Monthly Archives: December 2012

Assault and Sanity

I am an open and proud liberal.  I don’t think that any one would mistake me for anything else.  Sadly though, all too many people who call themselves liberal in this country are actually not.  That’s right, I’m calling you out.  You know who you are.  If you are a whole hearted supporter of Obama and think that he’s just the greatest thing since sliced cheese, then you are not a liberal.  Chances are pretty good you actually fall in the center, possibly center left (but more likely center right) of the political spectrum.  If you were an Obama supporter by default, there is a chance you may be a liberal.  I may or may not know you personally, so I won’t judge you.  I will, however, tell you those facts.

What this means, right now, is that sometimes my views may be shocking to some.  Even to some who consider themselves liberals.  That’s okay.  I suspect that today may be one of those days where some of you learn something you didn’t realize after reading along for the last year, and for those readers who have known me personally, may not have realized before.  This is also a deeply personal topic for me.

NEWS FLASH!  Not all “gun nuts” are conservatives.  Nor are all gun owners.  Nor are all constitutionalists.  Nor even all 2nd Amendment supporters.

Shocking, isn’t it?  You whackos on the right do not have a lock on the guns.  You only have a lock on the ridiculous arguments in relation to them.

My father has a friend who is an environmental attorney.  He is also a hunter, and a liberal.  He and another friend of his have taken such grief from the conservitard hunters that they also know at the hunting shop that they had shirts made up to commemorate their, “Pinko Commie Hunting Club”.

I, honestly, did not want to get involved in this debate this time around, in spite of its importance.  I was really sick of it.  However, I find that it is not something that I am able to sit back and not be involved in.  You see, it is simply too important and the idiots on both sides of this argument are being too stubborn to even listen to each other.  They are each taking the, “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts” position.  I find myself, again, in the “A pox on both your houses” seat.

We’re going to have to draw some distinctions here, in order to make any sense at all.

As a matter of principle I maintain that the 2nd Amendment serves two purposes – first, to provide for individual self-protection and second, to provide for defense against the government.  The former has some merit still, both from a practical and a principled stand point.  (We’ll come back to the pit falls.)  I firmly believe from a principle view that our government should not have access to any weapon that we as individuals do not also have access to.  Yes.  FROM the perspective of principle that does include nuclear weapons.  The principle is, if we as a culture, manifest through our government decide we do not want our individual citizens to have those weapons, then we as as culture manifest through our government should not have them.  (This is the same principle as we should be applying in dealing with our foreign relations, by the way.  If we do not want other nations to have nuclear weapons, then we should not have them.  It is a very, very simple principle.  Honor and integrity matter!)

However, as a practical matter, I have had to rethink this.  I do not like that.  In fact, I despise it.  I hate compromising my principles.  I have realized at various times in my life that I have had to.  Such as when I’ve had to compromise my moral principles and shop at Wal-Mart because the prices were lower, thus sacrificing my moral principles to my economic needs.  And, this is another example.  Having to sacrifice my philosophical principles to the practical needs.  I recognize that the principle I have just outlined, while I do believe it, is impractical at the individual level.  (It should still be practiced at the national level, and would then be de facto practiced at the individual level.)


Imagine the National Tragedies Addressed. It’s easy if you try.

We live in an ADD culture.  From one minute to the next forgetting what happened in the last.  We move on and the last bit of shiny thing quickly becomes unimportant and then forgotten.  It is, I think, how we manage to maintain some semblance of sanity, if we can call it that, as a culture.  Some make the argument that without this forgetfulness we would look back at the things we have done, and we may well reach the conclusion that we have given up the right to exist.  Others point out that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  We have certainly seen plenty of examples of that!

We really have to have some middle ground on this.  Forgetting those things that are important leads us to making the same mistakes over and over again.  Results in the classic definition of insanity.

Insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results.

On Friday, 12/14/2012, a disturbed mildly autistic 20 year old man in Newtown, CT killed his mother and then went to an elementary school where he killed 26 other human beings, mostly 6 and 7 year olds.  My heart goes out to those families that are touched by this horrible event.  I know all too well how many of them are feeling.  Many describe this as a national tragedy.  This is a horrible crime.  It is not a national tragedy.   A national tragedy would impact the nation as a whole, would involve a terrorist element, would be carried out by external forces, etc.  This was the act of a sick individual.  It was carried out by one of us.  And, it is horrible.

You know what is a national tragedy?  What is a national tragedy is that we have children starving in American every day.  (According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.7 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.)  We do not hear people making the noise and expressing outrage about that fact, which we should be hearing every day.  It is an international outrage that we have people around the world starving every day, while we have perfectly edible food being thrown out in the garbage every day, or rotting in our refrigerators and shelves.

It would take you literally seconds out of your day to help with that situation and cost you absolutely nothing other than that time.  Sure, you could contribute a lot more, but you could do something as little as load a web page and click on a link.  Doing so would result in a contribution being made by sponsors to The Hunger Site which then gets distributed to Mercy Corps, Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), and Millennium Promise which then distributed food aid to people in 74 countries including America.  According to their “About The Hunger Site” page, they have given more then 671 million cups of food since their founding in 1999 and they average 220,000 individuals from around the world visiting daily.  Imagine if you will that average was consistent from day one, and that they were founded on January 1 of 1999, that would mean that from that day until the day this was published, they’ve averaged 131,620 cups of food.  Now, imagine if you will, the impact of 3 million visitors a day.  3 million visitors a day clicking on their link and donating that food.  That is less than 1% of the population of the United States, yet it is more than 10 times their current daily average.  Take it a step further and visit their sponsors, because those companies are doing some good in their communities.  Shop from their store, because those items, too, raise funds to help with the cause, and will further help raise awareness.

Or, to look at it more broadly, because we can, it is also a Global tragedy that people are starving around the world.    Though the Hunger Site clicks do contribute world wide, you can have a little fun while still contributing positively, though this one will require you to actually spend some time at the site.  It isn’t a hit and run.  Free Rice is a vocabulary game that donates rice to hungry people around the world via the United Nations World Food Programme.


Reform School, boys and girls?

Campaign finance reform is now officially off the front burner.  Almost everyone will let this slip off the radar until the next big election, because that is what we do in this short attention span theater culture we’ve developed.

And, yet, this is really an important time to act on it.  Yes, I know we have other issues going on, and I am not suggesting that we should put them aside.  We need to deal with the unemployment situation.  We need to deal with the financial “crisis”.  We need to deal with a lot of things.  However, this is one of those things that really should be dealt with before the next election cycle.  Preferably before the mid-term, but definitely before the next presidential election.  I know that isn’t going to happen, but it should.

There is a very strong argument to be made that the ideal situation is a truly level playing field.  That would be a situation of completely publicly funded campaigns.  If individuals, corporations, unions, PACs, etc still wanted to contribute then they would be able to contribute to that fund in a similar way that we as individuals are able to contribute to the Presidential Campaign Fund with our income tax filing.  It is highly unlikely that they would, of course, since they are not actually interested in funding democracy, but rather in buying candidates and influencing the outcomes of campaigns.  They are not altruistic, but rather acting with a specific goal in mind.

Still, that is precisely the reason that the argument for public financing of campaigns is so strong.  It takes that influence out.  It makes the campaigns and the outcomes more pure, because the candidates are less likely to have been purchased so blatantly and publicly.  It does open the possibility that companies and unions, more so than PACs, would contribute to these funds for the positive PR.  This move would certainly put an end to the Citizens United ruling and the mess it created.  There would be no more SuperPACs.  And, that leads to the strongest negative also.  It would make it more difficult for groups of people such as unions, AARP, NRA, etc to get their messages out.  If not done properly, a system like this would intrude on 1st amendment rights, and courts would properly strike it down.  While this is not the space for a full solution, there are ways around those pitfalls.

Public financing of campaigns, if done properly, would also help to break the strangle hold that the Democrats and Republicans have on our winner take all election system by, again, leveling the playing field.  If all sides have equal funding to get their messages out, then voters actually have a chance to hear it.  The Rocky Andersons, Gary Johnsons and Jill Steins of the elections will have a better chance to unseat the 800-pound gorillas sitting in the throne.  As it stands, money is allowing for a louder voice to be heard, instead of a better voice or all voices.   Despite the best efforts of the campaigns themselves, myself (here and elsewhere), and others, the mainstream media virtually ignored all of the “third-party” candidates, to the point that some people were shocked to see candidates other than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on their ballots.

There are many issues that would be addressed by moving to a fully publicly financed campaign system.  It would come with other pitfalls that would have to be guarded against, but it would provide the greatest solutions to what all sides say they see as a huge problem in our political system.  All sides decry the influence of special interests via money on the outcomes of the process.  All sides insist they believe that something must be done about it, and yet, when the time comes to actually do something about it, no one wants to give up their own sweet deals, perks and benefits.

So, we know that public financing is off the table any time soon.  “Top tier” candidates opt out of it because they can spend much more money if they are not limited by it, the public is choosing not to contribute to it (participation is down to 6.6% per the FEC), and no one in office today has the testicular fortitude to suggest it, much less the support to actually get it passed.  What’s left?  What other alternatives do we have to address the issues with campaign finance and the corruption in our system?

First, make no mistake.  It is rampant, systemic corruption, but it is not confined to just the elected officials.  The corruption is, in fact, in the minds of the voters, or more often, in the minds of the non-voters.  At least the voters, even when misguided or simply selfish, are still participating and trying.  They have not completely given up or been lulled into being total sheep that choose to be acted on rather than making even the slightest effort at acting for themselves.  There is nothing more enslaving than the belief that one is powerless.  There is little more foolish than to believe that one can live in a society and be unaffected by the decisions that are made by that larger society.  To choose not to participate in those decisions is to choose to believe that one is, in fact, quite powerless.


You couldn’t win in a one horse race?

It’s been almost a month now since the election.  Everyone, and their grandmother, has made an assessment about why it turned out the way that it did.

Faces of Romney religious fanatics on election night

Romney’s internal pollsters have been vilified by the far right for getting it wrong, and have tried to explain it away.  Romney has blamed it on Obama buying votes by giving gifts to large segments of the American population.  Lest one think, “Oh, Romney is out of touch.  He doesn’t represent what the majority of Republican’s think.” one need only consider two facts in order to correct that notion.  First, Romney was making these comments to his donors after his loss as a way of explaining why he lost.  Two, the following clip from Bill O’Reilly, one of the most popular hosts on FOX infotainment News.

Some have blamed it on Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac.  Karl Rove accused Obama of suppressing the vote but supplied no evidence of this, and also claimed that they bought the election.  He failed to point out that there was more “outside” money spent by the Republicans than there was by the Democrats, but hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good rant, right?  Hell, Rove’s groups (American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS) outspent the entire combined Democratic SuperPAC expenditures that the Washington Free Beacon whined about!

But if Republicans are to gain anything from this loss, it must be this: Obama was the better marketer and if the Grand Old Party wants to have a chance of resetting the electoral map they need to respect marketing – something the party simply didn’t do in this election.

No, Mr. Tantillo.  Y’all spent 2 years marketing.  Didn’t market?  Really?  That’s just ludicrous.  Perhaps didn’t successfully market.  Or, perhaps you had nothing to market.  And, that is what has given me hope from this election.

Some blame NJ governor Chris Christie.  That must be one powerful man!

But the more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of hurricane Sandy and of Governor Chris Christie’s bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama. Not to mention Christe’s fawning promotion of Obama’s presidential leadership.

It made all the difference.

This election actually gave me some cause for hope.  Not because the country re-elected Obama.  I stand by my earlier comments that Obama is a horrible president and that the country made a huge mistake in re-electing him.  It would have been a far worse choice to have elected Romney, but only in the same way that losing an arm is far worse than losing a finger.

What gives me hope though is this, if we accept that all of the election results of the last elections were valid, and none of them were stolen elections, which is a pretty big assumption, then Republicans have lost 5 of the last 6 presidential preference polls.  How does this follow from the previous paragraphs?  Because I am telling you that I believe all of these people are fools who completely misread the reason that Romney lost the election.

If you have been reading along, then you may recall that I have also maintained that conservatism gave up its standing as a political philosophy and and instead is now a religion.  (According to Bill O’Reilly it would no longer be on equal footing with Christianity.)  It does not take a reasoned stand based on principles and facts.  If it did, it would look at what its policies had done to this country over the last 40 years in particular and its adherents would say to themselves, “Damn, we were wrong!  Please forgive us.”  Instead, they push for further expansion of these policies, and propagate lies to mislead the uninformed into supporting them.  Lies that are easily shown to be false.  Lies such as claiming that taxes have gone up, when in fact they are at all time lows.  They claim fiscal responsibility, while the vast majority of the current debt the country faces was actually brought on by their so-called leadership.  And, so on.

The shotgun pattern of analysis as to why Romney lost the election, is just another example.  You will note that it all has a common theme.  “Not my fault!  I did nothing wrong.”  It is all about blaming someone or something else.  In fact, this too is another common trait of modern conservatism.  They simply refuse to accept responsibility for anything.


%d bloggers like this: