often knows all the right buzzword is unsustainable. Well, no kidding. How many tens of thousands of dollars did the focus group cost to come up with that word? We don't want your overpriced words. Stop treating us like we're morons.

We want all of you to stop focusing on your reelection and do the job we want done, not the job you want done or the job your party wants done. You work for us and at this rate I guarantee you not for long because we are coming. We will be heard and we will be represented. You think we're so busy with our lives that we will never come for you? We are the formerly silent majority, all of us who quietly work , pay taxes, obey the law, vote, save money, keep our noses to the grindstone and we are now looking up at you. You have awakened us, the patriotic spirit so strong and so powerful that it had been sleeping too long. You have pushed us too far. Our numbers are great. They may surprise you. For every one of us who will be there, there will be hundreds more that could not come. Unlike you, we have their trust. We will represent them honestly, rest assured. They will be at the polls on voting day to usher you out of office. We have cancelled vacations. We will use our last few dollars saved. We will find the representation among us and a grassroots campaign will flourish. We didn't ask for this fight. But the gloves are coming off. We do not come in violence, but we are angry. You will represent us or you will be replaced with someone who will. There are candidates among us when hewill rise like a Phoenix from the ashes that you have made of our constitution.

Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this. We don't care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we want it back. We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you. You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us, not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save you. If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up. Make your identity known. You need to make some noise about it. Speak up. I need to know who you are. If you do not speak up, you will be herded out with the rest of the sheep and we will replace the whole damn congress if need be one by one. We are coming. Are we coming for you? Who do you represent? What do you represent? Listen. Because we are coming. We the people are coming.

I sincerely hope that no one actually sent this letter to anyone. It is ludicrous. You don't bring on political change by threatening your leaders as if you yourself hold the key to their elections. This isn't the mafia, where you threaten them with an offer that they can't refuse. All you can do is not vote for them. You can convince others to not vote for them, though unfortunately, eventually you'll hit a wall, and you will no longer be able to convince anyone else, because, let's face it, some people will never be totally converted to your own ways. Then, you'll look around, and find that you only have 15% of the popular vote in your district, and, based on what you want, can get no further.
See, what this person wants is
their own way. That's it. There is little room for compromise in this letter, and therefore, no real hope for change. Now maybe, just maybe, 5% of the country also wants the exact change you want (that's not likely, but whatever), but that still doesn't get you anywhere. Unless you all move to Waco, TX and start a church together, you'll never go anywhere. Even if you do start a community in Texas, your group may be able to vote perhaps one or two Representatives into Congress out of 435. Then you will still have as much political weight as Ron Paul, which, practically, is zero. Now, I am being momentarily extreme for example's sake to make a point: this is not the way to change America. Change comes from compromise to the point where enough people are on your side to get the ball rolling. It does not come by throwing a political tantrum as this lady does.
So, assuming that this letter is real and that it truly represents the views of a real person (and not some invented polemic), I am going to outline some concerns I have with this type of thinking and rhetoric. There is a lot to go over here, so I will be dealing with this fairly aggressive letter in a multi-part series.

First off, I will start with this:

Before the last presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone.

Let me begin with a brief explanation of why we have political parties. Actually , you can blame it on our founding fathers. I know, not cool, but its true. The election system that they set up for us is what is known as a single member district plurality, or first-past-the-post. That means that no matter how many candidates you have running for any particular federal position, only one of them gets to win. Fairly straight forward, not too complex. The result, however, is that in order for any one person to win, they need to get as many people as possible to vote for them, ideally, more than the others that want the job too. Naturally, then, he will try to appeal to as many different positions as possible so as to attract the greatest number of potential voters to his cause. Of course, so do his opponents, and as some realize that they have less supporters than the major players, they get their group to take sides in order to get in on the action (i.e. my group's supporters will vote for you if you do X).
As a natural result of this dynamic, two major parties are formed. In essence, you can either vote Republican or Democrat, have a decent shot of winning and subsequently have half of your agenda represented, or you can vote libertarian or green party, almost certainly lose, and have zero of your agenda represented. Its really your choice. Traditionally, in the US, we tend to want to have some say than none at all, hence we will go along with one of two parties. The alternative is proportional representation, where each district gets three or so representatives based on the proportional voting outcomes there are, but that would require changing the Constitution, so that is right out. Of course there is more to it than this, but you get the point. If you want only your specific views represented by someone in office, run yourself. If not, then you are out of luck, and have been since 1787.

Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you're willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now. You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties. What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me?

I hate to be a jerk, but yes you are kind of a nut. So far, as we have just seen, you already don't like the Constitution as it was originally written, and, unless you are a wealthy landowner and you want to bring back slavery, you really don't want that, and you and everyone else needs to stop saying that. I have heard from libertarians and conspiracy theorists and moderate conservatives alike that they want to go back to the original meaning of the Constitution, as if it will save us all. Please, people, understand, that the Constitution has been modified because it had to be to survive.
The original ideas that the Founding Fathers had about federalism and the separation of powers in the Constitution effectively failed when Abraham Lincoln sent federal troops into the seceded states in 1860. Now, states have little power and they bow to the sovereignty of the federal government, and that is that. The Constitution is irrevocably changed, but we are still a country, right? Is that okay? Another example: our capitalist-based society and government was about to collapse in the mid 1930's, but, led by FDR, we changed things, and it didn't. Is that bad? Well, if you support the collapse of our country into socialism or other economic experiments, then criticize all you want. For most people, we like capitalism, because it rather suits us, and because we can get rich, and almost everyone likes that.
Of course both of these examples are probably oversimplified, but the point is the same. Things change, and that is not necessarily bad. Just because your job as conservatives is to "conserve" the way things have been, doesn't mean that you can turn back the clock. The originally written Constitution had flaws and short comings, many of which we have sought to rectify, and on the whole one could say that we as a nation have done well so far. I mean, look at how many times the French tried it (five), or the Germans (three).
So instead of holding on to this mythical past where God came down from yonder heavens and gave us tablets of stone with the US Constitution written on them, let's figure out how we can make the best legacy we can from what those men really gave us. It was their best guess at how a free market based government could successfully operate and protect all their freedoms and their riches. Now, we should work on this different system that we have today, to continue to make it fair and free for all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I am not extreme. I am going to say that upfront, mostly because there is way too much of that going on today. It seems like most people in the mainstream media and even in the blogosphere are intent on selling you their own version of the world without compromise. That is the greatest problem that I see in the political arena today. In the classical political world as described to us by Socrates and Plato, politics was the science and art of collective execution via public compromise, the coalescing of a myriad of wills and desires into some sort of actual public good. Of course that is an ideal, and is not necessarily possible, it represents to me what should be possible in a country like our own. People should be willing to understand the views and concerns of others, and work towards something that most can agree on. Instead, we seem to be content with alienating and demonizing the legitimate perspectives of others, refusing to understand any other view but our own. I believe that we are better than that, and this blog is an ode to trying to deal with all kinds of political extremes and sorting them out in such a way that could work for everyone. I do not promise to be without bias, but I promise that I will listen to any sound arguement and to use reason and logic to respond. I have changed my views before and I am not opposed to doing so, and I clearly reserve the right to change my opinions as I deem fit so far as I am presented with convincing and legitimate argumentation. Of course, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I hope that this be the honest position of all who read and participate here, and that this blog may be an open forum for real discussion and compromise.