unastronaut*

Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

Posts Tagged ‘founding fathers

Radical change we could agree on?

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Income Tax is the most ridiculously counter-productive tax we could possibly impose in terms of productivity. We want Americans to be productive. We want them to earn, to create things that others may buy, to create jobs. We do not want them to limit productivity in order to maintain a balance. Americans aren’t about wading in the middle, it’s our tax system that creates people like a friend of mine who always worked 36.5 hours, the minimum average to keep his full-time status, but where he figured that the rest of his check would all go to taxes. He was an accounting major, so I’m sure his math wouldn’t have been too far off, and he always seemed to have more take-home pay and get more back on his returns every year.

A consumption tax would serve the public good, be a better model for a more-free market, and most of all put the balance of incentives back in order. We want people to earn, to save and contribute to the circular flow of money within their communities. We don’t want anyone to shy away from work. If I work my ass off and save enough to buy a house with cash, that’s good for a lot of people. Sure, I may cut out some bank middle-mannery but who wants to argue they deserve to finance those who are inherently more responsible than their own management? If I’m keeping all of my money, I can afford to account for the taxes to buy a nice place in America, where many people enjoy resort-style amenities just for existing in a nice community. If I want to buy five platinum-plated Maseratis, I’ll be prepared to take the hit, but don’t punch me for punching in.

NI4D – The National Initiative for Democracy is the hidden-in-plain-view answer to many of our political woes. Last I checked, there are 11 states using some form of public initiative system. How else would things like medical marijuana get on a ballot? Or ever get a vote of any kind? Or gay marriage bans, for that matter? There are many things that make sense to the general public that are simply too dangerous for any politician to approach, let alone a majority of Congress. Throughout my college days I came across a lot of people who didn’t vote, but were somewhat informed and had an opinion. Even those who vote in Presidential elections rarely vote in off-year and local elections. Voter turnout does not really reflect a complete political apathy, more an apathy with the effectiveness of the current voting system.

Enter the national initiative. If the majority of Americans do not want a war, the majority should be heard. If a majority of residents of a state support a doctor’s right to prescribe medical marijuana, a conservative or pandering legislature should not block the will of the people on a state’s rights issue. If a majority of the public believe that a doctor may refuse to perform certain treatments based on their religious beliefs, I don’t believe any law could Constitutionally coerce them otherwise so long as this is made clear to the patient before their life is in the hands of the doctor. The Bill of Rights mentions the rights of the people in the 9th Amendment, and again as a part of state’s rights. This is better served in those 11 states with initiative systems, and referendum and recall can also be a better way to clear the haze of our current political system. All of the nonsense calls for resignation, all of the political posturing on issues the speaker doesn’t even believe will ever come to a vote and the back-and-forth nature of our failing two-party system would at least see some improvement and at most clear the way for real public discourse, real participatory democracy.

Concerning gay marriage: I say again, can the government simply refuse to define a marriage in any way? Let churches or individuals have the right to define their own “marriages”, and simply allow for all couples seeking to join their lives to be unified in the governments eyes. The slippery slope argument doesn’t fly here. The US has a long precedent of defining such unions as a union of only two, consenting adults. We have laws restricting the marriages of children which are legitimately in the public interest. Lately some ultra-conservative Congressmen have been comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. This is ludicrous and gets a gut reaction in many ways, but I’d offer one rational argument without gut involved. By definition, pedophilia violates legitimate laws in public interest. Sure, there could be homosexual predators out there, but as Chris Hansen proves there are predators of all stupid persuasions. But a union of consenting adults should not be the government’s business to deny one group if it is permitted for another.

If marriage is a religious practice, the sanctity of which should be defended, then it should remain out of the government. What the government should do is have a system for defining next of kin in a humane way, with the utmost priority on individual freedom to choose who is considered a spouse by a hospital.

I’m often accused of being an ultra-liberal or whatever you’d call it, but those tags really are just how others see you based on the conversations you’ve had. Sure, if you’re talking to me about health care, I sound a bit more on the liberal side. But if we’re talking about guns, I’m never really accused of being a conservative. That’s odd considering I don’t think any American should need to choose a “favorite Amendment” from the Bill of Rights. There was a specific reason our founders first defended speech, press and religion then our last line of defense second. This is not a “hunter’s” Amendment, although along with defense, we should be allowed to enjoy sport. It is the first line of the Constitution that says… and if you fail to obey the Kings of America as prescribed by the first three words of the Preamble… we’re not, ya know, gonna take it. The contentious issue here for many liberals is hinged on people like Glenn Beck, who think you start talking about getting guns ready. Paul Revere didn’t ride around practicing his speech. He wasn’t the lead character in ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’.

In all honesty, your guns will never be taken away. You’ll be able to feel more confident in that fact if we enact a national initiative system, but at the very least liberal politicians are not a monolith against guns. I was listening to J.Douche Hateworth on the radio the other day and he played a little “comedy” piece that described a terrorist with a knife coming at a family, he said if the father is a liberal he’d quake in his boots and think of pacifism. First of all, a terrorist with a knife? Second of all, his scenario says both fathers have a loaded weapon. You think liberals make bad fathers, Hayworth? Why don’t you come at me with a knife and see how liberal I am?

I’m no gun liberal in terms of ever wishing to take away the guns of any law-abiding citizen. I’m not sure that extreme restrictions on gun possession are the way to get the “more dangerous” criminals. If you look at the example of Al Capone, who was finally brought to justice on racketeering charges. The man ordered countless murders, but we get him for tax evasion? Don’t get me wrong, at the time it was a victory and having a definite criminal in prison is never a bad thing. But how many innocent people do go to jail? How many non-violent offenders serve time for marijuana possession? We can get the little fish, right or wrong, but we have trouble with the big fish? That’s essentially the same logic some liberals use that says driving through a school zone with a legally owned and registered weapon is automatically a crime. It’s pathetic when you consider that most legal gun-owners use their weapons for sport or self-defense. Sure, people stretch the definition of self-defense all the time, but that’s going to happen in society. The answer is more education. More organizations like the NRA who promote gun safety and tradition, and they need to be in the mainstream. The NRA shouldn’t automatically be considered one with the Republican party, although it’s most ardent supporters are often conservative. Gun ownership should be promoted among all law-abiding citizens, because at least one flying spaghetti monster knows that criminals will always have weapons.

“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I can’t find the original source of that quote, although in looking I found a great quote from Charlton Heston speaking on Fox News back in 1997: “There’s no such thing as a good gun. There’s no such thing as a bad gun. A gun in the hands of a bad man is a very dangerous thing. A gun in the hands of a good person is no danger to anyone except the bad guys.” What we should do to curb gun violence is create more good guys, through lifelong education and a societal emphasis on family of some kind. I know adopted kids who are great successes and legacies who have fizzled out, and it all came down to involvement. If people are involved in the lives of children they will learn to act as responsible people do, if children are raised with every amenity money can buy with no relationship with parents or some caregiver they will look for a role model somewhere. Think of the ratio of crap-to-awesome at any given mall. I’d argue that you’re taking the same gamble by allowing your child to pick any role model from their lives in your absence. Sure, they could end up with an amazing role model somewhere but it’s a gamble parents don’t have to take. Well, they shouldn’t have to take.

This is where I can get more liberal on people, but I simply can’t believe you can support both family and bite-sized government. Health care is a part of this. Healthy parents can work without getting sick as often, imposing less of a burden on the family’s budget and productivity. Children’s health care helps give all Americans a chance to grow up and contribute to society rather than being punished by the circumstances of their birth. I do not advocate wreckless takeover of health care by the government, but a quick read of the Preamble would establish that the federal government has some responsibility to our health at least in terms of keeping us productive and safe from potential pandemic. The more free we are to be productive and contribute to society, the more we all benefit. We will all have different ideas about how to get us there, but I think we’d all agree on the benefits of a healthy society.

These are just some ramblings. I just wonder if we all agreed on the results we wanted, the discourse on the methods might be more civil.

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It’s not anti-American, it is just too American for some

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Lately this stupid “anti-American” tag is getting thrown around more and more.  Partly because of the Reverend Wright debacle and a super patriot named Nash McCabe, partly because it’s political season and those with no substance sling mud.  I’m getting tired of hearing things labeled un-American or anti-American as if there is some sort of board of Americanism certifying certain ideas.  If you understand anything about this country, you should understand the 1st Amendment and our freedom of speech.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

The 1st Amendment gives us much more than the freedom to shout, it gives us the freedom to shout against the status quo.  The right to assemble isn’t for Sunday gatherings in the park, it’s for protest and speaking against the actions of the government, or whatever the issue deems.  The point of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution was to give people the power of a voice and the freedom to associate and collaborate on ideas.  The intention of the 1st Amendment is to make every American a critic of public policy, to keep the government in check.  

What ignorant simpletons take for granted or even attack is actually quite revolutionary.  Not everywhere in the world can a rational discourse take place where people can present diametrically opposed viewpoints and have a peaceful ending.  Take for example the recent protests-turned-assaults over the freedom of Tibet.  It’s absolutely American to disagree, to say what’s on our minds even if it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world.  It’s anti-American to suppress that voice.

We won’t lose by accepting the voice, even if we don’t accept the idea or the argument.  That’s why it’s stupid when people label everyone who speaks out against the war, exposes corruption in government or brings a devastating negative market externality to our attention an America-hating liberal.  It’s not an act of hatred to speak out against a corrupt government but of a patriot.  

“… God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)

The people who built this country would be ashamed of such a rejection of their ideas.  The people give power to the government and not the other way around.  Free speech, press, petition, assembly go along with our right to the free exercise and the protection from the establishment of religion.  This entire American experiment began with much more than the simple minds that think anything they disagree with is anti-American.  We exist to pass more freedom on to the next generation, not less.  It is only through a free press and everyone speaking do we really see what is “American”.  

America includes people from the “far-left blogosphere” and the “vast right-wing conspiracy” and everyone in between.  From the apathetic to the uninformed; or the college professors and high school teachers.  People of all stripes inhabit this country, and only the people make it what it is today.  I’m a firm believer in the history of this country — from the first strokes for the Declaration of Independence to the Federalist Papers and Constitution — and a humble and honest critic of its mistakes.  That doesn’t make me, my ideas or me saying them anti-American.  I’m just anti-mistakes and extremely proud of my country.

On the Tim Russert Show this Sunday (05/04/08), Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia actually discusses the idea of things being “un-American”. I’ve found Justice Scalia and I don’t often agree, but here we have consensus. He mentions that he can’t imagine in the course of French politics or [insert country] politics, the idea of saying something is un-French. Americans truly do identify with flag more than with blood or specific birth location, and that’s not a bad thing. It just creates more demand for things (his example was the House un-American Activities Committee) that are inherently more un-American than the behaviors we’re trying to prevent.

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If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. -G. Bernard Shaw

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The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension. -Ezra Pound

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The mark of a well educated person is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in knowing where to find them. -Douglas Everett

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“We don’t know much about this guy” is a lie about Obama

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Tonight on MSNBC’s Verdict with Dan Abrams, Tony Blankley, a former speechwriter for the Reagan administration concluded the media is addressing the Reverend Wright circus properly.  He feels that because we’re on the cusp of potentially electing the first black president — and since we don’t know much about him — we must consider things like Reverend Wright before we cast a vote for Obama.  

Earlier in the show John Kerry is asked a question about Wright, his answer was clear and in direct opposition to the spin Blankley gives.  Kerry says “let this go” and that the media is focused on the past instead of the future of major issues concerning Americans.  As a concerned American, I agree.  It’s been frequently discussed in this blog as I feel the media is reporting it through such a narrow, pre-spun way it is necessary to at least make sure more of the information is out there.  

[On the same episode of Verdict, the ‘Why America Hates Washington’ segment was about the military contracts inadvertantly funding the recently-raided polygamist sect near El Dorado, TX.  Sexual abuse has now been revealed among boys as well as the still underage girls who are pregnant with their third or forth child.  I had reported on this earlier in April, and I probably found it on Digg.]

Tony Blankley, and many others in the media need to understand the “we don’t know much about this man” charade is all bullshit and many Americans have already called you on this. 

Personal Memoirs

Each candidate has written a book or two. Barack Obama has written two books about his life, his upbringing, his beliefs, race and ambitions.  John McCain has written six-plus books, primarily on his family memoirs of his Admiral father and grandfather. He’s also written about Middle East politics, Afghanistan, courage and air bag safety. Hillary Clinton has written memoirs and children’s books.

Landmark Legislation

Barack Obama is responsible for the same number of pieces of passed landmark legislation (2) in his two years as Senator Clinton during her four years in the Senate.  The only current bill any of the three remaining candidates were actually co-sponsoring was the earmark moratorium, which all three have co-sponsored.

Committee Work

Hillary Clinton serves on these committees:

  • Armed Services
  • Environment and Public Works
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
  • Special Committee on Aging

Barack Obama also serves on four committees:

  • Foreign Relations
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
  • Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Veterans’ Affairs

Commander-in-Chief/Executive Experience

People claim Senator Obama isn’t experienced enough to be Commander-in Chief, where I’d say Sen. McCain’s record looks the most personal, but his experience wasn’t in leadership — like his father and grandfather, both admirals.  When compared to Senator Clinton, Obama has served on both the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees, while Hillary Clinton serves on the Armed Services committee.  

Committee work is not true executive experience, but it is a political arena in which speaking requires you have a good question for whomever is being deposed, a recommendation on a piece of legislation, or just a generally good idea.  As far as previous experience is concerned, none of the candidates have actually served as leadership executives.  If that were the primary factor in voter’s minds, we’d have polls indicating Mitt Romney is leading at this point.  We might have already elected Ret. General Wesley Clark in 2004.

Voting on Issues

Each candidate has voted on a spectrum of issues, and even Senator Obama has voted on all of the issues currently facing our nation having been in the Senate (even if only for two years).  Sen. McCain has weighed in on having a federal holiday in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He evidently got it wrong the first time, so he had to spend time apologizing this year on the campaign trail.  I’d really rather not use that as a reason to vote against McCain, but rather see why voting over a long period of time doesn’t mean much, other than the fact that one current issue has one candidate standing alone.

War in Iraq/Distraction from Afghanistan

Only Senator Barack Obama was against the war from the beginning.  We were lied to by the Bush administration and a news media eager to do the government’s dirty work disseminating propaganda.  There were no weapons of mass destruction.  There were not operating extremist cells in Iraq, because Saddam was never liked by radical and fundamental Islamists like bin Laden.  Iraq and Iran balanced each other and kept each other in check for years.

Interventionism vs. Non-interventionism

Anyone who felt what President Reagan did made you safer, or the policy of not invading Iraq of the first Bush administration actually was better international use of military force as a protective measure only should feel swindled by this war.  I know it’s too late to bring back those lost, it’s too late to undo everything we’ve done, but we have rid the world of one dictator, who had an established rule in a time where information traveled more slowly.  

Today we have faster flow of information, and a better network of international peacekeeping forces who could actually intervene if there were a legitimate threat coming from the region.  This is why the concept of a nation policing the globe should be obsolete.  This is why we must not stay.  Let them find their own Founding Fathers, let them express the Iraqi Dream.

Unwrapping Media Spin

When pundits say “we don’t know much about him” they are just lying and getting away with it.  Nobody points out that these people are living their lives every day in the public eye.  Everything they have done in the past is available through Google, and anything they’ve said has probably hit YouTube.  Each candidate has written books, given votes and taken stances.  The question is, which direction do you choose for the nation?

Do we go with the veteran ex-maverick who has turned to pandering to his base, or aligning with them on issues on which he has no familiarity?  He is either getting bad advise or losing his grip to some degree.  A lot of my final impression of John McCain’s candidacy rides on who he chooses for a running mate.  I’m not fond of the values of his wife — like stealing prescription medication from her non-profit charity — and the fact that they claim to be for the working man having never been in that position since the two have been married (she’s a Budweiser heiress).  I also recognize these are only fringe issues, and some shady people in personal life were extraordinarily great leaders in public life.  

I just know Sen. McCain will have to rely on people for anything economy related, which just so happens to be the most pressing issue to Americans today.  I we had instituted the draft (which we would probably have to do if we somehow picked a fight with Iran) then the war would actually be the most pressing issue to the most Americans.  Sen. McCain knows about the military, but he has also aligned to the actions of the Bush administration, which is reprehensible considering the quagmire we needlessly created.

Do we go with the more socially-rooted candidate in Hillary Clinton, whose prime causes include universal health care and the war, having voted to authorize the war in the first place.  On the issue of health care I think requires a private-public solution, removing employers from the decision-making process of which plan to buy.  If employers aren’t required to cover employees, they can pay them more, which allows employees to take the money previously paid for the same services out on to the open market.  Do this with 150 million workers at once and you will create something beautiful within the market — equilibrium.  Everyone shopping, looking for the best deal.  Multiple providers, looking to be the best business.  Let American ingenuity solve the problem if Congress can’t.

That inadequacy in Congress should end after a President who sends recommendations to Congress then vetos the bills they finally send him, saying they didn’t sent him something he could work with (after 535 people found a way to decide).  We should learn our lesson that the president shouldn’t be “the Decider” but “the Listener”.  Someone who speaks for the people.  If we were truffula trees, we’d want a Lorax. 

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Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem. -former President Ronald Reagan

Sources:  votesmart.org, congress.org

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A more complete tally in the cost of the war

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About 300,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but about half receive no care, an independent study said on Thursday. Reuters 04/17/08

This isn’t a small number. This isn’t a laughable disorder. This isn’t a small issue.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but when we write the check (or swipe the Bank of China credit card) we must also weigh these costs. These are the most patriotic of their generation, losing mental health and more, for a war never justified. We have lost over 4,000 servicemen. Supporting our troops is bringing them home. Protecting America is having a strong defense at home. Recovering from disasters requires American forces. Something nearly synonymous with victory. Nearly. But we can neither focus on victory or defeat. Forward is the way, the past is past.

President Bush was asked today what he says to critics who see no end in sight in the war in Iraq – is it an open-ended war? And he effectively said it is – at least for the remaining 10 months of his presidency.

“So long as I’m the president, my measure of success is victory – and success,’’ the president said in the Rose Garden, standing alongside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leader of a nation that has stood as the staunchest ally of the United States at war in Iraq and Afghanistan but has begun to draw down troops from Iraq and is moving its remaining forces “from combat to over-watch.’’ from Mark Silva at The Swamp

Focusing on victory and defeat, victim and aggressor or who gets the blame only serves to deflect our attention from real problems. When our forefathers set out the founding documents, they realized they couldn’t account for everything. But they also knew we needed to be well informed (free speech and press) and have direct involvement in our government. If we aren’t alert, a small group of people protecting their own and only their own best interests will hijack our nation. Everyone is subject to the rule of law. Absolutely everyone.